From the Grapevine: Mollydooker’s Million Dollar Loss

Dr. Joel M. Fisher

Dr. Joel M. Fisher is a renowned wine enthusiast, educator and columnist.  He also leads Los Angeles’ biggest and most prestigious wine, brew and spirits festival LA WineFest.  This week Dr. Fisher discusses a very unfortunate wine incident involving Mollydooker and their prestigious Velvet Glove premium label.

Out of the blue came a phone call from one of my regular readers.  He wanted to know if I had heard of a major incident when a shipping company dropped a container-load filled with wine.  The general consensus is that the container was insured, but that a million dollars worth of wine had been smashed to bits, headed for the U.S.

Who was the winery, I asked?  He responded, Mollydooker, or something like that.  That told me who the winery was.  I’m left handed.  In Australian jargon, Mollydooker means left handed.  The owners of the winery Sparky Marquis and wife Sarah are both left handed.  Thus the name.  The wine that crashed to the ground was their Velvet Glove, the top premium wine from the McClaren Vale region, and retailing in the US for nearly $200 a bottle.

At the time I began scouting wine and Australian sources it became apparent that 462 cases had been destroyed, after a forklift  was in the process of trying to load this expensive shiraz onto a truck.  The security locking device failed to work; the container yanked free, and all the wine went into the ground.

What spilled onto the ground was one third of the winery’s production of their shiraz for the year.  Sparky Marquis hopes to deliver a new batch of the wine to the US, where it was supposed to debut in early September.

If the Velvet Glove is a big item in the US, I am somewhat puzzled that these early reports raise the spectre of impacting the wine market in Australia.  Of course there will be some fallout, but 2/3 of the inventory is still available there..   I doubt that all of that was destined for domestic consumption.  No doubt some was, but there is wine in the US still available, and winery owner Marquis optimistically declared he would get a new batch of the Mollydooker Velvet Glove to the US as soon as possible.

Just to shed some more light on this McLaren Vale winery, its location is nearly 45 minutes from the center of Adelaide.  Marquis has 116 acres of prime vineyards of which nearly half is Shiraz, and the balance Cabernet, Merlot, Semillion and Chardonnnay. Word is that all the whites will be grafted to Shiraz as fast as they can complete that operation. The winery had a 1500 ton commercial license, and they will process nearly 1000 tons for Mollydooker, which would then produce a targeted 70,000 cases.

So, we have to assume that the insurance does not cover the entire amount of the loss.  We must further assume that the insurance did not provide for lost income.  That being said, I do understand the necessity of raising their prices for the domestic market.

As to the US market, where the less expensive Mollydooker’s do well, I have to further assume that given the possibility ( I don’t know if it is fact) that some of  the highly scored (by Wine Spectator) Velvet Glove is available from the previous harvest, then shipments making it in September will still be timely for the wine’s debut, even from different vintages.  That suggests that Marquis will go ahead with his September launch.

The story of the tragic loss of this wine  suggests that US prices will be higher than already pegged to be.  At $185-200 dollars a bottle, how high can they move the price and still sell required quantities?  I do wish them well.

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  1. Dr Fisher, thanks so much for your thoughtful post. Please reassure your followers that we won’t be putting the price of the 2010 Velvet Glove up to either our distributors or our website customers. We believe that it is fairly priced, and we won’t change that even though we sadly won’t have quite as much to party with this year! Janet (Sparky’s Mom