Book Review: How to Drink Australian

Book Review: How to Drink Australian

It is a fun time in the realm of beverage literature. We’ve witnessed a significant shift away from rigid recipe books and academic volumes towards approachable, enlightening works penned by authors deeply devoted to sharing their compelling narratives. Over the past two decades, an abundant collection of relaxed storytelling and entertainment has emerged, covering nearly every specialization and sub-specialization. As an avid reader, I’ve had the immense privilege of settling in with a glass in hand, reaping the rich rewards of this profound scholarship.

In this most recent quarter of 2023, we’ve been graced with weighty tomes offering not only depth and detail but also substantial page counts. These volumes delve into subjects like modern Caribbean rum, Islay single malts, and one of the most specific guides to Champagne ever written. Each of these could easily serve as a semester’s worth of education in any graduate school course worth their tuition. And now we can add another tome of quality to the bookshelf, this time covering Australian wine.

In How to Drink Australian, Jane Lopes and Jonathan Ross (both formerly of the world-renowned restaurant Eleven Madison Park) present an insightful discourse on the multifaceted tapestry of Australia’s wine industry. Employing a methodical approach, Lopes and Ross deliver a comprehensive exploration of the nation’s wine heritage, combining historical depth with contemporary perspectives to offer a complete examination of where Australian wine has been, and where they believe it is headed.

The 400-plus page book employs meticulous research, illuminating Australian wine’s evolutionary trajectory. It is incredibly well-sourced and tells a thorough story that enriches the reader’s understanding about the intricate layers of the region. Lopes and Ross’ writing style is characterized by its precision and balance between a scholarly lecture and an informal chat at a local wine bar, but never leaning too heavily on academic rigorousness. Some passages resonate more deeply than others, but the duo navigates a complex, intertwined strata of history, geology, sociology, viticulture, and oenology. In the process, they address a diverse readership ranging from seasoned connoisseurs to those seeking an introduction to the continent’s range of offerings but do so with uncommon fluency and accessibility.

No stone is left unturned in their exhaustive presentation, and the excitement felt throughout is palpable. Through eloquent descriptions and immersive storytelling, readers are transported to every region of Australia’s wine landscape. The book’s presentation is filled with fresh, modern layouts and proves a worthy companion to its intellectual content. Evocative photography captures the essence of the wine and terroirs they emerge from which they emerge and accentuates the vividness of the storytelling.

The book is resolute in its dedication to making things personal, giving due recognition to individuals steering the wheel of Australia’s wine fate. Lopes and Ross provide a generous amount of space to spotlight the artisans, vintners, and distillers toiling in relative obscurity and sometimes harsh conditions to live out dreams of making the best wine possible. This practice gives an air of humanity to an otherwise intricate and scholarly discourse, and anchors the relatable, authentic aspirations of the craftspeople at the heart of it all.

How to Drink Australian is an incredibly specialized book but feels universal in its overarching themes and relatability. Niche considerations aside, it stands as a book of high refinement that elevates the history, intricacies, promises, and potential of Australia’s place in the global wine conversation. Lopes and Ross deliver an engaging book both at the highest level and microscopic views possible, and much to their credit, never fail to tire in their exploration.


How to Drink Australian




Rob Theakston is a contributing editor to Drinkhacker.

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