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
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
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
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.
This 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.
In this land of plentiful wine, one
can make it at home for less than $1.00 a bottle. Think of it - "a
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
in vino veritas...
late February, 2008
Diamond Beach, New South Wales