If you’ve always wanted to try legendary Australian wines such as Henschke Hill of Grace or Penfolds Grange, but baulk at paying $800 for a bottle, there’s a cheaper alternative for tasting greatness.
In response to a growing demand for good wines, and with help from technology that keeps the opened wines fresh, some of Australia’s top restaurants are offering so-called “super-premium” wines by the glass.
The Henschke family has collaborated with a number of restaurants to create special matches and deals for a limited time to celebrate the release of the 2009 Hill of Grace. Many of the restaurants are offering the wine for no more than the pro rata cost of buying a bottle retail.
First created by Cyril Henschke in 1958, from 150-year-old vines on a single 4-hectare vineyard, the 2009 is the 52nd vintage. Winemaker Stephen Henschke describes the 2009 as “an exceptional showcase of old vine complexity, character and resilience”.
“It has all the benchmark characters of five spice, berry fruit and layers of fine French oak, a deep, rich and textural palate finishing with long, fine velvety tannins,” Stephen said.
Peter McAtamney from Wine Business Solutions says the trend towards wines by the glass is growing, up 4% on last year to nearly one-third of listings at 32%.
“When we first undertook this research in November 2008, by the glass listings were 26% and there has been a steady build ever since,” he said.
His research is published in Wine On-Premise Australia 2014 which uses nearly 20,000 listings taken from 600 lists, representing every type of On-Premise outlet from across Australia.
The data reveals a small drop in the average price for wines by the glass, to $9.83, down from $9.99 and there a big variations in average glass and bottle prices between states, but McAtamney says that anecdotally there’s a big trend running currently of listing super-premium wines by the glass as a novelty, aided by wine preservation systems such as the Enomatic.
Surprisingly, fine dining restaurants tend to have smaller by the glass options in contrast to their extensive bottle lists.
“We are seeing a rise in the number of venues that want to list almost everything by the glass. This is not a good idea, of course, in the absence of an Enomatic or similar gas preservation system,” McAtamney said.
Among those dabbling in top end drops is The Winery in Sydney’s Surry Hills, where 1997 Penfolds Grange is $99 a glass, or $49 for half a glass and $500 a bottle.
Tetsuya’s general manager and sommelier Stuart Halliday says the restaurant offers a range of premium wines by the glass, starting with 2004 Dom Perignon champagne for $60, as well as 2009 Castagna Genesis shiraz from Beechworth, Victoria for $42 and 2005 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon for $55.
“It gives people the option of not spending $250 on a bottle, but still savouring a flagship wine, be it from France, Germany or Australia,” Halliday said.
“It also introduces people to premium wines they wouldn’t normally get to try or afford to buy.”
At ARIA in Sydney, sommelier Matthew Dunne has Moss Wood’s 1995 cabernet sauvignon for $47 for 75ml (half a glass). A bottle is $495.
At Melbourne’s Attica, one of the world’s 50 best restaurants, sommelier Banjo Harris Plane serves an ’09 Barolo (regarded as Italy’s Grange) by Giovanni Canonica Paiagallo for $42.
While Sydney’s est. restaurant, which currently offers the Hill of Grace has 1999 Château d’Yquem, the legendary Sauternes dessert wine from France for $89.
Chris Morrison group sommelier at Guillaume Brahimi’s restaurants is currently compiling premium wine by the glass options for the new Guillaume restaurant in Sydney’s Paddington, which opens next month.
“It makes great wines accessible without spending too much money and means you don’t have to put all your eggs in one bottle,” he said.
Neil Perry’s Rockpool group, which has one of the nation’s finest wine cellars, offers top wines from around the world, including the 2009 Hill of Grace for $110 at Rockpool and the 100-year-old 1914 Seppeltsfield Para vintage fortified for $98, as well as a Grand Cru Burgundy, ’07 Camille Giroud, Latricières-Chambertin, for $48, at Rockpool Bar & Grill, Sydney.
Rockpool Group head sommelier Michael Engelmann said they’d just invested in new Coravin wine technology to up the ante on its premium wine by the glass options.
But if you really want to sample great wines, best fly Qantas business class, where the EpiQure program has eight Penfolds wines in an Enomatic system business lounges. You can try 4 vintages of Grange – ’02, ’03, ’04, ’05 – as well as three vintages of the “white Grange”, Yattarna chardonnay, 2000, ’07 & ’08, as well as the $350 2010 Bin 169 cabernet sauvignon.
No wonder the business passengers don’t mind if the plane is delayed.
Where to try Henschke Hill of Grace 2009 during May.
$250 for 2 glasses (125ml), with a Cote de Boeuf.
$115 for 1 glass of Hill of Grace 2009 with a cheese plate.
No. 8 by John Lawson, Crown, Melbourne
$150 for 150ml, $80 75ml, $28 25ml for Hill of Grace, matched with Barwon River lamb, bush spiced quinoa and sheep’s yoghurt
Vue de Monde, Melbourne
$90 for 90 ml with kangaroo, beetroot and munthari berries
Cha Cha Char, Brisbane
$120 for 150ml, $60 for 75ml glass, plus $60 for charcoal roast Wagyu rump cap
Chianti Classico, Adelaide
$125 for 125ml with ‘Deer Farm’ venison, truffled chocolate and chilli sauce and white polenta.
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