Earlier this month, a band of burgeoning winemakers arrived in the UK from Margaret River, South Australia and the Hunter Valley. Why were they here? To show the excitement and dynamism of their country’s wine scene, to demonstrate that there is a world beyond what most supermarkets have to offer, and to blow apart the perception that Aussie wine is just cheap grog!
What’s going on in Australia right now is so exciting, with many smaller wineries making wines from a host of different grape varieties, with more balance and freshness than ever.
‘The best show I have ever done’
For those who made the long journey, it was the first time they had visited The Society’s HQ, and met Wine Society members. All were impressed at how engaged our members are, with Declan Lyne from LS Merchants in Margaret River commenting after our Walkaround tasting in Liverpool that it was ‘the best consumer trade show I have ever done’.
It's hard to pick a single highlight of the week, but for Michael Corbett of Vanguardist in South Australia, it was a pleasure to spend time in England. He talked to me about his ancestral links with the north of England and how until this trip he hadn’t spent more than a day in the UK. The sense of connection was clear through the week and he mentioned how special it was for him in his speech on the first night when we held a dinner for members at our Stevenage offices. The historic chord was struck again when we visited Salisbury for Walkaround tasting number two, when the Aussie producers’ minds were blown when seeing Salisbury Cathedral and the sheer age of the building – something we Brits take for granted.
Heading to The Oval
The big walkaround tasting in London was special. Taking over a space at The Oval cricket ground was always going to be fun with a group of sports-mad Aussies, but I don’t think any of us expected just how much of a buzz that evening’s event would have. Kicked off with a visit by Jancis Robinson MW and a cold beer in the Indian summer heat (not linked), the evening started with a bang. We welcomed 250 keen and thirsty members and Katie MacAulay from Robert Oatley winery said it was ‘the most wine I have ever poured in two hours!’
All week I admired the positivity and enthusiasm of this talented bunch. One thing I admired in particular was their ability to take what they do extremely seriously but not shy away from having an awful lot of fun. I have seldom met winemakers with such an intense attention to detail and no-nonsense approach, which is a major contributor to the incredible quality of the wines. But when the job is done, they are all too happy to spend the afternoon drinking cold lager in the pub and playing pool. Crucially, at the heart of what they do is remembering that wine is all about pleasure and enjoyment – not always the case in some parts of the wine world!
Forage wins new fans
A winery that particularly resonated with members was Forage Supply Co. Their unusual bottle shapes and cartoon labels defy the seriousness of the liquid inside. Numerous members commented to me how much they loved their wines. It’s no surprise one was named by Decanter magazine as a Wine of the Year and another was victorious in our Wine Champions blind tasting this year!
The main aim of the week was to show that there is more to Australian wine than you may have realised. When one member in London asked me why there were so many wines above £10 on show, I explained that it is because this country is, in my humble opinion, the best-value fine wine country in the world. I firmly believe this, and the reception these wines got from members all over the UK reflected that. Hooray and hooroo!