Back in Style – or the Fickle Fashion of the Drinks World

Back in Style – or the Fickle Fashion of the Drinks World

November 18, 2015

Drinks – being just another part of the fashion industry – are constantly trending and changing. Hang around long enough, however, and everything old is new again.

One minute bourbon is the new black, the next thing it’s the new beige… Sauvignon Blanc is your alfresco passport to inter-suburban success, the next thing it’s social death. A can of Australian beer once helped you navigate your way around the BBQ scene, but now you need a craft bright ale, or possibly even an organic sustainable cider in a low food mile bottle. Hang around long enough, however, and everything old is new again.

 

Putting the ‘Ay!’ back in Chardonnay...

On the wine front, perhaps the drink that has made the biggest turnaround in terms of consumer sentiment over the past five years is Chardonnay. From it’s heyday in the burgeoning embourgeoised 1980s, when wine was being finally taken to by more and more Australians, Chardonnay became the drink of choice. The Premier of NSW, Neville Wran, drank it openly. This was a wine that has so much oak artifact soaked into it that it tasted like pineapple juice mixed with rum ‘n raisin ice cream. It was an in-your-face smell and taste that immediately appealed to a naive but quickly evolving Australian wine drinker. But as we evolved we started to hate the obviousness. Chardonnay gave way to Sauvignon Blanc and the NZ avalanche of this similarly overt white wine style which was more Mariah Carey than chardy’s Dolly Parton.

Australian winemakers used this as an opportunity, however. They started making Chardonnay in a more thinned-down, austere and even shrill manner; it featured higher acidity, less oak, fewer tropical flavors and more tastes akin to green apple and citrus. It became more Chablis than Chablis, and it is now what the uber-cool wine set are sipping. A brilliant example of this is the Yarra Valley’s Oakridge LVS Lusatia Chardonnay, which is all about finesse, tension, and great length.

 

Getting your beerjo back...

In the world of the grain, not the grape, another revolving door has spun. Beer, which was once the most basic sort of 4.5% lager with low malt flavours, just a hint of hop bitterness, and a clear, light-amber colour, has been on an almost out of control roller coaster ride this last decade and a bit.

Micro, craft, boutique and artisan brewers set up shop and drew on the ales of northern Europe and the wheat beers of Germany, the Trappist beers of Belgium and the pale ales of San Francisco, to evangelize the lager louts of Australia. A certain synchronicity was born between Hipsters and Ale, and suddenly beer had all the nomenclature and associated connoisseurship of wine. Indeed, not only did you have to start asking for your late hopped bright ale to be served in something resembling a wine glass, but you had to match the “right” sort of food with it, too.

Fortunately some common sense has returned, as has lager. Whilst ales are wonderful beers, they are very textural and don’t necessarily suit the hot and humid weather that so dominates Australia for about half the year. Lager is perfect for the summer months, and now we have a more intelligent yet no less sessional version of it, perhaps well typified by Cricketers Arm’s Keepers Lager, which is extremely dry thanks to its longer lagering stage. It has a faint and pleasant lemony taste, thanks to the use of Amarillo hops.

 

Just another Tequila Sunrise...

“Turn on, tune in, drop out” was the phrase of the 1960s counter-culture movement, and Tequila was its drink. The idea of drinking alcohol made from cactus and swallowing the worm in the bottle for its psychotropic effects was - well - all weirdly wrong, or a marketing tool depending which way you looked at it. The same can be said for the US College practice of Cancun holidays, where you licked the salt off you hand, downed the shot of Tequila, and bit into the wedge of lime…

Thank goodness this sentiment has mostly changed. So much so that Tequila is now seen as a quality-distilled spirit made from the heart of the Blue Agave plant, which is more closely related to the lily than the cactus. The best Tequila houses have adopted a kind of appellation system for agave growing regions, just like the French do with wine. Tequila is now also better understood in its different guises, which are all about ageing the spirit: silver or white is young and fresh; reposado is a rested Tequila, stored in barrel just for a couple of months; and añejo spends longer in oak barrels and takes on a more golden or dark gold hue. It’s sophisticated stuff, so much so that it has its own dedicated glass made by Riedel - the finest wine glass makers in the world. You might need one for trying some Patrón Añejo Tequila, which draws similarities to the world’s best Cognac.