“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland)

Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin

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26 February 2010

MURRAY WATERERS SHOULD ADMIT GUILT

LEON "BIGGLES" BIGNELL, MP, THE PARLIAMENTARY MEMBER FOR THE SEAT OF MAWSON, WHICH INCLUDES SOUTH AUSTRALIA'S McLAREN VALE WINE DISTRICT. photo KATE ELMES, INDEPENDENT WEEKLY. click on image for link to the INDY website for daily SA election updates.







Biggles Flies Straight Into 'Em Bright Polly Says What His Electors Daren't
Jittery Grapegrowers Clam Up As Multi-nats Clean Up
by PHILIP WHITE ... a version of this appeared in The INDEPENDENT WEEKLY

Last week Leon Bignell MP, the Labor member for Mawson, made a statement that was bigger than any made by any politician about wine since the ’eighties Vine Pull Scheme.

In his parliamentary report, G’day, UK, Bignell suggested that Riverina grapegrowers with unsustainable irrigation schemes should be forced to put warnings on their wine labels.

“It is time for the federal Government to mandate the amount of water which grapegrowers can use on each hectare of grapes”, he wrote. “Those who exceed the allocation should have Unsustainably Grown Wine stamped on each bottle.”

Bignell was reacting to newspaper advertisements he saw in London last year. The Sunday Times Wine Club was offering Riverina wines at less than $A100 a dozen.

“Bonzer!” the ad read. “Grab them while you can. The smallest grape yield in Australia for 30 years has put real pressure on stocks and that means prices have been going through the roof.”

“There is no shortage of Australian wine” Bignell snorted. “We’re in the middle of the biggest glut in history.”

Bignell’s southern seat, Mawson, is Labor’s second most marginal: a mere 2.6 per cent swing would see it lost. It awkwardly includes suburbs packed with working families and strugglers, like Hackham and Woodcroft at one extreme, with the silvertails who own the posh wineries and vineyards of McLaren Vale at the other.

“Woodcroft’s got the biggest Primary School in the state”, he said. “960 pupils, with both parents working. There are a lot of very clever small to medium-sized companies like Krix hi-fi speakers, and Boart Longyear which exports really smart mining technology to places like Canada. Dinky Di Engineering at Lonsdale makes precision mining equipment, but also produced the international yo-yo of the year in 2008!”

Bignell, who has surprised the wineries with his untiring fight to protect their vineyards from housing, and assisting them export to new markets like Russia, takes great pride in McLaren Vale’s status of making wines at good profit using no Murray water. In a brilliant first for Australian wine, McLaren Vale increasingly incorporates recycled water from the seaside suburbs in its irrigation regime.

Bignell has been instrumental in extending this recycling scheme for the good of all.

“Making ordinary wine in places grapes weren’t meant to grow does immeasurable harm to Australian regions that do produce top quality wines,” he wrote. “The UK market seems more than a little schizophrenic with its approach to sustainability. There is a lot of talk about airmiles and the need to eat food and drink wine that hasn’t travelled around the globe but, when that argument doesn’t suit them, they revert to selling cheap wine that has actually cost our country millions of litres of valuable water.

“While UK newspapers fill their features, news and opinion pages with missives about sustainability they don’t mind peddling unsustainable goods when they are profiting from our environment.”

While mainly delighted with his outrage, the growers of McLaren Vale were singularly silent in response. They need the best wishes of Fosters and Constellation to survive, and the dramatic cuts to grape prices they’ve just been dealt, in one of the best vintages in decades, has left them dumbfounded and jittery. Since a respected grower suicided last week, locals are quietly gearing up to assist each other fight depression.

The gossip and mumblings within the wine industry councils has been more overt, but again, all off the record.

“Yeah, but who’s paying them?” Bignell responded. “The big guys are their biggest constituents by far.”

VALE CRU GATHERING OF McLAREN VALE'S SMALLEST, HIGHEST QUALITY WINEMAKERS, MOST OF WHOM CANNOT AFFORD MEMBERSHIP OF THEIR REGIONAL ASSOCIATION, WHICH KOWTOWS TO CONSTELLATION AND FOSTERS AND STAYS SCHTUM WHEN CONSTELLATION RIPS VITAL LOCAL HERITAGE ITEMS APART AND SUDDENLY CHOPS PREMIUM GRAPE PRICES BY HUNDREDS OF PER CENT, IMMEDIATELY BUTCHERING THE LOCAL ECONOMY.

His report explains that wineries using sustainable practices struggle against non-sustainable plonk “because there is no onus on the latter to do or say otherwise ... The Australian wine industry has largely been taken over by international conglomerates. They behave more like oil companies than traditional wine organisations. They have plundered our land, our heritage, our workforce and scarce water resources in the desperate scramble to make money.

LAST YEAR: JOHN REYNELL'S ORIGINAL VINEYARD, A CONSTANT PRODUCER OF SUPER-PREMIUM CABERNET SAUVIGNON AND MALBEC FOR 161 YEARS, AND SOURCE OF AUSTRALIA'S REVERED REYNELLA SELECTION CABERNET, WHICH IS NOW PLANTED IN MOST PREMIUM DISTRICTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY. THIS PRICELESS HERITAGE ITEM WAS RECENTLY FLOGGED FOR A FEW BRIEF MILLION BY CONSTELLATION TO MAKE WAY FOR AN INTENSIVE HOUSING GHETTO. WHILE THIS IS NOT IN HIS ELECTORATE, BUT THE NEIGHBOURING ONE, LEON BIGNELL LED THE CHARGE TO SAVE THIS IRREPLACABLE GARDEN, YET THE JITTERY McLAREN VALE GRAPE WINE AND TOURISM ASSOCIATION REFUSED TO SUPPORT ITS RETENTION (SEE BELOW) photo KATE ELMES, INDEPENDENT WEEKLY

“These big companies have also hi-jacked industry associations throughout Australia,” he continued. “The small and medium sized operators are drowned out by the people paying the biggest slice of the membership cake. Growers often refuse to speak out against the actions of the big companies as they fear they will have nowhere to sell their grapes.”

Which is rather more precise than the retort of Liberal agriculture spokesman, Mitch Williams.

“If somebody's suggesting that water that comes naturally from rain fall in a place which is fortunate enough to have a high rain fall, as opposed to somebody irrigating, changes something fundamental about the reason why somebody would buy a bottle of wine, I think is nonsense,” he blustered on the ABC’s Lateline. “I think, to be quite honest, I think this is a desperate act by somebody who wants to play politics.”

Bignell’s bosses haven’t done much better. As his report circulated, another came jointly from the SA Wine Industry Council and Paul Caica, Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries.

Wine: A Partnership 2010-2015 is a shiny “statement of intent” arising from countless hours of committee meetings. This document fluffs on about “increasing awareness” and “continuing to work to inform ... compile and disseminate ... support information flow” and myriad other vague marketing and environmental goals so ambiguous their success can never be measured.

But the biggest, most glaring hole concerns tax. While it suggests the maintenance of “a watching brief” and confoundingly lists the objective “Recognition as an advocate for the reduction and/or removal of barriers to trade”, the new report makes absolutely no mention of Ken Henry, Kevin Rudd’s favoured policy mandarin in the Federal Treasury.

As published in Thirst a few weeks back, Henry, as part of his mammoth rewrite of the entire Australia tax system, has wisely recommended that all alcohol be taxed by excise. This means the tax is paid on the volume of pure alcohol sold, and no longer on the price per unit. Expensive wine would be cheaper, and the cost of the irrigated cheap stuff would soar. We would no longer be able to buy wine at the price of bottled water.

Under the excise, the cost of the unsustainable $14 four litre bladder pack would double, to $31.07, while a $30 bottle, as produced from recycled water in McLaren Vale, would fall to $27.53. Half of Australia’s wine is guzzled from bladder packs. Henry’s proposal would quite simply close the Murray-Darling irrigated wine business down.

While this would see an instant ocean of water flowing toward the Murray Mouth, Premier Mike Rann has made not a bleat about the proposal.

As the member for Mawson makes clear, there’s no doubt about the stance of the wine industry councils.

JOHN REYNELL'S OLD HOMESTEAD AT REYNELLA, NEAR ADELAIDE. CONSTELLATION IS REPLACING HIS ORIGINAL VINEYARD WITH A CLOSE-SPACED HOUSING ESTATE, AND HAS REMOVED AND SOLD (FOR SWEET FUCK ALL) THE BEAUTIFUL ANTIQUE FURNITURE INSTALLED HERE SINCE THE HOME WAS RESTORED BY THE HARDY FAMILY, WHOSE FOUNDER, THOMAS HARDY, FIRST WORKED HERE IN 1850.

The following is a letter sent by Dudley Brown, below, Chairman of the McLaren Vale Grape Wine And Tourism Association, in answer to a New Zealand journalist, Sally Marden, who had written urging the association to oppose the uprooting of Reynell's 161 year old vineyard. Brown sold his fruit to Constellation until a dispute over his grape quality four years ago, soon after he arrived in Australia. He came from the same upstate New York school as the Sands brothers, chairman and MD of Constellation, which was founded by their father.


Dear Sally,

Thank you for your note.

As our Association represents the interests of multiple industries, we have long had a policy of not commenting on commercial matters of members or disputes between industry groups except to the extent that they violate the law.

Constellation’s forerunner company, Hardy’s, has been a member of our association in good standing since the inception of our forerunner bodies.

We have and continue to actively lobby on matters of urban encroachment in our region (including the recent Glenthorne Farm matter) where and we can.

Dudley Brown

Chairman

CARP ON THE MURRAY FLOODPLAINS ... WHERE'S CONSTELLATION'S MIGHTY IRRIGATED ENVIRONMENTAL TRIUMPH, BANROCK STATION, NOW, EH?

GALLO FAMILY: JUDGE SAYS "ON YER BIKE!"

THE GALLO FAMILY AS IT NOW STANDS: SHIRAZ AND MERLOT DO NOT A REAL PINOT MAKE ... POOR BUGGERS FEEL RIPPED OFF BY NEFARIOUS FROGS!

Gallos Go Sideways Merlot Is Pinot Que Syrah Syrah
Cunstellation Looks Inwards
by PHILIP WHITE - a version of this was published in The Independent Weekly

Anyone with the time to check the Gallo family on Wikipedia may not be surprised to hear that officers of America’s Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Bureau are investigating the little matter of a monstrous wine substitution racket.

And anyone who’s been shafted by the leviathan Constellation Wines, like the growers of Australia who’ve just been told their grapes are worth bugger all, may be equally blasé to discover Constellation is also in the gun.

A judge in Carcassonne, in southern France, has just dealt with twelve wine sharks whom he found guilty of selling eighteen million bottles worth of fake Pinot noir to E & J Gallo, America’s biggest family-owned wine company, and perhaps to Constellation, the world’s biggest wine company, run by the Sands brothers of upstate New York. It appears the Gallos bought only 20% of the wine exported to the US by the French makers between 2006 and 2008.

The Pinot was made from Shiraz and Merlot. As I write, Constellation is “investigating” itself, so we don’t yet know where that bit went. The Gallos sold theirs in their popular Red Bicyclette brand. However packaged or passed off, this is the sort of sly grog that Australian irrigating winemakers are attempting to outsell in the discount bins of the Old World.

The judge handed out fines of between 1,500 (A$2,270) and 180,000 Euros (A$272,700), and suspended jail sentences of one to six months. The 135,334 hectolitres of fake Pinot netted the gang some seven million Euros. The tough guys at the USA ATF are curious to discover whether the Gallos – cousins of Freddie “Two Buck Chuck” Franzia - and the Constellation mobs were in on the scam from the start, or whether their publicly apparent hurt is not simply the shame of being sprung. One can’t help but wonder how their buyers didn’t realise they’d shipped more pinot than the French district grows.

In the late 1970s, Thomas Hardy & Sons produced a sound cheap pinot called Keppoch. The grand old family company planted a great swathe of Padthaway with the only clone available then and while that was a simple Pinot clone for making Champagne, the grapes loved the South Australian sun, ripened fully, and presented themselves in a good value bottle that was many Australians’ first taste of the mysterious red variety of Burgundy.

Hardys went on to purchase John Reynell and Sons, the great establishment in which their founder, Thomas, first worked in 1850. The company burgeoned, was eventually absorbed by the irrigating Riverlander Berri Renmano Limited, and then sold to Constellation for $1.1 billion in 2001. Looking back, one could say the wheels began to wobble the moment BRL became BRL-Hardy, if they weren’t crook before, but they’ve certainly wobbled right off since the Sands brothers made it a small part of their humungous Constellation.

Constellation is hurriedly withdrawing from Australia, hoping to lose just enough money to avoid a tax bill insiders claim to be north of $700 million. They leave Padthaway floundering in sandy soils riddled with salt from irrigation, and Reynell’s 161 year old vineyard uprooted for housing.

THE AUTHOR AT THE GATE OF JOHN REYNELL'S ORIGINAL VINEYARD. THE VINES HAVE BEEN REPLANTED OVER THE YEARS, BUT THIS HAS BEEN A VINEYARD FOR 161 YEARS. ALL GONE NOW. photo KATE ELMES, INDEPENDENT WEEKLY

Pinot was virtually unknown to the US wine drinker until the 2004 Hollywood movie, Sideways. This was about two American boyos on a winery tour, and how one taught the other to scorn Merlot and drink Pinot. Merlot, which America confuses with mellow, was the popular red because of this ambiguity. Most of what was sold tasted nothing like the magnificent Merlot of Bordeaux, and Pomerol brands like Le Pin and Petrus: vinous exquisities the world tries to copy, but which you won’t buy for less than a grand per pop. So America, addicted to Merlot which tasted nothing like proper Merlot, suddenly switched to Pinot noir as the result of one dumb movie, and quickly became addicted to Pinot which tasted nothing like proper Pinot. Now we know much of it wasn’t even Pinot: if you were drinking the Red Pushbike, with its cute Gallic treadly on the front, you were still drinking Merlot.

Australia, of course, is not without sin in the fields of substitution. We substitute precious River water with wine sold for less than the price of bottled water with full government support. Apart from the odd stray bleat of enragement from the likes of the very brave Leon Bignell, Labor Member for Mawson, nobody dares speak out.

There are other foggy practices, most of them within the law, which permits the addition of fifteen per cent of this or that, without label acknowledgement. Have you ever wondered where most Australian Viognier goes? It’s hidden in your Shiraz, the labels of which rarely mention this inclusion. Where does all our Pinit gris come from? And Alboriño? Well, that’s Savignin now, but it’s not the producers’ fault. The government nursery imported the wrong cuttings.

19 February 2010

BIGNELL THROWS WATER BOMB AT RIVER

OLD CONTOURED VINEYARDS IN McLAREN VALE, THE HEART OF LEON BIGNELL'S ELECTORATE OF MAWSON . photo MILTON WORDLEY

Pollie Blasts Water Abusers Head-kick For
Constellation Growers Too Scared To Speak

Leon Bignell, MP, is the parliamentary Member for the South Australian seat of Mawson, which includes the McLaren Vale wine region. His new report on a recent trip to the United Kingdom is outspoken but utterly logical, and yet barely a local winemaker has the pluck to support him supporting them. Here is the part of his report relevant to the wine industry:

The purpose of my visit to London was to represent the South Australian Government at G’day UK week and to promote South Australian wine, food and tourism.

Representing the electorate of Mawson I have become a passionate ambassador for the McLaren Vale wine region, its world-famous wineries and the thousands of locals they employ.

Wine is South Australia’s second biggest export earner but the Global Financial Crisis and increased competition from New World wine regions is making it harder for South Australian companies.














LEON BIGNELL, MP, PICKING FRUIT IN DUDLEY BROWN'S INKWELL VINEYARD

New markets need to be opened up and new ways need to be found to increase market share and returns in existing markets.

Australian wines smashed down the walls into the French dominated UK market 20 years ago and, in terms of volume, Australia holds the largest slice of market share.

But, unfortunately, when the Australians opened up the UK market we allowed others to follow us in.

Lower wages and conditions have allowed Chile, Argentina and South Africa to export cheap wine into the UK and many Australian wineries with access to cheap water have followed the market down.

This is compounded by the large supermarket chains such as Tesco which often demand Australian producers sell their wines at prices that are unsustainable and uneconomical.

In premium wine regions such as McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Clare, Coonawarra and Adelaide Hills growers can’t dip their pipe into the Murray River and take as much water as they like to put on their grapes.

Growers along the river in NSW and Victoria use up to ten times the amount of water per hectare used by growers in McLaren Vale.

It is simply not sustainable for a number of different reasons.

The first and most important is that the water should be left in the River where it is worth more to Australians and our iconic river than it is in a bottle being sold on a UK supermarket shelf for less than what the water is truly worth.

Making ordinary wine in places grapes weren’t meant to grow does immeasurable harm to Australian regions that do produce top quality wines.

The UK market seems more than a little schizophrenic with its approach to sustainability.

There is a lot of talk about airmiles, and the need to eat food and drink wine that hasn’t travelled around the globe but, when that argument doesn’t suit them, they revert to selling cheap wine that has actually cost our country millions of litres of valuable water.

While UK newspapers fill their features, news and opinion pages with missives about sustainability they don’t mind peddling unsustainable goods when they are profiting from our environment.

During my London visit The Sunday Times ran an advertisement for the Sunday Times Wine Club which attempted to sell Australian wine at less than $A100 a dozen.

The advertisement carried the following line:

“Bonzer! Grab them while you can. The smallest grape yield in Australia for 30 years has put real pressure on stocks and that means prices have been going through the roof. The good news from the Sunday Times Wine Club is that we’ve put together an elite gathering of reputable Aussie reds – with a special offer that pre-dates all the recent price rises. It’s a real bonanza.”

The truth is there is no shortage of Australian wine. In fact we’re in the middle of a glut with a years worth of wine excess to demand.

The wines featured appear to predominantly come from the NSW Riverina region. Hardly the place where Australian winelovers look for “seriously great Aussie reds” as the Sunday Times described the wines.

Perhaps the Sunday Times might like to do some of the investigative reporting it prides itself on and look at the River Murray, compare and contrast the growing practices of the various Australian wine regions and then begin informing its readers.

Telling the truth about Australian wine could just lead to the Sunday Times Wine Club promoting sustainable wine to its readers who I am sure are intelligent enough not to want to drink our environment to death.

The McLaren Vale wine region has shown true leadership on sustainability for decades.

While Murray River irrigators still insist on the dreadfully wasteful practice of using overhead sprinklers and open channels these water-wasting systems have not been seen in McLaren Vale for more than 30 years.


It took leadership from the local growers to instigate these changes and McLaren Vale is now well-placed in terms of water sustainability particularly with the increasing number of growers using recycled water on their vines.

But it is hard for these people to compete in a marketplace that has no respect for quality and sustainability and sees the bottom-line as the only objective to their business.

It is impossible for sustainable growers and winemakers to compete against wine made from over-watered grapes, grown on arid land soaked with Murray water.

Large tracts of Riverina vines have recently been planted by growers who have no respect for the land or water. The ventures are funded by doctors, lawyers, dentists and other non-agricultural professionals looking to minimise their tax payments.

These tax-minimisation schemes, popular under the Howard Government, have seen people with no interest in the wine industry pump their money into unsustainable plantings while the poor growers who have poured their heart and soul into toil for a lifetime are having their livelihoods ruined.

The consequences are much more serious and far-reaching than growers being squeezed out of the marketplace.

A glut in wine production devalues the land on which grapes are grown and so growers in premium regions are often inclined to sell their land to developers.

What we see then is vines ripped out and valuable agricultural land planted with gutter to gutter housing. At that stage inferior impostors have won out over hard-working passionate people who have spent generations building this state’s great wine reputation both here and overseas.

I have been one of the leaders in the fight to save McLaren Vale from urban sprawl and the Rann Government has ruled out the building of houses on Bowering Hill which is significant agricultural land that sits between McLaren Vale’s vines and the sea.

We have also locked in town boundaries around McLaren Vale, Willunga and McLaren Flat to ensure these three villages, with their own distinctive history and character, aren’t allowed to merge as one ugly outer suburb on top of the place where the vines currently grow.

Our friends in the Barossa Valley have now joined with McLaren Vale and we are looking to develop legislation similar to the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve Bill to protect both iconic wine regions.

But for the local agricultural land to reach its real value we have to place a real value on Murray River water.

Growers across Australia should be paying the same amount for water unless it is sourced from water recycling plants as is the case for many McLaren Vale growers.

Once that occurs the soil and climactic conditions will dictate who survives and who rips out their vines.

Perhaps it is also time for the federal Government to mandate the amount of water which grapegrowers can use on each hectare of grapes.

Those who exceed the allocation should have to have Unsustainably Grown Wine stamped on each bottle. We make cigarette companies put warnings on packets to protect people’s health. Maybe we could use the same method to warn people of the dangers to our river.

Wineries using sustainable practices are struggling against cheaper non-sustainable products because there is no onus on the latter to do or say otherwise.

The Australian wine industry has largely been taken over by international conglomerates. They behave more like oil companies than traditional wine organisations.

They have plundered our land, our heritage, our workforce and scarce water resources in the desperate scramble to make money.

These big companies have also hi-jacked some industry associations throughout Australia. The voices and concerns of the small and medium sized operators are often drowned out by the people paying the biggest slice of the membership cake.

Growers often refuse to speak out against the actions of the big companies as they fear they will have nowhere to sell their grapes.

As a local Member of Parliament I am outraged at the abuse growers are subjected to as they are offered a pittance for their grapes by companies controlled by people on the other side of the world.

Companies like Constellation which in 2009 ripped out vines on the first block planted by South Australian wine pioneer John Reynell in the early days of colonisation.

Australians think enough of this man to name a clone, a suburb and an electorate after him and yet an anonymous bean counter in New York City – the epicentre of the global financial meltdown – thinks only of the profits of selling the land for housing.

Local growers were letting me no how angry they were at the decision but they would not publicly state their case in a market now dominated by so few wine companies.

RAZOR WIRE OPPOSITE THE 161 YEAR OLD JOHN REYNELL VINEYARD, SOURCE OF AUSTRALIA'S REVERED REYNELL SELECTION CABERNET SAUVIGNON, AND NOW BULLDOZED BY CONSTELLATION TO MAKE WAY FOR A YUPPIE GHETTO photo KATE ELMES

There are good wine stores in the UK that stock quality Australian wine that we take for granted here in South Australia.

One example is the US-based chain of Wholefood stores where in one of their London stores I saw more than 50 Australian wines, predominately from South Australia. They included d’Arenberg, Battle of Bosworth, S.C. Pannell among their McLaren Vale list.

One of the tips I picked up for the South Australian wine industry is for companies to send their winemakers and not their marketing and sales people over to sell the wine.

Australia’s foothold in the UK market was carved out by the great characters of the wine industry in the 1980’s and 90’s.

Wolf Blass, Peter Lehmann, d’Arry Osborn and an assortment of larrikins would tell yarns and speak passionately about their craft.

The market liked what it heard, loved what it tasted and started filling the shelves.

One suggestion is that groups of four to six smaller sized South Australian wineries might benefit from touring the UK together showing off their wines to independent stores.

Wine was heavily featured during G’Day UK.

UK wine writer Matthew Jukes is a great supporter Of Australian wine and his annual list of 100 Best Australian Wines has a strong following throughout the UK.

Matthew said the 2009 list was the hottest in the six years he had been compiling it and said there were about 100 wines that considered unlucky to have missed a spot.

The Top 100 was dominated by South Australian wines and all 100 wines were available for tasting at a function for the public at Australia House.

For a fee people could start with a Chapel Hill Chardonnay and have as many or as few tastings through to the 2004 Penfolds Grange.

Matthew also selected the wines for some of the G’Day UK functions which included the 2008 Gemtree Moonstone Albarino from McLaren Vale at the Business forum lunch.

Peter Gago, chief winemaker at Penfolds conducted a popular masterclass where wine lovers, including English cricket legend Sir Ian Botham sampled five vintages of Bin 707 and Grange.

Government representatives also had talks with Sir Ian and his son about bringing some of their company’s high-end fishing tours to South Australia with Kangaroo Island and Port Lincoln being two locations they were keen to explore.

Speaking with Sir Ian and also former English paceman Bob Willis it was clear English cricketers past and present think just as highly of our wine, food and restaurants as they do the picturesque Adelaide Oval.

Both reeled off lists of their favourite restaurants including Georges in Waymouth Street and the Salopian Inn in McLaren Vale.

DOUG GOVAN'S RUDDERLESS VINEYARD AT HIS FAMOUS VICTORY HOTEL; OVERLOOKS GULF St VINCENT, PRODUCES DELICIOUS PROFITABLE WINE, AND USES BUGGER-ALL WATER photo MILTON WORDLEY

Their knowledge of South Australian wine was outstanding and they obviously have very good relationships with many of our local winemakers.

There is potential to use cricket and the international cricket media to promote South Australian food and wine.

During the test match between England and Australia in the Ashes series of 2010-11 we could approach the South Australian Cricket Association and Cricket Australia to see if they would consider having wine and food tasting in the media centre.

On the five days of the Test Match a different wine region could be featured so commentators could do a direct comparison between McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, Adelaide Hills and Clare.

Given the broadcasting requirements of course the wine-tasting would be best done after stumps. But our food could be put on show during the Lunch and Tea breaks. Every attempt should be made to serve food that is available in the UK and interstate.

South Australian King Fish for example is being sold in upmarket supermarkets in London. It is a versatile fish that can be served a number of different ways.

The first Australian chef to earn a Michelin Star, Shane Osborne, served up five courses of Kingfish to eight lunch guests in a private room at his two-Michelin Star restaurant: Pied a Terre.

Among the diners was the food writer from the Sunday Times, the fresh food purchasing manager from Harrods and other importers and food writers.

The lunch had been organised by Eyre Peninsula-based company, Clean Seas, which is increasing its market share with Kingfish because it travels well, lasts well and offers great versatility to chefs and people cooking at home.

There was also interest at the lunch in Clean Seas progress on closing the breeding cycle of the Southern Bluefin Tuna. During the time I was in London there were a number of media reports and campaigns by some outlets urging people not to eat or buy threatened species of fish.

The European Commission says 80 per cent of European Union stocks are overfished compared with a global average of 28 per cent. There is growing public pressure and resistance to the sale of many types of fish once popular in the UK.

The buyers and food writers were very interested in the sustainable approach we are taking in South Australia. They believe we will have a good chance of securing a larger slice of the market by promoting the sustainable practices use in the process of catching fish and transporting them to the UK.

The audience was also interested in the Marine Parks being introduced in South Australia and believe our fishing industry should use them as a strong selling point for their product in the UK market.

Given people in Europe have witnessed the near decimation of fishing stocks we can really prove that we are fishing in a sustainable way while preserving the marine environment and fish populations for future generations.

Shane Osborne has been appointed Chef Ambassador for Clean Seas in the United Kingdom and is selling not just the company’s Yellowtail Kingfish but he is also marketing South Australia’s sustainability.

“I am proud to be representing such a progressive and sustainable brand as Clean Seas”, Mr Osborne said.

“The world is in crisis as far as the ocean is concerned and more companies need to step up and take action as Clean Seas is doing.

“We’re really out to challenge the long-standing misconception that farmed fish does not taste as good as wild fish.”

Mr Osborne says the Yellowtail Kingfish is one of the tastiest fish he has cooked with and his customers like having the opportunity to support sustainable fishing practices.

During G’Day UK week Yellowtail Kingfish tastings were held in the food hall at Selfridges and was served during lunch at the flagship business function of G’Day UK the CEO Forum.

08 February 2010

PLASTIC BOTTLES CROSS-DRESS AS PETS

WINE FROM THE 2009 FICOFI TASTING AT KAESLER IN THE BAROSSA; FUNNY, NO PLASTIC BOTTLES ON THAT TABLE ... LEO DAVIS PHOTO

Queensland Wines Go Plastic Liquor Commish Loves PET
Green Dressing Adds Savour


This discussion of the plastic wine bottle was broadcast on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Radio National program, Bush Telegraph, on Friday 5th. February 2010. Regular announcer Michael Mackenzie was the host; the participants were Adam Chapman, chief winemaker at Sirromet Wines, Queensland; Ian Matthews, head of Portavin, Melbourne; and Philip White, author of DRINKSTER. The latter chappie made this transcription, which has not been cleaned up or edited: it's a warts and all rendition of the conversation as it happened.

Marketers, media skills consultants and communicators of all types should examine this broadcast to study whether the proponents of the PET-Pack winebottles got the sort of promo they set out to achieve back when they agreed to be part of the show.

It's interesting to hear Michael pronouncing Sirromet to rhyme with gourmet, which is obviously what the marketers would enjoy: the name is actually T. E. Morris, backwards. It should therefore be pronounced Sirromeet.

Of course the furniture - the illos, the ads - has not been placed to have any relevance whatsoever to the matter under discussion. These are here simply to indicate to potential advertisers just how their future placements might look within the text of DRINKSTER.

Michael Mackenzie: Let’s change pace now, because it’s time for Food On Friday. First it was the blasphemy of the metal screw cap; and now, wine drinkers are facing another shock - the plastic bottle. Yes, the days of the glass wine bottle could be numbered – perhaps.

Some in the industry are looking at plastic bottles as a way of reducing environmental impact. Plastic weighs less, it has a smaller have a smaller carbon footprint, apparently, and it’s easier to recycle than glass ... but not all wine lovers can stomach, literally, the idea of wine in plastic.

Prominent wine critic Philip White, will tell us soon why he won’t be drinking it, but first I’m joined by two people who’d like to convince him otherwise. Adam Chapman is the chief winemaker at Sirromet Wines, south of Brisbane, which last year became the first winery to sell its wine in plastic bottles to Australian consumers; Adam, welcome to the show -

Adam Chapman: Morning. How are you?

MM: - I’m well; its good to have you with us ... and with me here in the studio is Ian Matthews. Ian is the manager of the packaging and distribution company, Portavin, and Ian, welcome to you.

Ian Matthews: Thanks for the invitation.

MM: Ian I’m going to come back to you in a moment, but Adam if I can begin with you, as the chief winemaker from Sirromet Wines, ah, how did this all begin?

AC: Um well basically we’ve been doing a lot of our environmental impact sort of studies for the last ten years, um, um, and that involves everything from obviously the carbon footprint, you know, the worm farms, recycling, er, water management, benchmarking and so on. And uh, this is this putting in step, or putting our actions um to help reduce our impact, and er, we did a study and found out it was mainly packaging, and electricity that um you know is the only things that would help reduce our carbon admissions, so we thought well why not give it a go and it’s just been great for us because um you know it’s a benefit. We run four big concerts here a year and um Queensland licensing –

MM: These are music concerts, you were saying? Music concerts?

AC: Yeah. Big music concerts. A Day On The Green. And um Queensland Licensing um decided that there was no glass to be at the event. So lucky, you know, we had this wine in bottle um, and it’s just gone gangbusters from there.

MM: So, in fact there was a whole range of reasons why you were drawn to this idea of changing materials for bottling because you had the overall energy audit that was being conducted through your company and then you had the added impetus of your own Liquor Commission in, or Licensing Commission in Queensland saying “We don’t want people to er use glass any more as a, as a weapon." (Laughs)

AC: Yeah. It was just quite ironic, but um, you know I spose it’s just one good story or um (giggles) comes out to be another good story and er you know the lable 820 er above er works quite well for the Verdelho and the and the Cab Merlot that we’ve just got the two wines in there –

MM: Why only two, Adam?

AC: Um at this stage we’re just obviously still testing the market out but um most concerts we have here are between say five and ten thousand people and they love it. They just can’t get enough of it. It’s it’s a great concept and not only them I mean the boating fraternities and you know events and um you know all these other places airlines and all that, that’s the next area we’re working on. It just seems to make a lot of sense.

MM: Well, while we’re talking about airlines, Ian, I might bring you in on this because with your company Portavin, you’ve actually brought me in a bottle that is used by one of our major airlines from your factories.

IM: Absolutely.

MM: Yeah. It’s small. Of course they are, aren’t they? On airlines, I mean we like them small. I mean I love airline stuff because I love things that come in compart-ments. I’m kind of like that. I’m still seeing someone professionally about that. But ah, you’ve brought in a bottle of Clare Valley Cabernet Petit Verdot Malbec. And it’s ah, in a tiny bottle, and by all appearances until you pick it up you’d swear it was glass.

IM: Yeah and I’ve often given bottles, er people wine in that bottle format and about fifty percent of ’em actually don’t realise it is actually PET. Most people think it’s still glass.

MM: Now let’s try and er demythologise some of this. What does PET stand for – I want you to say it.





THE CHEMICAL STRUCTURE OF POLYETHYLENE TETRAPHTHALATE, OR PET: SIMPLE ENOUGH - WE USED TO CALL IT POLYESTER

IM: Ah. Polyethylene tetra phthalate. And it’s terribly difficult to say that’s why -

MM: It is –

IM: - and that’s why, that’s why we say PET (laughs)

MM: Yes. Adam?

AC: Thank God you’re there, Ian –

MM: - ah no, it’ll be your turn soon (laughter) we’re all gonna have to say it together as far as I’m concerned. Now these PET bottles, er, what is the shelf life Ian, of the wine within these bottles?

IM: Yeah. It does have a, or, we, we actually go saying it’s a “Best Before” date, because ah, a shelf life is basically once that expires you’ve actually gotta withdraw the product from the market because it, because it’s a, it could be a health hazard –

MM: What? See, I mean you say this to me and already alarm bells are ringing!

IM: No no!

MM: What does it do to the, to the wine?

IM: No no! So we go, we go, we call it a “Best Before” date. Which means it’s totally different. Like, there’s no way when the product reaches the Best Before date that its’ gonna harm anyone. It’s it’s just the fact that the wine may lose freshness from that point on so what the the thing with the Best Before date is that you can there’s an additive that goes in the bottle when you manufacture the bottle and it resides in the the wall of the bottle and it basically prevents oxygen coming from the atmosphere outside into into the wine –

MM: There’s a there’s a special term for this. It’s an, it’s a oxygen sort of consumer or something isn’t it, it’s a –

IM: Yeah. Oxygen scavenger –

MM: Right.

IM: And it depends on how much you put in as to what Best Before date you have on the product in the bottle.

MM: Well in general what would be the shelf life of wine inside this kind of PET bottle?

IM: Yeah that one you’ve got there is er nine months and if an airline say was using that for an international er situation, we we’d add more of the scavenger to extend it out to fifteen months.

MM: And that adds more to the cost, though.

IM: It’s a slight amount to the cost, but yeah. It’s still realistic.

MM: Okay. Where – I’m looking at the bottle you’ve brought in for me, this is, this is one of these small bottles and it contains all the usual labelling on the bottle. Where does it say the “Best Before” date?

IM: Ah it’s actually printed there in ah an inkjet code, and if you look closely you can actually see it –

MM: Oh there it is! Ah before 21st of the 5th 2010 so I’ve got another three months up my sleeve here. Four months, yeah? Okay. Ah look this is very intriguing Ian because this raises a whole lot of issues when it comes to plastic versus glass and Adam I’m going to come back to you on this and then we’ll go to our wine connoisseur and critic on this too. Ah, Adam as a as a chief winemaker with Sirromet Wines surely this is counterintuitive to the wine industry because after all, good wine you lay down and mature in glass but you can’t lay down and mature in plastic.

AC: Right. Can I go?

MM: You go for it. (Laughter) You challenge me if you feel like it.

WOLF BLASS; UPON ARRIVING IN AUSTRALIA WOLFIE SET ABOUT MAKING KAISER STUHL PINEAPPLE PEARL WITH A PLASTIC LID ... NOW HIS BRAND EXPORTS LAKES OF WINE IN PET PACKS



AC:
Right. Here we go. Some stats first. 96 per cent of wine purchased is consumed with 24 hours. Eighty per cent of people buying wine is around that thirteen, fourteen dollars or less; and they’re just basically saying “Look I’ll have a bottle of Verdelho or I’ll you know, and I wanna pay ten bucks or somethink.” So when you look at all these stats, um I know people think about laying wine down to cellar ah to age but you know we’re just out there we’re selling current vintage wines and the whites and it’s basically consumed specially for us on the concerts you know we we go through thousands of bottles on these days –

MM: Oh yes you’re hardly gonna be cellaring a wine at a Big Day Out or On The Green are you?

AC: No! That’s right. But that’s not the concept. Um look I totally agree it’s, at this stage we’re not certainly putting our super-premium wines in there. We’ve just looked at the market; we understand the stats ah we see there’s an environmental thing, there’s a weight thing, like all the good things tick, tick, tick and tick, and we just believe this is a good concept that works and helps the environment out, it helps the Liquor Licensing, helps all these bits and pieces out and um people like the concept.

MM: We’ve already had a call ah from a listener who’s been ah evesdropping on this conversation and Ian I might put it to as you’ve been so upfront about some of the the I guess the minimum standards -

IM: The technical side.

MM: Yeah the technical side of it but we had a call from a listener who wanted to know whether there could a chemical reaction between the wine and the plastic.

IM: Yeah that’s been very well researched in the US and Europe. And the um, FDA, the Food and Drug Authority in US, has actually put the PET with the scavenger under er quite a deal of scrutiny, and the um results that have come back, are that anything that does leach out is less than threshold for er health and safety er situations. And in some cases it’s a hundredth of what the limit is, so there’s there’s essentially nothing that you can taste in the wine that comes from the plastic.

MM: Taste is one thing. What I can’t taste is what worries me.

IM: Yeah and the FDA ah rec - er regulations and er their authority says that there’s absolutely nothing coming out of the of the PET to damage your health –

MM: But what if I mistakenly, but Ian, what if I mistakenly pick up a bottle and pour it into a glass having not checked that inkjet date on the bottom of your unit here and it’s actually three or four months out of date, or beyond the Best Before date?

IM: Yep. Still no problem. All, all you’ll find is that the wine will have succumbed to some extent –

MM: To oxidisation –

IM: To ox, oxidation –

MM: Right. Gotcha. Oxidation. Right well then look, listening to all these conversations I’m sure with some degree of scepticism himself is renown wine critic Philip White. Hullo Philip.

PHILIP WHITE: Hullo Michael.

MM: Are you reassured?

PW: (Laughter) Ah it’s all a matter of – as they say – sperkective -

MM: (Laughter)

PW: - you know, half the wine in Australia, and I can’t come out of this without looking like an insufferable snob – but half -

MM: Well it’s your job! You’re a wine critic for goodness sake! You know you have to be a -

PW: (Laughter) Half the wine in Australia is drunk from bladder packs, so, you know, it’s not such a big step for that part of the market to go to a plastic bottle. Ah, and of course the sorts of people that you have at a rock concert for example: for the last ten years they’ve all been walking around with a bottle of water in their hand.

MM: Sure that’s a good point. But I mean we’re talking here about very boutique or niche markets here if you’re doing outdoor concerts or you’re doing airlines, anywhere where there’s public involved and there’s potential danger from glass I can see that as a market but it’s not a huge market –

PW: No. There’s a few difficulties. I know that um the British market’s been a little bit reluctant to grab the PET-Pack bottle, ’cause - like Wolf Blass markets a lot in plastic - um, because it’s so thin, it looks smaller. So people think they’re not getting value for their money when it’s when it’s on the shelf next to a glass bottle.

MM: And even though I’m a cheapskate Philip, I want to pretend to people I’ve bought something that’s worth more than it is, which is why turning up with a plastic bottle to a dinner party isn’t gonna look me, you know, look me in the eye as well as a glass bottle, surely?

PW: No, of course not. And you know, um, I think the days of the petrochem business are fading. And while I understand and appreciate that ah, the glass, the, the footprint of a PET bottle is lower than glass, er, you know, I don’t want any of my food in plastic. We’re used to having, you know you get a chicken and it’s wrapped in cling wrap. Cling wrap. Whereas you go to a beautiful butcher in Paris; the chicken is dry and you get it in a paper bag; I know which one I’d rather eat. So I go to great lengths to avoid my food being in plastic of any sort.


MM: Adam Chapman, as chief winemaker at Sirromet, I think only mentioned two varieties in a bottle within your company at the moment. Do you have anything you want to throw back at Philip on this?

AC: Do you drink milk?

PW: Yes of course. And there you go. We used to have milk in glass, and now we drink it from cardboard. Or plastic, indeed. Um but then at the other extreme, you know with er, you find research which is going on at Penfold’s at the moment, where they’re even trialing Grange in a bottle which has absolutely no plastic, no cork, and the seal is glass on glass. Now of course that’s gonna be a $500 product, if indeed they proceed with launching that, but er, the premium end of the market will always prefer the glass. You know, I mean –

AMPHORAE: PAST THEIR BEST BEFORE DATE?

MM:
Can I pose something else to you Philip? Can I just say something else? At the moment the Australian wine industry, in some of its major markets overseas, is struggling to be heard. We have a wine glut in this country. We’re not selling as much overseas product anymore because our branding within those major markets like the UK, Europe and America has gone down in terms of value. Surely bottling in plastic is only gonna diminish our brand even further?

PW: I agree completely. It’s inevitable. But you know, this – look at it historically. They were having this argument at one stage about going from the wine skin – and you know, in the Holy Land the battle was whether you used a pig skin or a goat skin – and then the Romans go to Gaul and discover the barrel because the Celts have invented the barrel. You didn’t need six slaves to carry an amphora, which would shatter if they dropped it. You know these things have always changed, but the main thing is that glass is still, by far, the, the best premium container for a premium product. It’s a food. It goes into your body. Er, I don’t walk around with a plastic bottle to drink water. I like to have my water out of stainless steel, because it’s cleaner.

CANARY ISLANDS WINE SKIN: MILK COMES FROM THE LEATHER UDDER OF THE COW - WHY NOT USE LEATHER TO STORE WINE?













MM:
You are a snob, aren’t you!

PW: (Laughter) Huh! Yes!

AC: Philip -

MM: Adam?

AC: Look, at the end of the day, we’re not, I’m not, I’m pretty sure Ian’s with me as well, we’re not sitting here putting premium wine down and trying to put to put that across. The concept is, and it is a concept, is it’s environmentally friendly as far as, ah, carbon emissions is concerned, it fits with our concerts. If we couldn’t do this, if we couldn’t for some reason, bottle in PET, we couldn’t have four concerts a year. It’s like 50,000 people or so, that can’t come to our winery because of liquor licensing.

MM: So you’re doing it literally in house because that works for you at those public events –

AC: We have to do that –

MM: Yes, yes –

AC: We have to do that –

MM: Ian what about you? You’re you’re actually a manufacturer: what are you doing in terms of trade at the moment; volume on this?

IM: Well I think the key to remember with PET in the wine business is that it’s a very niche market that it fulfils so that it –

MM: And will it continue to be so?

IM: I think so. Um, it’s never going to have the dominance that glass has. I mean glass has been the dominant container for wine for an awful long time in the past, and it will continue to do so in the future. But when you get certain situations that call for maybe looking at things in a different way, like Adam when he’s serving wine at an at an event, and you look at the airline industry where they’ve actually got to carry these bottles of wine halfway around the world, ah suddenly, er, a product that weighs about a fifth of what it does in glass starts to make sense.

MM: It does, and I’ve actually opened up one of the bottles that you say makes sense and Ian I’m about to have a little swig here, straight out of the bottle. How’s that for sophistication? Here we go -

IM: Do you want a brown paper bag?

AC: Put it on Youtube (laughter)

MM: Guys we’re running out of time, but I just wanted to taste that and see, and of course that’s well within the date and it tastes fine to me – but I’m sure people will have their views, and -

AC: I’ve got four stats here –

MM: What’s that sorry?

AC: I’ve got four stats here if you want. Reduces packaging by 84 per cent –

MM: Quickly!

AC: - nineteen per cent less in energy, and 78 per cent less solid weight, er waste, sorry, and emits 52 per cent less greenhouse gas. I mean that –

MM: Well I guess the jury is out as to whether people will also want to drink it ... but Adam Chapman, Ian Matthews, Philip White: it’s been a pleasure crossing swords with all three of you! Cheers to you! Have a lovely weekend if you’ve been listening around the country; we’ll be back on Monday.















THE BYRON BAY BREWERY BEGAN USING PET FOR BEER FOR ROCK CONCERTS

06 February 2010

EXCISE IDEA COULD DESTROY BLADDER BIZ

AN EXCISE WOULD SEE THE PRICE OF EXPENSIVE WINES LIKE THESE TUMBLE WHILE BLADDER PACKS WOULD DOUBLE. photo LEO DAVIS

Rudd Money Man Wants Excise WET Rebate May Dry Up Lobbied Pollies In Abject Panic

by PHILIP WHITE - a shorter version of this story appeared in The Independent Weekly

Treasury wallah Ken Henry has thrown a very tricky handful of marbles under the feet of the wine industry with his recommendation that the current scramble of alcohol taxes be replaced with a simple excise. For seasoning, he’s thrown another handful under the political dries who want to tax kiddylikker - and spirits - to oblivion. With state and federal elections brewing, we’re in for a spat of extreme panic in Pollyville, as the mighty grog lobbies get to their nefarious work.

Henry is a favoured apparatchik of Labour Prime Minster Kevin Rudd, who faces an election soon, in the midst of insurmountable difficulties in attempting to manage the dimishing waters of the Murray Darling Basin. Two Australian states also face elections, six quick weeks from now. One of these, Tasmania, which is sinking in good water, has a premium wine industry but no discount bin plonk production; South Australia produces the most of both types of wine, with much of the business dependent on Murray River water, of which there is none.

Although general political commentators have so far failed to realise the full implications of Henry's proposal, State Labour leaders like South Australia's Mick Rann will soon be forced to announce the attitude they'll take when lobbying their federal counterpart.

WHILE THE TAX WOULD BE A NATIONAL IMPOST, SOUTH AUSTRALIAN PREMIER MICK RAM HAS ONLY DAYS TO MAKE A STAND ON THE EXCISE WHICH HIS FEDERAL COUNTERPARTS ARE CONSIDERING.



Wine is currently taxed on the value of the unit sold, be it bottle or bladder. Under an excise,
which is a tax on the total alcohol each unit contains, the cost of a $14 bladder pack would double, to $31.07, while a $30 bottle would fall to $27.53. These KPMG figures would see your favourite boutiques boom, and the Murray-Darling Basin wine industry collapse.

HARD LIQUOR PRICES WILL TUMBLE UNDER THE EXCISE PROPOSAL

Never before has the gap between the polarised wings of the wine business looked wider. But industry bodies, like the Australian Wine And Brandy Corporation, which is partly funded by the taxpayer, are obliged to represent everybody in the business, so will have to protect the bladder boyos, who produce half the wine consumed, if not made, in Australia.

These two ends of the business have always been at war. It was Brian Croser who went to
Canberra at the onset of the GST and current messy regime and organised the Wine Equalisation Tax, which offered newly disadvantaged small producers an annual rebate.

This writer argued contentiously at that time that an excise was the only clean, logical manner of taxing alcohol. It was a classic Aries vs. Virgo reposte. Croser came home touting his deal as a great victory for the entire industry. I argued that it was terribly messy, and would only postpone the inevitable collapse of the discount bin business.

WINE AND BRANDY CORPORATION BOSS ANDREW CHEESEMAN WAS BRIAN CROSER'S ACCOUNTANT AT PETALUMA

Croser’s band-aid would simply keep the huge irrigating industrialists on side with the
tax-dodging doctors and lawyers with ill-conceived hobby vineyards. No doubt he had discussed this at great length over many Bridgewater Mill lunches with the likes of Alexander Downer, the former Liberal government's Minister of Foreign Affairs. Not to mention folks like Amanda Vanstone (Immigration Minister under the same conservative regime) and Robert Hill (Defence Minister who became Ambassador to the United Nations), who co-owned the relatively tiny Amicus brand with Walter Clappis. These guys had a very heavy pull on John Howard’s wine taxation philosophy.

An open, far-sighted mind might see Henry’s proposal as the perfect opportunity to cleanse the big rivers of the scourge of an industry which is in such gross, nay, grotesque, oversupply to the extent that it’s collapsing anyway. This would release water to the Murray Mouth, and remove the source of much of the grog consumed as an alternative to sniffed petrol in aboriginal
communities.

HENRY'S EXCISE WOULD SEE A BLADDER PACK SOAR FROM $14 TO $31, AND THE COLLAPSE OF THE IRRIGATING DISCOUNT WINE BUSINESS, LEAVING A LOT MORE WATER TO RUN DOWN THE MURRAY. GOOLWA IMAGE BELOW BY KATE ELMES.

It would also, according to the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia, result in the loss of 12,000 jobs.

Whilst the cynic might argue that these jobs are going anyway, the idea of the new tax will fill many country electorates with even more fear and depression. The milder sceptic could suggest that the discount wine industry is in permanently deep merde as long as the
international wine glut continues, and that any movement which might lead to its dimunition is something healthy which much be addressed.

Apparently Henry has stepped his excise numbers: the brackets would be 3.5 per cent alcohol and below, then up to 5 per cent, 7 per cent, 10 per cent, 15 per cent, and above 22 per cent.

This would also favour the premium wine lover who has spectacularly, internationally, turned
away from the sorts of dead-head alcohol bombs we’ve been rotely making in the twelve years since one American critic, Robert Parker Junior, began to tout them. While the wine blog explosion has seen Parker lose some power, the notion of an increased tax on wines above 15 per cent would surely be a strong incentive to Australian winemakers to return to healthier alcohols. Sales of more modestly balanced alcoholic wines should increase internationally.

In the meantime, a relaxing of the stifling tax laws and regulations on distillation could see a great deal of the wine glut converted to industrial alcohol, the income from which could perhaps be devoted to funding the next vine-pull scheme, which seems increasingly imminent, and would be likely to see a permanent cessation of irrigating to produce wines which sell for less than the price of bottled water.

As for the price of alcopops falling from $3.30 per unit to $2.42, well. At the risk of adding complexity to Mr. Henry’s pristine simplicity, perhaps the excise should be extended in the case of premixed drinks to include an extra charge on sugar and other sweeteners when mixed with alcohol. If caffeine was also included in this kiddylikker, another hike could be imposed. Banning such cocktails is futile: anybody can whup down three or four stiff short blacks between sessions in the boozer.