Monthly Archives: December 2018

The 2009 Penfolds Grange: the critics’ verdict

Penfolds 2009 Grange. Penfolds 2009 Grange.
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Australia’s top 10 most expensive wines

All Grange vintages are eagerly awaited by collectors, although you need increasingly deep pockets to be in the game. The price tag of Thursday’s release – the 2009 vintage – is $785.

Grange isn’t released until it is five years old, by which time it’s starting to be approachable but still needs more time. The classic drinking window of Grange is between 10 and 40 years after vintage; 50-plus for the great vintages.

Once described by English wine author Hugh Johnson as the one true first growth of the southern hemisphere, it now has competition for that title, not least from its own stable, as Penfolds releases occasional Special Bin wines that are at least as great as Grange. Today, it is often regarded as an old-fashioned wine, with its rugged tannins and overt coconutty American oak – although it has been subtly refined over the past 15 or so years, and is more elegant and less oaky, with finer tannins.Three of goodfood苏州美甲美睫培训学校.au’s wine writers put this year’s release to the test.

Huon Hooke

The 2009 season came at the end of a three-year drought, when South Australia experienced hotter and drier conditions than usual. In 2008 the heat came late and Penfolds had picked most of its grapes before the record heatwave hit; in 2009 the heatwave was early and had more effect on the wines.

The 2009 is a typical Grange, which I’m sure will age well, but I don’t see quite the detail in aroma and flavour that I do in great years. There are hints of cooked or jammy fruit, as well as roasted nuts, plums, coffee, mocha and raisin. There’s a touch of heat on the palate and the tannins are ample, drying and firm. I don’t perceive quite the profound depth of fruit that I usually taste in Grange. The oak is apparent but quite well balanced, and will become more balanced by the time the wine is drunk, ideally not for a decade or more.

It will mature and develop for at least 40 years. I’d place it in the second level of Granges, below the great Granges such as 2008, 06, 04, 96, 94, 91 and 86.

Score: 93/100

Huon Hooke is one of Australia’s best qualified wine writers and judges. He has been a Fairfax wine critic since 1983.

Jeni Port

Is Penfolds Grange 2009 the vintage of the century? No. Even Penfolds winemaker Peter Gago agrees it is not. Neither is it vintage of the decade. For that we will have to wait and see what comes with the highly anticipated 2010 vintage (and the chance of yet another price rise) next year.

Is it as complete and resplendent as the 2008? No, and again the weight of evidence suggests that 2009 is a) not as powerful or b) deserving of “classic” Grange status. Sounds dire for those Grange collector traders, doesn’t it?

Fortunately for the health of Australian wine in general, the 2009 Grange will sort out the drinkers from the traders. It is a fine wine deserving of any red wine drinker’s serious consideration – and so it should be at $785 a bottle. In fact, it exudes a level of unGrange-like charm that I find appealing. The highly fragrant red fruit perfume, aniseed and spicy grand bazaar type exotica arouse the senses. It seems to be striving to be more of a good drink rather than a master of the wine universe celebrating excess.

Score: 94/100

Jeni Port has been a wine writer for The Age since 1989 and this year was inducted as a ‘legend’ by the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.

Ralph Kyte-Powell

The arrival of each new Grange vintage excites more interest in Australian wine circles than any other label, even though few can afford it. It’s a figurehead, a commodity investment, a flagship, a news item, a mighty red. Beyond our shores, it’s probably done more than anything to show that Australian wine should be taken seriously.

Grange is also a picture of consistency. Vintage variations do exist but there have been few duds since its first release with the 1951 vintage. In my opinion, the most recent poor Grange was the 2000 wine, but not everyone will agree on that. So how does the 2009 vintage rate? My tasting notes, based on those taken at the Grange launch, are as follows: Deep, dense appearance. Initial aromas are of coconut, mocha, black chocolate. As usual, there is notable American oak barrel ferment character, but dense, stewed plummy fruit stands up to it. Complex spice characters add dimension. It’s a mouth-coating, big wine that seems a bit more plush and forward than others at the same stage. Tannins aren’t quite as formidable either. A very good Grange, but although it’s hard to assess these wines at only five years of age in the context of other vintages, to me it didn’t quite have the same well-defined fruit character and palate structure of recent great Granges such as the 2006 and 2008.

Score: 94/100

Ralph Kyte-Powell has more than 30 years’ experience in the wine business and hospitality industry and has been writing about wine for more than a decade.

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China: Party expels ‘corrupt and degenerate’ top official

Beijing: China’s ruling Communist Party has expelled one of its senior officials, Li Chuncheng, and authorised a criminal investigation into his corrupt behaviour, the latest major move in an anti-graft drive encircling the country’s former domestic security chief, Zhou Yongkang.

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It comes nearly 18 months after Mr Li, then deputy party secretary of Sichuan province, became the first senior official detained in what has developed into China’s biggest anti-corruption probe and a flagship of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts to strengthen his grip on the leadership.

Chinese authorities have to date said nothing regarding their investigation into Mr Zhou, one of China’s most formidable politicians in recent decades, which has broadened into the detention of his immediate relatives.

While dozens of his known associates have been arrested, internal party pressure has meant Mr Xi’s ultimate intentions over  Mr Zhou – who would be the highest-ranking party official to ever be charged with corruption – remain unclear.

But the formal expulsion of Mr Li is seen as a significant step, given he was the first official Mr Xi put under investigation, soon after taking power in November 2012. Mr Li, who rose quickly through the ranks while Mr Zhou was Sichuan’s top official between 1999 and 2002, was removed from office within weeks of Mr Zhou’s official retirement in late 2012.

In a statement released late on Tuesday, China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said Mr Li, as well as his wife and daughter accepted “huge bribes”, that he was “corrupt and degenerate” and abused his power to indulge in “feudalistic superstitious activities” that created “massive losses to state finances”, without providing further detail.

Caixin, a Chinese financial magazine, reported this month that Mr Li spent tens of millions of yuan to hire a fengshui master to conduct rituals when moving his family’s ancestral tomb.

Mr Li also reportedly arranged a Taoist priest to “drive out demons” when an associate’s company was going through a difficult period.

Mr Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has focused on Sichuan province, where in addition to senior provincial leaders, leading business figures like Hanlong Group’s Liu Han have also been detained. It has also targeted another stronghold of Mr Zhou – China’s powerful state-owned oil sector.

Mr Zhou’s son Zhou Bin, his sister-in-law Zhou Lingying and his son’s mother-in-law, Zhan Minli, have company assets in their names worth at least $US160 million ($172.8 million), much of it based on ventures with a state-owned oil company that Mr Zhou once headed, The New York Times reported this month. Mr Zhou’s son and sister-in-law are among those understood to be under the party’s custody.

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Manus detainees seek witness protection

Asylum seeker Reza Barati was killed during a riot in the Manus Island detention centre on February 17. Photo: Kate GeraghtyLawyers acting for asylum seekers who say they witnessed the killing of Reza Barati at the Manus Island detention centre in February have launched a High Court action to have them placed in protective custody in Australia.
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The asylum seekers, who are still to be interviewed by Papua New Guinea police investigating Mr Barati’s death, say they have received death threats and fear for their safety while they remain in the centre.

A writ issued on Wednesday also accuses the Australian and PNG governments of committing crimes against humanity by exposing asylum seekers to arbitrary and indefinite detention in “tortuous, inhuman and degrading conditions”.

The action is aimed at securing the return of the asylum seekers to Australia for processing and preventing any more being sent to PNG. It will be vigorously defended by the Abbott government.

The legal action coincides with renewed tensions at the facility, amid speculation that several asylum seekers will be told their claims for refugee status have been rejected.

One Iranian was told on Wednesday that he had received a “positive initial assessment” and “may be eligible to participate in more activities in the PNG community”. But a letter to the asylum seeker said this did not mean he was a refugee, and a final decision would be made by PNG immigration minister, Rimbink Pato.

Mr Barati was killed and more than 60 others were injured when PNG nationals entered the centre on the night of February 17 armed with machetes, guns and other weapons.

Lawyers acting on behalf of 354 of around 1300 asylum seekers being held in the Manus Island facility have also called for a royal commission-style inquiry into arrangements, events and conditions at the centre.

They are seeking an urgent hearing on the application for the asylum seekers to be given witness protection. One of the witnesses, who says he can identify most of those involved in Mr Barati’s death, has already told a PNG court that he fears for his life if he reveals what he saw on February 17. He says PNG guards, PNG locals and expatriate Australians were involved in the death.

Lead counsel Jay Williams took detailed statements from the witnesses before being deported from PNG last month, but the asylum seekers have refused to speak to police investigating Mr Barati’s death until their safety can be guaranteed.

Instructing solicitor Ruth Hudson, who is senior associate with the Sydney law firm Stacks Goudkamp, said the action by the PNG government to shut down a human rights inquiry initiated by PNG judge Justice Cannings underscored the case for an inquiry to be established in Australia. She proposed that former High Court judge Michael Kirby head the inquiry.

Among the claims made in the writ filed on Wednesday are that the asylum seekers were forcibly deported from Australia in violation of international law and have been detained without access to legal representation, judicial review or a fair hearing.

They say they have been exposed to murder, attempted murder, threats of cannibalism, grievous bodily harm and other “gross humanitarian violations”. A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said it would not be appropriate to comment on matters before the courts.

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Tony Abbott’s climate policies a $40 billion budget slug, says Climate Institute

The Abbott government should rethink its approach to carbon abatement to save the budget bottom line, says the Climate Institute. Photo: Graham TidyThe Abbott government’s changes to existing climate change policies would cost the budget as much as $40 billion by 2020, according to the Climate Institute, and the cost will blow out even further if it weakens the renewable energy target.
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The estimated costs stem in part from payments to polluters to curb greenhouse gas emissions under the government’s Direct Action emissions reduction plan. This tally includes the $2.55 billion for the first four years of the Emissions Reduction Fund and an estimated $1.2 billion annually after that.

“This is a friendless piece of policy and not many people are standing up to defend it,” said John Connor, chief executive of the Climate Institute.

A bigger blow to the budget, though, will come from the loss of the carbon tax revenues if, as expected, the new Senate votes to repeal it after July 1. Current laws indicate the price – now a tax but due to convert to a floating price by mid-2016 at the latest – will bring in more than $18 billion.

That combined tally, at about $24 billion, swells to more than $40 billion by 2020 if the Abbott government sticks with its plan to block the purchase of cheaper international emission reductions to meet domestic commitments, the institute said.

Both the Coalition government and the Labor opposition are committed to cutting carbon emissions by 5 per cent by 2020, although the two parties have proposed different methods to meet that target.

Mr Connor said the government has already changed its position to cut its paid parental leave package and was reportedly reviewing other policies such as fuel tax rebates for miners and farmers worth some $3 billion a year. He should the government should also change its stance of carbon pricing if it is serious about dealing with budget constraints.

“The urgency of this budget situation seems to make this [change] possible as well,” Mr Connor said.

The costs of the Direct Action will balloon further if the government undermines other policies limiting carbon emissions, such as the Renewable Energy Target. The target, now set at supplying 41,000 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy by 2020, is currently being reviewed by businessman and climate change sceptic, Dick Warburton.

The current climate policies of the government are “a growing slug on taxpayers, and barely tenable now”, Mr Connor said. “If they start to weaken other measures, they’ll have to buy more” carbon abatement, he said.

Fairfax Media sought comment from Environment Minister Greg Hunt on whether the government accepted the modelling used by the Climate Institute, or could provide other figures used for the Emissions Reduction Fund white paper released last week.

“The government has a clear mandate to scrap the carbon tax and this will deliver much-needed relief to families,” a spokesman for Mr Hunt said. “Households are forecast to be around $550 a year better off, on average.”

The first four years of the Emissions Reduction Fund are fully costed and capped at $2.55 billion, he said.

“In it its first year of operation the carbon tax was a $7.6 billion hit on the economy, yet emissions fell by just 0.1 per cent,” he added.

Data from the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, though, shows emissions from the electricity sector – the industry most directly covered by the carbon tax – fell 7.6 per cent in the first year of the carbon price, or 14.8 million tonnes.

Big increases in emissions from the coal mining and gas industries, only partially covered by the carbon tax, helped blunt gains in the electricity sector.

With Lisa Cox

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Festival’s wordsmiths take to the streets to get their message across

Walter White, the central character from the hit television series Breaking Bad, might count among the few people to recognise the unique potential of a Sydney street-cleaning truck.
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‘‘It would actually be a good place to have a mobile meth lab,’’ the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, said.

‘‘If it smells a little funny because of the meth fumes that were coming out, people would probably just say ‘that’s the way they typically smell, the cleansing trucks.’‘‘

What White may see as a business opportunity – one Gilligan hastily advises anyone against trying – the Sydney Writer’s Festival is using as an unlikely literary device.

The City of Sydney’s cleansing trucks, bus shelters and street-display boards have been emblazoned with 17 extracts from the work of some the festival’s line-up of writers, including Gilligan, Christos Tsiolkas, Irvine Welsh and Amy Tan.

In Gilligan’s case, the Breaking Bad extract is not credited to the show’s writers but their creation: the high-school chemistry teacher who undergoes a Mr Chips-to-Scarface transformation to become a drug kingpin and one of the most compelling characters in television.

‘‘I am not in danger Skyler,’’ White says in a season four exchange with his wife – as well as, until May 24, on the side of a Sydney street-sweeping truck. ‘‘I am the danger.’’

Gilligan said White had taken on a life of his own.

“I love this idea that this creation of ours has a chance of living on past my lifetime,” he said. “That’s very exciting to me.”

The festival’s artistic director, Jemma Birrell, said she selected extracts that would make Sydneysiders pause, wonder – or head to hear some of the wordsmiths due to appear in person.

‘‘In contrast to the layers of advertising we’re hit with, I hope these quotes will offer a refreshing contrast,” Ms Birrell said.

Gilligan is in Sydney to discuss the journey from writing the Breaking Bad pilot, to winning an Emmy Award for Most Outstanding Drama, to delivering the show’s highly anticipated finale watched by 10.3 million people in the US alone.

Such was the ‘‘avalanche’’ of interest for Thursday’s Sydney Town Hall event, which is kicking off the festival, organisers added another session.

Most of the festival’s events are due to take place from May 19 to 25.

Gilligan said he was ‘‘so tickled’’ that television writing was now considered to be a ‘‘somewhat’’ literary endeavour.

‘‘We’re in a so-called new golden age of television and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it,’’ he said.

And he said White would get a kick out of seeing himself quoted on the side of a cleaning truck.

‘‘I think a lot of what he did on the show came down to his craving for power and his craving for self-esteem,’’ he said.

‘‘Any kind of fame or even infamy would be very pleasing for him.’’

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