There are many people unaware of the direct mail wine business. The largest player in the world is the Sunday Times Wine Club by a clear margin, but the Sydney head-quartered Cellarmasters is also a one of the heavyweights and also a global force. Since ownership under Fosters, some of the international interests, including the New Zealand Wine Society, have been sold off, but Cellarmasters still remains a significant maker and seller of wine. One of the key reasons of their success is their strong contact with their customers, and the built-up profile of these people which is used to grow business with them.
In Australia, the Cellarmasters wine portfolio has wines made from fruit from all the significant wine growing regions, and the wine is sold throughout the country. The winemaking team is headed by Mark Robertson, a Kiwi who headed the Matua Valley winery for a number of years. Also in the team are highly respected people such as Meg Brodtmann MW, Jo Gear and Mike de Garis, the latter two also with considerable New Zealand expertise. In recent years, the wines have become more regionally expressive, as the market is growing in awareness in the different tastes that various winegrowing areas produce.
I was invited to attend a celebratory luncheon for four Brisbane clientele hosted by Cellarmasters. Kerry, Claire, Sandra and Karen were the recipients of a promotional prize – an expenses-paid weekend in the Hunter Valley. I was impressed with the loyalty that they had for the Cellarmasters operation and the wines that were offered on a regular basis to them. Even more impressive was the quality, drinkability and regionally representative character of the wines served at lunch.
First wine was the Riversdale Estate ‘Crux’ Coal River Tasmania Methode Traditionnelle NV (17.5-/20), clean, fresh, elegant with Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs florals and delicacy. The perfect aperitif, and showing why Tasmania has become the premiere sparkling wine region of Australia. Then an as-yet unlabelled and un-named wine, the BW1587 ‘Winemaker’s Reserve’ Hunter Valley Semillon 2007 (19.0/20), rich and fine with lime, lemon, herb and toast characters on an expansively textured palate. A superb example of modern, accessible Semillon from this historical district. The blending was handled by Mike de Garis.
Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has been extremely popular in Australia, and Cellarmasters has had the experience of Mark Robertson and Jo Gear to draw on. Two were served. The Looking Glass Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 1010 (16.0-/20), made from Waihopi, Awatere and Wratts Road fruit was herbaceous and nettle, its off-dry palate providing accessibility. Then a Forefathers Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (17.0+/20), made by Nick Goldschmitt, also in the cool end of the ripeness spectrum, but restrained, balance and finely presented on the palate. Both had bracing acidity making them ideal with shellfish.
Three red wines also demonstrated regionality clearly. The Seaview ‘Reserve’ McLaren Vale Merlot 2009 (17.5+/20) was rounded and elegant with sweetly ripe dark plum and berry aromas and flavours. The tannins were fine-grained, allowing the fruit to come to the fore. A very well-balanced red to match with most red meat dishes. Then a striking Hanging Rock Pyrennes Shiraz 2010 (16.0/20), very dark purple-red in colour with concentrated jam and essence of eucalypt characters along with spice and herbal elements. Soft, supple and lush, this will be a wine to drink in the next 3-4 years with Middle Eastern cuisine. The final wine was the John C Glaetzer ‘Black’ Stonyfell-Langhorne Creek Cabernet/Shiraz 2009 (17.5/20), showing the classic camphor aromas and flavours of fruit from this region. Mellow cedar and menthol notes flowed through the soft, fine-textured palate, the finish sustained and flavoursome.
The success of any wine seller ultimately rests on the quality of the wine delivered to its clients. Cellarmasters continues to grow its following and judging by the pleasure shown by the four Brisbane ladies at lunch, the wines offered are doing their job!