Yet another gripe about wine lists… #predictablestu

I write this column from atop my high horse. I’ve been riding this particular steed for quite a while and intend never to get off till I get my way. And trust me people I’m a hefty bloke with some pretty serious saddle sores right now, so for god’s sake please pay attention.

Australian wine does not have nearly enough representation on the better wine lists of Sydney and Melbourne. And it pisses me off. And it has done so for more than a decade. And I thought it might be improving, but it’s not.

Last month I was invited for the fifth year, to be a panel member judging the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide Wine Lists of the Year. Big lists, short lists and regional lists and the winners will be announced on September 1. There are some terrific lists, cleverly constructed that understand that bigger is not always better, that empathy with the food is essential and that supporting local “producers” includes the wine grower as well as the pig farmer.

And then there are the “others”. The ones that think they are “on trend” by being deliberately obscure; ignoring local wines that might simply be too easily understood and accessible.

And then . . ., ooh baby, then  . . . . there’s my particular bete noir; the hypocritical locavore.

The bloke (and it’s ALWAYS a bloke) who forages the weeds from his median strip and  blends them with the whey from the cow he keeps in his yard and the salt he pans from the Alexandria canal . . . oh god, it’s all so painfully LOCAL and ON TREND, it might just make you grow a beard.

But when I see his drinks list, I really want to hurt a hipster because, yep no surprises here, 90% of his wine list has travelled halfway round the world, in big clumsy, heavy bottles with stupid waxy tops and contents that look like the urine sample of a man with just one functioning kidney.

I’m sorry but I call a big, fat, BULLSHIT on that sort of behaviour.

For mine it shows that the person in charge of this restaurant is a chef, not a restaurateur, and that’s bad for business.

I could understand this dire situation prevailing if we lived in, say Wales or Kenya or even Thailand but we don’t. We reside in one of the most clever, brilliant, diverse and exciting wine producing nations in the world and we are getting too widely ignored on our own shores.

If I was in government (and you can be glad I’m not) I would be bloody legislating against this sort of behaviour. I’d be banging on louder than Senator Crazypants from Queensland – and making a hell of a lot more sense.

I have nothing against wines from all over the world; I love them and drink them all the time, but I reckon an outstanding wine list should offer diners the best of both worlds – wacky wines and drinkable wines and an opportunity to discover something they didn’t know they had, possibly right here on their own doorstep.

So think local, eat local and drink local.  It will make you a better human.

22 thoughts on “Yet another gripe about wine lists… #predictablestu

  1. Pingback: #tassiewinestars in action

  2. Notably absent from the article and many of these comments is the end consumer. Why is that?

    Do we really think restaurant goers care THAT much about a local-weighted wine list in the same way they do about locally grown produce?

    If you think there’s huge unmet demand for a wine venue with the type of local weighted wine-list you describe then please test it out and blog about the results of your experiment.

    Maybe set up a temporary wine list for say 2 or 3 weeks and try to sell it. See if you can make a significant impact on that “chef driven” restaurant’s profitability.

    I would certainly be interested in the results. If you can pull it off you might find your “high horse” is actually a battle horse commanding a fair bit of respect.

  3. Hi Stuart,

    Your article was balanced, however cannot say that about Huon Hooke whom seems to have taken the same draconian stance as Downey did last year in Fairfax with his pathetic stab at independent retailers and restaurants.
    You are certainly no Timex Stuart

  4. Pingback: Why are we eating our own? A leading #sommelierspeaksout | Stuart Gregor

  5. Great article Stu and so agree BUT to some of your responders saying they think it should be kept more local, i for one being in the industry love to try new wines from places other than SA when i dine out. I love to learn and try different varietals from all over Australia and also internationally when i can. So again agree would be great to see more balance overall. great response Craig. Cheers Fi

  6. Local makes a fair bit of sense for your fresh ingredients, people – your wine, sealed as you say in a glass bottle et cetera, travels a fair bit better than your carrots and eggs and sprats. Apples and oranges, innit?

    • Yeah for sure but there’s many reasons to support local terroir if that’s your thing. It’s just a bit soft to say you can’t do it with wine . Biota can. I remember saying at the adelaide wine show 15? Years ago that the judges dinner reminded me of the logies in the 80s. Full of second rate imports cos we were too embarrassed about our local talent… I fear some wine lists are the same. And as for orange wines… Well that’s a taste I’ve not yet acquired and hope never to

  7. Compliments Doctor Gregor, a well thought out, well constructed argument. One that has the full support of the House of Taggert. Continue the the good fight my friend. My rural experience and having fought for a few good causes over the journey has taught me that Tiger Balm, used sparingly and appropriately can ease the pain. Keep it up good man, sadly the industry is somewhat bereft of thinkers. Be kind to yourself and yours Stuart.

  8. Conflict of interest? Poppycock. Nick, Mike & yourself have more experience with Raveneau (and liberating it from your cellar) and imported wines than the bulk of sommeliers in the country and can still see the value in listing Australian wines. (As can I)
    A lot of wine professionals with there heads so far up their imported wine Rex-pensorials that they forgotten Australia even makes wine.
    I say this as a guy that has sold mor than his fair share of imported wines to the public over the years yet firmly believes we have lost direction when it comes to quality and origin.
    Well said Stu.

    • Yeah don’t worry about that! Ask Philip rich or rob Walters if you don’t think I love and drink Imports! Variety is the spice of life and I would never just drink one style of wine… Although 2010 Barolo could keep me going a while….thx for the comment Jason. You off to New York?

  9. State, loca,l international, all fine and well. How about just some good decent drops at an affordable price, not the $12 two sips pour that you get everywhere nowadays.

  10. Before commenting I would like to declare a conflict of interest in this debate: I am an importer of French wine (and yes some are organic and biodynamic). When I eat out I don’t want to drink wines that I can pick up at Dans or Coles and drink at home with a pizza. However I agree lists that have nothing recognisable or pronounceable are difficult. To me its all about balance and trying to get the best of both worlds (old and new). Thanks for writing about this topic. With respect though can I suggest though that you highlight conflicts of interest, if any, in your article?

    • Hi there, I think my conflicts are probably on the blog site. Dirty three wines of gippsland and four pillars gin of the yarra valley. I have a cellar full of aus, Nz, French, Italian, American, German and increasingly Spanish wines (in love with mencia at the moment). Thanks for the comment, really appreciate it

  11. Could not agree more with your comments Stuart. Have dined in plenty of places over the last few years who bang on ad nauseum abouts their locally sourced ingredients and their pursuit of regional cuisine but have wine lists totally dominated by imported wines… the more obscure …….the greater the representation.
    So, it was with great delight I dined at the Daniel O’ Connell in North Adelaide recently to find a totally SA oriented wine list (OK…… I can hear the accusations of parochialism already) with many absolutely ripping wines from producers, large, small, organic, BD, “natural”…a list with something for everyone, a list confidently supporting local industry.

  12. Well said Stu. Certainly seeing a lot more regional wines from NSW in Sydney but still a long way to go. I would that the diversity and quality has never been better but maybe my rose tinted glasses have got in my way again

  13. YES!!! I can think of one particular cowboy who is right up there on that steed with you. Keep fighting the good fight!

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