When thinking about many of the great wines Australian winemakers have made over the last two hundred years we tend to think of companies such as Penfolds, Yalumba, Orlando, etc. but very little mention is made of some of the great wine writers who have affected our purchases of wines we may never otherwise have considered, in this article we shall look at how two such wine writers have made such an impact on the styles of wines we drink and their importance to our great industry.
Firstly a Pom Leonard Paul Evans AO OBE arrived on our shores in 1955 arriving from New Zealand where he had emigrated to from England in 1953. Len Evans was born in Felixstowe of Welsh parents in 1930 and soon developed a passion for Australian wines which at this time mainly consisted of sweet fortified wines and sweet white wines. He felt it was important that wine is demystified and the basic understanding of wines be available to everyone and not to the educated elite.
He became the first wine columnist in Australia and started with a column in The Australian Women’s Weekly discussing various wines, especially those that were reasonably priced and in a language that everyone understood, perhaps there are some writers today that could learn a lesson here when I read of some descriptions given to the characters that wines are supposed to have! In 1965 he was the founding director of The Australian Wine Bureau and in 1973 wrote the first major Encyclopedia of Australian wine.
He was one of the first leaders to recognise the value of Australian table wines and their future rather than sweet fortified wines. He also championed the pleasure of drinking wine with food and co-authored a book with the famous cook Graham Kerr with whom they became known as The Galloping Gourmets a nickname they got from a 35-day worldwide trek visiting some of the finest restaurants around the world.
He started the winery in The Hunter Valley known as Rothbury Estate in 1969 until it was sold in 1996, I wonder what his feeling would be today when his brainchild now appears on wine lists as a house wine basically exclusive to restaurants only or some wine clubs. He was also involved with Petaluma from 1978 until 1992 and these wines still excel to this day, he was also chairman of Evans Family Wines from 1980 and Tower Estate from 1998 which is now owned by Evans close friends Matthew Cowley and Ken Cowley.
If you have ever attended a wine tasting only to be confronted by bottles of wines disguised in paper bags and you have to try to work out the variety, the age and where it comes from then blame Len Evans because he transformed blind tastings into a competition sport through his creating and developing the options game. For his dedication to the wine industry, he received many awards including the Epicurean Award for services to the Wine and Food Industry, The Charles Heidsieck Award for Wine Writing.
He was appointed an Officer of The Order of The British Empire in 1982 and an Officer of The Order of Australia in 1999, after a history of heart disease dating back to 1976 Len Evans died of a heart attack in 2006. In 2014 The Len Evans Memorial Lookout was unveiled in the heart of The Hunter Valley at Constable Estate. James Halliday has been described as a protégé of Len Evans and his successor as “Australia’s leading wine writer”, which is a long way from being a partner at leading law firm Clayton Utz where he worked from 1966 to 1988.
James Halliday was born in 1938 and is a wine writer, critic, winemaker, and senior competition judge. Since 1979 he has written and co-authored more than 40 books on wine and since 1986 has published an annual overview of Australian Wine vineyard by vineyard since 2000 this book has become known as the James Halliday Annual Wine Companion and is available from newsagents and bookshops.
He has received numerous awards for his writing including The Julia Child award for Best Wine, Spirits or Beer Book in 1994 and The Maurice O’Shea Award for Outstanding Contribution to The Australian wine industry in 1995. Mr. Halliday was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2010 for his services to the industry as a winemaker, judge, author and promoter of Australian wines domestically and internationally. As a winemaker in 1985, he established The Brokenwood winery in The Hunter region in 1970 and The Coldstream Hills Winery in The Yarra Valley in 1985 which was acquired by Southcorp Wines (now Treasury Estate Wines) in 1996 where he took up the position of Group Winemaker, Regional Wineries.
He started judging in 1977 and has been accorded the role of Chairman of judges of The Victorian Wine Show, The Sydney International Winemakers Competition, The Adelaide Wine Show and National Wine Show in Canberra. You can join his wine club Hallidays Wine Companion and receive regular updates on what’s happening in the wine world and weekly wine suggestions, very worthwhile if you enjoy wines and want to learn from the best. Other notable Australian wine writers include Peter Bourne, Jeremy Oliver, Huon Hooke, Peter Forrestal, Tyson Stelzer (Champagnes and sparkling wines) and Andrew Cailard.
In America, wine drinkers live on every word written by Robert Parker but for a concise description of wines from around the world read the workings from Jancis Robinson. This week I see Dan Murphy’s had a one day special on Grange at $699, but closer to home Brancott Estate New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is excellent buying at $7.99 and for Dans members Penley Estate Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon $19.99 for 2 bottles.
Liquorland has the Linderman’s range at $5 which is half price and very acceptable in quality for everyday drinking, Devils Lair Range $10 and a William Hardy Langhorne Creek Shiraz at $10. Cheers, Philip Arlidge email@example.com
Wine is the answer, sorry what was the question?
Tonight’s forecast. A 99% chance of wine.