Australia Decanted. Lake Tahoe, July 2018

One + One + One = Five

In 1992 Bindi was just four years in and for money and love I worked for a wine retailer/importer. Newsletter writing and offering themed dozens was part of my go and selecting the Australian Shiraz dozen was a highlight. The mixed dozen in 1992 included many single site wines such as Jasper Hill, Craiglee, Dalwhinnie, Wendouree, Armagh, Aberfeldy, Mount Edelstone, Brokenwood Graveyard, Tyrell’s Vat 9 and Plantagenet. A delicious roll call both then and certainly now.

For some soap box reason, having never visited an export market nor exported yet (Bindi being just two vintages in), I wrote that these were the wines and stories that Australia should be championing to the world. Under the heading ‘A message for exporters’ this audacious 24 year old bemoaned the international image of Australian wine being focused on wines like Lindermans Bin 65 rather than place and people wines such as Wendouree Shiraz. And for the next 20 years I felt it was mostly much the same.

Bindi began exporting in 1996 and we have always perceived an international audience as important to how we view the wine world and how we are viewed. Simply selling out domestically can be a sell out internationally. While it is more lucrative and cost effective for a small producer to focus singularly on domestic sales there is much to be gained in reputation and perspective by exporting. Importantly, the more storied Australian producers exporting then the better for building global understanding and excitement for our wine quality and diversity.

It’s super easy to say things have changed. Plenty have. Plenty needed to. Yet it’s important to be baby and bath water aware, to know that some didn’t need to change. For the last few decades there have been several Australian wineries, USA importers and USA establishments determinedly challenging, traveling and talking, pouring and persisting. All the time believing in their vines and wines, their passions and stories. But simply there have not been enough doing it well enough.

For the last five years hope has been stirring and 2018 sees enlightened thinking for a brightening of these days and those to follow. Wine Australia’s Mark Davidson and Aaron Ridgeway are Australian wine visionaries. They, and several key colleagues, have determinedly shifted the international conversation and direction of Australian wine and this vision was taken to new (but uncapped) levels at Australia Decanted at Lake Tahoe this week.

Making sense of my idiotic maths:

1 plus 1 plus 1 equals 5

At Squaw Creek, Lake Tahoe, the whole exceeded the sum of the parts in a staggering and unexpected way. Let me explain the parts and conclude with the whole.

One, the starting 1, was Team Wine Australia, an international and diverse band of at least 15 (including video and photography, techs and talkers). Led by the aforementioned wine champions, TWA were a joyous, meticulous, cohesive, passionate and professional group who set the standard. There were (and are) many directions this significant undertaking could have gone. TWA’s insight, understanding, resources and delivery over four days of long and intense wine and cultural immersion was uplifting, appreciated and admired. And always well humoured.

Two, the foundation 2, was a band of 13 Wine Makers (of) Australia. Representing five states and a territory this group bonded and bounded quite beautifully. From an initial caution, a reading of the play, it took about one tasting hour on day one to form a warm cohesion and understanding. Instinctively, we embraced a joyful drive to share and inspire, to lead and be led, which grew session by session and day (and often night). This broad WMA group, in geography, styles, production and outlook combined to educate, inspire and befriend those that were the reason for trekking to Tahoe.

Three, the east to west and south to north 3, the Delegates USA, the reason for being. The USA is a huge market and ten years ago the mountain of exporting one billion dollars of wine was scaled. Today it’s about half of that. The change has been mostly at the cheap end, the market segment that none of those attending Lake Tahoe have interest in. Today the USA is more open than ever to the unique places, peoples and wines of story emanating from Australia. Now China has climbed the one billion dollars mountain and the conversation there is often of containers of wine rather than special cases. Early days.

The 100 D-USA were professionally and geographically a very diverse group. The commonality was exceptional wine love and a career standing testifying this: here was a group of deep thinkers and high achievers. This group of retailers, sommeliers and journalists, right from the opening evening, had a bright  and energetic eagerness to embrace and then to enhance Australia Decanted.

Sometimes the way in life and wine is an inequality of position. Visiting a winery it’s clear who’s in charge and responsible for driving the interaction. The same producer visiting a shop or restaurant to show wine has the position reversed. The wine promoter, industry professional and wine producer become used to this dance of circumstance. I’m not a particular fan of it.

Importantly and inspiringly, Australia Decanted set, maintained and nurtured equality. The aura and emotion gave freedom and all involved were enhanced and empowered to enhance. It is for this outcome, thoughtfully and instinctively driven by these three groups, that saw #Australiadecanted excel well beyond the sum of its parts.  On day four, when the learning and bonding had been done, and the stories shared, it was love for wine, love for place and love for people that defined this special celebration.


Mark Davidson | Aaron Ridgway

Sarah Crowe | John Duval | Steve Flamsteed | Macgregor Forbes | Jeffrey Grosset | Michael Hill Smith | Sue Hodder | Tim Kirk | Steve Pannell | Louisa Rose | Bruce Tyrrell | Virginia Wilcock | Mike Bennie