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Casella Family Take On Australian Brewing

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Filfy

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A no-nonsense grape giant is serving up a challenge to major brewers with its no-fuss lager, writes Jeni Port.

THE family behind one of the world's most powerful wine brands, Yellow Tail, is making a grab for the hearts and wallets of Australian beer drinkers.

Having created a multimillion-dollar empire with an easygoing, rock-wallaby-motif, $8 Aussie wine, the Casella family is taking on Australian brewing, promising another no-fuss drinking style - but with hops. The first beer off the line is Arvo premium lager.

This is not some toe-dipping exercise. A mega-brewery, with a capacity of 1.6 million litres, has sprouted mushroom-like beside the expanding Casella winery at Yenda, outside Griffith.

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The brewery has a bottling line in place that can fill 35,000 bottles an hour. It will be one of two. Further along the beer path, the company plans smaller boutique lines.

Managing director John Casella - one of the three Casella brothers behind the wine giant - dreams of taking a 5 per cent slice of the local beer market. With his track record in wine, no one is challenging the newcomer's ambition. Could this be a way for Casella Wines to answer its critics? Fire with fire?

Accused of being big and ''industrial'' in its approach to wine, a maker of McWines for people who don't like wine, and of hurting the reputation of Australian wine overseas, Casella returns fire with a big move into beer.

He promises more of the same everyman philosophy - soft, easygoing beers and keen pricing.

Casella denies his family, through its international success with Yellow Tail, has harmed Australian wine. He accuses his detractors of that common Australian pastime of trimming tall poppies. ''We would have damaged Australia if we had a wine that people laughed about and talked about as being poor [in quality],'' he says.

He points to the medal tally for Yellow Tail wines since its inception 10 years ago - 864 medals, including national and international wins. Last year, the Adelaide Wine Show awarded the Yellow Tail 2010 reserve pinot grigio the trophy for the best ''other varietal white or ros'' in show and, in '04, the company won the Jimmy Watson Trophy for the best young red.

Clearly, the wines are neither poor nor embarrassing, even if they might not be every wine drinker's choice. Yet, in the past five years, the company has had a public drubbing from winemakers and wine writers, and even an American wine economist has got into the act.

In his 2011 book Wine Wars (Rowman and Littlefield), wine economist Mike Veseth coined a catch-all term for the company's winemaking. ''If you are looking for a real McWine,'' he writes, ''you need to look for a wine that has been custom designed to be a McWine - the result of the same sort of intentional product creation and development that gave us the Big Mac and the Egg McMuffin. You don't have to look very far to find such a product. It is made in Australia and called Yellow Tail.''

Casella Wines chief winemaker Alan Kennett puts it another way: ''Yellow Tail is not a risky product.''

It is highly controlled but, then again, it probably needs to be when about 300 million litres of wine is being made annually. The Yellow Tail brand is home to 14 standard labels and five reserve wines sourced from 30 regions, warm through to cool, stretching north to Tamworth and west to Coonawarra. That's a mountain of logistics come vintage time.

Winemakers routinely add tannin, acid and a grape concentrate for sweetness. All legal. They also take advantage of a rule allowing them to legally add up to 15 per cent of grapes other than the variety indicated on a label (the so-called 85-15 rule).

Chardonnay is the biggest-selling white wine, with 2 million cases annually, which just about represents most of the chardie grown in the three regions from where it is sourced: Riverland, Riverina and Cowra. A tasting through the Yellow Tail portfolio raises no issue of quality, just one of taste, in particular the sweeter styles across the red wines.

Casella says openly he tailors his wines to give drinkers value for money. His market is the wine drinker who does not want to know about regions and wine talk. He is not offering a romantic wine trip. He is offering certainty. Bottle age does not really enter the picture (although a 2009 reserve pinot grigio offered a lot more interest than the current-release 2011).

The standard wines ($8-$10) are simple and fresh, but what do you want from such a keenly priced bottle? The reserve wines ($15) offer a good line-up. Sometimes, the oak component is played up as if to reinforce the step up in quality and price. It's not necessary. In a wine such as the reserve merlot you can taste the step up - little wonder it is a top-seller in Australia.

Breaking the Yellow Tail mould will be difficult but Casella plans to give it a try. The wine he plans to do it with is called ''1919''. The 2006 shiraz, a blend of Langhorne Creek and Padthaway, is dense with red and black fruits, spice and warmth, and looking youthful and raring to go at six years old. It has no release date yet but it does have a price of about $50-$60.

Source: Epicure


Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/res...l#ixzz1yqv9mdNn
 

Bribie G

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If they are in LL yet I might try a bottle of each. However the Brew 51 with the "subtle hops and clean finish" sounds suspicious to me. At least they don't use the words "crisp" or "dry" which is promising :p
 

DJR

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Just what this country needs, Yet Another Bland Lager <_<
Or a "Premium" that is simply lagered longer from the same fermentation

Good to see them having a go, but i wonder if they will be a little more adventurous
 

Phoney

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Which, if you believe the sales figures, is exactly what the average punter wants...
Though if you look at the trends, its what the average punter is wanting less of. Lager sales are spiralling, "craft beer" (if you include imports, james squire etc) sales are on the ever increase.

There's nothing exciting about a new brewer that is offering more of the same and isnt pushing any envelopes though.
 

Tim

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Or a "Premium" that is simply lagered longer from the same fermentation

Good to see them having a go, but i wonder if they will be a little more adventurous
Don't you mean 'claimed' to be lagered longer?
 

JaseH

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Though if you look at the trends, its what the average punter is wanting less of. Lager sales are spiralling, "craft beer" (if you include imports, james squire etc) sales are on the ever increase.
Seems to be the case in the U.S. at the moment anyway.

 

kdaust

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Saw the Arvo Lager in Woolworths liquor. "Arvo, the perfect Australian lager"... PASS.
 

craigo

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i have a mate that works for them tried this beer about a month or so ago just tastes like a typical aussie larger a bit like boags premium lager nothing special.
 

komodo

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Essentially what you guys are saying is exactly what the wine community has said but obviously in that market their plan worked.

Good luck to them.
 

Ducatiboy stu

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God help us if theier beer will be anything like there wine....bloody terrible.
 

Wolfy

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Cheap bland lager ... easy enough to see a mainstream market for that ... which is obviously what they are aiming for.
No matter what 'we' might like to think, it does cater to the majority of Australian beer-drinkers.
If it gets good distribution, is cheaper than everything else, it might even be responsible for knocking XXXX-gold off it's market leading position. (Will it be cheaper than a mid-strength beer?)
 

bignath

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Great, another shit aussie lager about to enter the market. Can't wait......

Aimed at what most people who drink beer, are drinking, but im led to believe that that particular marketing is actually diminishing quite quickly in favour of more boutique beers.

Besides, i learn't more about his wines in that article than i did about the new planned beer.

Honestly couldn't give a flying **** about this beer.


Nearing the end of my rant.....

a mate came over with his wife for dinner on the weekend and brought with him some Boags Premium.
**** me is that a shithouse beer. Really strong weird flavour that reeked of a bad fermentation.
Previously this person was more than happy to enjoy my flavoursome ales, but does tend to walk the "hipster, premium" walk. Couldn't believe he enjoyed it.
I just sat there, with a knowing look on my face while i enjoyed my Citra Ale, and the odd Sierra Nevada Pale 6'er i grabbed from the bottlo.

OK. Rant over.
 

Kingbrownbrewing

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It's $35 bucks a carton....
And absolute puss.
Why they didn't at least try craft beer baffles me...
 

Renzo

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If they were brewing a good lager like a weihenstaphan or hofbrau original then I might be excited
 

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