It's kind of ironic that what could well be the most comprehensive book on Australian wine has been written by two Americans.
Master sommeliers, authors, wine importers and husband and wife, Jonathan Ross and Jane Lopes fell in love with Australia and our wine when Lopes was offered the job of wine director at Melbourne's two-hatted Attica restaurant in 2017. Ross followed soon after and went to work as the beverage director with the Rockpool Dining Group.
"Our time in Australia was profound," says Ross, "and has impacted everything we've done professionally since."
Lopes says, "If you told us in mid 2016 that in 2023 we'd be importing Australian wine to the US and writing a book about Australian wine, we would have laughed.
"Spending time there just compelled us to tell the story and spread the word about Australian wine."
So what was it that got them so excited about Australian wine?
"The landscape of Australian wine is cracking with both new energy and historic traditions that make it one of the most exciting (we think, the most exciting) wine producing countries in the world right now," they write in the introduction to How to Drink Australian.
It's a compendium of sorts, divided into sections based on the states, and then regions within that, then producers within that. Lopes and Ross recommend a "what we're drinking" from within each regional section, Clonakilla's O'Riada from the Canberra District, a Hunter Valley Six Degrees semillon from Thomas Wines.
But it's so much more than that. There's a focus on history and sustainability, an acknowledgement of Country, it discusses terroir and climate and the general "hubbub" about the region.
They conducted hundreds of interviews with wine producers from all over the country and roped in several of Australia's leading wine people, including Mike Bennie, Kavita Faiella, Hannah Day and cartographer Martin von Wyss, to help them out.
"We came from the international perspective of an audience for this book, but the more we were researching and writing and working with the publishers we recognised there was definitely an Australian audience for this book as well," says Lopes.
"It was interesting that Hannah Day, one of our researchers, on this book, she's a sommelier and journalist, and when she got into wine what got her excited was European wines, wines from Mosel, Barolo, Burgundy, Champagne, but working on the book brought her back to Australia and reminded her that her own backyard is pretty special.
"Sometimes I think it takes an outsider's wide-eyed enthusiasm to remind you of that."
They suggest that one of the greatest things about Australians is our "humility, verging on self-deprecation".
"While it's an endearing trait, it is not always a helpful one in selling premium wine."
They quote Rob Mann, winemaker at Western Australia's Corymbia Wine who says: "If you want to be thought of as making the best wine in the world, you've got to be able to stand up in front of people and tell them that. And it's not something we're particularly good at as a culture, as Australians."
Importing and exporting wine can be a complicated business with trade tariffs, international liquor laws and the such standing in the way. The best way they go about promoting Australia wine in the US is to open as many bottles of Australian wine as they can at wine trade shows and consumer events.
Is there an Australian wine they go in their own home at the end of the week?
"There's a real drinkability to Australian wine, that's one of the things I love about it," says Lopez.
"We're both fans of grenache and I think everyone in Australia is doing them with a much lighter hand than they were 10-15 years, especially the ones out of the Barossa."
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