Wine Australia, the biennial exhibition of Australian wine and wine related products has come and gone and after four days of tasting over 400 wines, I’m taking a little break from drinking for a few weeks!

Overall, I thought the event was excellent – although there is still some room for improvement. I’m going to quickly make a few comments about some of the positives and some of the problems.

Missing some big industry names – With the newly merged Fosters and Southcorp deciding not to exhibit, the show felt (and I’m pretty sure was) smaller in size than 2004. Some of the people at stands thought that visitor numbers were down a bit as well and I wonder if some people stayed away because their favourite brands weren’t being shown.

That the big brands were missing meant that this was a good chance for the smaller names of the industry to show what they can do to the (still large) crowds that showed up.

Wine drinkers rather than wine lovers – While I am all for the general public coming along to these events and finding out more about wine, it was painfully obvious on the public days (and even a few sad cases on the trade day) that if you give some people an opportunity to drink for 9 hours straight with no limit, then they will take the opportunity to do so. The incidence of people falling over, glasses shattering against the ground and other general poor behaviour increased steadily as the day wore on.

That said, unlike 2004 I did see some people being escorted by security from the event and some refused further samples. I don’t think wineries like being the bad guy who says “no more” and additionally there is a bit of a problem with Australian culture where it is seen as okay or funny to get as drunk as possible, but well done to the winery staff who were willing to stand up to people who had enough and ask them to leave their stand.

Pourers with passion – For the most part, the staff were excellent – friendly, knowledgeable and passionate – in many cases it was the winemaker themselves or a family member who put all their effort into the wine who was pouring it and happy to discuss it with you.

There were a few isolated cases where the person didn’t seem to want to be there or one instance where I asked how long the wine had spent in oak and had a booklet thrust at me rather than a verbal answer. Another infrequently occurring problem that bothered me was representatives who wanted to talk me through what I was meant to smell and taste on each wine – those are things I can decide for myself.

Food and Water – To save a massive rant on the quality level of the food, I’ll sum it up in one word, abominable. I know that catering contracts are probably in place for the convention centre but to serve that level of food to people who are into wine (and probably into decent food as well) is insulting. In 2004 there were many water fountains scattered around the stands so that you could rinse your glass and top up water bottles, this year they were still around, but seemed much more infrequent – please increase the number for 2008.

I’m looking forward to the 2008 event now, let’s hope that this event was successful enough for it to be organised again. I’m working on transcribing my hastily scribbled notes and will start posting some brief impressions of each wine I tried (Sorry to the Australian law industry, but I didn’t taste any 50 point wines this time to generate more work for you!).

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