More than a decade ago the Barossa Wine and Tourism Association commissioned me to research and write a history of 50 years of viticulture and winemaking – from 1947 when the first modern table wines were produced to 1997, the height of Australia’s international wine boom. The Barossa Vintage Classification was not just a collection of historical highlights but a reference of important rainfall and temperature data from each year as well as comparisons of grape prices and yields over five decades. The Chief Winemaker from Yalumba and Chairman of the Barossa Winemakers at the time, Brian Walsh, provided me with wise advice, mentoring and factual editing and also developed the region’s first ever ranking of those 50 vintages from very poor to outstanding.
The book settled a lot of arguments locally (and created a few more) and became an invaluable marketing tool for winemakers wishing to explain their Downunder region to UK, US, Canadian and Asian wine buyers.
Several years ago a new representative grower and winemaker body was incorporated, the Barossa Grape and Wine Association and one of its first commitments was to revise the original classification. Much had changed in the Barossa wine industry since the peak of the wine boom in the late 1990s, new wineries had come (and in some cases gone) and it was important to record those changes for the future.
I was again asked to refresh and update the text and add new data as well as write a more detailed history of the regions first century from 1842. But how the world had changed in ten years. Our graphic designers were bemused by the outdated floppy disks rather than USBs and CDs that I drew from file boxes as well as the glossy black and white and colour photographs we had used, rather than digital JPG images. Indeed in 1997 there had been no Google, no Twitter or Facebook and in the Barossa, only a few wineries had started experimenting with email communication and a ponderously slow world wide web.
In 2010 the CEO of Barossa Grape and Wine Sam Holmes and the organisation’s Communications Manager James March met with my company’s digital team and we decided to build a new dual platform for the Classification: a printed collector’s book and a reference website.
The website contains the micro-detail of the last 17 decades: climatic graphs and tables, historical facts and figures from each year, vintage rankings and other essential data. This digital collection will be easily reviewed and updated and we hope will provide a dynamic and sophisticated reference resource for Barossa-philes all over the world – at least until another new communications medium comes along.
I trust that before turning this page you will pause to open a bottle of our famous Shiraz and pour yourself a glass, then sit back and savour the flavours and textures of Australia’s most famous wine region.