By Christine Salins
Australian Wine Vintages 2011
By Robert Geddes MW (Geddes A Drink Publications, $34.95, hardback, 538 pages)
With numerous wine guides on the market, it’s difficult to know which one to buy. Each has its own attributes and its own loyal following.
Australian Wine Vintages, affectionately known as the Gold Book, has been around for a long time. In fact, the 2011 edition is the 28th, which is quite remarkable.
It’s a classy book with a simple gold cover, good looking enough to leave lying around on the coffee table. Although it has more than 500 pages, it manages to remain very easy to navigate and to carry around. Compact enough to pop into a glove box, handbag or hip pocket, it packs a huge amount of information between its covers.
As well as detailed tasting notes for more than 2000 wines from Australia and New Zealand, it offers advice on vintage quality, when to drink the wine, and a national wine travel guide listing places to stay and eat in each wine region.
There is advice on the best regional wine styles and producers in each district, a list of prices you can expect to pay, and recommendations for what to drink after dinner with tasting notes for spirits, liqueurs and fortified wines.
Robert Geddes has published the last few editions, having taken over from Robin Bradley. Geddes is the third of only a handful of Australians to be awarded the prestigious international Master of Wine award.
Each year he and his tasting panel taste thousands of wines and apparently just under a third of the wines tasted are not included in the book. Around 2000 are chosen, with the latest edition including more New Zealand wines than previous editions.
Geddes’ main focus is on “wines with personality that can mature” although he aims to include a full range of wines “to cover nearly every conceivable drinking situation” – hence his inclusion of a wine such as the popular Angoves Nine Vines Rose.
The central theme, he says, is the taste of the wine, with the book covering everything from good to great, age-worthy and transient, cheap to expensive.
One of the things that set this guide apart from others is its review of older vintages and how they are drinking. Another interesting feature is that the alcohol content is listed for every wine. As this is becoming an increasingly important choice factor, it’s a good point.
Geddes is not a fan of high alcohol wines but he recognises that many people are so he includes “balanced examples as long as they are fresh and avoid dead fruit”.
Ratings are done on the (US) 100 point scale with separate sections at the beginning of the book listing the Top 100 wines for the year and gold star wines that consistently perform their best vintage after vintage.
Geddes says he tries to avoid the “sports” mentality of being the first to find new wines, instead seeking to recognise consistently high achievers. Yet having said that, there are lesser known wines such as Bay of Shoals and False Cape from South Australia’s Kangaroo Island.
A huge amount of restaurant and accommodation information already exists in books and on the web but wine travellers might still find it useful to have the author’s recommendations tucked into the back of the book. At the very least, it provides a taste of what is on offer in the wine regions.
In his introduction, Geddes encourages readers to visit the regions, meet the makers and sample the food. He hopes the book “helps create a link to encourage wine travel and a sense of adventure about Australian wine”. Let’s drink a toast to that.
The book is available in book stores or through www.thegoldbook.com.au, and it can be personalised with a logo/brand printed on the cover.
To find out more about Christine Salins click here.