Australian boutique wine, Thousand Candles, which is fast gaining a cult following, is to go on sale in the UK via Alliance Wine.
The Shiraz blend is made from selected plots within the 450-hectare Killara Park Estate in the southern Yarra Valley, owned by a Singapore-based entrepreneur.
Keen for consumers to look at Australian wine in a different light, Thousand Candles is the brainchild of consultant winemaker Bill Downie, previously of De Bortoli, and former Wine Australia UK general manager Paul Henry.
The wine takes its name from an ancient Aboriginal ceremony granting freedom of the bush, which concludes with the lighting of firesticks, to which one 19th century observer remarked: “Suddenly, it was as if the twilight was interrupted by a thousand candles”.
The label, designed by Adelaide based artist Melanie Terrett, is formed of hundreds of white dots interspersed with a few red dots clustered in the centre.
“Given the brand owner’s Asian roots, we had to check that the name had cultural resonance in China. White candles are funereal, while red are for remembrance,” Henry told the drinks business.
The inaugural 2011 vintage is formed of 92% Shiraz, 6% Pinot Noir and 2% barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc, though there are plans to add Cabernet to the blend down the line.
“For all its haunting, subtly nuanced style, this is a bold wine,” said Giles Cooke MW, wine development director for Alliance Wine.
“It’s bold not for fulfilling the hackneyed Australian stereotype of strident fruit and deep flavour, but for its unique blend and for challenging perceptions of vintage and varietal appropriateness,” he added.
Thousand Candles’ winemaker Bill Downie
With its distinctive savoury edge, Henry admits that Thousand Candles is something of a “Marmite” wine consumers will either love or hate.
“It’s a polarising wine that people will either get or they won’t. Bill’s very comfortable with that,” he told db.
Passionate in his plight, Henry believes there should be more AU$100 wine coming out of Australia.
“The country merits more $100-a-bottle wine, but you can’t just conjure up a price without any substance, so, to some extent, it comes down to courage, credibility and availability,” he said.
Much of the 650-case annual production is destined for the Asian market.
Allocations for the UK will be small, with the first shipment expected to arrive in Britain in October with an RRP of £65.
Thousand Candles is being reserved for independent merchants and the on-trade.