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Wines in the Press April 2-5

Published:  07 April, 2009

The national wine critics pass their judgement on the wines that have crossed their paths in recent weeks.

The national wine critics pass their judgement on the wines that have crossed their paths in recent weeks.

Financial Times

Something very strange has happened to Australian wine, says Jancis Robinson.

Although more fine wine is being produced by the country's producers its fortunes and reputation has plummeted.

"Fashions come and go," says Robinson. "But the speed with which Australia is being revered to being reviled is quite remarkable."

The UK is still the biggest market for Australian wine by far, taking 37% of all exports last year, but the supermarkets have played the big companies off against each other, such as Constellation and Fosters turning it into a "duel by discount."

"The average British winedrinker became conditioned into buying simply what was on promotion and Australian wine became synonymous with cheap wine," reports Robinson.

Total exports fell for the first time in 15 years and the value of wine exports to the US and UK shrank by 17.5 and 23% respectively.

Now the only growth seems to be in cheap wine marketed in bulk, claims Robinson.

Up to one quarter in the most industrial inland irrigated regions are reported to be on the brink of bankruptcy and new ventures are failing.

Additionally with problems of drought (most year), exceptional frosts (2007), bushfires (2009) Australia is suddenly in a perilous position, she explains.

Wine Australia are doing their best to address the problem.

But this is an "enormous shame," as there is a host of great, increasingly subtle, wine made by people every bit as driven as Europe's finest vignerons.


The growing quality of English sparkling wines and the desire to establish their credentials world wide is one reason to hold the first International Sparkling Wine Symposium in Dorking, reports Tim Atkin.

"Denbies in Dorking is one of six producers whose best fizzes can stand comparison with anything produced outside Champagne and, at the bottom end, within it.

England is one of the few wine-producing countries where global warming is regarded as a boon, explains Atkin.

But the biggest problem facing the industry is its size. Of the 2,000 million bottles produced worldwide, only 500,000 are made here.

Plus another problem is one of perception. When people were questioned for market research purposes at the symposium and asked if they drank English sparkling wine, they reacted like, "Dracula being faced with a crucifix."

Even though many of the same people confidently, yet erroneously, "identified" one blind-tasted example of English fizz as Champagne.