Tag Archives: wine

How much can a koala bear?

I am deafened by the silence of Swedish consumers reaction to Systembolaget’s plan for new releases of wines in 2010 . Faced with criticism that the newly released wines sold out too quickly and disappointed customers the monopoly was faced with two choices:

a) new releases are obviously popular so more of each should be ordered (ie. consumers want variety)

or

b) reduce the number of new releases and order more of those (ie. consumers want variety but we will give them quantity)

The monopoly said their employees could not cope with too many releases (cue violins…) so putting the interests of their consumers behind those of the employees, option B won out.

To quote Australian comedian Austentaysious “How much can a koala bear?”.

Swedish bears obviously can deal with a lot of pushing around by the monopoly. The rough end of the stick is that small producers who used these new launches as a way to get their products into Sweden could supply smaller quantities without disrupting their export market strategy. By increasing the volume required quailty smaller producers will not want to put all their eggs in one basket and be squeezed out and more sales opportunities will be given to the big producers – of which we do not need more of here anyway.

Alcohol importers, already struggling and closing down due to the monopoly’s resistance to increase prices to offset the weak Kronor will now have to fight over fewer product listings.

Where do wine consumers fit into this you may well ask? Obviously they were not a consideration in making this decision.

We now have over 50.000 members in our wine clubs, obviously consumers want choice and not just of where they buy their wine but what they buy and are tired of the bland monopoly diet of bag in box (60% of the wine sold by Systemet) and mass produced wines that have the character and complexity of a bottle of Coke.

cheers

Mark

Importance of Spitting

There are three important things to learn to be in the wine business. 1. swirl a glass of wine without spilling it  2. spit straight and cleanly into the spittoon 3. not to feel bad when liters of wine get poured out.

It is not the learning of the skills that can be challenging, it it perfecting them and dealing with the less-than-perfect experiences.

I was once visiting a very expensively designed winery in Tuscany and was tasting from the barrel. The winemaker took pride in the perfect state of the winery which he said should not even smell like wine because that meant the precious scent of the wine was being wasted.

As the luscious red liquid was poured into my glass I started to look around for somewhere to spit. This was going to be a long day of tasting I could definitely not swallow. In Australia all winemakers spit into the drain or a spittoon or sawn off barrel with saw dust is proffered. In this art gallery of a winery there was no spitton but the hand-paved red brick floor offered a large and inviting drain. I carefully swirled my glass, sucked and tasted enthusiastically, searching for the right words to describe the Sangiovese nectar. To my horror I saw everyone else swallow and with my mouth full of wine I could not ask for a spittoon. Remembering the highly polished drain to my left I casually walked over and with perfect aim spat into the middle of it, just a few crimson splashes shattering the lustre of the hand scrubbed floor. Feeling proud of myself I looked up to see all eyes shooting arrows in my direction. Was there spit hanging from my chin, I wondered? My second thought was more spot on – in their mind I had just as well spat on their grandmother’s kitchen floor.

Turning the colour of the wine trickling down the drain I apologised and scampered about looking for a tap to wash away my faux pas. To a chorus of “it’s naaathing” and “no problemo” a spittoon miraculously appeared and my sobriety, if not my pride, was saved. The wine was so good I wished I hadn’t had to spit and show my Antipodean roots!

I was reminded of this story as we reflected on a week of tasting really bad wines. We got through 70 wines this week, many from Spain, Australia, France and South Africa. One producer sent over 9 variations of Merlot that tasted like tinned asparagus and another obviously thought that rotten bananas was something the Swedish wine consumer appreciated. Swirling and spitting our way through these examples of crimes against grapes, I had no trouble spitting and then throwing out the wine happy never to taste them again (and of course neither will our members)!

Cheers

Mark

p.s. I went to a really great guys only dinner this weekend and coincidentally met some happy members who gave me a clear message : the wine has been great so far but don’t let us down in the future! Rest assured, we are swirling and spitting our way through a lot of wines to make sure we never do!

Australia – the movie

I am often asked if I miss Australia, which is a stupid question to ask during the months of October to March in Sweden. So attending the premier of Australia, the new blockbuster movie by Baz Luhrmann, was not the best cure for homesickness this Monday night.

As the guests of the Australian Embassy and Fox, my wife and I braved the “glitter and glamour” of b-list celebrities and mass produced Aussie wine to be reminded that if Australia is big, Australia the movie is BIGGER.

Nicole Kidman competes on the screen with Hugh Jackman’s muscles and an adorable Aboriginal boy who generously shares his culture, dreamtime stories and land with the audience. If your previous favourite Aussie movie mostly featured Abba and drag queens then you will be knocked off your stilettos by Baz (the Aussie nickname for Barry) and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox’s vision of Darwin, Northern Territory in 1939.

There has been a lot of negative reviews coming out of the Australian media which can only be described as Tall Poppy syndrome (Jantelagen of Australia) and jealousy at the huge budget. Ignore all you hear and read. How could you make a movie named after the world’s largest island on an independent movie’s budget?

Go and see the movie, don’t wear your RM Williams boots and mole skins, put on comfortable gear as the movie is long but rivetting. Be amazed by the grandeur and size of Australia’s far north, at the bravery and courage that characterises Antipodeans and save a thought for the shame my country bears for how it has treated its indigenous people but has now sought to apologise to and reconcile with.

Poor Fellas Rum is the drink of choice in the movie as this is 1939 – a good 45 years before we  Aussies started our domination of the world wine market. Enjoy Australia as it was and enjoy drinking Australia as it is now!

http://www.australiamovie.com/

Thanks to Baz, Rupert, Fox, Australian Embassy / Austrade and the Japanese airforce for a great evening.

Cheers

Mark

ps. A life lived in fear is a life half lived – thanks for the great motto Baz!

Playing favourites.

Sorry Bosse Zetterqvist, your hollow comments have been exposed.

Posten delivers wine to Systembolaget’s 510 collection points, which are able to check if the recipient is over 20 and sober, but Posten can not do this through their own collection points (many of which are the same place). Bo, can you let us know how many collection points you share with Systembolaget? 

Below is from Systembolaget’s own website about their Ombud (collection point) service.  Bo Zetterqvist and Lars. G. Nordstrom work for a company  owned by all Swedes and in the service of all of us and should explain why they will only deliver alcohol sold by Systembolaget and not other companies operating legally in Sweden.  

Leveranser
Din beställning levereras alltid så snabbt som möjligt. Efter sista beställningstid hos ditt ombud plockar vi ihop varorna. Därefter levererar Posten dem till ombudet. 

Utlämning och ålderskontroll
Utlämning av beställda varor sker under samma tider som Systembolagets öppettider (öppettiderna regleras av riksdagen). Därför sker ingen utlämning på söndagar eller helgdagar.
Försäljningsreglerna är desamma som på Systembolaget, det vill säga man måste vara minst 20 år för att handla, ombuden lämnar inte ut till berusade eller när man misstänker langning.

If we are to believe Bosse’s explanation (see posting below) we also look forward to the big jolly guy in red and white delivering our packages this Christmas, not Posten!If you have a choice how to send packages this festive season and like quality wine, try and use a company that supports free choice.

Cheers!

Mark

Why doesn’t DHL or Schenker jump at this lucrative new market and grow at the expense of Posten? 

Open Letter to Swedish Post’s CEO

Send some Xmas cheer to Lars

 

To: lars.g.nordstrom@posten.se

 

Hej Lars

I read this article in SVD this morning http://www.svd.se/naringsliv/nyheter/artikel_2084139.svd that you are going to give up your salary as CEO of Posten, some 5.4 million SEK. Now I understand why you have not answered my emails requesting Posten to deliver wine to our 26,000 wine club members in Sweden. You must be very busy with your financial advisors trying to work out how you will live off your pension and board directorship fees of 6,5 million SEK a year. I hope this sudden change to your personal financial circumstances will not cause you too much hardship.  If you are short of time to go down to the store to buy wine for you and the staff christmas part you know where to find it – www.australianwineclub.se.  We will deliver it to your office for free if you buy enough.

It really is not fair that you should have to work for no salary, they should at least give you the same salary as your hardworking delivery people. It goes against the capitalist principles that be both believe in and have made you a wealthy guy. Maybe this is not the time to be turning away legal business. I am told by our current logistics partners that their delivery personnel really enjoy delivering wine “everyone is so happy to receive their package,” they say.

So Lars, this season why not get Posten to spread some Christmas cheer around Sweden. Deliver the thousands of boxes of quality wine to our members and give a little boost to your revenues, make your delivery personnel happy by working with a product that people are really glad to receive and of course spread some happiness around the country. Posten already delivers the ingredients for making moonshine so why not wine – or maybe that will be your drink of choice this winter in these hard financial times.

Merry Christmas

Mark Majzner

PS: Please spread the AWC motto to your 30.000 employees: If you drink and drive you’re a bloody idiot.

————————————————————————————-

Hi Vinfrihet readers,

If you would like to collect your wine orders from Posten’s 1600 collection points please let Lars know, lars.g.nordstrom@posten.se and maybe if enough of you write to Lars he will stand up to the political forces that are holding him back from making this sound business decision.

Cheers

Mark

best is the enemy of better?

My perfectionist sister has come up with this smart motto to keep her tendencies getting too out of control – best is the enemy of better. Correct, right? Wouldn’t it be a better world if more of us simply strove to improve ourselves rather than seeking the ideal world through perfection? The competition to be best leaves many participants still standing at the starting blocks and most of the rest scattered distraught along the length of the track. So just as I was coming to grips with this post-financial crisis of the over-achieving generation mantra, I went to meet Sandro Mosele at his Kooyong Estate winery, 90 minutes south of Melbourne.

Kooyong Estate wines are like drinking a page from a Paul Auster book. You can’t read only one page and after having spent untold minutes pondering the sophistication, beauty and complexity of the creation, it is almost impossible to describe it. You know you appreciate it, love in perhaps and yet when asked why your jaw just drops, eyes glaze over and you thrust the book into the questioner’s hands and say “read it for yourself”.

Kooyong wines are the most sought after wines in our range. We should offer a mixed case of their spectacular Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with a copy of Book of Illusions by Mr. Auster. There’s a novel marketing idea!

If you have perfectionist tendencies then I recommend meeting Sandro before you try his wines. As you can see from his photo below, his perfectionism is focused on his wines (and certainly not his old Volvo stationwagon) which gives you heart that his Mornington Peninsula Follies are more than just the Music of Chance. This Oracle from the Melbourne suburbs is so focused on creating a wine that in his palate is perfect his lofty ambitions could dub him Mr. Vertigo. Now you have met him, then try the wines…….

If you can afford and are a fan of Burgundy and find the intense fruit of New World Pinot Noir too over powering then Kooyong Estate’s Pinot Noir could, maybe, possibly be interesting for you. I really detest comparing New World wines with Old World masters like “this Aussie Shiraz Viognier is in the style of Cote du Rhone, or this Californian Chardonnay has distinct Chablis qualities.” Hey, if I want a Cote du Rhone or a Chablis I will buy one with the big Made in France label on it, so don’t take the easy way out and describe this New World wine in terms other than its own reference points.

Sandro strives for perfection and you can taste it in his wines and see it in his eyes when he explains the minute temperature control benefits obtained from his latest purchase of French oak fermenters (almost unseen in Australia). To put the Chardonnay among its correct reference points, it is Kiera Knightely in silk underwear driving a golden Maserati spyder. And Kiera will also look even better in her smalls in 10 years time!

The Kooyong Estate Pinot Noir is another story completely. This is Heath Ledger playing The Joker in the latest Batman Movie. It is so smooth, so complex, so powerful and intruiging it scares you, won’t leave your mind and instantly raises comparisons to the other great Jokers over the years (Nicholson for example). This is a Pinot Noir that only a perfectionist can make.

The few short hours we had with Sandro down on the Peninsula vastly added to my knowledge and appreciation of his wines (Port Philip Estate included) and totally shot down any hope I had of living to my sister’s new found motto of “best is the enemy of better,” with wines like these, is it really?

Below are some photos of Peter Walker, our legendary agent in Australia, Sandro and myself.

Cheers!

Mark

Weather memory / wine memories

I have no weather memory. Or very little of it from my childhood. Can you remember what the weather was like in winter 2002 or summer 2006? My experience with most people here is that they will tell you the average temperature for that season along with their own bathing temparature (minimum temperature the water must be to take a dip). Perhaps it is growing up in Perth where the weather was always, how shall i say, lagom. Winter was lagom mild, summer lagom hot. There are only two seasons. I recall my first front page headline in the newspaper when I was a young journalist – “Perth Shivers – 0 degrees overnight.” I think I even managed to mention a fatality related to the cold (not from exposure but they left their electric heater on and the room caught fire). If the thermometer exceeded 37 degrees we were technically allowed to go home from school so we hawkishly watched the mercury soar past the old 100 degrees fahrenheit almost every day of the summer but thankfully they kept us learning at our desks in the unairconditioned classrooms. So weather really never mattered to me so I suppose I failed to developed a weather memory.

When weather plays does not play such an important part in our daily life and memory there is so much room for other things to rush in and fill the void. For most Aussies it is sport but for me, since 1984 it has been an interest in wine. That is not to say that the weather doesn’t have a connection to wine – knowing how hot it will be determines how much wine to bring in the esky (wine cooler) to the picnic.

I realised while I was in Australia that what I missed here in Sweden was the passion for wine that goes with living in a wine producing country and where our brains are freed of thoughts and concerns of the weather so we can fill it with overwhelming memories of wine experiences. I met my friend Patrick today and he hinted at a wonderful wine memory from France but did not elaborate further. It was not unusual that his strongest wine memory did not originate in Sweden (“just before Idol started we opened this 1987 Barolo and I almost fell off the Klippan sofa and spilled the wine into the Findus meatballs….” nah, see what I mean?). Maybe Patrick will share his memory with us later?

Visiting literally 30 different wine stores in Australia recently I was overwhelmed by the knowledge and passion of the sales staff. Selling wine was the easy part for them, what they wanetd, and I eagerly gobbled up, was the banter, the conversation, the sharing of wine passion and experiences. Many of the wines they raved about were actually from producers we represent and I had a sharp reminder that our selection of Australian wine is pretty darn good and to be proud of (thanks Peter Walker, our wine agent!).

So I have come home to the darkness, my mind expurged of weather memories, filled with passion and excitement for wine and ready to spread the passion. I am already thinking what bottles to share with a group of friends which will meet next weekend to drink some Italian wines and at a dinner for our shareholders this week. Every wine has a story, every wine is made by the experiences of its winemakers and opening it is in itself a new experience. And every time I meet one of our thousands of members I add to my collective wine experiences and love to hear of their wine memories.

My mission for this winter is to ask you all to clear out your weather memories and replace it with wine memories, either remembered from the past or newly created. Share them with me, your friends and spread the word that a great glass of wine, specially this time of year, is a memory creating experience that knocks dead that memory of the rainy midsummer in 1987.

Cheers!

Mark