January 14, 2016

What a welcome development over the last decade - the rise of the "Farmer's Market"; the notion of buying from the "Farm Gate"; and the proud exclamations of the "locavore" movement.

Having lived in the Central Western NSW food and wine hub, Orange, for a few years, I was lucky to witness (and enjoy) first hand the benefits of supporting local producers.  Fresh, seasonal produce....it tastes better and is unquestionably healthier.  If that's not reason enough, it also ensures the "carbon footprint" of your food is minimised, through reduced "Food Miles".

It naturally follows, especially in an industry that lauds sustainability and minimal impact on the environment, that our wine buying habits should be equally considered.  As a wholesaler, close to half of my portfolio was made up of NSW Wine Brands.  These producers were chosen because of their inherent quality - it was a happy coincidence that they happened to be sitting on our (relative) doorstep.

The average case of wine weighs 16kg, which is a lot heavier and far more carbon intensive than a months worth of food.

NSW Wine regions have undergone a renaissance of sorts, and not only over the past few years.  There's definitely a lag in appreciation of this in the local market.  Reds from the 2014 Hunter Valley Vintage are exceptional, with many agreeing it's the best since the famous 1965 vintage.  The Silkman Reserve Hunter Chardonnay from the same vintage won best wine of the 2015 Halliday Chardonnay Challlenge (beating 600+ wines).  Then there's Semillon...the most undervalued, in price and regard, style in Australia.  Established powerhouses such as Tyrrells, Tulloch and Brokenwood happily co-exist and flourish with the likes of De Iulliis, Thomas Wines and a plethora of young winemakers committed to embracing regional style.

Moppity Vineyards recently took out the most successful exhibitor at the 2015 Royal Hobart Show.  This producer from the Hilltops Region of NSW produces world class wines, year in, year out.

Nick O'Leary; Collector; Eden Road; Ravensworth; Mount Majura; Clonakilla; Helm - all exceptional Canberra District producers crafting Riesling; Shiraz (Syrah) and an array of alternative varieties of unique character and quality.

Mudgee has its groove on, with David Lowe, Jacob Stein and Pete Logan leading a keen band of young winemakers toning down the traditional style associated with the region, and embracing the varietal definition and finesse that sensitive vineyard work and winemaking can produce.

Orange, very dear to my heart, continues to prove its Chardonnay credentials, as well as lending it's cool climate to a Sauvignon Blanc style that sits amongst Australia's best.  Bordeaux varieties and blends from Orange can be stunning, with examples from Ross Hill and Philip Shaw consistently refined and self-assured.

Special mention must go to a favourite producer of mine, Toppers Mountain.  Wines of immense personality crafted from Mark Kirkby's vineyards in New England, their show success is enviable, and proof that special vineyards result in special wines.  It is easy to be conservative with our wine purchasing, though I'd defy anyone to question the New England Wine region once they've tried a wine made by this producer.

Wine drinkers of NSW - it is safe to be parochial, as our southern and western neighbours are.  You will be doing your part in minimising "Wine Miles" in the process.

Nick Butler


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