The Big M Speaks!

Picture of Mayer Bram


My name is Mayer Bram and I have been involved in the Victorian Wine and Spirit Industry since before Christ was born! How do you think he got the "water into wine" idea? I have spent over forty years in retail liquor stores and during that time it has been my pleasure witnessing the legend of modern day wine making.

On this site I will present you with my thoughts and analysis on the Wine Industry and the changes that affect it. I will bring you news about new products and stories from my own work place. Please feel free to respond to any of my posts with your thoughts or suggestions or general feeback. Ask me for information on Wine, Spirits and Liquors - or ask me about Australian made Liquors and traditionally brewed beers!

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Non Alcoholic Verjus Plus Gamay from Tisdall.


This was first posted on my old web site on Wednesday September 26th, 2001.


Low or non-alcoholic drinks


Sometimes in my role as a wine retailer I will be asked for non alcoholic beverages. On some occasions, I have had younger store members come to me saying that there is a customer asking them for lemonade or milk products! They ask "Surely, we don't sell non alcoholic products, here, do we?"


I will ask them to take me to the client and introduce the client to a range of non-alcoholic tonics and sparkling grape juices, either of sweet or dry finishes, or a tart citrus based non-sparkling beverage (lime and lemon). I also have at my fingertips a range of low alcoholic wines (6% to 8%). Some are blended with fresh fruit pulp with a slight spritz to the finish.


Verjus - non-alcoholic pinot noir from Dromana Estate


A new product has been brought to my attention. From a prestigious vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula, comes a vintage 2001 Verjus.


What is Verjus?


The pure non-alcoholic juice of freshly crushed semi-ripe pinot noir grapes.


 Garry Crittenden, the winemaker of Dromana Estate, has found a use for the Pinot Noir grapes removed from the vines prior to vintage, through the viticultural practice of thinning. Thinning involves removing bunches of grapes from the vine, thus allowing the remaining fruit on the vine to ripen, fully, without causing stress to the vine. It does give lower tonnage per acre, but delivers a better quality fruit. Normally, the discarded fruit would simply be ploughed back into the soil after vintage as mulch, but Garry Crittenden directs his workers to gather up the semi-ripe grapes in March to have them crushed, pressed and then bottled ready for sale.


The result is Verjus - a pure non alcoholic juice. Its vibrant translucent pink colour offers up a delightful blending of tartness and sweetness. This drink comes into its own in adding flavour to summer salads and sea-food dishes. However, be sure to try this as a refreshing drink over ice!


This product retails for about $8.00 to $12.00 a bottle. Product knowledge from the shop floor must be complete if the retailer can make the claim of being fully conversant with the product on offer to them! I have always been willing to go just that little bit further for my retail clients before sending them away from my store, without being given every chance of a choice of goods to contemplate buying!


Find out more about Verjus at biziworks. Find out more about Dromana Estate at the Dromana Estate Website.


Introducing The Grape Varietal: Gamay from Tisdall.


Gamay is the red wine varietal propagated in two main wine districts of France. In the Loire valley, in Anjou it is used to create many styles of Rose. In the Beaujolais district it makes a delicious, light, fruity wine which is best consumed when young, although some of the more robust Beaujolais (crus) improve with cellaring. Gamay in Australia has been propagated in New South Wales, South Australia and in many regions of Victoria.


From the Vineyard estates of Tisdall, sourced from their Rosbercon vineyard at Picola comes this Gamay Vintage 2001.Viticultural techniques include early picked grapes, ensuring elegant fruit flavours and high levels of acidity and free run juice, removed from skin contact after only 72 hours. The wine is bottled with minimum levels of sulphur. The colour displays a light vibrant raspberry/crimson, with a lifted aromatic Gamay fruit aroma and flavour that lingers long after the clean steely crisp acid finish. The wine has been fermented to complete dryness but has layers of flavour that give it the appearance of "sweet musky" flavour.


The finished wine has a relatively low level of alcohol (11.5%), making it the perfect match for fresh fruit, soft cheeses, dried fruit platters or with an entrée of shell fish. Serve chilled as an aperitif or as a palate cleanser at the end of the meal. Look for a price of approximately $18 to $20. This product should be available from product orientated retailers or enquire from the Tisdall vineyard direct.


Did you know? In 1993 Mildara Blass purchased the Victorian producer Tisdall Wines. Reported at


Thanks for reading!


Macadamia Nut and Australian Rose



This was first posted on my old web site on Satruday September 15th, 2001.


Welcome once again to the Big M Wine Promoter's newsletter. I have spent over forty years working on the shop floor in three of Melbourne's largest retail liquor stores and during that time I have gathered a great knowledge of the Wines, Spirits, Beers and Liquors of the trade.


The purpose of this newsletter is to offer comment on those products I have sampled and turn that interest into retail sales. I have never been afraid to go against perceived market trends and I will promote products that mainstream retailers, for whatever reason, will not carry or promote.


I have a passion for offering my clients a number of uniquely Australian Spirits and Liquors - at least three of which have been judged worthy Export awards, to South-East Asia, Europe, United Kingdom, and to the United States of America.


Macadamia Nut!

Do you like the flavour of Macadamia Nut? Are you aware that two years ago Queensland producers of this indigenous nut overtook Hawaii as the largest producers and growers of Macadamia? Why should we import Macadamia Liquor from Hawaii? For the last three years, I have been involved in offering my clients this Australian made product, with a great deal of success. On several occasions I have had Corporate Clients coming back to my retail store asking to buy a sealed case of the product for gifts.


750 ml, 18% alcohol. Patons Macadamia Royal Liqueur. The colour is water white, with a base of neutral cane spirit. The flavour comes from the oil of Macadmia nut, with no added sweetener to its flavour base. Around the neck of the bottle hangs a little cocktail guide offering serving suggestions.


I like to create a Champagne Cocktail by simply adding ten millilitres of Patons Macadamia Royal Liqueur to a champagne flute and top it up with a dry Sparkling wine! For those chocaholics who are reading this newsletter, Patons also have created chocolate dipped macadamia nuts, dipped in both white and dark chocolate. For a chocolate hit, a cup of brewed coffee, a glass of Macadamia nut liquor with the chocolate dipped macademia (don't think about cholesterol or calories and you will be fine). Retail price should be approximately $28. to $30.


Find out more about Patons and their products at their website:



Australian Rose


Retail liquor sales has a long standing bias against the world of Australian Rose! It is often called "a wine for wimps", or "lolly water" or "a drink for girls" etc, ad nauseam! Since the early sixties, when I was introduced to Orlando Grec Rose, and Chattertons of Lyndoch, Barrossa, Chattertons was a dry style of Rose, and may have been created from Grenache? Both wines had a firm, clean crisp finish and were so much better than the Imported rose wines of Portugal or the Californian White Blush (Zinfandell).


My retail shelves carry some two dozen alternative light red wine styles and the noble red wine grapes Cabernet Sauv, Shiraz, Cabernet-Franc, Pinot Noir, Grenache and Merlot all feature in this role. Innovative wine-makers have also created light wine styles from the free run juice of red wine grapes and then blended into the tanks a percentage of some white wine juice such as Pinot-Grigio.


One of my greatest retail successes has been the Rose style of the Miranda family in Griffith New South Wales. This wine has been created from Shiraz grapes only. Pre vintage when on the vines, selected rows of Shiraz grapes with a higher than normal acid levels (an unripe green colour) are harvested during the cool hours of night by mechanical harvester.


The grapes are taken to the press and subjected to light pressing to capture the free run juice. This juice is without heavy tannins, nor does it take color from extended skin contact. The watermelon pink, translucent juice is fermented to display some residual sugars, with a slight spritz, while having a delightful dry acidity to the finish. The wine is presented as a true vintage Rose, packaged in a smart frosted bottle, with a window, displaying a logo on the back of the bottle!


Match this Rose with smoked salmon, white meat sea-food (lobster), Thai cuisine, noodles lightly spiced or even with a casserole of either veal or chicken, with a light creamy mushroom sauce! Retail price will be from $10 to $12. This wine has not been created with long tem ageing in mind, so if you wish to buy by the dozen, please drink this up over one or two years (short term).


Find out more about Miranda Wines at


Out of stock? Plus Botobolar Mudgee Shiraz and Happs Red.

This was first posted on my old web site on Wednesday June 28, 2000.

The Big M on securing a sale for product you do not stock.

Anyone working in the business knows the feeling when a client requests some product not stocked by the store. You want to project the best image for the store and do your best to service the client. I treat such queries with honesty and a willingness to find the product requested. I say something like “No retailer can afford to carry all stock items offered to them by their suppliers. Allow me to make you this offer: leave me your details and I will come back to you with prices for it instead. I will find you a single bottle price, a case price and if available, the discount per case!" I always suggest that this offer is for a case or multiple buy: otherwise I would soon have a storeroom full of cases with just one bottle missing.

Most times my client will be agreeable to this non-obligatory offer and the sale will be secured. On some occasions I will offer alternative suggestions from stock items on hand, although I do not believe in forcing my opinions on to a client.

Share a sense of your own experience.

Nine times out of ten I am able to re-assure my client that I have had personal experience with the items that they are looking for. I frequently attend trade functions where new vintages of wines are offered. I read extensively from trade magazines and journals. I involve myself in conversations with company representatives.

This keeps me well studied in my field of expertise and more importantly ensures I remain product orientated at all times. If my client comes seeking Spirits or Liquors, beers or even cask wines I have that dear treasure, Product Knowledge on hand. It never fails to enhance any sale!

Do not bluff!

I have a cast iron rule in dealing with clients: if I do not know of a product, I will immediately tell my client so. I never insult a client by trying to bluff my way around the query!

Table Wines free of Preservatives.

Are you looking for table wines free of Preservatives.(i.e. sulphur 220). Let me introduce you to the following Australian wine makers' product.

Vintage 1999 Botobolar Mudgee Shiraz.

This 1999 Preservative Free Shiraz is made from 100% Shiraz grapes grown in the beautiful Mudgee Valley. The wine is free of any additives and made in a fresh, light and early drinking style. In the glass the wine displays a ruby colour. On the nose it exhibits spice and a musky perfume of rich sweet fruit and makes for very easy drinking.

Do not cellar this wine. Drink it early, as it will not improve with age. Contact me for information as to where you can obtain stock!

Now, let me display my product knowledge by offering another red table wine: one whose maker has created a complete wine style that will not only allow the consumer to drink an Organically created wine, but also a wine that has been created without out any wood treatment whatsoever!

1999 Happs Red, Preservative Free.

The major grape varieties in this blend are Merlot, Tempranillo, Malbec, Sangiovese and Grenache. All these varieties have been blended in stainless steel tanks alone to create a true Nouveau style for this blend. This wine is then processed and bottled without the use of sulphur dioxide.

However, the wine-maker (and I after having sampled the product) suggest with confidence that this wine will cellar well over the next five to ten years! Contact me for information as to where you can obtain stock!

Thanks for reading!



December 2005  

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