Felicity Carter, Wine Models, Marketing and Cultural Studies


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.

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7 Responses to Felicity Carter, Wine Models, Marketing and Cultural Studies

  1. Floyd says:

    On the 'taste of culture' point, I actually find that knowing an area increases my appreciation of a wine. Now, I am not a connoisseur. In fact, my experience is limited to whites because most reds give me migraines. However, though I can say I like the taste of a Brown Brothers or a Hunter Valley wine, I have never visited those places so my description lacks a certain depth. In fact, I would prefer to reinforce that by describing it as lacking an entire dimension.

    However, living as I do in South Australia has given me the opportunity of exploring the Barossa Valley and the Clare Valley on numerous occasions; and in fact I live on the northern edge of the Southern Vales wine region. For the very reason that I have been to these areas and experienced them first hand, I tend to shun Barossa Valley wines. They may have a certain technical excellence but, from my perspective, the whole region is tainted by commercialism.

    On the other hand, the Clare Valley is one of my favourite places in Australia for relaxing and enjoying the country atmosphere. My partner and I recently spent a weekend in that region. Towns like Clare, Watervale and Leasingham that are situated in the Clare Valley are quiet, peaceful and deliberately non-commercial (with the exception of some that have grown to a point where their wines now have a very market driven flavour, thus supporting my point). The district, however, is replete with simple "backyard wineries"; with the country hospitality of residents who grow grapes as a hobby, not for massive profits, who are pleased to invite you in for a sample and to exchange a bottle or three in return for a very reasonable price. When you know that history and that charm and that atmosphere, you can taste it in every glass.

    Of course there are bigger, more well known wineries that spring from this region. One of the highlights of the weekend was being able to take my partner to Annie's Lane, who market a wine I had ordered for her a number of times at various restaurants we had been to during the time I have known her. Now she too shares that extra taste of cultural experience in addition to the appreciation she already had for the wine itself.

    As far as the Southern Vales (or McLaren Vale as it is becoming more commonly known, even though that is only one of the towns) our favourite winery is a small family business with the possibly-difficult-to-market name of Foggo's. Among other things they produce the finest Sauvignon Blanc I have ever tasted; and their Moscato is an orgasm for your tastebuds. They don't want to be big. They don't want to be well-known. They just want to go on producing their wines as they have for three or four generations, and they are very good at it. I hope they won't mind me giving them a free mention here though.

    So, while my experience may not be up there with the connoisseurs; while I may not describe wines in terms of bouquets and fragrances and other fancy marketing terms, it is at least my own experience, and I am glad to have shared it with you. Thank you for that.

  2. Jeremy Pringle says:

    I will have to post my reply to Floyd in seperate parts as even my blogging platform feels I'm too verbose!

    Part 1

    "So, while my experience may not be up there with the connoisseurs; while I may not describe wines in terms of bouquets and fragrances and other fancy marketing terms, it is at least my own experience, and I am glad to have shared it with you. Thank you for that. "

    Who's experience is up with the connoissuers' and who are the connoisseurs anyway? :)

    Floyd – Thank you very much for taking the time to read my post and add your thoughts to it. I am very glad you have, and I hope this blog is as much an opportunity for others like yourself (connoisseurs or not) to share their thoughts when they wish,. One of the things that the industry's now dealing with is the blurring of the line between expertise and enthusiastic commentary without what used to be the required academic credentials. I feel the more people such as yourself who enjoy wine and take the valuable time to share their perspectives the more the wine industry will benefit, and from a purely marketing perspective the more chance it will have, as an industry, to weather the GFC (Global Financial Crisis).

    It is interesting to read what you mention here about the inability to have visited a place renders one's description as "lacking an entire dimension". I think that is a very fair point. At the same time, I still think one's descriptions could be of value (I guess I would have to, given that I am blogging about wine with little opportunity to visit most of the regions I talk about or that produce the wine I write tasting notes of!). I guess what is important is to value the experiences shared by those who have that extra dimension at the same time. And here, once again I am grateful for your comments. They flesh things out, so to speak.

    I have not been to the Clare yet, but it's interesting that a very well-known and rightfully prestigious figure of the Vale, when asked his favourite wine region by Adam Catford in an interview for The Wine Front, said that, while he would love to say McLaren Vale, he had to admit that it was the Clare. He spoke of the beauty of looking out from the top of Polish Hill, across the road from Watervale, and the beauty of that panorama visible from that position. It is also interesting to note that the famed Reislings from the "Polish Hill" side of the road, as opposed to the "Watervale" side of the road, have very different characteristics and quite different histories. They would make a classic example of what those that dismiss Australian wine as uni-dimensional & lacking in terroir have (deliberately?) overlooked. Sub-regionality and individual sites and vineyards matter, and we have them as much here as in France.

  3. Jeremy Pringle says:

    Part 2

    Of course the problem with "promoting" our sub-regionality is that wine can be a complex and daunting enough world as it is, without complicating matters further. It is important that the industry considers more casual consumers (ie those less obsessed than me) in its thoughts, as much as foreign markets. Better writers/thinkers than myself have pointed out that cheap imports to Australia mean that it is possible to argue that the battleground for sales has shifted away from export woes and overseas perceptions, to successfully engaging wine drinkers of all persuasions here in THIS very country. The playing field is multi-levelled these days, thus the need for more and varied input and greater thought.

    Back to sub-regionality, speaking just of McLaren Vale which you mention is a conglomerate of many towns, the debate is over whether promoting these smaller pieces of a larger and more recognised GI (geographical indicator or region) could perhaps be harmful to the region's producers when they seek to make an impression on the consumer as a place which has a broader voice/taste. Once again James Hook (Lazy Ballerina Wines) has written of this already, and with more insight than I could or would wish to lay claim to.

    The Barossa's representation as an important player, home of the "big names" (Barons of the Barossa, Penfolds etc) can obviously work against it too. You mention that you tend to shun Barossan wines due to what you preceive as the taint of commercialism in that area; that aspect which could lead to wines that "may have technical excellence" but are of less interest to yourself. I do know of producers in the Barossa who would not fit into that category, so I guess they can lose out due to the broader success of the Barrossan "trademark" per se. It's an extremely complex debate, to say the least. I suspect that some of the nature of your regional preferences come from the fact that migraines limit your consumption to whites (which in no way limits the worth of your comments. Some of the finest wine commentators I know of have admitted openly to a strong preference for reds to the point of excluding most whites. In the end, we can only consume so many wines in a lifetime, so choices have to be made. Ultimately, why drink one wine when you would prefer to drink another? (outside of financial/physical reasons of course). Whites from the Barossa Valley floor are not generally seen as producing the best or strongest varietal/terroir relationship.

  4. Jeremy Pringle says:

    Part 3

    "When you know that history and that charm and that atmosphere, you can taste it in every glass"- another fascinating debate to me. I don't think we can scientifically substantiate the claim in any way, but we would be foolish to ignore it. Indeed, the unscientific and more cultural elements of wine are in many ways what prodded me to make my above post. I visited the Great Western wine area of Victoria late last year. I tasted at the giant cellar doors of Seppelt, where we had each wine explained to us in a very "rehearsed" manner. The cellar door is geared towards a large amount of visitors & the staff are trained to deal with them in a certain way, which may not suit me but is none the less understandable. The wines were impressive, but I had a far better personal experience at Best's Winery across the road. It is a small cellar door site and the staff are part of the wine producing chain and very much encouraged to be themselves. I found it very hard to be objective about the wines of Best's (except that I feel unequivocally compelled to say they deserve greater recognition). The romance of the place, its characters and the friendly (and free) opportunity to explore their historically amazing cellar swept me up. I love Seppelts' St Peters Vineyard and its beautiful old vines, but the less prestigious old vines of Best's were being helped out by the overlap of the cellar door experience to a point where I found myself enjoying a Pinot Meunier Table wine of all things. I will taste a vintage of that wine again I hope, but I think I loved it because of the atmosphere as much as what was in the glass. It was pulled out especially for my friend and I, how could I not be influenced by that love & generosity?

    I think though, as you have flagged in your comments on Annie's Lane, that there is a place for many different wineries, big and small. Part of the joy of wine lies in its diversity. So I'm still a Seppeltist, I love the St Peters Shiraz, Jaluka Chardonnay and the Drumborg Reisling sourced from Henty. Different approaches allow different endeavours and I try to enjoy as many as I can.

    So thank you again for sharing your thoughts. They give me an opportunity to think more about the things I consider important and keep the (hopefully) perpetual process of sharing wine open and flowing. And I do like my wine to be flowing generously :)



  5. Patrick The Shopper says:

    This is all very interesting. So much so that I am going to google "The Wine Hunter" but I will be bereft if you stop posting non-wanker tasting notes for nice cheap wines.

  6. Jeremy Pringle says:

    Hello Patrick.

    More "only slightly wankerish" cheap wine TNs are next on the agenda this week, don't worry :) I enjoy writing TNs and they are generally a lot less politically dangerous. Suits me just fine! "Wine Hunter" is sadly going out of print, but it's definitely still available at


    Unfortunately that link won't be active on this platform, but a quick cut & post should see you to it. Winestar is also a very worthwhile site for a number of reasons. The book is probably still at some stores too. Happy hunting



  7. Jeremy Pringle says:

    Ok, seems platform won't allow cut & paste, so copy and paste it is! New platform one day, with more active links and user friendly access. Doing HTML tutorials on web today too :D

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