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Wines and Fashion - How Australia changed the market

Wine and the Market

It's something I've touched on before, but there's a strong correlation between fashion and taste. Sometimes tastes in wines are determined by necessity; I'm thinking of wine in the Classical world that needed to have water added to be palatable. Drink enough of anything with a strong taste and eventually you become inured.

It's something I've touched on before, but there's a strong correlation between fashion and taste. Sometimes tastes in wines are determined by necessity; I'm thinking of wine in the Classical world that needed to have water added to be palatable. Drink enough of anything with a strong taste and eventually you become inured. An 'acquired taste' is another way of putting it - like finding Greek retsina in any way drinkable. Two hundred years ago the British and all those that traded with their empire acquired a taste for fortified wines, drinks like Port, sherry and Marsala. Again, the acquired taste was brought about by necessity - the only wines that could survive long sea-journeys were fortified wines, so they were the only ones widely available.

Today we have no such constrictions, we can have in any country in the world just about any wine we desire, and yet fashions still dictate our buying habits. Not so long ago brutally dry, thin, tart wines from the Loire were on offer in smart venues and, what's more, people drank them. If drinking this stuff said anything at all about your tastes, it was only to make clear how far you'd come from enjoying sweet whites from Germany like Piesporter and Blue Nun. Back in the late eighties all this got turned around with the advent on the mass market of Australian wines.

Australian wine-makers made high profile trips to France to teach wine-makers their techniques - there were even bottles with 'Flying Wine-Makers' written on the labels. Why the chauvinist French were interested in what these Australian were doing was simply that the Aussies were making inroads into their traditional markets. What was doing damage to the French share of the markets was a new style of wine - big and upfront with a lot of fruit and flavour, something that Europeans had never tasted before. It's arrival coincided with a lucky juxtaposition - a new prosperity combined with a new interest in wine in general. What Australia was providing was immensely approachable, easy-drinking reds and whites with a taste that needed no practice to like, it was likeable right from the first sip.

The best example of this is the ubiquitous Lindeman's Bin 65 Chardonnay. More of this white wine is exported from Australia than any other. It's a blended wine, not tied to a particular vineyard, so its makers have been able to keep the same 'sock you in the mouth' flavour vintage after vintage consistently. It's my belief that wines this have changed the wine market forever, forcing wine-makers to make their wines fit the new tastes, no matter where they are. More on this next week…

Recommended wine

Lindeman's Cawarra Semillon/Chardonnay

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