Vine state

By Joelle Thomson

Australian art critic Robert Hughes describes himself in his newly published autobiography as an "unapologetic professional elitist" but he's emphatic about not being a social snob. His task over decades has been to weed out good art from the mediocre and downright bad.

It's a sentiment with a ring of truth for all critics. Friends may see me happily raise a glass of whatever they pour to my lips but the job of viewing and over-analysing the over-pour, the wine's colour, its aroma and taste never end.

Last year I visited Hughes' homeland, Australia. Specifically Victoria, the country's most winery-filled - if not vine-filled - region, where I attended the Milawa 19th annual wine and food festival. Entry is free and the open air concerts are worth the trip as much as the wine and food. And that horrible cliche about variety being the spice of life is true here.

Because it has a relatively cool climate, that country's best pinot noir tends to come from two Victorian wine regions: Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula. Visit either and you will taste as many good shirazes, roses and pinot gris, hence a Master of Wine once described it as one of the most confusingly diverse wine regions in the world. Traditional French grapes and wines such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot and shiraz (aka syrah) vie for attention in Victoria's vineyards with Italian grapes such as sangiovese, brunello, dolcetto and moscato.

What Victoria lacks in size, it makes up for in multiplicity. Watch this space.

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