So, how does wine tasting in Australia compare to South Africa?
Two differences. Firstly, wine tasting here is very much like it used to be in South Africa - it takes place over a counter and you chat with the person pouring your wines, someone who loves their work and loves wine, especially theirs. They chat about the weather (heatwave last week, it was 43 degrees, now it's a lovely cool 23 with a strong breeze - it's always breezy in Margaret River).
|Chatting and tasting at Watershed Wines|
Then there was Prevelly, which we tasted in the general store, where the assistant had to rush over as soon he'd finished serving a customer, pour our wines, then dash behind the counter. All the while chatting about the wine. And at Watershed, we really were asked 'are you spitting?' before the bucket went on the counter. (We don't spit, but we do pour away).
The other difference is the price. It costs about four times more over here, for wines that are, at their best, on a par with South African. And they are way over the price you'd expect to pay in the UK. At one winery we were told it's because we're sent the rubbish, but we soon found out that isn't true (although we do get some rubbish, which the Australians don't drink over here. We were told they don't drink Fosters either. 'Neither do we', we replied).
The fact is, that wine growers are subject to high taxes, which are not levied on wines for export, which means that they are cheaper in the UK. Several wineries offer free shipping to the UK, at a cheaper price per bottle than you can purchase from the winery. This means there is no expectation that you are going to buy (we didn't mention the five bottles we brought over from South Africa!). In fact, many wineries just tell you where to buy their wine (cheaper) in the UK. Including Majestic and Waitrose, both round the corner from us.
But like in South Africa, you also get roses growing at the end of the vines (because roses pick up diseases first), although they grow them higher (to let the warm air circulate).
|Vines are grown high in Margaret River, to let the warm air circulate|
And there are caves. Like Calgardup, where they give you a torch and a hard hat, ask you not to touch anything, especially with your hard hat when you have to duck, and then send you on your way. It was a refreshing experience not to have to follow a guide along an artifically lit path, making discoveries ourselves, albeit on a boardwalk (to protect the caves) appreciating the silence - and, when we turned our torches off, the absolute darkness. Oh, and the perfect conditions for storing wine.
|In Calgardup Caves, you are asked to mind your head - so you don't damage the cave|