It's Australia day tasting. Had I woken up to the strains of Sonny and Cher with an eerie feeling of deja vu it would have been entirely appropiate. Because as I wended my way westwards towards the sprawlingly chaotic venue of Saatchi Gallery I already knew what was coming. The same agencies promoting the same wineries, the same wines, just different vintages, with the same queues at the same tables all desperate to try this vintage of 'Dead Arm' or something akin.
There are some rather stellar wines that I've tarred with that rather withered synopsis, but I knew they were stellar before I left my house that morning. I've been tasting them year in year out for what seems like forever. However just like groundhog day there are subtle differences each year.......mainly in the form of a winery or two not bothering to turn up this time.
Is there nothing new happening in Australia? There is perhaps the odd new wine within a range that is fairly well known. An introduction of a different grape variety perhaps. But where are the new guys looking to find representation? Those (and I hate this definition) 'Boutique' wineries that perhaps define a dynamism that once, not that long ago, Australia was eager to promote. It seems to me that they (the Australian wine makers and their respective promotional board) are happy to sit under the blanket of 'Brand' again. Accepting the inevitable pull of Supermarket sales powers.
The lack of show from the wine makers themselves is a fairly damning indictment of how the importance of this tasting is viewed down under. The few winemakers that did show were all of a buzz about the tours continuance to Russia and the Far East once they'd 'got this one out of the way'. We ( the English market) seem no more than a duty to fulfil; a politeness on their behalf. Market share is stable so why should they trouble themselves any more than is required. The exciting growth markets lie elsewhere.
I'm not sure I will go next year. The tasting is no longer the promotion of Australian wines trying to show us where they want to go, merely the consolidation of brand. Been there and done that.