I love Australian wine. That ought to come as no surprise.
I have been kicking tyres around the fringe of the Australian wine industry for almost 20 years and I just bloody love it – the people, the countryside, the drinking and the friendships. But mainly it’s the drinking.
There was much drinking of Australian wine last week in Adelaide. There always is, I hear you cry, but last week there was a little more; it was “fierce” drinking, speed tasting if you like. There was a lot more swallowed than spat and for some of us it has taken pretty close to a week to recover. It was an event called Savour Australia 2013, that brought hundreds of people from around the world to Adelaide to learn more about Aussie wine. It was presented and organised by Wine Australia and Liquid Ideas helped run the show. It was brilliant.
But it got me thinking about Adelaide. What do I think of Adelaide you ask? Well it’s simple. I think Adelaide should be Portland.
Every decision-maker in Adelaide should hop on a plane and get themselves to Portland, Oregon. They should stay at the Ace Hotel in the middle of town, walk around for a week and see what Adelaide could become. Adelaide could easily be the coolest city in Australia.
Adelaide already is a little bit cooler than we (and it) thinks. It’s always had the best Fringe Festival, it has always had a reputation for liberalism and intellect (Don Dunstan and Christopher Pearson come to mind). To be honest, and I say this with genuine fondness, it’s always been a bit fucking weird.
But it’s also been racked with self-doubt, questioning its place in the broader national context. And it shouldn’t. It should just suck it up, embrace its weirdness, its wacky winemakers and its dirty secrets and loosen up. Portland is THE best city in the US because it embraces the different, the weird – I mean the hipster was invented there for gods sake. But it’s not affected weirdness, it’s real. It has distilleries in the middle of town, it has more food carts in a block than exist in all of Australia, the weather is shit so the bars are great. Their sports teams are mainly crap but their fans are crazy fun. Sure it helps having Nike across the river, but Portland also has great wine regions on its doorstep, a brilliant arts and entertainment culture and the best, regional food in the US. Sound familiar?
Adelaide has all these things but it too often delivers its product in a “look at me I really want to be Melbourne” way. Well you know what? Adelaide should give Melbourne the finger and get on with its own thing. And get weird.
Walking around for a week I couldn’t help but notice little changes, new little bars, new slightly weird street furniture, more than a few ferals and plenty of weird tatts. I also saw more construction underway at one time than I’ve seen in 20 years of visiting. Yet EVERY local told me how shithouse things were. How the mining thing never took off after the Olympic Dam fell over, how the car industry is doomed . . . and I’m like? Give yourselves a slap.
No-one wants to come to Adelaide for mines or shit cars – they want to come for wine and food and weirdness and culture and funky stuff. And don’t, seriously don’t, get me started on all these government hand-outs to the doomed car industry while a brilliant local industry that promotes all the great things about Australia gets taxed to the hilt as opposed to gifted billions. Yep that would be the wine industry.
I am strongly of the belief that Australia’s wine and its wine regions are close to the SINGLE best advertisement for Australia – and it seems Tourism Australia agrees with me… smart folk. With great wine comes great regions dedicated to local produce, great people, often eccentric, widely read and always well travelled with a touch of the lunatic – some of the biodynamic chats we had last week bordered on proper craziness but it was truly intoxicating, enervating, inspiring even. Wine brings art and science together, it brings the bush to the city and vice versa, it is truly blind to the sex of those involved in its production or sale and when consumed responsibly (shit it’s my own blog, do I HAVE to say that?!) it is quite simply the best juice in the world.
I might talk further of my love for wine at a later time. For now, Adelaide, get real and get weird. And wine, stay just the way you are.