Last week I headed down to the Wine Australia tasting in Victoria. Sometimes I find it hard to work out what I’m meant to be doing at these tastings. With my second year of the WSET Diploma coming up then maybe I should use it as tasting practice, but the wine-o in me is much more interested in what the theme of the day is about. What’s new about what these guys are trying to tell us about Aussie Wine?
Well for a start the wine industry in Australia, from an outsider’s viewpoint, is sort of in the same boat as a few of the others from the so-called “new world”. Spending the 90s and 00s killing it with brand wines and pulling the rug out of lazy French and Italians only goes so far. The French and Italians are now making seriously good entry-level wines to compete, whilst their premium wine output has never diminished. Aussie wines now need to compete with them in the world markets at the top end on a wider level than just a few top bottles of Penfold’s Grange.
The other issue is very much environmental. Ok, so the Aussie government doesn’t help. Their mining and coal industry is so massive that the government refuses to acknowledge climate change. So when it comes to the huge issue of water usage and soil erosion in the huge brand wine growing areas…well, it’s been a slow burner shall we say! But reality is biting and attitudes and practices are changing.
Case in point is the McWilliam family wine brand. I met them at their stall with their marketing partners, the Portuguese giant SoGrape. The last few years have been about shrinking the portfolio, concentrating efforts on wines and wine regions that make a difference, and showing us wine drinkers that they’ve got both interesting wines and all bases covered. Not easy, but great to see the change in tack.