So, before a weekend off to recharge and gather my thoughts…A statement of Intent.
This blog has been finding its feet and jumping around a fair bit. It will continue to do so. BUT- An address made by Felicity Carter at the Wine Press Club this month has clarified what I wish to do here. It is a very important read:
I was trained in my youth in the fields of critical/cultural/literary analysis (all could be broadly thought of as Philosophy in a way). The field was largely wiped out by the rise of Economic Rationalism under the John Howard regime, to such a point that, on the verge of a full scholarship to pursue my work at The University of Melbourne, I threw it all away. Big time!
On reading the Carter transcript I became re-invigorated with what the thinkers/writers I so loved could potentially offer the Wine industry, particularly in Australia.
Carter deals with wine as a cultural artifact and emphasises how it is NOT all about what’s in the glass. I couldn’t agree more. She goes on to look at Old & New World Wine Models and the future for the Australian wine industry, amongst other things.
Viewing wine as a cultural artifact demands intellectual rigour, the sort of precise thinking that is often decried as pretentious. It isn’t. It is needed right here and right now.
So, while TNs will still play their part in this blog, I will now devote more time to the cultural study of wine at this point in history.
Before I embark fully on this endeavour, I wish to have some fun- You will need to have read the Carter transcript and its analysis of marketing to really grasp what I’m trying to do here. But there is a place for Wine with “No Bullshit” and a place for Wine with the necessary amount of “bullshit”. I am in the latter camp.
“[W]ine does not exist separately from the country or the culture that produces it. If a wine industry’s message is congruous with the image of its country, then its message is amplified”- Carter
“One of the High School girls had mentioned them, how weird it was when the Tuesday Creative Lecture was over and everybody came out as if hypnotised, or wounded. That’s what she called it, the Tuesday Creative Lecture”- Ali Smith, “Girl Meets Boy”
“[The Austrian Wine Industry's] tag line is ‘a taste of culture’ and their advertising juxtaposes their wine with images of Austrian Culture…’Mozart in a glass’…”- Carter
From the Tuesday Creative Lecture on how to sell the company’s bottled water- “So how will we do it? Question one. How will we bottle our Highland oil [our water]? Question two. What will we call it? Question three. What shape will its bottles be? Question four. What will it say on the labels on the bottles? And finally, question five. Will it say anything on the lids of the bottles? Answers, team! Answers!”- Smith
The Austrian Wine Industry again- “At its kitschiest, this can come down to talking about ‘Mozart in a glass’, but at its most effective, it links its lively wines to Austria’s culinary and artistic heritage.”- Carter
“What you come up with, he said, will need to indicate what really matters to us. It will need to let us know that human beings aren’t ruled by nature, that on the contrary, they ARE nature. That’s good. They ARE nature. It will need not just to open minds to our product, but to suggest that our product is the most open-minded on the market”- Smith
“[T]he New Zealanders see an advantage in sustainability as a proposition, rather than regionality, because they believe that sustainable practices are a guarantee of wine quality. Once again, this position is congruous with the overall positioning of of New Zealand as a green, clean country.”- Carter
“We can’t use Purely. The Alaskans use Purely. We can’t use Clearly. The Canadians use clearly. We can’t use Highland. Our biggest rivals use Highland. But our name will need to imply all three. So come on people. Throw me a name. I need a name. We need a name for our water. Come on. Ideas. I need to hear them. Purely. Clearly. Highland. Nature. Power. Ideas. Now. Concepts. Now.”- Smith
“While we’re at it, let’s ask Cate Blanchett to be our Wine Ambassador. After all, she’s the living embodiment of Australian wine – classically trained, sophisticated, international, recognisable and yet uniquely Australian”- Carter
“Good, Keith said, good, good! Keep it coming…”- Smith
So, that was, in part, a bit of fun taking the piss but setting the playing field. Felicty Carter is far smarter than those “soundbites” might make her seem. She speaks of a historian friend who says “Australia suffers from what she calls The Great Australian Forgetting, whereby every generation of Australians prefers to forget what the one before did.” This is important. This is why the work of James Hook and Campbell Mattinson to name but two, MATTERS! Australian wine has a rich history. It needs to be recorded, preserved, revered and USED. Its story could be what SELLS our wines.
And again from Carter- “It is striking how little the Great Australian Wine Project has penetrated Australian popular culture- we have yet to see an Australian film like Sideways or Bottle Shock, or to read the vineyard crime novels that are so popular in Germany. Australian children, who learn all about MacArthur and his merino sheep, learn nothing about James Busby and his vine cuttings. Perhaps engaging with the creative industries could change that.”
Hear, bloody hear. I am not the only one to remark on what a great film Mattinson’s “The Wine Hunter” could make. Fuck Baz’s over-indulgent, self important masturbationary epic “Australia”. Let’s start telling Australia’s wine STORY in little pieces. Lets see a movie on O’Shea or Hardy & Reynella! Might even stop Constellation in it’s tracks eh?
Aesthetic, Historical & Cultural Analysis of Australian Wine is well and truly underway. Let’s support it. What have we got to lose? A whole industry and its heritage.
Edit 27/7/09- Once again, I’ll flag the comments section of this post, as a reader has shared some very interesting thoughts & allowed me to explore some things in different ways. Comments are a boon in this way.