Thursday, August 07, 2008

Australian Wine Reviews Get a Needed Boost

Two of the more active online sites posting reviews and commentary on Australian wines have announced that they will merge to form what will arguably be the internet site for information on current wine releases and wine news from Australia. The new partnership will be under the banner of Campbell Mattinson’s THE WINE FRONT which came into being in 2002 and has steadily grown to be a major resource for content on Aussie wine, winning the 2005 Wine Press Club Wine Communicator Award, as well as being a two-time finalist at the World Food Media Awards. The other partner is Gary Walsh’s Winorama which over the last three years has achieved the reputation of being a major source of (free) reviews of current release Australian wines. Mattinson and Walsh believe they can publish between 200 and 500 wine reviews each month in addition to the ongoing news and feature articles/videos that formed the foundation of THE WINE FRONT site. There is no online, or even printed, resource which I can think of that has this level of focus on Australian wines. One other feature that will be unique to the new site will be the “Double-Take” review where Mattinson and Walsh review the same wine, side by side. Some examples of this novel format have already been posted.

The merger of these two online sites is excellent news for lovers of Aussie wines. Both Mattinson and Walsh are well known and respected within the Australian wine community with Mattinson in particular being that rare breed of accomplished and enthusiastic wine writer with an excellent palate, and a true if somewhat biased fervor for all things Australian in wine. Walsh, an Englishman, has an excellent palate and his well crafted reviews are often infused with wit. His love of wines from that often neglected wine region, the Hunter Valley, adds a depth to the appreciation of Australian wines that is missing in much of the online and print media.

Subscription to the new site will be $39.95AUD per year. This is an extraordinary value when compared to other media that publish regularly on Australian wines including Winestate, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Decanter, Australian Gourmet Traveller – WINE, Jeremy Oliver, etc. The only possible competition in the near term would be James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion because of its wealth of reviews from Halliday’s yearly review of thousands of wines. However the new site, with its reviews of current releases should soon rival Halliday and will be more useful to those wishing to obtain reviews before buying a current release. The site should also eclipse Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate which only publishes once a year on Australian wines and now has a reviewer with far less exposure to the Australian wine scene than either Mattinson or Walsh. The only thing THE WINE FRONT might gain from the Parker model would be a search facility similar to that used on his online site.

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