Figures help us considerably more than words in enforcing a proper idea of the magnitude to which the Australian wine industry should develop. It will be appropriate, therefore, to preface this portion by bringing forward a few speculative data. In an earlier part of this chapter it was stated that the city of Paris alone requires nearly 300,000 gallons of wine daily, and that this single city would consume in 12 days all the wine which the whole of Australia takes 12 months to make. The population of Paris is nearly two and a half millions, while that of Australia is three millions odd. By considering these together it will be seen that the wine which it takes over three million people all the year to make, lasts another two and a half million people only 12 days.
Now, the total annual wine yield of Australia, including both that used here and that which is exported, is only worth about 800,0007. It follows from the foregoing, then, that Paris will in 12 days consume about 800,0007. worth of wine, and for the whole year the Parisian figures for wine consumption will reach to something like 20,000,000?. Let us suppose that Australia were only a wine-drinking community, as her climate unceasingly calls for. It would be fair to assume that her yearly wine bill would be in accordance with the following rule of proportion. If Paris with her two and a half millions annually consumes wine to the amount of 20,000,000., then Australia with her three millions odd" would surely require for her own use at least 25,000,000. worth year by year. And when it is remembered in addition that the export trade should be enormously in excess of any local requirements, it will readily be seen, what a magnificent future only awaits its calling into being.
We cannot hope that our Australian wines will take a high place amongst those of the world as long as they are not in general use by our own people. There can be no keener reproach than to have it said : "Why, even the Australians themselves do not drink their own wines." And this is regrettedly the fact. It is necessary, therefore, that first of all our people should take a very deep interest in all the details connected with vine-growing and wine-making, and thus give some encouragement to those who are doing their best to establish what will ultimately become Australia's brightest glory. And it will be a good thing for this land when a knowledge of every point in the growing of the grape, and every step in the making of the wine, becomes part and parcel of our daily life. The very hoardings of our streets are covered with advertisements of countless brands of whisky, and of numberless varieties of ale. But those setting forth the virtues of our wines are conspicuous by their absence. It would seem that Australia, where our own wine should be the national beverage, is almost the last country in which to find it.
It may be asked, What are the reasons which lead to this disregard of the virtues possessed by our own wines ?
The reply to this question is not an easy matter, but I shall endeavour to answer it to the best of my ability. The probability is, if a dozen people were asked, at random, why Australian wine is so little used in Australia, that at least that number of different explanations would be forthcoming. The truth, however, is more likely to be found in a combination of reasons, rather than from any one single cause. These are obviously worth considering, from the very fact that the knowing of what they consist is of the first importance in rectifying them.
I shall begin, then, by saying that the label on the bottle has much to answer for, in that it is misleading. It does not give any idea of what is to be found inside. Thus the word Riesling, on one bottle, may be attached to a wine grown on the Hunter, in New South Wales, and on another to a wine from the Yarra, in Victoria. It is true that the wine from these two places may be grown from the same "cepage." But while the river Yarra wine will contain perhaps 14 per cent. of alcohol, that from the Hunter River will have quite 20 per cent. - so much does an increase in the warmth of the climate increase the alcoholic strength of the wine.
And while we are on the subject of labels, I must certainly take exception to the unattractive character of those employed on the bottles of our Australian wines. There is no reason whatever why a little consideration should not be paid to the artistic sense in this respect. Our wine merchants, it would appear, fail to understand the selling power which belongs to the "get-up" of the label on a wine bottle. I feel sure this attractiveness has a great deal to do with the success of many products, notably in the case of the American preserved fruits. Some of these are labelled in a manner which is creditable in the highest degree - and what is more, from a practical point, it is no unimportant factor in their huge sale.
Then again, there is that want of uniformity which Mr. James Smith has so ably descanted upon, and to which I have already referred. It is bad enough to have a wine labelled Riesling, or whatever it may be, from one place differing entirely from a wine of the same name which comes from some other locality. But it is a far more serious defect when the wine of any particular place one year differs entirely from the same wine coming from the same locality at another. For the same variety of wine, of the same vineyard, thus to vary, year by year, is simply unpardonable. This must not be allowed to continue, for while it exists Australian wines will always be subject to reproach - a reproach, indeed, which cannot be explained away.
And while dealing with these shortcomings I propose to speak of another matter, which is by no means unimportant. I refer to the size of the bottle. It has frequently happened that visitors to Australia have said to me, "I should very "much like - indeed, I am anxious - to try your Australian "wines; but unfortunately I cannot drink a whole bottle "at table, and I am unable to obtain less." Now, this is undoubtedly a grievance, and should be overcome in some way; either by putting up a portion of our wines in smaller bottles, or else by making some arrangement so that a smaller quantity may be obtained. Since these lines were written, however, it is very pleasing to record the fact that one enterprising firm in Sydney has taken a highly commendable step in this very direction; and already smaller bottles of Australian wine may be obtained for the low prices of 6d. and 9d.