Charles Bremner is the (London) Times Paris correspondent, and he had an interesting post the other day about the economics and culture of French and Australian wine:
Australia’s success at selling its supposedly simple-minded wines has now created something of a French-style grape glut around Adelaide, with producers turning out too much plonk (a good old Australian word, by the way). But arriving from France, with its antique regulations and years of violent protest by angry growers, it is refreshing to be somewhere that sees wine as a straightforward business in which you make a product with the aim of finding a customer.
The same thoughts apply to Australia as a whole. The cliché of the matey, blokey, easy-going continent may be overdone, but a week in Oz offers an antidote to life in over-crowded, ever-defensive, continental Europe. Australia’s informality is refreshing after France’s stiff manners. In Paris, my young concierge of six years standing still calls me Monsieur and my local shop-keepers maintain a chilly distance. In Australia, you use first names immediately and the cashier ends the transaction with “no worries, mate.” French anguish about foreigners taking over the economy do not have an Australian equivalent. Parisians, on the other hand, do not fret over some current Adelaide preoccupations, such as the size of your barbecue or whether the new Ute (known in French as le pick-up) has got a slot for the Esky (une glacière, or ice-box, for cooling the beer).
He also discusses the “wine glut”, the apparent large quantity of low-quality plonk being produced in both France and Australia. Good discussion, but he doesn’t resolve the issue. So I ask: is the production of lots of plonk a reflection of customer preferences, or is there something else going on? Producers trying to shape preferences, “down to lowest common denominator” to decrease their production costs or increase their margins? Is there a mystery here?
Thanks to my dad for the link.