Did Australian wines stop being cool?
No one I know is drinking them any more.
It’s not that they’ve lost their cool; it’s more like they’ve lost their way. If you’re old enough to remember the late ’80s, Aussie juice was the hippest pour in town. It flowed into the ’90s under the harmonious “Wines of Australia” banner, with winemakers from competing vineyards joining forces to promote the didgeridoo out of each other’s wines.
Those wines were big, boozy and layered with perceived value. You see, average wine drinkers, especially newbies, calculate a wine’s worth by how it lands in their mouths. A punch is considered more impressive than a slap — and once upon a time, even the most pedestrian wines from Down Under delivered a solid right hook to the palate.
Problem is, popularity breeds lethargy, which breeds homogony, which breeds the generic pumping out of boring, cookie-cutter wines that lose much of their oomph as they get mass-produced. Australia saw the trap and dove at the cheese, currently holding the unenviable reputation as the “cheap-and-cheerful” king of the wine world.
Recently, those who make more “serious” Aussie wines have started believing the baloney fried up by both the mainstream and Internet media: that people want subtle and lighter alcohol from their wines rather than texture and guts. Reread the second paragraph. That’s not what people want — and not what Australia does best. Again, Australia has lost its way.
Of course, there are plenty of wineries that have stuck to their guns and still make wines that fill your glass with brawn and bravado, but they’ve become the exception. My advice to Australian winemakers is to return to that “all for one” credo. Forget about pushing regionality (most can’t find Sydney on a map, let alone Coonawarra). Forget about trying to be something you’re not, and leave subtlety to the Europeans. With the ’80s back in vogue, dust off those old Paul Hogan commercials, give them a Men at Work soundtrack and revel in retro. Millennials are all over that vibe and you’ve got all the hashtags you need to recapture your cool.