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Dublin, Ireland
Hi, I'm Dermot Nolan, and I became a Master of Wine (MW) in 1997, and resigned from the Institute of Masters of Wine in 2023 after being an MW for exactly 26 years. I opened a wine shop in DĂșn Laoghaire, Ireland, called The Wine Library, which closed in 2018, and this is my personal wine blog. I will do my utmost to be fair and responsible in my posts – please read my Who Pays article in re the ethics of wine trips and writing. I have worked in wine education, retail, and consultancy since 1990. I was a Director of the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) from 2008 to 2014 and was also a member of the Events Committee, founder of the Trips Committee, and member of the Governance Committee. Having had problems with potentially libellous comments from unidentifiable posters, I now require that if you post a comment, you must identify yourself properly or it won't be published. Please note that I do not review products or services on request so kindly don't ask. I value my independence and I believe my readers (few that they may be) do so also.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More Landmark...

So, after some 33 hours of flight I arrived in Adelaide at 08:00 today. Tired but excited by the prospects of the trip.

What is Landmark and why does it exist, I imagine you asking! Well, it is a week long tutorial where 12 selected people will learn about the finest wines Australia has to offer and the regional styles available. The tutors are some of Australia's finest when it comes to wine - Michael Hill-Smith MW AM, Dr Tony Jordan, Andrew Caillard MW with help from luminaries such as Brian Croser, James Halliday, Jeff Grosset, Louisa Rose and others. This is going back to school in a big way!

That, then, is the what so how about the why. Well, the world of wine is similar to the world of cars - if you want to be able to buy a Lamborghini then a few thousand people have to buy Fiats! That is, there has to be some basic level of product in order to sustain the esoteric. With wine there are the big brands and the small estates. For many generations Australia has produced both but I think it is fair to say that in recent years, say the last 25 (recent to an old geezer such as myself), the general emphasis has been very much on the brands. For a country which has natural limits to its production it is important to get consumers moving up from the base into the value-added wines.

I believe that in markets such as Ireland and the UK there is an inverted snobbery about Australian wines - when people buy everyday wine they think Australia. But when they want to buy a fine wine they think France. Now, there is a lot of good everyday wine produced in Australia and the French do have a knack for making some very fine wines but this is not the whole picture. Not only are there some lovely inexpensive French wines but there are also some very fine, age-worthy Australian wines. Furthermore, these have been available for generations.

Landmark, I believe, seeks to open the world's eyes to these wines by choosing people who can spread the word. As a educator I can obviously do this so, I suppose, this is why I was lucky to get picked.

Today I met with Toby Bekkers of Paxton Wines and Mike Brown of Gemtree Vineyards, both producers in McLaren Vale. Toby drove me around and showed me the basic geography, geology and topography of the Vale. We then met with Mike and discussed biodynamic farming (both farm their vines biodynamically) and then had a tasting and lunch at the Star of Greece in Port Willunga.

My feelings about bio are simple enough - it works but not for the reasons espoused by many. We know, from extensive medical research, that homeopathy is little more than a placebo effect and, since bio uses preparations in homeopathic quantities, I believe that all the happens is the vines get sprayed with water from time to time. However, most good doctors would happily offer you a placebo or a homeopathic remedy if they think that will help you cure yourself so why worry about bio vines? After all, in most cases, excellent fruit quality results and so long as the winemaker doesn't muck things up in the winery then the resulting wines are usually very good. Furthermore, there is a marked increase in the biodiversity of the vineyard - soil, flora and fauna - which can only be beneficial in the long run.

Mike has a series of trials running in one of his vineyards where comparisons between bio, organic, light conventional and heavy conventional farming will be made. These should prove interesting because they're measuring things such as cost as well as wine quality! One day, though, I'd love to see a trial where someone simply sprays a set of vines with water whenever they do a bio spray just to see what happens. But maybe that's a blog for another day.

Well, faithful reader (who may well be as imaginary as the bio forces!!) I am exhausted after some 45 plus hours of travel and tasting, so more anon.

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