Australian PM under fire for ‘tragic’ cellar20th August, 2014 by Gabriel Savage
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been ridiculed for the contents of his official cellar, which critics claim makes a mockery of the country’s wine industry.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet revealed that, as of 31 May 2014, Abbott can entertain visiting dignitaries with a store of more than 170 bottles carrying a total value of $4,700 (£2,625) and an average price of around $26 (£14.50).
Offering his assessment of the cellar, Melbourne wine critic Jeremy Oliver was reported by the Sydney Morning Herald as saying: “I’m a patriotic Australian and these lists sadden me.”
He dismissed the most expensive end of the collection – nine bottles of Canberra Federation Red Magnum 2000, priced at $86.36 (£48) each – as a wine that ”never lived up to its billing, or even close to its billing.”
At a time when Tourism Australia is putting a major focus on promoting the country’s food and wine, Oliver summed up the cellar at Abbott’s official residence The Lodge as “a random assortment that ranges between the embarrassing, the more than acceptable, the tragic and the bewildering.”
Ben Knight, creative consultant for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, echoed this criticism. Writing in the Guardian, he described the cellar as “totally devoid of anything new and interesting”, and bemoaned in particular the presence of so many elderly Sauvignon Blanc, rosé and Moscato wines.
Not everyone was so dismissive about the official cellar however. Australian wine critic James Halliday praised it as a selection which “covers many regions and varieties without fear or favour”.
Among the bottles which pleased the critics were four bottles of Petaluma Merlot 2004, a bottle of Moorilla Muse Chardonnay 2011 and a clutch of Brokenwood ILR Semillon from the 2004 and 2005 vintages.
Australia is not the only country to see its official cellar come under scrutiny as the taxpayers who fund these wines demand a delicate balance between avoiding extravagance while upholding national pride.
Earlier this year the UK government revealed that consumption of wine from the official cellar had fallen by 13% and stressed that this asset is now self-funding thanks in part to the sale of high value stock.
By contrast, there was outrage from the protesters who stormed the lavish palace of deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who revealed a penchant for Cristal Champagne and expensive Cognac.