Local food, check. Where's the local wine?

A couple of wineries on twitter recently observed that while there is a trend towards locally sourced food, there does not seem to have been a corresponding trend torwards local wine; in fact, quite the opposite.  This observation rang rather true for me.  For example, fresh fish at a Sorrento restaurant recently was unaccompanied by a single wine offering from the Mornington Peninsula.  It seemed wrong; ill thought out.  Conversely, it seems stunningly easy now to try any number of imported wines by the glass, yet truly interesting or obscure local wines seem passed over.  This "grass is greener" method of wine offering is unlikely to be (and frankly unwanted to be - who wants to drink Australian wine in say Saumur?) reciprocated in the old world reference points.  Are we more mature for experimenting with the offer of imported and non-local wines or is this a calling card of immaturity and deference to old world dogma?  Perhaps it is simply that the local wine is not that good?  My thought is that local wines around Melbourne at least are generally that good or better, and it's mainly just not put on show.

There seem to be 5 types of wine lists in local restaurants here in Melbourne and its surrounds:

1. The "bland corporate" wine list.  This list contains largely no wines that are referable to the local area and consists of a selection of "safe" (ie generally ok, but unexciting) wines from afar: usually, from somewhere in South Australia, with perhaps a token unmemorable Rhone Valley or red Burgundy wine with a memorable mark up.

2. A "wow" list with representatives drawn from the four corners of the planet, with mark ups commensurate with perceived rather than perhaps actual quality or storage provenance in our challenging climate. 

3. A truly local list, with only local wines on offering.  This is a rare find, and for me almost daunting when confronted, due to the revelation of comparative ignorance.

4. A largely local list with wines included from the key reference points of wine of France, Germany and Italy for the curious.  A "smart" list.

5. A completely imported list, such as at The European in Melbourne.

My own preference is for a restaurant list is usually somewhere in between 3 and 4, unless I am say at a French or Italian restaurant and option 5 makes sentimental sense.  I admit I was recently a bit confronted by a truly local list put on by Gills Diner in Melbourne, where notwithstanding I know about 5% of things I need to know about wine, I was operating unsustainably at around the 1% level.

One of the highlights for me in travelling has been to try local wines, to see whether the local air, soil and joie de vivre is captured in the bottle.  It would be great if we and our restaurants could adopt some of the same approach, if only to give a chance to the many small and independent wineries possibly producing very good wines, unnoticed.
Wine Thoughts
October 7, 2010

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