Is There an ‘Aussie’ Style of Wine? Waiting for Goode-ot…

“Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed…Let us represent worthily for one the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us! What do you say? It is true that when with folded arms we weigh the pros and the cons we are no less a credit to our species. The tiger bounds to the help of his congeners without the least reflexion, or he slinks away into the depths of the thickets. But that is not the question. What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we know the answer. Yes, in the immense confusion one thing is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come” - Samuel Beckett

Seriously, I thought we had moved past this. But it seems not to be the case. “I liked it but found it quite australian in style”; a response to another’s views on twitter from the esteemed UK-based wine scribe Jamie Goode, who will be part of the 2012 Royal Melbourne Wine Show judging panel. A frighteningly meaningless and lazy generalisation about a vast continent and one which I called Mr Goode out on. “touchy out there. But there is an Aussie style. Of course, aus is diverse, too” he replied, back pedalling yet sticking to his point at the same time. And a clever diversion. It was my sensitivity that was the real issue here…a ‘sensitivity’ that, by the way, was shared by a number of others on twitter at that point. I was just lucky enough to get a response. Of sorts.

“I would like you now to explain what an ‘Aussie’ style wine is. Be accountable”, I replied. “What have I done to upset you Jeremy? !!” Once again, Jamie makes this out to be about me, not his initial statement. Once again I reply that Jamie has not upset me, his statement has. Jamie Goode’s “Wine Anorak” is a great site. Worthy, perhaps, even of its gratuitous introduction; “WELCOME to one of the most interesting and comprehensive wine resources on the web”. So why is it that an intelligence this substantial believes there is an “Aussie” style out there? And why will he not answer my question – Can you please explain what an ‘Aussie style’ wine is?

“Can’t be done in 140 characters. Especially not when people get so sensitive about these issues”. Ok Jamie (or anyone else who cares to share their thoughts), now I have posted on this issue. Your reply in the comments section below will not be limited to 140 characters. Write as much as you like.

Finally, let me be clear. This is not an attack on the 2012 Royal Melbourne Wine Show. Fortunately that show also has a group of astute and intelligent judges who realise that an “Aussie” style does not exist. Or perhaps one of them would like to disagree with me. Or anyone else for that matter. But, in truth, I am still waiting for Goode-ot.

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14 Responses to Is There an ‘Aussie’ Style of Wine? Waiting for Goode-ot…

  1. GW says:

    It’s easy to make a hasty twitter comment; tweet in haste, repent at leisure, and a humble person might just say “Yes that didn’t come over too well. Careless wording”, yet others may dig in.
    If we place it in a different context – “I liked it but found it quite French in style” – do we remove the cringe, or is it plain that we like it begrudgingly, even though it’s ‘French in style’? A huge, though not continental sized, piece of baggage for a wine to carry!
    Secondly, what exactly is ‘French’ in style? It’s a little sloppy. Something to ponder on one of many trips to Australia and NZ, perhaps.

    • Roger G. says:

      While saying “French in style” and “Australian in style” seems to be committing the same offence, I don’t think they are.

      If someone in Australia tastes a non-French Chardonnay (say), and says it’s “French in style” its a given that they are talking within the general realms of Burgundy. But when someone tastes a wine and says “Australian in style”, it is not unreasonable to assume that it is a just another lazy generalisation. The reason is, that in most cases old world wine regions have (naturally) through time defined styles associated with particular varieties. Other styles may and probably will emerge over time (Barossa Shiraz being an example, very different from the Rhone, but very recognisable and internationally respected). But right now saying “French in style” means something to most, while saying “Australian in style” means little. The latter only serves to perpetuate one of the wine worlds geat myths – that Australian wines are all the same. I think a lot of UK wine writers should get out of Tescos and pay a self-funded visit.

  2. Yes GW, I agree entirely. I’ve made many a hasty comment on twitter. Some I’ve dug in over, others have seen me act more humbly and issue some form of retraction. Apart from the initial statement and subsequent thesis, it was the lack of humility as well as the refusal to give a response that bothered me, as well as the ruse that all of this ‘dialogue’ was about Australians/me being ‘touchy’. I seriously do hope Jamie replies to my question. It is not meant to be rhetorical.

    The idea of placing it all within a different context also makes for fascinating reading. If I were French I don’t think I’d like to have all my regions and terroirs grouped together under one “style”, yet I expect that such a comment would be taken (and intended) in an entirely different manner to the “Aussie” style reference.

    Certainly something to ponder.

  3. Roger G. says:

    I agree with you. I’m also sick and tired of the UK media wine elite just lumping Australia into a single appellation. Its lazy and unprofessional in my opinion. Maybe they should spend more time tasting New World wines and learning about them, and talking to winemakers about their philosophy behind what they do before spouting off. I’m sure many would claim that they do, but unfortunately there isn’t much evidence for that. I’ve cringed many a time when I’ve heard them speak. Hopefully, one day the organisers of Australian events like the Melbourne Wine Show will get wise and ask their potential suitors to do a little theory exam and a bit of a tasting to see what they really know about New World wine and wine in general before forking out the $ to bringing out the royalty across from the old country.

    • Whatever you might say about the other overseas judge for the 2012 Royal Melbourne Wine Show, James Suckling, he did recently self-fund a visit to explore the diverse landscape that is Australian wine with the immense aid of Ned Goodwin MW. It was a clear power-play designed to usurp the Robert Parker group but many worthwhile wines were drawn attention to nonetheless. And the US market is still important to Australian wine. Suckling made a point of trying to defuse the stereotypes. Regardless of intent, that’s worthwhile.

  4. Kim Brebach says:

    Jeremy, your point is valid but forget about Jamie Goode. In his responses, he has merely confirmed what his self-basting promo tells us clearly: that he has tickets on himself. Big ones.

    • It is sad if that’s the case. I don’t know Jamie Goode well enough to say but I do think he has written some excellent pieces, particularly from a scientific angle. Thus my surprise at this latest remark. And yes, that promo is a bit over the top…”self-basting” seems an excellent way to describe it.

  5. edward says:


    I think it is fair enough that you sought to hold Jamie to account or at least you sought an explanation. Equally I think we are all guilty of using short hand and over simplifying things. Tasting notes, mine especially are full of short hand. I loath the term spoofulation (and funky and many more) partly because it is lazy and prejudiced – but when I see it, beyond feeling incredibly annoyed, I do have a concept of what the writer is trying to say.

    Like you I would be interesting in knowing what Mr Goode means when he says ‘Australian’ in style.

    • Edward – I certainly agree that we are all guilty of over simplifying things. I actually believe that’s just a part of language. And I will freely admit I use the word funky liberally. But as you say, I do think it conveys something.

      Last night, Jason Bryant (a NZ wine ‘commentator’) attempted to side with what he believed was Goode’s intent. He didn’t seem keen on adding to this thread so I’ll just quote him; “something big, ballsy and high in alcohol I would describe as being Australian”. Well, there you have it. I hope Jamie’s explanation is a little more acute. When he comes, of course.

  6. Michael Charles says:

    As you say Jeremy, the statement made was just lazy. But we’ll all guilty of laziness at some point – especially me. I am, of course, a great and avid practitioner of mental laziness (Which is why I can’t always understand why anyone who likes wine – a beverage which I amateurishly associate with freedom from any gainful activity – would want to be a professional wine judge. That seems like very hard work :)).

    Now, if Mr Goode’s statement was not just faux supercilious British fun at the expense of his Antipodean counterparts (as would unfortunately not seem to be the case from his response), I would certainly like to see a more-than-140-character defence of his view. It could be rather interesting. It’s surely not a sustainable view, at least beyond the lowest tier of Australian wine (about which I know little, other than that they have a “cheap wine taste” which is surely the product of process rather than ‘Australia’).

    Part of me thinks that Mr Goode just needs a bit of educating, and perhaps he will get it soon. Often the ego gets in the way of education. I change my mind on all manner of things all the time, and indeed have argued in academic journals against my previous views. That’s quite fun. A bit of self-flagellation, or perhaps the butterfly breaking out of the strictures of its chrysalis. The present self having a go at the past self. Hopefully you’ve prompted Mr Goode to question his own thinking – just don’t expect an overnight reformation of his views. Perhaps this was why he was invited in the first place. Whatever the case, take the child-like awe at the marvellous out of wine and I fear we might just end up with politics and ideology.

    “I think a lot of UK wine writers should get out of Tescos and pay a self-funded visit.” Like it!


    • Trust me Michael, it wasn’t just a bit of “faux supercilious British fun” :) Jamie stuck to his guns. He said there definitely was an Australian style but he couldn’t explain it on twitter…plus we’re all too sensitive.

      What also surprised me was the Caillard Wines twitter account told me that Goode’s POV was perfectly valid. Not sure if that was Andrew Caillard or Bobby Caillard but I’d certainly welcome elaboration from either one of them too.

  7. Roger G. says:

    People that influence opinion need to be more careful of what they say, and how they say it, than those that don’t (irrespective of what media they use). With power comes responsibility.

    Here’s an irresponsibe thought. ‘Many British MW’s are caught in a time warp’.

    While many new world wine producers have rapidly evolved in producing stunningly elegant textural wines, some British MW’s can’t seem to take the time out of their wholesaler funded Burgundy tastings and events, to even consider spending time tasting anything south of the equator – and when put in a situation where they know they know what they are, they flippantly dismiss them as being “insert country name here”. Perhaps, you can afford to do that sort of thing, when you know the growth in the interest in wine is being driven from Asia and most buyers there are interested in the old world model. And after making a respectible first innings total convincing the west, you are confident that you are back for a longer second innings where you can continue to foist your great knowledge on the unknowing east. Building upon existing prejudices of the unknowing doesn’t hurt your cause either.

    It’s a shame that we live in a world where the next “Martha’s Vineyard” moment can’t happen again.

    • Roger – well said, and I tend to agree. The fact, almost a week on, Jamie Goode hasn’t bothered to qualify his statement here on, on his site or on twitter suggests he’s abdicated his responsibility. And he does have power. I’ve alerted him to this post, but my suspicions have been more or less confirmed. Goode-ot will never arrive. He’ll be here for the 2012 Melbourne Wine Show though – where I’d love to hear his personal feedback on the diverse array of wines he will taste and judge. I wonder if they’ll be Aussie in style? And what common thread will make them thus?

      By the way, Goode made another statement that I left out of this piece. “I know and love Aussie wine. You have read me wrong”. Once again, it’s all about me and once again we have a generalisation about ‘Aussie’ wine. Personally, I enjoy a lot of Australian wine but there is plenty of shit out there too. Let’s not kid ourselves.

  8. Well, let’s face it. Goode-ot won’t be arriving to answer my question on this site. But this was posted on his wine blog today – “Judging at the Roayl Melbourne Wine Show”

    Of particular interest is his comment that “Australian wine style seem to be shifting away from over-ripeness and a reliance on oak, which is a good thing.”

    I might note that to enter an over-ripe oak monster into this show with knowledge of the judging panel provided beforehand (as it was) would be nothing short of idiocy. Such a wine wouldn’t have a chance. Of course Australia still makes these wines – they are just entered in other shows around Australia and the world.

    So no, I maintain that it is untenable to speak about an ‘Australian’ style of wine. But clearly Jamie’s still fine with it. It’s just changing apparently…

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