Giving wine a future, a bottle at a time

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“We should commit to purchasing and consuming Australian wine. It seems that next time Tom and I get together, we should buy a bottle of Australian wine, not just two glasses,” writes wine columnist RICHARD CALVER.

I’M sitting in the Triton Lounge of the Hellenic Club in Woden having a glass of wine with my mate Tom. 

Richard Calver.

We are each drinking a 2017 St Hallett Garden of Eden shiraz, $8.50 a glass for members. It’s a quaffer; dry Barossa shiraz with a hint of bitterness that might reflect how it’s been stored or that my taste buds have become jaded from the strong coffee I had about 20 minutes before. It’s good enough stimulus to launch a quick fire of groaner jokes before we solve the problems of the world. 

I tell him that I am prepared to lend him the magazine “Osteopath Monthly, as I have back issues. He retorts with: What did the grape do when he got stepped on? He let out a little wine”.

And we then get down to a discussion on the journey of the wine industry in 2020.

“Well, Tom, it’s been bad. Fires and smoke taint meant that the local vintners didn’t make a 2020 vintage,” I say.

“The smoke was horrendous, it can’t become part of our terroir, and then we were slapped with COVID-19 that changed the pattern of demand. 

“At work I read a report by Infrastructure Australia that said during the pandemic online shopping grew five to six times the level of annual growth in 2019. Everything is online with the most repeated phrase of this year being ‘you’re on mute’.” 

“Yes, mate, and now China has shut the door, with those bloody tariffs,” Tom says. 

“There could be some good out of it though, with some of that good-quality stuff coming on to the local market and reducing the price for us drinkers.” 

“Adam Smith would be proud of you, Tom,” I say before we move to a discussion of various friends’ ailments and injuries.

Later I find that it would appear Tom’s hope won’t become reality. 

John Durie, of “The Australian”, did an analysis of Treasury Wine Estates’ 2019 shipments to China. He found that the firm shipped 660,000 cases of top-quality wine to China worth about $168 million. 

But in all for Treasury Wine Estates there were 2.6 million cases shipped worth a total of $190 million. It is easy to work out that this means that there are around two million cases of lower-quality wine that need to find a market. Ouch.

I subsequently discuss these figures with Tom. He indicates that according to a Wine Australia source, total shipments to China for 2019 were around 15.8 million cases for a value of $1.28 billion, so that each bottle exported came in at just under $A7 wholesale. 

China has imposed tariffs of up to 200 per cent on Australian wine with allegations that our wine has been dumped on the Chinese market and that some exporters have sold wine for below the cost of production. This has been hotly denied by Australian producers.

I get a publication called “Daily Wine News” (no relation to “Osteopath Monthly”, as it’s real!) and there is some good news and camaraderie amidst the gloom. 

In the December 11 issue it was reported that Naked Wines will set up a $5 million Rescue Fund to help support Australian independent winemakers who are going to take the hardest hit from China’s wine tariff decisions. 

That’s certainly not the end of the fight back: Tom sent me an invitation to join an on-line group (there we go again!) that has the sole aim of supporting Australian wine growers. It already has nearly 35,000 members. 

We should also all use this as an opportunity to commit to purchasing and consuming Australian product. It seems that next time Tom and I get together, we should buy a bottle of Australian wine, not just two glasses.


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Richard Calver
Richard Calver walks, talks, thinks, drinks and writes passionately about wine, especially the wines of the Canberra region.

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