Way back when it all began (part 1)

Here’s another ramble along memory lane, about the start of my wine journey

My parents drank wine of course, but until my early twenties, my appreciation was negligible.

Then I started on my search for knowledge, hampered by my impoverished student lifestyle, lack of well-heeled patrons or relatives and unfortunately, zero access to “trade” prices.

In the early 1980’s there were 2 dedicated Australian magazines; Wine and Spirit buying guide, and Winestate. Copies were well circulated. I was on the lookout for affordable wines of quality – now I am more interested in avoiding some wines; reading the scores but the comments have always been more useful.

There were also some wine columns in newspapers – the Age had regular columns by Mark Shield – a writer with a healthy touch of larrikin- while the Weekend Australian had columns by Len Evans, and James Halliday. There were often some “aspirational” wines, and I was often envious of the vertical, or retrospective tastings, and amazing dinners.

The handy annual one-stop buying reference was Robin Bradley’s Benson and Hedges Gold book. Plus there were dusty old books on Australian wine.

Regular, usually Saturday morning tastings, provided enormous education, sometimes with winemakers on-hand and often cut-throat purchase prices. My main haunts (although there were others) included

  • Nicks (Doncaster) and later in Swanston street
  • High Y cellars (Ashburton)
  • Dan Murphy (Prahran, and later Alphington, and later again Ascot Vale)
  • Boccaccio cellars (Kensington)
  • Richmond Hill cellars
  • Sutherland cellars (in Banana alley, an early advocate of WA wines)
  • Templestowe Cellars

An annual treat was tasting the Penfolds range, and  I usually settled on purchase of a few bottles of Kalimna and the 389. Grange was sometimes available for tasting, but beyond my finances.

There were some “big” tastings – a selection included

  • Expovin at the fantastic Exhibition buildings
  • Exhibition of Victorian Winemakers at assorted venues
  • Winery Walkabout at Rutherglen (plus the “ride the Rutherglen red” train)

Many of these are just fragmentary memories now; some events continue, with a swag of regional celebrations. The proliferation of  winery cellar doors has possibly diminished the appeal of these large public events, although numerous regional  celebrations exist.

I remember live wine auctions at Fowles in Port Melbourne, and MW in Brunswick. Auctions are online now of course.

That’s a start, and there will be further instalments, that may reawaken readers’ reminiscences!


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