Mac's News from Australia, 2008...

... Report 1

Barossa Valley 2007

Australia has always been awash in wine - it has historically been plentiful and cheap, unlike Canada where wine is controlled for the most part by the Provincial liquor control boards.  These "boards" regulate and set prices which, for reasons best understood by governments and politicians, bear no resemblance or correlation to the cost and fair pricing of the product in an open market. For example, in almost nay 'Bottleshop' in Australia, one can buy brand name wine at less than $2.00 CDN and, for a few dollars a litre, one can also buy bulk port at certain wineries and bottling outlets.

Given this market situation, it is easy to understand why home winemaking is much more popular in Canada than it is 'DownUnder'. For those who make wine in order to keep the price low, that motivation does not exist here. There are those people, however, for whom winemaking is "in their blood" or culture and whose personal commitment to the annual vinous ritual is a part of their life. These people exist in most western societies and there is a growing wine-making cadre in 'Oz, too.

There is a huge wine grape concentrate manufacturing industry in the Riverland section of South Comain Chandon - Yarra ValleyAustralia, in New South Wales and in Victoria, however most of the product is exported; there are but a few winemaker shops that sell this product domestically. In fact, home beer making has a higher profile in Australia than home winemaking.

The surplus of wine grapes in the past few years has required growers to find other markets for their fruit. Tapping into existing weekend farmers' markets in centres such as Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide, some growers are developing a market for those who wish to make wine at home.  A truck or two, usually on Saturday mornings, will arrive at the market and direct sales will be made either from a stall or the back of the truck. The trucks do not come long distances - they usually source from regional vineyards. Sydney for instance, would get grapes from the Hunter Valley or Mudgee.

Home wine-makers are drawn from a broad cross-section of Australian society with the ethnic Greek, Italian and Portuguese communities being more prominent than others.

Australian redsThis fresh grape season lasts during March and early April.  Prices are low by North American standards -around $0.50 (fifty cents) a pound. Many of the varieties you find on Preston Street at harvest are also available here but with more emphasis on the reds  - Shiraz/Syrah in particular - with Semillon notable on the white side. Juices and refrigeration are not a noticeable factor in this market.

If one is fortunate to live in 'grape country' here, it is usually quite easy to make a deal for grapes with a local vineyard owner.  They seem to take a more relaxed view about letting you into their vineyard especially after they have taken what they want.

A few years ago I was tempted to make some Hunter Valley Shiraz but I determined that the house I would be using was located in a region too warm for long term storage.  I have since discovered, however, that there are some wineries who will allow you to make a barrel or two at their facilities which, at least for an annual visitor, is probably a better way to go.

There are a few winemaking clubs located in the larger centres but most individuals cope on their own. You are just as likely to see a home winemaking book from North America for sale in the shop as a domestic one.

Australian whiteIn this land of plentiful wine, one can make it at home for less than $1.00 a bottle.  Think of it - "a less-than-one-buck-chuck"!

Next stop - the Perth area on Australia's West Coast; I'll send you my report from Margaret River within the next few weeks. Until then... keep your Harvest 2007 wine aging...

in vino veritas...

Mac MacDonald
late February, 2008
Diamond Beach, New South Wales


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