If you have any sort of knowledge of Australian wines at all, then the name of Maurice O’Shea should not be unfamiliar to you. Just how or when it filtered into my wine consciousness, I don’t quite recall. In the mid to late 1970’s by brother worked in Newcastle, a mere stones’ throw, in Australian viticultural distances, from the Hunter Valley, so it may well have been on a visit there. Or perhaps it was during one of the wine classes I took in Sydney during that same time period. In any event the mention of the name was made in revered, almost mythical terms; there seemed so little known of O’Shea. And his wines, while legendary, were like the man. They were gone, but they could have been myth as well.
Part of the story has now changed. Maurice O’Shea is back. Much of O’Shea and his life, at least as much as is knowable, has been brought to life by Campbell Mattinson in a new book Wine Hunter. In fact there are two books. One is called The Wine Hunter: Maurice O’Shea – The Man Who Changed Australian Wine, and the second is a larger version simply called Wine Hunter and subtitled The story of Maurice O’Shea. The greatest vigneron in Australia.
I wish I could say that this is a review of one or both books but alas it is not. A signed copy of the shorter version sits waiting for me in Australia. I plan on getting the longer version by extending my subscription to Matttinson’s online The Wine Front. The problem is that the longer version will also have to be sent to an address in Australia. Its not Campbell’s fault. He’s a one man show and he is already offering the book and subscription to his online site at a significant discount; overseas mail costs would almost certainly cut into his share of the sales and he has to make a living.
But if you are an Australian and you drink wine or appreciate Aussie history or just damn fine writing, then you should buy this book. I can’t wait to read both books because Campbell has won significant awards for his writing which is in a class of its own, especially when it comes to wine writers. In lieu of my review here is a link to one by Australian wine critic James Halliday.