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What The Market Says
Cleanskin Shopping at Dan Murphy
Friday, 30th March, 2007  - David Farmer
Before and after. Masked tastings encourage us to be as objective as possible - we all have bias no matter how well hidden.

Last year we purchased at Dan Murphy’s eight cleanskin whites plus two well known brands and masked and pointed the wines. They were all priced well under $10.00. We thought we would add to the story in subsequent months and didn’t, so a fair bit of time has elapsed since our evaluation and it is unlikely that any of these wines are still for sale.

Here are the wines:

No. 1 - Pale golden colour; developed aroma of a wine ageing quickly, not very pleasant with a strange, yellow lawn clippings to ripe straw aromas perhaps an old sauvignon blanc. Full ripe palate but has seen better days and there has to be better things to drink but by no means a disgrace, its just developing too quickly.
Score 12.5/20
Dan Murphy’s South Eastern Australia Chardonnay 2004 (PGO4)

No.2 - Pale colour; light aromatic aroma, delicate and tight; light, refined and not sweet perhaps needs a bit more meat on the mid palate but drinks evenly with no build up of odd flavours. A fragrant delicate wine. Good.
Score 16.5/20
Dan Murphy’s Clare Valley Riesling 2005

No. 3 - Pale colour; delicate though undefined aroma, touch sweaty, not unpleasant; fine, lighter style but lacks definition although a useful mouthful and I have no problem quaffing the wine. Indeed quite a good crisp long drying finish. Later a bit metallic and stripped of an obvious varietal character but lingering crisp flavours.
Score 15.5/20
Orlando Jacobs Creek Chardonnay 2005

No. 4 - Pale colour with just a touch of straw; crisp, clean aroma lacks varietal definition and perhaps a tad dirty; fair flavour but a trifle mean and lacks plump fruit sweetness, tough acid and a bit false on the palate.
Score 13.5/20 or lower.
Dan Murphy’s Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (French Vin De Pays)

No. 5 - Stelvin cap. Pale straw with a touch gold colour; blousy heavy aroma showing some cooler touches and some age; palate shows lots of flavour and becomes cloying but shows fair balance and while not all that pleasant is also not undrinkable-the back palate continues to build with hints of a false oakiness but still this is O.K. for the money.
Score 14.5/20
Dan Murphy’s Chardonnay South Australia 2004

No. 6 - Pale colour; delicate though at times neutral aroma, perhaps sweaty; dry, clean palate, no obvious varietal definition, a bit hard, quite drinkable.
Score 14.5/20
Dan Murphy’s Adelaide Hills Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2005

No. 7 - Cork seal. Pale to mid straw colour; pleasant delicate, clean, floral inviting aroma; heavy palate, oily, almost viscous which is at odds with the aroma, later becomes cloying but at under $10.00 this is O.K.
Score 15.5/20
Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay 2005

No.8 - Pale straw yellow colour; defective and oxidised which is strange as this had a screw cap, tainted aroma almost like it was corked; tough hard palate and phenolic. This is not good.
Score. Not scored
Dan Murphy’s Argentine Chenin Chardonnay 2004

No. 9 - Pale to mid gold colour; delicate light aroma but a touch odd suggesting something is not quite right; full, ripe flavours though lacks excitement but not bad although this is drinking at the lowest rung. Will do at a pinch.
Score 14/20
Dan Murphy’s Premium South Australian Chardonnay 2003

No.10 - Pale washed colour with hints of light straw; delicate light aroma with a touch of something odd like oatmeal; pleasant palate being crisp and firm with interesting flavours and at times sappy and shows real interest. Other times an odd palate character which is oily and cloying and reminds me a bit of a pinot gris that did not work. Improved later and this is a credible cleanskin.
Score 14.5/20 possibly higher.
Dan Murphy’s Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2005

It is not fair to draw any general conclusions from a small tasting though over the last 18 months I have looked at quite a few cleanskins from many retailers. On average you get less than you pay for.

There are many aspects to the cleanskin market. Genuine cleanskins that are identical to what the producer sells under his label are being sold into the market. These may be good buying but ask yourself whether the wine was worth the labeled price in the first place. My guess is that this is a tiny part of the market as only tiny wineries are involved.

A recent article by Greg Duncan Powell, March 20, Sydney Morning Herald commented that a cleanskin Clare Valley riesling being sold by a large retailer is a Kilikanoon Riesling. No doubt it was made for Kilikanoon (at Pauletts incidentally) but I would be staggered to find that it was the same cut as their branded product known as Kilikanoon Morts Block. I believe they would keep the ultra-best for themselves and on sell the rest.

Another side is where quite large wineries are moving bulk by packaging up wine as cleanskins which are sold at very fair prices. They may have gone under company labels if sales were available. How close they are to the branded products I have no idea. A company selling very good cleanskins that may fall into this category is Warburn Estate from Griffith.

As well some of our large companies sell cleanskins, as they do BOB’s, which are not related to any labeled product and are blended to a price point. Another company sells its branded product wine as a cleanskin but it costs the retailer as much as the labeled product.

Growers are another group having wine made which is sold as cleanskins and these were never made to be labeled. A variation we know of comes from several smart winemakers who buy grapes and only make cleanskins. Some of these incidentally are very good value.

The prime thing to remember is that since price comparison is difficult for the customer the retailer is prone to exaggerate the origin and what the labelled price of the cleanskin would be especially when it’s more profitable than recommending a well known wine. You know the sort of pitch, ‘this wine would sell for $25.00 under its own label’.

With so many branded products being sold from $8.99 to $3.99-such as the good value De Bortoli Sacred Hill range which is often at $3.99- it is much safer to buy branded products. Unlabelled products set the scene for the market to be rorted and it is. Buying cleanskins priced over $10.00 is a mistake.

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