Sour grapes at Brown Brothers

Amazing wines from across the globe, all in one place: Brown Brothers.

I thought I knew wineries, before I went to Australia. Dank caves and musty cellars in rural France, where even the air was 12 percent proof and where devious old ladies would pour you so much free tipple that you’d find yourself happily drunk and in possession of sixteen bottles of Chateau Whatever. A wine that seemed awfully delicious in Saint-Lunatique but that, at home, has lost all its charm and barely makes it into a stew. Or is only useful as a gift to people you don’t really like that much.
Don’t snigger: we’ve all done it! And most of us who have done wine tastings in Europe will recognize the experience. Although I must say that there are many, many wonderful and lovely winemakers with charming tasting rooms and great wines. But about them I will write another time.
Wine tasting in Europe is a very down-to-earth sort of thing, but then, in countries like France, Italy and Spain, wine isn’t seen as something to be snobbish about. I had heard horror stories from friends who had ‘done’ the Napa Valley in California though and found it to be impossibly snooty, overprices and really no fun at all.
So it was with a sense of trepidation that I entered the tasting room at Brown Brothers, in rural Victoria, a mere three hours north of Melbourne. Australian wine could for me, up until then, be summarized in one word: cheap. And quite frankly, I was quite sick and tired of the thick buttery Aussie Chardonnays from the supermarket. So, I was not really expecting much, yes I apologize for that.
Imagine my surprise when I was confronted with the massive, massive range of wines at Brown Brothers. It seemed as if every single grape that had been cultivated in Europe, had found its perfect new home in Australia. Grapes you did not find in one and the same province, let alone country, happily grew side by side. And -shock! horror!- were BLENDED into ungodly, unholy mixtures!
I just could not get my head around it. Who would blend a noble Riesling from Germany with the zesty Verdelho from Portugal? What crazy mind stirred Viognier in with Gewurztraminer?
Of course, the proof of the pudding was in the eating, and I took my first sip… And another… and another…
Long story short, it wasn’t even 10:30 am and I was happily tipsy already. I chatted with the lady behind the counter, who kept on pouring me delicious wine after heavenly nectar, and apparently I came across as this savvy bigshot European wine connaisseur. Which I really am not, I just happen to know what I like and what grape to expect it from, that’s more than enough oenology for me!
So, I got invited for a special occasion: they were about to uncork the first batch of their brand new Nebbiolo range. Yes, Nebbiolo, the noble grape that creates the black and seductive Barolo wine. Another emigrant that thrived in the Victorian climate.
And now you expect another euphoric paragraph about how wonderful that Nebbiolo was. Well… it was awful. Like licquorice drenched with vinegar, it was sour and astringent and just yukky. Which winedrinkers know of course: a young Nebbiolo is just undrinkable, it takes ten years or more to become rich and velvety and delicious.
So I left Brown Brothers, head spinning with new knowledge and certainly the equivalent of a bottle of wine in tastings… with a bag full of desert wine and a nasty taste in my mouth from that very young Nebbiolo. And that was 12 years ago… and I am just kicking myself that I did not buy some Brown Brothers Nebbiolo back then. Because right now, it would have been absolutely gorgeous.

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