Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An Evening With Tony Hooper, Winemaker

My grad school alma mater hosted an event for alumni and cleverly used wine as bait. It worked.

Of course, this was no ordinary wine tasting, as the winemaker for Wyndham Estates, Tony Hooper, came to discuss the wine industry, the Canadian wine market, and even some business etiquette. In fact Wyndham was kind enough to leave behind a booklet entitled "The Wydham Estate Executive Guide to Wine: Choosing Wines for Business Meals".

Interesting facts from the corporate presentation:
  • New Zealand continues to struggle to meet demand. In fact Tony commented that the really good sites have all been used up and vineyards are now expanding to more marginal sites. Conumers take note...

  • The Canadian wine market is nearly 35 million cases, up 8% vs. the prior year. Red wines represent 62% of Canadian wine sales, a substantial departure from other regions (USA and Australia are roughly 50:50)

  • Canadian wine accounts for 28% of wine sold in Canada. Having visited Ontario and B.C. (the two main wine producing regions), you can probably double that market share in those provinces.

  • Quebec, my home province, leads the country, consuming 37% of all wine sold in Canada, yet Quebec represents just 23% of the Canadian population. While Edward may claim that I am solely responsible for this "outperformance", what this really means is that French wine culture lives in North America!

  • The 2007 crush in Australia was a thirty-year low due to drought conditions. The 2008 crush will be worse. On the plus side, quality is going way up!

  • The Bin 444 Cabernet doesn't sell in Asia (bad luck) while the Bin 888 Cab/Merlot is a hot seller (lucky number). He joked that they may change all their wines to 888 for Asian markets.

  • Alcohol: Tony and I chatted about Tasmania and alcohol, amongst other things. He says some big retailers are now requesting lower alcohol in the wines. So, it is not just a blog topic anymore - retailers are taking notice!
The tasting featured everyday Wyndham wines: the Bin 222 Chardonnay, the Bin 444 Cabernet, and the Bin 555 Shiraz. It was rather a difficult setting to take notes - the glasses were too full to swirl (yes, I know how to solve that problem) and held a hint of industrial dishwash soap. But no matter. The Bin 222 is consistently a great value and competitive in that price bracket, it paired well with tropical mango fruit sushi. The Bin 444 was varietally true, but a bit rough around the edges. It paired nicely with a mini-burger in a mini-pita. Probably bested by some lesser-priced Chileans, it could soften up with a few years in the cellar. The Bin 555 was an excellent wine, and paired nicely with beef skewers and some beef carpaccio.

So, the question you might have is: "Why is the winemaker for one of the world's largest wine companies flying to Montreal to do a tasting with students?" Do the math - 37% of 35 million is nearly 13 million cases, and the Quebec government has a monopoly. Tony was here to pitch a big customer.



Edward said...

I was going to say that the rise in the Canadian dollar would make that liver transplant in the USA just that little bit cheaper, but of course, I am far too polite to do so :)

I suspect the figures for Quebec - which are very impressive, would partly due to Marcus as well. . .

Marcus said...


Joe said...

Thanks Edward, but I don't all the livers come from "dead" people in China? (Thinking of that Python flick now...)

Yes, Marcus is a contributing factor (thanks for taking the fall for me...)