Book Review: Thin Skins: Why the French Hate Australian Wine

Book Review: Thin Skins: Why the French Hate Australian Wine

I didn’t know the French hated Australian wine. Not specifically, I mean. I thought they hated all wine that wasn’t French. And I thought that everyone hated Australian wine.

Aussie wine writer Campbell Mattinson does a good job at reminding us it wasn’t always this way. Australian wine came from a place of no repute whatsoever, supermarket wine made by eccentrics (many of whom are profiled and quoted in this book, and most of whom use a whole lot of profanity) and consumed mostly by locals – and they guys who made it – in vast quantities.

But in the late 1990s, Robert Parker came sniffing around. He tasted an inky Shiraz, just 50 cases of it had been made, and gave it a 99 point rating. Overnight – literally, overnight – the Aussie wine market changed, and that wine, plus other limited release wines, saw their prices double – or climb tenfold – with their next vintages.

As speculators and wine nerds flocked to these new cult wines, along came the new guard – and that’s where the trouble began. Wines like Jacob’s Creek and Yellow Tail flooded the market – millions of gallons of the stuff – destined to be sold at bargain basement prices. Aussie wine became supermarket plonk once again.

Well, to answer Mattinson’s question: Who wouldn’t hate Australian wine? The vast majority is just jug wine now, and while the cults are still being produced – Mattinson has a whole chapter on whether Grange is really all it’s cracked up to be – the sheen is starting to wear off.

All of this is pretty much outlined in the first 50 pages of Mattinson’s book, an easy read but a bit of an insular one, as he explores his own personal fascination with his own country’s wine – and expresses his own dissatisfaction with the way the industry has grown.

About half of the book has nothing to do with France but rather outlines in detail many of Australia’s better-known, higher-end producers. More characters are interviewed, lending a kind of wild west air to the way wine is produced here. It’s on the whole an interesting history lesson, but not one that you were probably altogether unfamiliar with.


Thin Skins: Why the French Hate Australian Wine




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.


  1. Edoc on April 14, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Parker probably tried La Grange, or whatever high end Penfolds was available back then.
    I’m going to agree somewhat with the French. Most Australian red wine is good quality, inexpensive, and frustratingly consistent. You can pick just about any bottle from any maker of Australian red off the shelf and it will be predictably intense, fruit-forward and jammy– as though you’re sampling a teaspoon of raspberry preserves.
    After a while, this becomes irritating. What I like about wine is the variation and surprise, something that tells a story– and Australia is almost always a disappointment in this category (save a few producers). Australian wine is what you bring to a barbecue or party, knowing that the guest want something easy to drink and maybe even bastardize a sangria out of it.

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