Five in the morning is far too early to be getting up and thinking about wine, but this is what I found myself doing this week courtesy of an invitation to one of Wine Australia's inaugural 'A+' One Day Wine Schools in London, as set up in conjunction with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.
I was unsure about how to do a write up for this as a day. Nick Stock, one of the guest speakers (the others being Andrew Jefford and Tim Atkin MW) was on Twitter earlier and described it as 'epic,' which is no overstatement. If there is any criticism at all it is about the level of ambition. Fitting so much into one day was always going to be difficult, and when you add guest speakers that encourage the audience to challenge them with questions and in turn enjoy answering, then a packed day becomes even more so. This blog post is about the day itself, rather than the wine, which I'll talk about another time.
After the introductions the first main speaker was Andrew Jefford, who treated us to a lecture which, I assume, is a first glance into what his forthcoming book on Australia must go into in unparalleled depth. It was a more detailed examination of Australian climate and geology than in the WSET diploma, and so not for the faint hearted, but superbly presented and illustrated - with plenty of information provided for us all to digest at our leisure afterwards.
The focus of the day was how wine is being re-assessed in Australia, and how there is a movement away from wine as a commodity and towards something genuinely invoking a feeling of place. Nick Stock suggested that during the first Australian wine boom exporters had 'forgotten to take the back-story' which left them struggling once people had tried those initial wines and then said 'What next?' This is why Andrew Jefford's lecture (and the information surrounding the wines later) was so geared towards terroir, the feeling being that Australia has proved itself time and again with regards to technology-driven fruit expression, and is now moving forward.
A great wine is always enhanced by a good atmosphere and good company. Australia House certainly provided the atmosphere, and the guests were great company. As a self-confessed wine geek I'd have been happy to pay the train fare just to sit and listen to these guys talk about Australian wine, but there was nearly fifty wines to taste too.
If anyone in the wine trade is interested is even vaguely interested in how Australia is pushing itself forward as a home of something more than supermarket wine, then I would highly recommend you try to get on this course. Even if Australia isn't your thing then it is fascinating to see something that is now coming to light, and it will be interesting to see if other countries follow suit. There are lots of great books and writing about the 'Classic' wine regions. but this is in many ways a whole new discovery, and it is that freshness that makes it inspiring.