Palmarium, Australia’s iconic new wine

Grange is perhaps the original iconic Australian wine, so it is no real surprise that the 2007 vintage received a 95 point score from the respected James Halliday Australian Wine Companion.

What is less known, currently anyway, is that the first releases from new “virtual” winery Palmarium have received a score of 95 from the Halliday guide, and more recently, a staggering 96 points.

Palmarium – Latin for “outstanding” – is the vision of Melbourne-based Peter Mornement, who conceived the idea of engaging some of Australia’s best winemakers to create the finest quality wine they could, from 10 tons of the best quality fruit. The range of Super Premium Shiraz is called Exemplar – Latin for “original.”

“It is winemaking as it was done 30 years ago, completely without commercial constraints,” says Mornement, who began in the wine industry in 1973 as the proprietor of a store stocking specialist wines.

“The brief is simple, buy the best fruit you can and use new oak of your choice, because we want to make the best of the best.”

Palmarium is a “virtual” winery in that the brand owns only oak barrels and wine inside them. There is no bricks and mortar, no cellar door.

For the first vintage in 2010, Palmarium engaged the renowned John Ellis from Heathcote and Walter Clappis from McLaren Vale who both crushed 10 tons, roughly equivalent to producing 650 dozen bottles.

The first wine to be reviewed was the McLaren Vale shiraz, described in the James Halliday Australian Wine Companion as “the product of a great vintage that will live for decades.”

Awarding the wine 95 points, the Halliday guide said the shiraz – as “deep and intense as you might imagine” –  while, while excellent to drink now, could be cellared to 2035.

“If all are as good as the first wine released, there is much to look forward to,” said the Halliday Companion.

The success of the McLaren Vale release was followed by a further triumph for Palmarium’s Heathcote shiraz, which was awarded a staggering 96 points by the Halliday Companion in May this year.

“The fragrant bouquet is the opening chorus for the symphony of spice, licorice, black cherry and blackberry of the palate,” was the Halliday verdict.

The Halliday scores for both winemakers, John Ellis and Walter Clappis – both legends of the industry – with their Palmarium vintages was higher than they had achieved previously over careers spanning three decades.

“This is a very exciting result and shows that we have so far over-achieved on the ambitions we had when we began Palmarium,” says Peter Mornement.

To add to the accolades, both wines won gold medals at the 2012 China Wine Awards, recognition which is paving the way for Palmarium wines to be added to the wine list at some of the most exclusive restaurants in Shanghai.

“The business plan is for the wines to be available only online, in quantities of six, for $65 a bottle and in fine dining restaurants where they would typically sell for twice that,” says Mornement.

“So far, the wine is available in restaurants such as Number 8, Nobu, the Flower Drum in Melbourne and now at 360 in Sydney, where ten bottles of Palmarium were sold the first night the wine was offered – on a Wednesday night.

“I’m also talking to restauranteurs in China, many of them Australians, and we are looking to export into other markets such as the United States.”

Palmarium recently welcomed respected Barossa Valley winemaker Kym Teusner into the fold, and the 2011 vintage will now comprise three wines: the McLaren Vale, Heathcote and Barossa Valley vintages.

“The plan is to bring in another three winemakers over the next five years and develop a range,” says Mornement.

Palmarium is a publicly unlisted company which is part way through its third capital raising, led by a board which combines deep wine-making, marketing, business and export experience.

After initially welcoming the “family and friends” network as investors – including former Fosters chief Trevor O’Hoy – the Palmarium network is looking to expand and welcome a new round of shareholders as the company seeks just under $300,000 in fresh capital.

“We are a five star winery with the release of our very first wine, and that is a significant achievement and is proof of the direction we are taking,” says Mornement.

“The vision is to build up a new premium wine brand over the next five years or so, and for us to be our own distributor either directly to restaurants or online to consumers.

The company is positioned well to be a potential acquisition target, which has the potential to create a lot of value for our shareholders.