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Anne Krebiehl blogs from Wine Australia's One Day Wine School

Published:  30 November, 2011

While still leading the UK wine market by volume and value, Australia is at pains to explain that it has more to offer than simple quaffing wines.

In a bid to change perceptions, Wine Australia ran its One Day Wine School at Australia House in London earlier this week. On Friday, the same event will be held in Bristol. Chaired by Yvonne May, Wine Australia's director for UK and Europe, the days were hosted by Tim Atkin MW and Nick Stock, author of the Sydney Morning Herald Good Wine Guide, providing both a UK and very welcome Australian perspective. The main thrust of information came from an in-depth lecture on Australian terroir by the scholarly Andrew Jefford, followed by a tasting of 48 wines in 10 different varietal flights.

After a brief industry overview by Atkin and Stock, Jefford presented a characteristically detailed lecture. By putting Australia's size, latitudes, geology and history into context, touching on soil structures, topography as well as seasonal and cyclical weather patterns, he demonstrated why there is such a diversity of wines and wine styles coming from this oldest of continents. His ability to look at the bigger picture gave reason even to apparently freak events such as bush fires, droughts and heat spikes - this is true perspective.

Atkin and Stock then outlined the transformations in viticulture and vinification which are finally tugging at the view of simple "sunshine in a glass", a cliché, according to Atkin, which "still dogs Australian wine". Touching on rootstocks, clonal material, a shift away from the "big trellis" to higher density planting and a general focus on vineyard rather than winery, Stock said winemakers now knew better "when to play the technology card" and that oak is now seen as "a textural rather than a flavouring device".

In his view, the new generation of Australian winemakers is "widely travelled, globally educated and internationally inspired". Atkin and Stock also made a point of the importance of the on-going and often ground-breaking research by the Australian Wine Research Institute and ended by paying tribute to Australia's winemaking legends past and present. A daring glimpse into the future yielded the promising names of Mac Forbes, Tom Carson and Corrina Wright amongst others.

The afternoon was dedicated to comparative tastings of varietal flights; these amply illustrated what had been communicated in the morning and caused lively commentary and discussion. Stock also put paid to the illusion that vintage variation in the New World was of less importance. Atkin ended by saying: "I am more optimistic about what Australia is doing than I have ever been."

Yvonne May, who came up with the idea for the One Day Wine School, explained that the aim was to "inspire and inform the gatekeepers that stand between us and the consumers, whether it's educators, the press, the trade". "What we've been trying to do within the space of one day is to give a total experience of Australia, a better sense of place of the wine," she said, by going "beyond a tasting" and "creating a very well-structured flow of information through the day".

May, who observed that the response to the event "has been phenomenal", also commented on her co-operation with the WSET: "There is the opportunity to take it a step further because I've worked with the WSET, the foremost body of wine education in the world, to create an A + Australian One Day Wine School Australian Specialism Certificate. So for those people who are being sponsored by a company who do want something tangible to show at the end of the day there is this optional online exam and I will be choosing the very best students and take them as a scholarship prize out to Australia next April."

She concluded: "Australia has so much more to offer than many might generally perceive and it is about the quality and diversity, it is about the breadth and the depth of the wines, it's about the fact that we are a landmass that's not dissimilar to the entirety of continental Europe and we have a range of wines to match."