Tim Wildman MW previews the latest James Busby Travel project…
How do you measure success in business? Or how do you know when you’ve really ‘made it’, or crucially, made a difference? For my James Busby Travel project of independent inbound trade trips (“changing attitudes one bottle at a time since 2010”) it was a moment in early 2016 when I received an email from Stu Barclay at Wine Australia proposing that we could “align our respective activities”, or words to that effect. Woo-Hoo! I thought, after eight long years I’m respectable enough for Government to want to work with me. Look Mum! Baby Busby’s all done grown up!
And so it began, the 18 months of meticulous planning, plotting and persuading to stage the greatest, most audacious, most ambitious, most ridiculous Australian wine tour ever planned. And it kicks off this Saturday in Sydney. At first I was a little gun-shy of the proposed relationship with Wine Australia. Nothing personal, but Busby is all about being fiercely independent (grrrr!). But then I figured, why don’t I propose an itinerary so ambitious, so insane that they’re bound to say no. But guess what, they didn’t.
So here we are, on the brink of what is titled the Beyond Busby Tour 2018. We start with a cruise on Sydney Harbour this weekend, and end with a cruise down the Swan River in Perth two weeks later. During that time we will have visited the following (deep breath) regions: Hunter Valley, Canberra Wine District, Beechworth, Yarra Valley, Tasmania North, Tasmania South, the Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale, Margaret River and ending in Great Southern. Across six States our 11 intrepid travellers will meet the representatives from 131 Australian wineries, they will be presented with 572 wines to professionally assess (an average of 40 a day, not overkill) taking in everything from fun juice to fine wine and everything in between. Plus the odd cold pale no doubt.
Why the title Beyond Busby? Firstly because we’re going to regions far beyond the ‘regular’ Busby itinerary, and secondly because half of our guests have been selected from our Alumni Community (which now stands at 124). The idea was to select the “best-of-the-best” of our past travellers and bring them back to Australia, in some cases three or four years after their initial Busby trip, and say to them “So, you think you know Australian wine, think again!”
There are two incredibly exciting aspects that are unique to this tour, and possible only thanks to the support of Wine Australia. The first is the inclusion of events in seven regions under the banner of Artisans. To that you could add another three events in Tasmania, where I was gently reminded that pretty much everyone is an artisan! These events allow us to include producers who are so small, new or obscure that most of them don’t even export (yet), a luxury I can’t normally afford on the regular Busby trips, where participation fees are required.
These are the guys and gals with the cool booze that gets the local somms excited, and we’ll be showing these to our guests years before they ever make it overseas. A real snapshot of the future of Australian wine. The second is that in the more established regions (such as the Yarra, the Hills, the Vale and Margaret River) we’ve been able to put together itineraries that allow us to look at the regions through a purely educational lens, not a commercial one. In the Yarra for example we’re starting our day with Five Decades of Cabernet at Mount Mary, then holding a lunchtime debate around custodianship of the land with Professor Joy Murphy Wandin AO and Max Allen at Timo Mayers’, followed by a tasting on the theme of The Present through the lens of Pinot and Chardonnay sub-regionality at Mac Forbes and finishing with an evening tasting the wines of The Future at De Bortoli with progressive styles and climate appropriate varieties, with all events pulling in wines from dozens of local producers and featuring panels of expert hosts. And that’s just one day!
I knew that with an itinerary this exciting, this different, we could attract the most impressive line-up of A-list guests that I’ve ever put together for a Busby tour. And I wasn’t wrong, as the group includes the following top-of-their-game professionals from Australia’s key export markets: Ronan Sayburn MS (Head of Wine, 67 Pall Mall, London), Melanie Mann (Wholefoods Market Buyer, Northern California), Erik Segelbaum (Corporate Wine Director, Starr Restaurant Group, Philadelphia), Christopher Sherwood (GM and Buyer, Bottle Apostle Group, London), Richard Harvey (Owner, Metrovino, Calgary), Brad Royale (Wine Director, Rocky Mountain Resorts, Calgary), Daniel Turpeinen (Buyer, Quaffable Wines, Sweden), Yvonne Cheung (Wine Director, Swire Hotels, Hong Kong), Campbell Thompson (Owner, The Wine Republic, Beijing), Anders Ohman (Founder, Gustibus Wine Academy, Sweden), Adrian Zhang (Director of Wine, Park Hyatt, Shanghai).
The team-work and collaborative effort to put together a trip like this is colossal, and one that the Australian wine community never fails to pull out of the hat. I’d like to take the opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the hard working crew at Wine Australia for helping pull this together, and of course to the funding that allowed it to happen in the first place. Thanks also to the hundreds of winemakers and representatives who are generously giving of their time, their wine and their knowledge to provide our guests with, what I can say without a shadow of a doubt, will be the last word in a jaw-dropping, eye-popping, foot-stomping, mind-blowing, melon-hurling wine trip of a lifetime.
Follow us on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #BeyondBusby18 or in the feeds of @jamesbusbytrav @WineAustralia (Instagram) or @Wine_Australia (Twitter)
The full Beyond Busby itinerary can seen on the website www.jamesbusbytravel.com