This limited-release range is to be launched here shortly and each bottle is individually-numbered. Each wine in the Short List range has its own unique flavour and character representing the pinnacle of regional fruit sourced from each vintage, he tells the assorted media making up this tasting lunch.
The McGuigan brand is now the biggest-selling Australian wine brand here, up from 19 per cent to 23 per cent of the Ozzie wine market in the off-trade on an MAT basis to the 4th September 2011, Neil says, quoting the latest Nielsen stats.
Despite the success of Australian wine however, he believes that the wine industry there “has lost its Mojo”. He hopes to restore it in part and is just finishing off a grueling two-week European tour and now sits down with us to match The Short List range with some excellent food choices at Ely.
“The Australian wine industry dropped the ball in the 90s, I admit it,” Neil confesses, “That’s when New Zealand got the chance to come in.”
But Neil’s a man with a mission: “We must engage with the consumer and get our wines out there again”.
Like Neil, his family are all well-steeped in winemaking. His father joined Penfolds in ‘42 as a winemaker after which he ran the company, eventually buying it in 1968. His brother Brian ran Wyndham Estate wines until 1990.
Neil himself joined the business as a winemaker in 1978, prior to it’s being taken over by Pernod-Ricard.
He decided to set up McGuigan Wines in 1990.
Since then, McGuigan Wines has gone on to become the third-biggest wine company in Australia, winning a string of awards including the IWC’s International Winemaker of the Year and the Jancis Robinson Trophy for the Best Riesling at the IWSC in 2009.
And he’s fairly clear about “the things we have to do as a wine industry”.
Firstly it has to offer quality at every price point. Secondly, make classic varieties to compete with the best in the world of wine. Thirdly, it must embrace new varieties. To this end, Australia’s cool climate/hot climate spread is ideal and McGuigan Wines is experimenting with many grape varieties such as Montepulciano and Gruner Veltliner.
“New varieties will draw attention to our core brands,” he explains.
“Fourthly, we need to evolve Australian wine styles into what the market wants.”
As a result, the company is about to launch Semillon Blanc here, “a modern twist on a classic grape variety”.
Its launch in the UK exceeded all expectations, more than doubling the Semillon category there. It will be supported with POS, tasting support, a consumer awareness campaign, a PR campaign and trade advertising.
The wines at the tasting lunch comprise: Black Label Rosé, Black Label Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2010 from the Adelaide Hills, the Short List Riesling 2004 from Eden Valley (sadly, not available in Ireland) which won a number of awards, the Short List Chardonnay 2010 sourced from the cool-climate Adelaide Hills which also won awards, Black Label Reserve Malbec 2010 from Barossa, the Short List Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 from Coonawarra and the Short List Shiraz 2008 from Barossa Valley.
We finish off with a late-picked Riesling 2010, only available from the McGuigan Cellar Door.