Are Australians wine snobs? | Matt Hayward's blog Melbourne Australia

Are Australians wine snobs?

cask of goonIn a recent press Johannesburg press conference, Jeremy Clarkson was asked what he thought about South African wine. His comment, ‘well it’s better than Australian wine’. Given that the poms love to go Aussie bashing, it was to be expected. But it got me thinking, has the average Aussie tried a South African wine? Australia is a definitive ‘new world’ wine country. So we should be free of the snobbery of the Champagne or Alsace region of France where appellations are mandated and chateaus centuries old. You’d think we’d be open minded about wine. Sadly not.

I put it to the average ‘long in the leg, thick in the head Aussie’ that you are the world’s most unmitigated wine snob. You buy all your wine from the one shop (Dan Murphys). For those of you who came in late or are not Aussies, Dan Murphys is a booze supermarket, like a Wal Mart dedicated to everything alcoholic. Good to save a few bucks, but just like Wal Mart, you save a bundle on somethings and get totally ripped off. Worse than that, you’re not getting any story behind the wine, you hardly ever meet the makers and you’re served by some spotty git that only knows what’s good because the manager always knicks it. Their ‘cellar’ is an industrial warehouse the size of Belgium and that’s about it. There’s no guy with a beard that could tell you everything from the etymology of the name of the terroir of the soil.

Secondly, all your information comes from at best two sources, Jeremy Oliver (no not the celebrity chef) and some bloke Halliday. Have you read these books? I have read the later in detail. He tastes about 4000 wines a year and can often take the piss if you read enough of it. My problem with these books is it’s like calling and insurance company for a quote for fully comprehensive on your car. ‘what’s the make and model?’, ‘an 86 Camira sedan’. ‘OK your insurance will be $500’, ‘OK. It’s that arbitrary. So they’ve made finding fine wine like getting a quote on your car insurance. It’s just statistics. I put it to you that that’s not a journey, it’s a destination. And it’s bloody boring. I did not get into wine to learn better maths. Ever been to a proper wine tasting not just to get pissed, but to get a different opinion or learn something? Probably not. Ever been to a cellar door? In the truest sense unlikely.

Thirdly, go to your local Dan Murphys. Pick up a ten dollar bottle of French plonk and you’re looked at as some ‘un ooostraayalan’ wine terrorist. The only exception being a bottle of Sauv Blanc from New Zealand for the ladies. God forbid you look at a brilliant Argentinian drop, a brilliant Croatian Chardonnay or a South African Rose. It’s like slapping Don Bradman in the face. Just buy your Shiraz rated at 96 points (sadly there are quite a few rated so highly) and get back in your Commodore, off to your football club barby.

Frankly, I envy the British like Clarkson. They’re in a position where they have ample old world wine. They also have brilliant wine from the Americas, Africas and Oceania and will pick the best for a price range. But there’s no tall poppy syndrome when it comes to the continent it’s from. They have no real domestic wine and the whole world is your oyster. It appears to be about what’s good and what’s reasonably priced. God forbid Australians should ever be so open minded.

Finally, sure snobs of any kind suck. But give me the informed, erudite snob with a story to tell any day that I could learn something from than some Barry McKenzie wanna be fuckwit that thinks just because people are ill informed enough to spend $450 on a bottle of Penfolds Grange, everything Australian is great thank you very much. Sadly, trophy wines like Penfolds that satisfy a demographic and not a palette are doing a great deal of damage to our international reputation. If the Average Barry Humphries Aussie took a blind taste test, he or she would probably find that even South American wine is blinding more interesting than the staid old Aussie Shiraz.

My conclusion is this. If you only drink an Aussie Shiraz and bugger the rest of the world, stick to beer. You’re being the wine snob you think you’re not being. Oh the irony. And I’d rather hear someone tell me some scintillating wine bogus adventure than the latest 5000 wines that Halliday has tasted between soires.

Please for the love of god telling me how great Aussie wine is when you’re too scared to try anything else. If that was the case, I’d still be listening to New Kids on the Block for music. Wine continues to amaze me because you can never try everything. You could never know everything about it. You can’t possibly try everything. That should be a good thing, not a bad thing! Stop being so stuck up and put some imagination into your drinking Australia. You bore me!

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