Happier days on the weighbridge: Margaret with Doug and Peter Lehmann, both now deceased ... photo Milton Wordley
Master Barossa Shiraz grower Neil Neldner stoically endured the destruction of the Vine Pull Scheme in early 'eighties and went on with his son Matthew to grow fruit which makes the Penfolds Grange cut, earning them considerably more money than Australia's current average wine grape price, a miserable $441 per tonne ... photo by Milton Wordley, from our multi-award-winning book, A year in the life of Grange
But forget the cutlery, too. A bog through the new Wine Grape Purchases 2014 Price Dispersion Report will leave you thinking that most grapegrowers would be lucky if there was a crust to fight over. This document was compiled by the Australian Government and the new über bürokratie presumptuously called the Australian Grape and Wine Authority (AGWA).
By waste, I mean wasted irrigation water, wasted family lives, wasted communities, wasted innovation, wasted environment, wasted public health (physical and mental), wasted effort, and countless wasted millions, many of them coming from the taxpayer.
Using the analysis of Tony Keys' essential weekly wine business newsletter, The Key Report, of 20 varieties listed from the Murray-Darling-Swan Hill region, all slumped in price with various latest fad types falling up to 47 per cent. The old staples, Chardonnay and Shiraz, fell 27 and 22 per cent.
This is the nether region where not a dollar is wasted on environment, mind you. But much is squandered on irrigation water that Australia simply cannot afford: if they were forced to pay a real cost for the water they suck from the big rivers, these opportunist ethanol peddlers would vanish.
I mused that in a day when more folks are increasingly interested in eating and drinking fresh local produce, it seems very strange that a desert country like ours should insist on claiming business success in constantly striving to nudge Europe aside in UK supermarkets. Europe, of course, has plenty of rain, cooler climates, and a huge grape surplus. And oh yes. It just happens to start about 35 miles from Britain.