AUSTRALIA: A quiet revolution

Australia is still rightly proud of its big, bold classics, but a new breed of fine Oz wine is stealing the limelight, says Sarah Ahmed.

sydney.jpgRolling out the big guns (wines valued at more than AUD$40,000), starting with Penfolds’ Bin 95 Grange 1955) created a palpable sense of excitement at the Landmark Australia Tutorial masterclass, “An Historic Perspective”.

The bold classics upon which Australia forged its reputation have been, and remain, very effective ambassadors, but even more inspiring was an emerging generation of “quieter” wines.

A new era

Masterclasses on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and sparkling wines reinforced the alacrity with which Australian winemakers are ratcheting up quality and complexity by successfully embracing new regions, varieties, clones, techniques and philosophies.

In his Pinot Noir masterclass, Yabby Lake’s Tom Carson captured the zeitgeist when he referred to a new way of working “with an intuitive feel for what needs to be done and, more importantly, what shouldn’t be done”.

It’s affecting classic regions like the Hunter Valley too. Tyrrell’s red wine maker Mark Richardson told me “in the last 20 years we tried to follow the market and make bigger woodier styles, but there’s been a sea change”.

The outcome is a return to the so-called “Hunter Burgundy” medium-bodied style of old, which, with lower alcohol and a region-wide campaign to improve cellar hygiene, has helped eliminate brettanomyces spoilage.

In the Grampians, Mount Langi Ghiran’s Dan Buckle reckons Australia’s Pinot Noir phenomenon has had a knock-on effect – “consumers are not looking so much at power and weight, which allows you to explore medium-bodied Shiraz in a way previously not possible”.

4 Responses to “AUSTRALIA: A quiet revolution”

  1. YvonneMay says:

    There’s an energy and enthusiasm coming out of Australia again; led by a mix of these producer initiatives,industry bodies and the trade. The wines have never been better, so at Wine Australia a key challenge now is to win the vote and voice of the consumer press alongside of developing social media platforms such as It’s looking promising: we had the highest footfall ever at our annual tasting ‘A+ Australian Wine’ this week at Saatchi gallery in London with 1000+ attending – followed by huge response from visitors saying the event had a real buzz.

  2. thepenfoldsman says:

    Great article !! Goes to show that there are lots passionate Wine people in this country that believe that they produce a quality product for consumers who are now, more than ever, being more willing to try something different.
    Producers can’t sit back and wait for bodies like the AWBC to look after them.The persons best placed to tell consumers about the quality products that they have to offer are the Producers themselves.

  3. Matt @ BoozeMonkey says:

    I agree with thepenfoldsman, producers definitely cannot sit back and wait for Wine Australia to promote their brands for them. That just isn’t going to happen. Even their new flagship website — whilst it looks pretty — is getting bugger all traffic. And the little traffic they do get leaves almost instantly: if you check out the Alexa stats you’ll see visitors spend less than two minutes on the site and the bounce rate (the number of visitors who land on the homepage and leave immediately) is over 70%.

    Another good marketing idea poorly executed. Surely Wine Australia, with all their resources, should be able to put an effective marketing campaign together which can show measureable results? No wonder they’re losing their major financial supporters…

    I’m really hoping we see some good come from the new leadershihp in Wine Australia, but from what I’ve seen so far, I won’t be holding my breath.


  4. James Tilbrook says:

    Matt, from what I’ve read I don’t think Wine Australia’s “major financial supporters” are leaving because of anything other than the fact that their wines are more about variety than place and so are not in the same game as the A+ push. I remember being told by one GLO that they wanted to create wines in the winery not in the vineyard. Small players like us don’t have the capability of doing that because we are not sourcing from hundreds of growers, and furthermore we don’t want to. We want to say our wine is from our place or at least from a specific grower/ site. Having said that it is interesting to see that Penfolds have released a new Bin called Maranaga Shiraz, so perhaps they’re coming round to the idea that a sub regional (a step in the right direction) wine can have a place in their hierachy of wines and brands?

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