That most erudite of wine scribes Andrew Jefford has been spending this year in Australia as what amounts to wine writer in residence at the University of Adelaide, while he researches a book on Australian terroir. Today he delivered a lecture at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide for the Wine 2030 Research Network’s ‘Blue Sky Day’ – you can link to the text here.
It’s not the shortest of speeches, and there’s plenty of meat to get your teeth into. ‘Misjudged acid addition is, for me, the defining fault of the Australian wine industry’ – too true, there are too many wines whose hard, soulless finishes speak of a winemaker who knows how to make wine, but doesn’t know when to stop. He’s also not a fan of the vogue to pick earlier in order to reduce alcohol levels. ‘Harvesting under-ripe fruit robs the wine of potential personality, articulacy and sensual appeal, just as harvesting over-ripe fruit will rob it of inner life, sap and vitality.’
It brought to mind my first trip to Australia in 1988. It was a time when Shiraz was in the doldrums (although beginning to make a recovery thanks to UK interest), beefiness was out and elegance was in. Unfortunately, the interpretation of ‘elegance’ meant that several producers were picking grapes far too early, making scrawny Pinots and Cabernets that, while distinctive and certainly not high in alcohol, had all the charm of a wet chihuahua. Fine if you like celery and mint flavoured Ribena, but otherwise a turn-off.
There’s also much on the future of wine writing. ‘It’s conceivable and perhaps likely that the future of wine writing will be a few key professional internet voices obtainable in part by subscription, and a large amount of free babble from enthusiastic and sometimes talented amateurs.’
Certainly I’ve made establishing a greater presence on the Internet my priority for the next few months. And I’m toying with the idea of expanding into a part free-part subscription model, probably by launching another site – so free babble and paid-for babble too. I know which niche I want to exploit – the middle ground between those who favourite winery is BOGOF and those who subscribe to Decanter/WA/WS. I know the name of the new site (I’m currently playing with formats and layouts). And I know that I’ll have to put in a lot of hard (unpaid) work in order to get it up and running. Hopefully you’ll see the fruits of this sooner rather than later – if you don’t, pester me. In the meantime, enjoy Andrew’s speech and please feel free to leave a comment, either on his words or mine.