On the future of Australian Wine

As I travel around the world attending various bio-dynamic conferences and tastings, I am constantly amazed by the reception our wines are accorded. Amazed, not because they like the wines, why wouldn’t they, but totally amazed and saddened by the perception held by many people who think Australia is incapable of making anything other than non-gastronomic, sweet, high-alcohol wine. Amazed, also, because when I tell them of the very many other wonderful small producers making wine which is real – how it used to be – they are surprised; surprised at our industry’s lack of communication in that regard.

It is a story about the exaggerated influence of some powerful but myopic journalists in Australia’s main overseas markets; a wine industry dominated, controlled and shaped by the big companies; and an official wine body ruled by a South Australian-centric view of wine to the detriment of the rest of Australia. A mandatory, export approval system which can and does deny export approval to wine that is not what ‘they’ consider the ‘norm’ or is unfamiliar, by branding it faulty, which they sometimes do even when laboratory tests clearly show otherwise. Perhaps it might also be true to say that as much as the wine show system has helped deliver much improvement to the general quality of Australian wine, it has created a culture around a small group of the in-crowd who seek to control the direction of Australian wine, from style, to who gets to sit at the table when important decisions are made about our industry, or, who are given access to important wine press from overseas when they arrive in Australia. Has this self-appointed club put self-interest before what this country needs? – individual, high quality, terroir- driven wines made by people who eat, breathe and live their land in pursuit of something special.

It is time Australia had a revolution from the ground up, one which shakes our industry’s mixture of self-satisfied smugness and corporate neglect. The fact is, there are very many small Australian producers making wine, at many price points, that the world actually wants to drink. We simply are not communicating that fact. Our industry bodies are meant to represent all wineries in Australia but seem incapable or unwilling of supporting all sections of our industry equally.

If ever there was a time for the small serious producers to take matters into their own hands, it is now. If we leave it to those who seek to lead us, Australian wine will continue its slide into sameness and mediocrity. I for one will not be surrendering to those who seek to trivialize the small, independent winemakers. Many of us are more committed than ever to the pursuit of the highest quality; individual wine of terroir. It is time to expose the world to the wonderful wines made by small estates which have been till now forced, on a world stage, to take a back seat to the mediocrity which has been marketed and promoted as Australian wine in the last few years.

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