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  • Writer's pictureLushmuddled

Aussie As Fosters

Updated: Feb 22, 2022

Australia /ɒˈstreɪliə/ inf. streɪə (noun): a land of snakes and spiders; home of Vegemite-lovers; an island continent littered with “big” sheep, prawns and pineapples; the only country in the world that puts hundreds and thousands on buttered bread and calls it a party food.

Let's be honest, we're a land of stereotypes – put any Australian in a room with someone from overseas and our ocker accent is coming out while we talk about hoop snakes, drop bears and spiders in the dunny. Bonus points for wearing an Akubra while you're at it.

We've even embraced Paul Hogan's 'shrimp on the barbie' phrase, even though we call them prawns and sticking them on a BBQ is a waste of time. Just have them fresh with some lemon.

Australian wine isn't immune to this. We lean into the stereotypes and live up to the reputation the world has handed us. Think Big Barossa Shiraz, the real man's drink, the wine you can taste through cigar smoke and a half-kilo steak, a wine big enough that putting it on a table could be considered a declaration of war. It's as Aussie as Fosters.

Something wrong, Yank?

Except, of course, Fosters hasn't been Australian since 2011, and I have never, ever seen anyone drink it with my own eyes.

There's way more to Aussie wine than the one we're best known for. It's time that we turn the page and start telling a few more recent, but still deeply Australian, yarns about what we're drinking.

Australian Wine is Legacy

We've been pulling a Bradbury long before Steven won gold in the winter Olympics. Phylloxera – that nasty little bug which devastated European vineyards – never really conquered this continent.

As vineyard after vineyard fell in the Old World, Aussies were left with some of the oldest surviving vines on the planet. Shiraz, Grenache, Semillon, Chardonnay, Cabernet, Mourvedre, Marsanne – the oldest vines of these varieties can be found here. It's a legacy that fell right into our lap and something that we're rightfully proud and protective of.

Poonawatta's Shiraz dates to 1880

Australian Wine is Diverse

We're a continent, so variety is in our wheelhouse. With 65 different regions (and counting) across the country, there is something for everyone and every occasion.

You want a bold red for a BBQ? Sure. Looking for something to drink with some Thai? Here you go. No Old World country could possibly match the diversity which is possible here, simply because we're so damned big. Take out Russia and continental Europe fits inside Australia with space to spare. Sadly, 90% of Australian wine is made from 5 different grape varieties. Let's pick up the pace, right?

Australian Wine is Sustainable (sort of...)

We're getting there. The latest statistics from Sustainable Wine Growing Australia lists 767 members, 125 of which are certified. It's a good start, but these are rookie numbers. We have 2400 wineries! Just across the pond in New Zealand, a whopping 96% of area under vine is certified sustainable. Look, the Kiwis already kill us in the rugby – let's not let them beat us here too.

The Riverland - 2nd hottest wine region in the world

But we seem to be catching up. A growing number of people have figured out that, shockingly (and you might want to sit down here), Australia tends to be hot and dry. Some growers and winemakers are starting to plant water efficient varieties. We can grow Shiraz, but we can't grow Shiraz everywhere. We should absolutely maintain our Old Vine heritage, but let's keep an open mind about what else we should be planting.

Australian Wine is Fun

I wholeheartedly believe that our lack of AOC regulations can be a good thing. Of course we blended Shiraz and Pinot Noir – this combination would make most French winemakers blush, but it suits our hot climate to a tee. Of course we made sparkling Shiraz our own. Who's gonna tell us not to? Of course a single region can be home to hundreds of varieties rather than four. We get to march to the beat of our own drum and have discovered some amazing things along the way.

Frosé - get involved

Australian Wine is Changing

At the end of the day, we aren't a serious people, so our reputation for Serious Wine is a bit odd. A 36°C day is not the time for a Big Red. We've finally realised that it's okay to make and enjoy lighter reds, fresh and fizzy pet nats and thirst-quenching whites. Frosé is big thing here (for the Europeans watching at home – simply stick a rose in the freezer and then the blender. Garnish with mint and berries. Do try this at home). We started putting wine into cans simply because they get cold faster. We're down to clown.

So, as much as we love our image and reputation, we're really just very lucky with the range and variety we have in our own backyard.

While we might not be known for our raging pet nats, our light dry reds and cool climate whites, it's only a matter of time. There's a lot of good booze fermenting away in Aussie barrels – and I truly that believe that the best is yet to come. Wine in this country has never been so exciting.

So instead of celebrating Australian wine for what it was 30 years ago, let's start celebrating Australian wine for what it is today and what it can be tomorrow.

It's time.

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