ROB INGRAM LOOKS BELOW THE SURFACE TO FIND HIDDEN GEMS.
There’s much joy to be had when you try the wine of Australia’s lesser-known labels.
JONATHAN — THE ASTROLOGER at Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper — thinks that, considering Mercury’s change of direction, I should become a little more adventurous. Just how, he didn’t say, but he’ll tell me if I call him and pay $1.32 per minute including GST. Nice try, Jonathan, but I think I’ll try to work it out for myself. I have no wish to become more adventurous in my sexual preferences or even my breakfast menu. And it’s too late to change my outfitter from Blowes Menswear to whoever Lady Gaga uses. But Jonathan may be on the money for those who share my star sign (it’s the one no-one owns up to) as far as wine selection is concerned. It is an area in which we should all become a little more adventurous. From time to time, the Australian wine industry lets slip chilling statistics, such as that our top four wine companies produce 70 per cent of our total output, or perhaps that the top 20 companies produce 80 per cent. That leaves just 20 per cent to be divided between the 1400-odd other producers… and the arithmetic is not pretty. If any human endeavour should benefit from a sense of adventure, it’s wine enjoyment. I don’t thrill to news from someone who has been drinking the same Penfolds since 1992 that it is moments from reaching its peak… but can’t be obtained any longer, but I do like to hear of an edgy cabernet franc made in metal milk churns in the Bylong Valley. I find no ‘wow’ factor that a latest release from one of the big four displays the same quality that it has for a decade, but I take notice when some funky first effort from a former pig farmer takes out the trophy at a respected wine show. It is much more exciting — and often rewarding — to check out the wines of smaller producers who may be flying below the radar as far as market profile is concerned. Big companies spend big money on promotion and marketing, but there are many producers out there who spend their entire budget on their product... and wait for the adventurous consumer to discover it. I’ve recently been seeking out lesser-known names — labels that might be new to you but which deserve loads more attention. In the interests of comparison I chose chardonnay, a variety that presents well in most Australian wine regions. I was impressed by the following wines, but you’ll discover your own favourites by being a little more adventurous in the bottle shop or online… whether Mercury is changing direction or not.