Glowing in a Fortified Winter

Winter invites hotel and restaurant customers to seek out warmth and comfort and so at this time of year, the market for fortified wines, port and sherry reaches its peak.

Port and sherry drinkers tend to be knowledgeable when it comes to choosing brands and vintages and in order to optimise sales therefore a training session for serving staff is well worthwhile.

For a variety of historical reasons, the service and consumption of  port, for instance, is tied up with etiquette, styles and rituals.

Who, but our beloved near neighbours in Britain, would ask a dining companion if he ‘knew the Bishop of Norwich’, when what he really wanted was a refill of his port glass. Yet that still happens at tables in many parts of the world.

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Tale of the Tui Bird


The Tui bird has returned to Marlborough, New Zealand, thanks in some part to the conservation efforts of winemaker Jane Hunter, who planted a ‘native garden’ on the family estate in 2000. The mix of swamp, forest and wetland has re-created an environment which had largely disappeared from the region and it has encouraged native birds like the Tui to breed again.

‘The numbers are increasing’, says Jane, during a visit to Dublin. ‘The local Council has now joined in the programme and has set up a register of sightings.’

Like most New Zealand wine-makers Jane has a keen sense of preserving the environment. She is part of a large group which set out to achieve sustainable wine growing throughout the industry and she is pleased to report that they are on target to achieve their goal this year. ‘In addition to being good for the environment, it enhances the brand image of New Zealand wines’, she says.

Hunters is to the forefront of this movement and is now accredited as carbon neutral.

Born in Australia and trained as a viticulturalist, Jane moved to New Zealand in the 1980s and married Belfast-born Ernie Hunter who had bought a farm in Marlborough where he was growing a wide variety of grapes. They began to produce some acclaimed wines, winning awards in New Zealand and Europe. But tragedy struck in 1987 when Ernie was killed in a motor accident. Jane  took over the running of  his wine business together with winemaker Gary Duke  and Peter McDermod who became general manager. They developed the international reputation of Hunter wines with an emphasis on consistently high quality and developed a close relationship with distributors in export market, including Gilbeys in Ireland.

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Wines Add Value to Thorn Clarke

If you grow grapes, you will eventually want to make wine- and that is what happened to the Thorn Clarke family in Australia’s Barossa Valley. For six generations the family had been farming with grapes as its principal crop. They developed an enviable expertise in viticulture and their grapes were in high demand from local winemakers.  They had a special interest in geology and this prompted them to explore areas where various grape varieties would realise their full potential. Where they saw promise, they bought and cultivated the land, so that by the end of the 20th Century they owned more than 700ha of vineyards- very sizeable even by Australian norms.

A new century brought a new departure for the family and in 2001Thorn Clarke released its first wines to the world.

‘It was the culmination of decisions taken some years earlier’, says the company’s ceo Sam Thorn, when we meet in Bray. ‘We knew that we grew some of the best grapes in the Barossa and it was a natural progression to convert them into wines. It involved a lot of planning and investment in a modern winery- but it decided the future of our family business.’

Sam lives on the family’s Kabininge vineyard near Tanunda with wife Helen and daughters Hannah and Jasmin.  An accountant by profession, he worked in industry before joining the family business which he co-owns with David, Cheryl and Nicole Clarke

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