Wednesday, April 08, 2009

An Education in Australian Wine

I have at least 50 books on various aspects of wine in Australia, and I know there are at least a dozen or more sitting in the library of a relative in Australia. Plus there are quite a few that have been loaned, never to return! But even that number is far from a complete collection of the books that have been written. The Australian wine industry has a long history, and has grown so much in size and diversity in recent decades that its hard to recommend any single book as a complete treatise. But I do have one recommendation that is worth looking at. A set of four DVDs from Panorama International Productions titled Wine Trails of Australia.

Wine Trails of Australia won’t make you an instant expert on Aussie wines but it will give you an excellent introduction to the various wine regions and winemakers that contribute to the diversity of wines on the island continent. All the major regions, Barossa, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, Clare Valley, are covered, and that is just South Australia. Unfortunately after that things get a little confusing. The regions are then addressed mainly as either states (Western Australia, Victoria) or cities (Sydney, Melbourne). But the biggest problem is that the four DVD set has been complied without any thought given to organizing the regions either in terms of location, importance or history. So Volume 1 gives you Barossa, Riverina, Queensland and Canberra, and the latter has footage and commentary from the Orange region mixed in. This will be more than a little confusing to those with no knowledge of Australian wine regions. But you are more than compensated by excellent scenery and a wealth of history in terms of the region or city as well as the wines.

Several winemakers provide commentary about their wines in each of the 14 episodes and some might consider some of the statements as shameless advertising of their own products. But the wines are their livelihood so if anyone has the right to self-advertise they do! More enticing are the snippets of history that run throughout the episodes. They don’t all relate to wine but I guarantee you that you will learn something new. And even if you do consider yourself an expert on all things pertaining to Aussie wine you might end up learning a few interesting bits of wine trivia. For example, Yellow Tail started out expecting to sell 25,000 cases of wine into the USA but sold 7, 000,000 and all by word of mouth, no advertising! Or that the winemaker at Katnook, Wayne Stehbens, tools around in a power blue Bolwell MKVIII, also known as the Nagari, with a monster air intake over the engine.

With a series like this you might expect there to be a web site with material that didn’t make it into the finished product or even out-takes from the original filming. And at the end of every episode you are encouraged to visit But don’t get too excited because such a site does not exist.

The DVD set has a release date of October 29, 2007 but it is not clear when the footage was actually shot. The best buy is the complete set at approximately $40USD from Amazon as buying the individual episodes will set you back $18AUD each and then you only get 13 of the 14.

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