Several months ago, I was tasting wine in a Melbourne restaurant when my thoughts turned to that of our national character. What makes Australian wine Australian?
It was hardly surprising it arose when it did; I was tasting French and Spanish varieties, grown in South Australia and made by an Australian of German heritage. And I was tasting these wines on land that once thrived with the Wurundjeri tribe until the British arrived and flushed the country with their ideas of agriculture, including a wine industry built for a European climate. When it comes to national identities, ours was a complex one. And when it comes to family histories, we had some unpacking to do.
Whilst all countries question their national character at some stage or another — and I’m guessing we’re not the only ones gazing at the navel of their national identity right now — it’s a question that, along with how much the neighbour’s house is worth and who’s winning the football, is never far from the Australian conversation. We’re a mix of imports thrown together, with inherited ideas, a million miles from anywhere and what feels like thousands of years after everyone else. The same complexities exist in wine. That which shaped our culture also shaped our wine culture.
Having flung myself between Europe and Australia at least annually for many years, the subject has caught and held me. Nothing like immersion in other cultures to help you notice and question your own …
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Photo of Hill of Grace © Dragan Radoca