WITH JUST THREE MORE days until Australia Day, we celebrate Aussie wine in all of its big, bold, beautiful and uncompromisingly dinky-di manifestations. To do anything else would be, frankly, un-Australian.
Rolling out our annual Australia Day Wine Honours list, we recognise the vinous products of this land and the people behind them.
Nothing encapsulates Australia Day more succinctly than a sunburnt barbecuer, charcoal meat and a glass of hot red. Enjoy …
COMPANIONS OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIAN WINE (AWC)
Our greatest honour, awarded for eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree.
Shiraz: For services to wine enjoyment.
No other Aussie wine grape defines us as a nation quite so well. It's tough as an old boot and can grow well anywhere: hot, warm, cold.
Totally egalitarian, shiraz can be a winemaker's workhorse when required but scrubs up well with a bit of spit and polish.
Born a bastard (that is, bastardised from the French word syrah), it still thumbs its nose at attempts to Frenchify it with airs and graces. Shiraz does not do fancy.
Shiraz is the everyman - and woman - wine. It deserves recognition for years of service.
Alister Purbrick, Tahbilk: For services to the vinous underdog.
Before pinot grigio and viognier made it big, there was marsanne. Actually, even before chardonnay and sauvignon blanc there was marsanne. It's just that the Rhone Valley white grape never broke into the national drinking consciousness. It's still waiting for recognition. Beside it every step of the way, believing in it and getting its wonderful drinking qualities before the people, has been a member of the Purbrick family, owners of Tahbilk. Like his grandfather and father before him, Alister Purbrick works tirelessly promoting the grape with the bright honeysuckle personality. Always will.
Louisa Rose, Yalumba Wines: For services to Australian wine.
The indefatigable Louisa Rose, chief winemaker at Yalumba, oversees one of the more progressive wine teams in Australia and her work with the viognier grape could be considered career-defining except that she is still mid-career.
Few work harder. As of this month she is a director of the Australian Research Institute; co-chair of the South Australian Wine Industry Council; a member of the South Australian Agribusiness Council and chairperson of the Alternative Varieties Wine Show committee. Oh, and she's on the organising committee for the Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference. Add a wine show judging schedule that takes her across the country each year and you've got one mega-busy winemaker. Talented, too.
OFFICER OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIAN WINE (AWO)
For outstanding achievement and service.
Roy Moorfield: For services to rose´.
Here we have a dinky-di, home-grown revolutionary who saw suffering among his people - fellow Australian wine drinkers - and did something about it. Moorfield, a Melbourne wine retailer-turned-wine entrepreneur, was the brains and drive behind the Rose´ Liberation Army, a force for change, bringing dryness to rose´ in the face of rampant sweetness during the 1990s and 2000s. His pioneering work lives on today in the very bolshie, always engaging Rose´ Revolution. A true pioneer.
Penfold's: For services to vinous hyperbole.
Pour the red and pass the Viagra. Penfold's, this year staring down its 82nd birthday, is kicking up its heels with a publicity binge par excellence, leaving some commentators to wonder what the old fella is on. First, looking to trounce pretenders to ''the most expensive Aussie wine'' title, Penfold's announced its $168,000 hand-blown ampoule of 2004 Block 42 cabernet sauvignon. Actually, there are a dozen of them. The event was hailed as ''the ultimate reflection of winemaking heritage, innovation and artistic collaboration'' and ''a ground-breaking work of art encapsulating a rare and significant wine''.
Then, it partnered with Hedonism Wines (Britain) to offer The Penfold's Collection, a vertical of six decades of Grange from 1951 to 2007, which included ''several legends of the wine world''. The asking price? $1.8 million.
Mollydooker Wines: For services to alcohol.
Raising the middle finger to those who would plead for less alcohol in their wines is McLaren Vale's own rugged individual, Mollydooker Wines. The leftie continues to release blockbusters with alcohols so high you'd need a good run up and a lend of Steve Hooker's jumping pole to get over.
MEDAL OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIAN WINE (AWOM)
For service worthy of particular recognition.
Rick Kinzbrunner, Giaconda: For services to winemaker honesty.
When Rick ''Tell It Like It Is'' Kinzbrunner decided to remove the roussanne vines at his vineyard outside Beechworth, he didn't gloss over the reason. No sir, he laid his decision at the feet - or rather, the palate - of Australian wine writers.
''There was a singular lack of interest from most Australian wine writers,'' he said, by way of explanation. ''For example, I submitted it a couple of years ago to [James] Halliday's Top 100 and he didn't consider it worthy of a place! There have been other similar incidents in Australia but international writers love it.''
He could have fudged the reason, but no. RIP Giaconda Aeolia roussanne ($80). For the record, I loved it - when I could afford it.
P-J Charteris, winemaker: For services to Australia-New Zealand wine relations.
Like Russell Crowe, P-J (Peter-James) was born a Kiwi but that hasn't stopped Aussies embracing him as a local son. He spent decades in the Australian wine industry, notably 12 years as winemaker at Brokenwood in the Hunter Valley. In 2010 he was named Hunter Winemaker of the Year, an award that clearly didn't go to his head because, soon after, he left Oz to return to his land of birth.
He now calls Central Otago home and at Charteris Wines he's making full use of the winemaking knowledge gained in Oz, producing a stunning pinot noir and riesling. Our loss - but we keep Rusty.
Yalumba Wines: For services to vegans.
It started out as a way to be smarter in the winery, adding fewer things to wine, and along the way Yalumba became the vegan's new best friend. The Barossa Valley institution now makes 40 wines meeting the vegan criteria, one for the record books surely.
One step up from vegetarian, vegan-friendly wines avoid all animal-based fining/clarification agents based on eggs or dairy products.
Now vegans and non-vegans are sharing the same wine.
Who'd have thought?