“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)





01 June 2009


Fosters Appellations Appall
Why Not Register Australia?

by PHILIP WHITE - this originally appeared in The Independent Weekly

Rothbury is a place in the Lower Hunter Valley, New South Wales. It has a postcode, and it’s on the map, quite logically south of Rothbury North, near Pokolbin.

Seven years ago, Hunter winemakers applied to the Geographical Indications Committee of the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation to have Rothbury recognised as a Geographical Indicator for that sub-region, so the appellation could officially label bottles containing at least 85% Rothbury fruit. This involves about 40% of Lower Hunter wines.

But Rothbury was also the name Len Evans and Murray Tyrrell gave to their new winery there in 1968. Fosters bought the business in 1996, then sold the winery but kept the name.

The Deputy Registrar of Trade Marks has finally ruled that Rothbury is an “ill-defined area in the Lower Hunter Valley ... Most people and businesses within the area ... appear to identify their geographical location by use of the word Pokolbin.” In any case, the ruling states, the name signified the well-known Rothbury Estate and was not known as a geographical reference, so it should not be granted status as a geographical indication without the approval of whoever owns Fosters at the time.

This means Michael Hope, the bloke who now owns the Rothbury winery at Rothbury, cannot use the word Rothbury on his wine, which comes from Rothbury, while Fosters releases wine called Rothbury, Rothbury Estate even, made from fruit from anywhere else.

“The important thing about this is what happens in the future” says Andrew Thomas, formerly of Tyrrell’s, son of Wayne, now of his own formidable wine brand, and a leading member of the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association.
“Viticulturally, Rothbury’s the heart of this district,” he says. “Just because few people were using the word Rothbury to explain where their grapes were grown – well in fact you’re no longer permitted to – should not mean that they can’t in the future, when sub-regions become much more important. It’s not just Rothbury. Like McWilliams owns the Lovedale trademark, and that’s a place where many people grow grapes for many products. We don’t want corporations owning place names, so the association’s acting to protect other places, like Belford and Mount View.”

There’s nothing new about this sort of carry-on. Fosters ended up owning Seaview, the old Edwards & Chaffey winery below Seaview in McLaren Vale. You can’t see the sea from the winery, which is in a valley, and is now strangely called Rosemount. Mountains are cool, see? After a chain of idiotic marketing decisions the Seaview brand ended up on a bottle of sweet fizzy hot region plonk with a snow-peaked mountain on it. Now the growers at Seaview want their McLaren Vale sub-region GI officially delineated, Fosters is again guarding its brand, however low it has fallen.

In the late ’eighties, when a vineyard company bought the land around and including Pewsey Peak, the highest point in the Barossa Ranges, Yalumba wines immediately registered Pewsey Peak as a brand name to protect the reputation of Pewsey Vale, a vineyard it owned kilometres away across the valley. Keen for marketing height it didn’t have, Yalumba registered the name of a mountain it didn’t own, away across the other side of Jacob’s Creek.

Which is another weird reflection on our capacity to bullshit. Apart from the vineyards at Mountadam, which is its source, there are bugger-all vineyards along the course of Jacob’s Creek. So there can hardly be any Jacob’s Creek fruit in Jacob’s Creek wine, which is a French brand anyway.

On it goes. With the money he got selling Petaluma to the beer mob who are now selling it to the Japs, Brian Croser established Tapanappa with Bollinger and Lynch-Bages, bought the old Koppamurra cabernet sauvignon vineyard near Naracoorte, and called it Whalebone, which has nothing to do with the Whalebone cabernet winery in Adelaida, near Pasa Robles, California, and named after the whalebones in the rock beneath. Croser’s terroir violin plays on about the “35 million year old Oligocene limestone (very similar to St Emilion in Bordeaux) and it is in this limestone that the bones of a whale were trapped and are now exposed in a cave eroded into the limestone beneath ... the name is probably derived from the local aboriginal language meaning ‘stick to the path’...”

As with most purloining of their language by the very industry which poisons them, no aboriginal clan or tongue is attributed. Neither is the fact that tapanappa is really a geological group absolutely nothing like Oligocene limestone and half a billion years older. Kanmantoo bluestone is tapanappa: it’s metamorphic sandstone. But then, there’s no Petaluma fruit in the real Petaluma. Croser lifted that name from a run-down town in California, currently going bankrupt. Famous for its shabby strip joints, arm-wrestling and chook sheds, it’s like Tailem Bend on the path from Adelaida to the Napa, not tapanappa in the Adelaide Fold Belt.

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