Australia wine disaster

Disaster alert: Australian wine industry.

During the 1980s and 1990s the Aussie wine business tracked internet IPOs in America. Any crazy idea could make you a millionaire. Then cometh denouement.

Today, Australian wineries queue up for receivership as South America and South Africa, not to mention old behemoths France, Italy, Spain, and—shudder—California, slice into Aussie market shares. Throw in worldwide recession, and you’ve got Down Under belly up.

Desperate, Australian wineries this year beg Aussies to drink only Australian wines from New Years Day until Australia Day (January 26, celebrating arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788, establishing modern day Australia). Effort bespeaks didgeridoo [cq] desperation.

Maybe justified desperation. According to Australia Bureau of Statistics, wine imports into Australia are up 4.5 percent. New Zealand dominates, France is big. On the other hand, Australian wine exports fell more than eight percent in 2010.

Goodness gracious why? Answer is revealing.

As in all things hip, hot, new and now, eventually you no longer are the next big thing. Australian and other drinkers appear weary of candified [cq] fruit bombs with over-the-top alcohol, the very qualities that first made Aussie wines winners.

Balance, restraint, elegance are the now thing now.

That said, Australian wine industry remains formidable. It will not rack off [cq] any time soon. It may, however, send some yellow tailed wannabes [cq] on a walkabout.

Recommended (all Australian):

• Robert Oatley Vineyards. Excellent Sauvignon Blanc and Temperanillo (both $15) and Shiraz ($16). Good Chardonnay and Cabernet-Merlot ($16). Oatley helped create Aussie wine wave with Rosemont Estate, cashed out in 2005, now makes more subtle, refined wines with his name on label.

• d’Arenberg. Century-old maker has real winners in The Stump Jump Red (Rhône blend, $12) and The Hermit Crab (Viognier-Marsanne blend, $18).

• Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz. Gracefully subdued, Rhone style; cherries, fine tannins. $23

• Thorn-Clarke. Family-owned quality Borossa Valley winery; consistent quality. Shotfire Ridge Shiraz has black fruits, rich mouth, complexity. $24.