My initial trepidation that How to Drink Australian would be a paean to the “shoey” was misplaced. There was no drinking from a shoe. Instead, the nearly 500-page book is a bold attempt by two American Master Sommeliers to share the surprising lesson they learned while spending time working in Australia: namely, that they have come to believe that “Australian wine deserves to win. They’re making the best wine in the world.”
The married couple, Jane Lopes and Jonathan Ross, veterans of Eleven Madison Park in NYC, set up Legend, their Australian wine importing company, in 2020, and have now followed with a worthy addition to the list of vital Australian wine reference books. Brightly written, with assists from local experts Mike Bennie, Kavita Faiella and Hannah Day, the tome delves deep and respectfully in to the past, offers a comprehensive picture of the present, and shines with enthusiasm for the future.
Divided by state, and then broken down by region, coverage for each starts with a tribute to the respective nations of the First Peoples of Australia who traditionally maintained the lands. They follow with industry development under “Evolution of Wine” before attacking the details of terroir in “Lay of the Land.” Detailed maps, created by Martin von Wyss, have a regional focus—the map of Barossa highlights its temperature differentials, while others may focus on soils or elevation. Similarly, the Hubbub section looks at areas of local concern, such as changing grape preferences, water supply or climate change.
The final section highlights key producers, under classifications that include “Legends” and “Rising Stars.” Lopes and Ross’s producer descriptions are lovingly written and create a desire to visit, or revisit, the regions. They highlight personal favorites, many of which are guaranteed to have the reader searching for wine availability. Bennie extolls Ruggabellus, relative newcomers in Barossa, for their “originality and vivacity.” The museum releases of Rutherglen’s All Saints Estate provide Ross with an “otherwordly wine experience.”
By looking so closely at the current state of play, this book will soon need updating, and such a loving, well researched and worthy endeavor deserves that opportunity.
How to Drink Australian, By Jane Lopes and Jonathan Ross, Murdoch Books (2023), 495 pages, $60
This story appears in the print issue of Winter 2023.
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