A mere 50 years ago Australians hardly drank table wine at all, and if they did it was probably the likes of Barossa Pearl, Quelltaler Hock with Lime and Lemon, Rhine Riesling or Claret. We were just emerging from nearly a century of drinking fortified wines - namely sherry and port.
Dr Max Lake and one or two other adventurous souls were in the process of planting Australia’s first boutique vineyards, and what is Treasury Estate today was around 10 to 12 different wine companies.
If you could go back (rewind) to those days and gathered the then leaders of the wine industry and asked them what would be happening in the industry in 20, 30, 40 and even 50 years time, the answers one would have got would be almost 100% wrong with what actually happened.
None of the assembled multitude would have picked that the almost unheard of grape variety Chardonnay would become the biggest selling white wine in the 1980s and 1990s, let alone that the unheard of Sauvignon Blanc would swamp Australia in the late 1990s and 2000s.
Anybody at that meeting who suggested that Australia would become the 4th largest wine exporter in the world with the USA and China as our biggest customers, would have been laughed out of the room, and probably be certified as well!! China was under Chairman Mao and nobody there owned anything other than the clothes on their back.
Likewise no one would have predicted that in 50 years time we would have 2,468 wineries in the country (compared to around 300 or so at the time) or that we would be growing 150 different grape varieties (against around 25 to 35 varieties at the time). They would have commented: “What the *#$% do we need so many bloody different grapes for? What’s wrong with the ones we’ve got now?” Global warming had not even been thought about, let alone debated to death.
The last 50 years have seen massive, dramatic and awesome changes in the Australian wine industry, most of which one could not have been predicted at the time.
Even reducing the timeframe down from 50 years to say 30, who would have predicted back then that Queensland would make good wines? When I was working in Brisbane in the mid-1990s the locals used to scoff at Queensland wines. Today there are some excellent wines being made in Queensland especially from alternative varieties. Likewise with Canberra, Adelaide Hills, Tumbarumba, etc. Almost no one would have predicted the rise of cool climate wines - especially as there was no global warming, nor the massive winery consolidations that occurred in the 1990s, let alone the rise of the “evil duopoly” of Coles and Woolworths, which between them now control the sales of at least 70% to 75% of all wine in Australia. Who would have predicted the rise and fall of cask wines?
SO the big question is: What, will the Australian wine industry look like in 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years’ time? I would suggest that if we gathered all the “leading light” guys and gals of today’s industry and got them to contemplate the future, they would probably get it as wrong as the guys (as it was all guys in those days) would have 50 years ago.
In the meantime, there are some people out there making the changes happen, oblivious to the possible import of what they are doing. They are just getting on with the business of doing business and making the wines they love.
So whilst I might just be around to see the industry 20 years’ time, I certainly won’t be for the other milestones. However, armed with my limited knowledge of all things vinous, I will go out on a limb and suggest the following possible scenarios:
1. Most of Australia’s wine exports will be to Asia. As the average disposable income rises across Asia, more and more people will drink wine and with a lower carbon footprint we will be shipping much more to Asia and less to an increasingly troubled Europe. Hey, I was laughed at in 2004 when I suggested that China could/would become Australia’s biggest wine market.
2. The standard wine bottle size will be in the process of being reduced from 750mL to possibly 500mL as western people continue to reduce their individual consumption of wine, and as Asian sales continue to grow. Do you remember when spirits were in 750mL bottles instead of 700mL bottles?
3. Most of the BIG four wine companies will implode, be sold off in pieces/brands or otherwise downsize, with the possibility of Pernod Ricard maybe even getting out of wine completely and going back to being a spirits company. Already for most of the big four, the current sales/market share is considerably less than what the sum of the original companies they gobbled up would have now been if they had stayed as individual businesses.
4. Australia will make more and more world-class wines from alternative varieties. We already have a number of winemakers producing world-class varietal wines from “new” varieties and this trend will continue and accelerate. In 2036 the world’s best, say, Grüner Veltliner, Fiano, Saperavi or Sangiovese, could/will be produced in Australia.
5. Shiraz will remain Australia’s main grape variety but will represent a smaller proportion of the total annual production. Today around 2,200 out of the 2,468 Australian wineries make a Shiraz. In 20 years’ time I predict it will be down to only around 75% to 80% of wineries that will be producing Shiraz wine.
Then, on the global stage I'd suggest that:
1. There will be good quality Chinese wines listed in many/most of the Chinese restaurants around the world, as China becomes one of the largest wine producers in the world.
2. Canadian, English (post the dissolution of the United Kingdom), Greek, Georgian, Hungarian and Austrian wines will be significantly more visible on wine drinker’s radars around the world.
3. France will continue to lose wine ground around the world.
4. The Indian wine industry will continue to struggle due to their Government and its oppressive regulations.
So those are my suggestions - What are yours?
Let your mind roam and remember almost anything is possible over such a time frame, just think back to the past, nobody could have predicted what life would be like today.
THIS WEEK’S WINE REVIEW:
This week’s wine review is actually a winery review. As all the wines I have tasted from PARACOMBE WINES in the Adelaide Hills over the years have been excellent wines, it was no surprise to see that the current new releases were just as delectable.
Starting with the whites, their new release 2016 PARACOMBE PINOT GRIS and 2016 PARACOMBE CHARDONNAY are sensational.
The PINOT GRIS has great pungent varietal aromas, a lovely crisp, flavoursome palate and really refreshing finish. The CHARDONNAY has floral perfume and citrus aromas, gorgeous citrus flavours with good acidity on the lingering finish. This is a great example of cool climate chardonnay.
Turning to the rosé, the 2016 PARACOMBE RED RUBY is an alluring wine with fabulous, translucent pink colour, fresh raspberry aromas with hints of cherries. On the palate it is light, vibrant, crisp and most importantly (to me) not sweet, finishing with crisp, refreshing acidity. Tasting this wine conjured up images of a summer picnic down by the river or at the beach.
Progressing on to the 2014 PARACOMBE PINOT NOIR, it is a great example of Adelaide Hill’s cool climate Pinot, lashings of strawberry aromas, lively, bright red berry flavours and a refreshing finish. I think it would be very challenging to stop after just one glass.
The 2012 PARACOMBE SHIRAZ is a cracker wine with lovely aromas of cherries, plums and hints of pepper. On the palate these fruit flavours are augmented by a trace of spiciness ending in a tight finish which will open up as the wine elegantly matures over the next 2 to 3 years. A real classy cool climate Shiraz.
The 2012 PARACOMBE SHIRAZ VIOGNIER has all the characteristics of its brother wine but with a hint of honeysuckle added to the aromas and a tad more smoothness and elegance on the palate thanks to the Viognier. This is a real classy wine that is rearing to go right now.
It is great to see new wines being released with some maturity on them, rather than straight after being made.
Three other wines in the Paracombe stable which are not new releases, but are truly worthy of a mention are: the Cabernet Franc which is one of the best Cab Franc’s in Australia; their Malbec which is succulently delicious and the The Reuben, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Shiraz – like a Bordeaux Blend Plus, which is sensational.
So as I said at the start, every wine from PARACOMBE WINES that I have tasted has been at least great, and some have been stunning and/or sensational.
Therefore I strongly recommend that when you next see a bottle of wine from this amazing mob, you grab it (paying for it of course) and try the wine. I am confident that you won’t be disappointed. www.paracombewines.com