“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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13 May 2012

BLEAT ABOUT BRITISH WINE IMPERIALISM


The British Still Don't Get It:
The Empire Thing Didn't Work
So Why Do Ockers Grovel So?
by PHILIP WHITE

Somebody should tell the wine hacks and merchants of Great Britain that the Empire thing didn’t work out.

I’m sick of ’em.  They pomp on and off our shores as if Port Arthur is only temporarily mothballed. 

Take Jamie Goode. 

Who’s Jamie Goode? Wikipedia says he’s “a British author with a PhD in plant biology, and a wine columnist of The Sunday Express ... Goode also contributes to wine publications such as Harpers, The World of Fine Wine, Decanter, GrapesTALK and Sommelier Journal.” 

And on it goes: “Goode published the book Wine science: the application of science in winemaking in 2005, to wide acclaim and winning the Glenfiddich Drink Book of the Year award, and Wine Bottle Closures in 2006. His website The Wine Anorak and the related blog launched in 2001, are among the internet's most highly regarded wine sites, containing in-depth articles on subjects such as wine chemistry issues.”

Why are we not surprised that a fellow with credentials like that should utter triumphant codswallop like this:

“So there are now 1400 hectares of vines in the UK. That makes it around one-tenth the size of Australia's vineyard area!”

The exclamation mark, which is his, says it all, really.  This was Twitter last week.

“Australian Bureau of Statistics says 156,632 ha are under vine here JimLad,” I explained. “You'll need another imperial zero on your pom plot.”

“You are indeed correct,” he deigned to respond. “One-hundreth the size, not one-tenth.”

After a bit of a think, he came back in with something approaching contrition: “Hmmm, bad maths, make that 1/100th the size of Australia's vineyard area! (Blushes) you are indeed correct, one-hundreth the size, not one-tenth.”

A peanut as innumerate and slydexic as this writer is not your ideal statistician, but the mushy old brain still works sufficiently to justly beg how, in the names of Bacchus and Pan, how a fellow of Goode’s influence and experience could imagine for a second that Australia’s vineyard totals only 14,000 ha.

It’s a mindset more than a mistake.

Repeating that I’m no statistician, it seems to me that if Australia sells roughly 250 million litres of wine to the parsimonious British each year, from 14,000 ha, we’d be picking something like 17 tonnes per hectare.  While that sounds reasonably profitable, one can’t help wondering where Goode imagines we get the wine we drink, let alone the extra skrillion litres we export to other little-known countries like the USA, Canada and China.

More sickening is the way my fellow countrymen grovel to these imperious tykes.

Never does a Royal Australian Wine Show (that’s what they’re actually called, Royal!)  never does one dribble to halt without the guest Pom taking the lecturn to officially advise us what we should be doing; how we should be making our wine; how we must keep those prices down and whatnot.

Now we have another about to tour:

“Leading wine commentator Andrew Jefford will travel to Australia’s major capital cities later this month to present at this year’s Wine Communicators of Australia annual lecture,” trumps today’s Daily Wine News.

Church of England Bishop chatting up a few Adelaide shielas in 1923 photo from the State Library of South Australia ... thanks Premier Weatherill for the tip!

 Dangerously presuming numeracy, again, I estimate that Jefford’s won eight times as many Glenfiddich Awards as Goode.  “He is also very familiar with Australia,” DWN continues, “having spent 2009 as a senior research fellow at the University of Adelaide and Wine Writer in Residence to the Wine 2030 Research Network.

“His address, titled Wine and Astonishment, will also cover the role of alcohol in wine as well as wine from a science and poetry viewpoint ...

“When I was last in Australia,” Jefford is quoted, “I lectured quite a lot on questions of terroir, so I thought it might be interesting and useful to tackle wine from another perspective on this occasion … That perspective is, broadly speaking, philosophical – but the aim is a practical one; namely, to refresh some of our thinking about wine, and to try to make wine new for us all again or at least help us all to look at wine in a new and unusual way.”

“Jefford joins a long list of previous esteemed Wine Communicators Australia guests to Australia, including Robert Joseph and Jancis Robinson MW,” the story gloats.

Aunty Jancis probably enjoys coming to Australia more now that the pugnacious Len Evans is not around to bully her to tears, but he was another Brit.  It seems like only weeks back that she came all the way to Tasmania to make a bit of a speech about what they should be doing down there, but I have yet to see any great difference she has made to Australian winemaking, other than to offer reasonable encouragement.  At least Bobby-Jo consults to McGuigan.  I can’t wait to taste the results of that affair.

Jefford’s a really good writer, of poetry as much as boozelit, and I can’t wait to read his book about the terroir of Australia, which one presumes he mastered during his year here.  You might read an eager anticipation and discussion of these matters in Australian terroir – a gift from Blighty

This parade of Poms began its modern fervour in the late ’eighties, when Senator Amanda Vanstone brought Auberon Waugh here.  This was not for him to tell us what to do.  He wouldn’t.  He was far too polite to presume, but that was another age.  We expected to tell him what to do, as in go home and promote our good wine to his readers in The Spectator Wine Club.

Which he did, of course, but only after marveling, in his first classically sarcastic piece, at the idyllic lives of our aboriginal people, lolling about the beautiful public parks of Adelaide as they enjoyed endless blind tastings of our incredibly low-priced and aged fortified wines.

Original Australians picking up some British habits in George Street Sydney ca 1830

Bron’s efforts certainly triggered a renewed wave of British interest in our wine, but his biggest achievement seemed to be putting an end to the epidemic of Repetitive Strain Disorder we then mysteriously suffered.  People were wearing plasters and various ornate devices on their arms and hands to correct the agony they incurred performing ordurous tasks like typing or playing tennis.  The disbelieving Bron called this Kangaroo Paw, and his incredulous writing on it seemed to trigger a such wave of embarrassing disbelief internationally that we now rarely see anybody with the ailment.

But back to wine.  One of the most sickening grovels occurred  when some of the winemakers of Clare put their Rieslings under screw caps for the first time in 2000, and gave the credit to Charles Metcalfe or somebody from England.  As a writer who respected and jealously protected his readers from the obnoxious rip-off of cork for some twenty years before that, tirelessly promoting the sanitary screw over the spongiform hive of Iberian germs that was cork, I was fascinated, but hardly surprised, to discover that they’d grovel to England before they listened to the local hack.

So there’s some shit off my bursting liver. Just don’t get me started on the Pommie merchants, the buyers, who expect ever-descending prices married to permanently-increasing quality, not to mention the red carpet.

If we DID give Port Arthur a bit of a scrub, and locked a few more thieving Brits in there, this writer doubts that once they’d done their time, they’d be of the quality required to build a nation like Australia.

But I suppose if we bought Aunty Jancis a riding crop, some jodhpurs and a bullwhip, she’d be the ideal Nurse Ratchid, keeping the cuckoo’s nest in order, while dear Jefford taught them about the stone in the walls and read his lovely poetry to them at night.

Details of Andrew Jefford’s lecture schedule are available on the Wine Communicators website ... and check out his   Decanter piece on corrupt winewriters ... for a recent example of why the influence of alcohol on original Australians is no joke, click here ... and just to show that the British Left can be as imperialistic as the Right? Check this.

6 comments:

Screw Me said...

Didn't the cork idustry pay for Andrew Jefford to come here Whitey?

Anonymous said...

Max Allen and Tim White are both Poms? How many more? Looks like they'll all end up here

Anonymous said...

Philip,

I cant wait to read your take on this article:-

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/anthony-rose-the-map-of-australian-wine-has-changed-rapidly-7728842.html

The arrogance of the guy suggesting that 10 years ago Australia was nothing but faraway sunshine-blessed country of quaffable chardonnay and seductive shiraz and that we never had diversity of regional characteristics.

Says more about the authors' lack of wine knowledge and education than it does about Australia.

Marca said...

As for Jamie Goode, errare humanum est...Doesn't seem like that big of a deal and no basis to attack his whole credentials.

Philip White said...

Jamie (from Twitter): "I must have a short attention span. I just can't read 1500 word blog posts, no matter how good they are."

Lovino Kinneen said...

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Wine Decanters Australia