Did Australian wines stop being cool?

By / Magazine / March 2nd, 2018 / 10

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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on Alliant.net to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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