The great Australian thirst

Australians have for generations wallowed in a global reputation for being outrageous beer guzzlers.

To be honest, there was a good reason for this ‘slur’ on our character since consumption figures demonstrated we drank vast quantities of the amber ale. Mind you, only because it is a very hot and dry land, not because we like getting wasted or anything.

Things are changing, though, and we are slurping lots more wine these days. Seems like we have become upwardly mobile. Or it could have to do with the global glut of wine and the consequent slashing of prices. Mind you, shipping stuff to this isolated landmass on the bottom of the world imposes some hefty costs that usurious merchants reflect in their consumer pricing. Bastards!

Still, our flourishing love affair with wine has seen some strange things happen over the years. Way, way back when I was but a boy – well, a youngish man – I hated the taste of wine but learned to drink it by consuming sweet white wines.

Funnily enough, in those days, the Australian market was flooded with German (or German-style) white wines. Riesling was the surpassing favourite. This was, perhaps, as much because you could order a Riesling and have a fair expectation of what it might taste like when it was delivered to your table and poured.

Bear in mind that the national palate was very uneducated in those days. So, to be able to snap your fingers at a semi-distant restaurant waiter and cry: ‘A Riesling for two, mate’ was the height of couth. Oh, the blush of shame today to recall such hideous naivete! Not to mention rudeness, of course.

But as the years slid by and the rest of the world intruded on our Down Under solitude, we rewarded our taste buds with increased experimentation. And then we discovered Chardonnay. In all likelihood some pot-smoking executive-type returned from California with a few bottles in his suitcase and nothing was ever quite the same again.

For a decade or more we sloshed the stuff around our glasses like there was no tomorrow. It was almost always true to type and nearly everyone liked it. Until we found out there were two types of chardonnay: wooded and unwooded. Well, that bloody ruined everything. We blokes had to learn some basics of wine tasting so we could impress our sheilas. Mate, it was bloody frustrating. I mean, we Aussies can tell what kinda beer a bloke’s drinking from the colour of his glass from twenty paces away. Most of us could do that before we were weaned off mother’s milk – but that’s a whole other story we won’t go into today.

Anyway, chardie eventually became so yesterday after some sheep-fancier from New Zealand brought over a few bottles of this thing called Sav Blank. Sorry, my autocorrect tells me that should be Sauvignon Blanc. Bloody Frogs!

But it’s bloody ripper stuff and we’ve gone crazy for it. In fact, it now comprises 40% of all white wine sales in Australia. Since we imported 56.5 million litres of foreign wine last year that has probably put the New Zealand economy back into surplus. Geez, we’re generous to our mates across the ditch.

Mind you, it is disturbing to note that of the top 20 sauv blanc labels sold here, 17 are Kiwi and only 3 are Aussie. Bloody Kiwis!

Look, I could keep on with this but I’ve raised a bloody big thirst and I’m gonna go have a beer and wash it down with some imported wine just to show how sophisticated I am. Hic. Sorry!