What does place mean when talking about Australian wine? (Everyone deep sighs).
I know we've heard it before, but sitting here on the top of a hill in West Gippsland (our new home) with a combination of climate, elevation and soil type that hasn't really been explored at all, I'm left thinking about place.
I feel like every man and his dog talk about making a wine of place. The word 'Terroir' has been well and truly beaten into the submission of the Australian wine vernacular.
Yet these people who constantly stutter 'Terroir' like some form of place based Tourettes seem to be the same people constantly comparing their own wines to European wine.
As a new world wine region there seems to be an inferiority complex that pushes so many producers to emulate rather than accept that your Australian Pinot Noir probably shouldn't taste like Chambertin.
I'm guilty of this myself to some extent, but I came to wine from a very different place to many Australian wine makers, drinking mostly progressive and avant garde Australian producers from the beginning and what really interested me was the idea that wine could be an expression of the Australian landscape. I think that's a better way to express what drew me to it, rather than buzzwords like Tearwaaah.
Anyway, all this leads me to a question: How do we properly start the conversation in Australia about wine of place? Or rather, change the conversation TO place? Rather than wine making, varietal etc. Doing this is made difficult because of our short history of wine production, with many regions still working out what varietals actually work and what will work in the future.
In the long term could varietal specific appellations help? So If you ordered a Barossa red or a Clare valley white you would get one or two particular Varietals. Or do we need long term education so an individual understands that if you order a Barossa wine It's likely to be bigger, higher alcohol, riper fruit profile and so on because that's just what that place does?
I've been thinking about this a bit since I've started showing my 2019 Warragul Syrah in Melbourne. A shiraz based wine that looks nothing like a shiraz based wine from anywhere else in Australia (and nor should it). It's actually been incredibly exciting to see those sommeliers that just get it, they understand that it's not a wine of Variety (it's not even 100% shiraz anyway, there is a little merlot planted in there).
Which leads me to a final question: Whether or not to put varietal on the label at all?
I might leave that question for another time...