You need a story to sell wines, or so they say. The early History of Australian wine is the shortest story ever written; after a promising start nothing happened till the 1950s because the colonialists preferred beer, spirits and fortified wines and the habit set-in.
The recent story of Australian wine, played out from the 1950s, illustrates how chasing volume destroyed our heritage companies and with this many of the stories, the people yarns and much inspiring commercial history.
I occasionally have coffee with one of the smartest winemakers in the Barossa, and yes he does spot wines for Glug, who did the technical engineering for the only one million litre, stainless tanks, ever erected in Australia. He was with Jacobs Creek, part of the best A team ever assembled, with the job of making Jacobs Creek a global brand. Released in 1976, Jacobs for a time was on the ride to global domination and when you sell millions of cases you need very big tanks.
To pursue this dream what did they give up? This; the 18 year old, Johann Gramp anchored off Kangaroo Island on the 16th October, 1837 and later in 1847 planted vines in the southern Barossa and the rest is history as they say. Except the history has been subsumed into a meaningless big, company brand and we will never have a Johann Gramp ‘Barossa Grange’.
A year back I read that the St Hilaire homestead, Albury, was for sale which mentioned, ‘…built by French vigneron Francoise Gaston Leonce Frere in 1875 and is where the first Australian sparkling wine was produced….. Frere sent thousands of bottles of champagne around the world and exhibited in Calcutta in 1883-84, at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London in 1886, Adelaide in 1887 and Melbourne in 1888…..There were 20 hectares under vines with Riesling, Malbec, Shiraz, Cabernet and Muscat made at a time when there were 16 vineyards in Albury’.
Todays drinkers lost on this one as well and now we import ship loads of uninspiring French Sparkling wine. So what should we do about it? Smart customers are on the move so get out and encourage the several thousand wineries to also make affordable wines for $10 as well as those introductory level wines beginning at $25.
Also raise a glass to Johann Gramp on the banks of Jacobs Creek or Francoise Gaston Leonce Frere making his Champagne styles in Albury in the 1880s, so they know it was not in vain.
Depicted: Johann Gramp on the beach at Glenelg and a vineyard scene from Albury in the 1880s.