News straight from the grapevine.
As well as lessons on grape varieties and how to taste, modern wine courses should also offer a component on critical thinking.
Wine marketers have always been creative with the words they use on their labels, and while most of the claims they make are covered by regulation, some areas are a bit fuzzy – especially when it comes to words designed to appeal to modern, wellness-minded consumers.
Take the word "natural". There's general agreement that "natural wines" are made with nothing added (except minimal preservatives at bottling) or taken away.
But a growing number of wine brands have sprung up with names or marketing campaigns that riff on the "natural" theme – despite those wines being made in very conventional ways.
Take Avaline, for example. It's a new, self-styled "clean wine" brand made using organic grapes and launched earlier this year by celebrity Cameron Diaz. "Full of natural goodness," says the marketing spiel.
But a quick look at the winemaking info shows that Avaline is produced no differently from – and is, therefore, no "cleaner" than – most all conventionally-made organic wines.
I've yet to see an Australian winemaker make the "clean" claim, but some brands here are definitely heading in a similar direction, pushing all the vegan-friendly, low-sugar wellness buttons.
So, be careful out there in bottleshop land. Be wary of the words wine marketers use to entice you to buy their products. Ask questions, be sceptical. And remember: it's an alcoholic drink, not a health tonic.
- The natural wine glossary
- Five fast questions to help take the intimidation out of buying a bottle of wine
Back in 1995, when winemaker Joch Bosworth converted his family's McLaren Vale vineyards to organic farming, it was seen as a niche activity.
A quarter-century later, organic, biodynamic and sustainable are buzzwords in wine circles, and wines like the juicy, purple, preservative-free Battle of Bosworth Puritan Shiraz ($22) are deliciously mainstream. bosworthwines.com.au
Who: Meerea Park Wines
What: 2018 Alexander Munro Shiraz
Why: Outstanding, rich, deeply earthy and cellar-worthy Hunter shiraz from a classic vintage
When: Any time over the next 40 years
How much: $110
As every lover of pinot noir will tell you, finding a really great example of this quixotic grape for less than 30 bucks isn't easy.
So, it's a pleasure to report that the 2019 Stoney Rise Pinot Noir from Tasmania's Tamar Valley is really great – fresh, perfumed, silky, complex, long – and costs just $29. stoneyrise.com
The Knowledge ($22) is a guide to enjoying wine (and plenty of other drinks), put together by the team at Sydney booze haven P&V Merchants, and full of their trademark fun-lovin', take-no-prisoners, street-savvy sass. It's one of a series of food- and drink-related books from new crowdfunded publisher Somekind Press, featuring the stories and recipes of popular Australian venues from Lee Ho Fook to the Leigh Street Wine Room. somekindpress.com
Max Allen is an award-winning journalist and author who has written about wine and drinks for close to 30 years.