What defines wine quality?
My dad dragged out a bottle of ‘86 Grange for Christmas lunch. It was great, always is.
Between arguments over Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson (my Dad won, it was his Grange after all), we got to talking about this unique wine which over the past decade has evolved to be one of Australia’s biggest commodi ed luxury items. Miraculously while production has increased dramatically, quality and consistency has also improved thanks to the ability of the winemaking team to source fruit from many vineyards across many regions.
At the same Christmas lunch we also had a magnum of my own Single Estate grown, produced and bottled Reserve ‘99 Shiraz. This wine was not “perfect” but it was full of character, a true expression of place, and extremely enjoyable - packed with vibrant fruits, earthiness and complexity. Yes, I am biased, but my Dad thought so too. So there.
Australia’s most respected wine writer and critic, Huon Hooke, recently raised the issue of Single Estate vs Regionally Blended in an article where
a winemaker for a multi-national argued for the blends sourced from multiple regions selling for well above $50 per bottle. Blending was essential, he said, to make the ‘best wine we can’.
All of which begs the question ‘what defines wine quality?’. Do the aesthetics of regional, and even sub-regional, variation count for anything in this globalised world?
Robert Paul, former Mudgee winemaker and great intellect, fteen years ago hoaxed our local newspaper into running a front page story that he was o to the Ord River to grow and make a Grange-style wine in temperature-controlled hydroponic sheds. It proved quite prophetic.
I think there is authenticity and value in knowing and nurturing my own vines year after year, and using the grapes my team and I work hard to grow ourselves to make my own wine. A genuine connection and commitment to nature, speci c place and people lives in every bottle. I also enjoy the di erent expressions of the variety and terroir across the vintages of Single Estate Wines.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the ’86 Grange and I will happily drink it again given the good fortune. But for me, the spotlight of ‘Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled’ is a more important starting point for judging a wine’s aesthetic.