January 15, 2016

It's an Australian thing, and most definitely a Sydney Thing....the fascination with the shiniest, brightest - newest.

There is a curse that comes with longevity.  While you could argue that any business that survives for a long time must be doing something right, the fickle world of the fashionable and commentary around what's "trending" renders many well-run, quality focused, and highly reputable businesses floundering in a market where relevance is eternally sought.

The major exception to this, as far as I see, revolves around buying a morning coffee.  Being greeted as enthusiastically as Norm was in Cheers, as well as the delivery of a sweet hit of caffeine encourages the loyalty those early rising Cafe owners deserve.  Sadly, it rarely translates to many restaurants whose fate can often rest in the hands of reviewers in weekly liftouts.  These "king and queen makers" we're once known as Critics, and favourable appraisals were never guaranteed.  Now, as the lines of advertorial are blurred, the food industry fights for exposure in rapidly decreasing column space.

The wine industry suffers a very similar affliction.  Whether it's a veiled example of "tall-poppyism" or product of over-exposure in national retailer promotions, many of the larger (often iconic) established Brands are suffering.  I've long been a fan of digging for undiscovered gems, but have always used the industry benchmarks as a reference point.  Any time I've looked at ranging Clare Valley Riesling, I've tried it alongside a bottle Pikes "Traditionale" - arguably Australia's most consistently delicious white wine.  If I am chasing a dry rose, a style pioneered by Dominique Portet from the Yarra Valley, then I will source a bottle of his current release of "Fontaine".  These are the styles many aspiring winemakers seek to emulate, so it is only fitting they are afforded the respect they deserve.

It is increasingly difficult for mature producers to attract the attention of the next generation of sommeliers.  There's a natural tendency towards generational change, and a somewhat misguided belief that wine itself has been reinvented over the past decade.  

It's too simplistic, on my part, to ignore the fact that many mature Brands have chosen, or been forced, to engage in selling to the supermarkets.  Instantly, they become less attractive to dining establishments who seek to differentiate their offering.  Over the years, I've spoken to many Brands in this category and most would love to turn back the clock and channel their wines into restaurants and independent retail.  Sadly, in a chicken and egg quandary, their production increased at a time when a high $A allowed a flood of cheaper imports into their patch.

Here's hoping the gatekeepers are, at least, open to trying the wines that have inspired those they're all listing.  Aged wines are revered for their longevity, ironically most often made by the Mature Brands fighting for similar respect.  Peter Pan producers won't last long enough to be remembered at all.

Nick Butler




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