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Australia on Winedoctor

An interesting message recently from Australian Nick Bowring, who writes:

Hi Chris,

I hope this finds you well.

As an avid reader of your site and also a fellow wine industry person
I really enjoy your wine of the week section. A lot of the wines that
you review are wines that I can’t buy here in Australia but many are
wines that i am familiar with and have the fortune of tasting
regularly. However, the wines that you review from Australia are
never wines that you will find on good restaurant wine lists and are
certainly wines that any learned wine person in Australia would choose
to look at in this type of forum. Having said that, I don’t think the
wines are at all bad, just wines that as you say don’t help us learn
about the vines, people or place that help make these wines. Is this
due to the availability of Australian wines in the UK? If you like I
am more than happy to help you source wines that I believe represent
what Australia does best. In my travels around the world I have found
that the perception of Australian wine is less than stella and
anything I can do to help that change I will do. I am sure that you
know what are the better producers in Australia and I am also sure
that a lot of these wines are probably not available in the UK.
Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

Keep up the good work!

Many thanks and kind regards

Nick Bowring“

I think Nick was spurred into writing by the rather aberrant appearance of two branded wines as recent “wines of the week”, the Jacob’s Creek Steingarten (which I though was pretty good for such a wine) and the Griffith Park fizz which was certainly drinkable. My reply:

Hi Nick

Many thanks for your feedback. I know you have a deep understanding of Australian wine and you are quite right that my site doesn’t really feature the best that Australia has to offer, indeed these days it doesn’t really focus on Australia at all.

I was in two minds running the two branded Australian wines over the last two weeks, mainly because they are so out of keeping with the sorts of wines I usually write about. However, my wine of the week feature is more about examining some aspect of wine rather than featuring a wine as a “recommended buy”, and so I thought it would be interesting to look at these two branded wines – making plain that is what they are – in succession. I thought them interesting because they showed that (1) branded wines can be good (or at least good value) drinking – although I accept not the interest or quality you can get from a boutique winery, hopefully that point came across, (2) that the processes behind them can be interesting even though they deviate from our usual concepts of wine, eg. marketing that suggests a single-vineyard origin (such as the Steingarten) when that is clearly not the case, or methods to reduce costs and thus shelf price, such as the transfer method for the Griffith Park.

Having written that, despite my stating that “One thing Wine of the Week does not foster is a string of dull supermarket wine recommendations. This isn’t an outlet for the puffery that can build up around such wines, frequently manufactured and unnatural, and of little real interest” (taken from here) I know many approach it as a recommended buy, and indeed I have recently been in receipt of emails complaining that the wines I feature are unobtainable, when that was never really meant to be the case anyway – although when I checked the majority of wines I feature, even when I pull them from the cellar years after purchase, are usually still on the market. Maybe I just need to bite the bullet, and put more weight of recommendation behind the wines I feature?

If I look at Australia again in the future I will get in touch. I know for sure that I am out of my comfort zone here, my Aus profiles are gradually going out of date, don’t represent the best of the country (again) and I am just accepting that. It’s not possible to update everything, so I am focusing on what I know (Loire, Bordeaux) with bits on other French/European regions.

Thanks again

Chris Kissack“

Any comments? What should “wine of the week” be? Should websites be broad and risk superficialty, or is a more focused approach better? I must confess I had no real ‘master-plan’ for either when I started up nearly ten years ago, so today’s position is one I have grown into rather than planned.

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