Thursday 20 September 2018

‘Don’t Worry Brian, The Future of Australian Wine is in Good Hands’

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Richard van Ruth of ootra. responds to comments Brian Croser made in the January-February edition of WBM – Australia’s Wine Business Magazine.

I eagerly awaited WBM and what promised to be a fascinating Croser interview. It did not disappoint, both in terms of the thought provoking content but also the timing of its publication as we all hang onto our hats amid so much buoyancy surrounding export growth, tightening supply and general confidence in the fact that Australian wine has come of age.

Nick Ryan and I shared a few shifts at The Ed Cellars in the late 90s. Us motley casuals were awe struck by the likes of Croser, Grilli, O’Callaghan, Grosset, Cullen and the many other luminaries of that generation who regularly presented their wares to us in person. Suitably inspired to make our careers in wine, we all chose our paths – or perhaps our paths chose us.

Regardless of how we got here, it seems we are now surrounded by another generation of young winemakers eager to present their wines to the trade. Indeed, many of The Ed alumni are now splashing their own vintages to starry-eyed casual staff at the same venue. Pondering Brian’s remarks of the ‘younger’ generation of winemakers, I can’t help but feel he is being misrepresented again. Maybe he is misrepresenting himself?

I spend half my time talking to young winemakers, tasting their wines and watching them interact with each other, the trade and consumers. Clearly visible is the same enthusiasm, passion for the winemaking craft and desire to make amazing wine and share it with the world which I saw 20 years ago at The Ed.

Harder to spot is a silver spoon, an inherited estate or a lack of collegiate spirit. It was one of the reasons I ‘wanted in’ to wine back and a strong driver for what I am doing now. Our industry is like few I have seen in terms of the strength of its community spirit.

The current flock are no exception. Unburdened by the preoccupation Brian’s generation had with comparing the new Australia with the Old World, the latest generation of Aussie vignerons are comfortable being themselves and making wines representative of who they are, what they believe and the Australian dirt in which they were grown. What excites me most is to see all facets of our diverse industry excelling.

As Mark Davidson of Wine Australia pounds the globe’s pavements spruiking – we now have the History, the Evolution (Croser & Co) and the Revolution.

As the Australian wine industry matures, and to a degree becomes polarised between large and small companies, I see one of our biggest challenges is to maintain what has made us great – our willingness to share ideas, share resources, help each other and all work towards a common goal – a sustainable future for the entire industry.

Perhaps what is lacking for the young winemakers is an industry governance structure that gives them a representative voice? If WFA and state associations have membership open to all sizes of business, why is it so many smaller wine companies choose not to participate at this level? Is it a lack of confidence or an apparent lack of demonstrable value in these organisations, or an unwillingness as Brian suggests?

Either way, it is something we need to address.

I am confident the vast majority of those I know would happily jump off the tractor, out from their cellar, cellar door, from behind their laptops and find time in between market visits to help shape the future of the industry they are ‘inheriting’. To me, it seems they are already doing this informally. We just need a mechanism for collating their views and passing them up the corridors of power to Croser’s office.

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