THE Hunter Valley wine industry, which each year attracts more than 2.2million tourists and generates an annual regional income of about $520.6million, is being put under the microscope in a University of Newcastle study.
The four-year, $170,000 project, funded as part of the Australian Research Council (ARC) 2014 Linkage Program, is now under way and is examining the role the Hunter Valley has played in influencing the nation’s drinkers to switch from beer to wine.
It is focusing on how Hunter Valley producers have changed Australian culture by creating a taste for their wines.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported last April that beer consumption in Australia had more than halved since its peak in the mid-1970s and was now at its lowest level since 1945-46.
Beer’s proportion of Australian alcohol consumption had fallen to 41per cent while wine’s share had risen to 37per cent.
The research team is headed by chief investigator Professor John Germov and includes Newcastle University historian Dr Julie McIntyre, Dr David Dunstan of Victoria’s Monash University and Professor James Simpson of the Carlos III University of Madrid.
John Germov is pro vice-chancellor of the faculty of education and arts at Newcastle University.
Julie McIntyre is a University of Newcastle lecturer in history and author of First Vintage: Wine in Colonial New South Wales, which won a 2013 Gourmand International Publishing Award for Best Drink History in Australia.
David Dunstan is a university teacher and the author of numerous books on the wine industry.
James Simpson is professor of economic history and institutions and has written extensively on the wine industry.
The team’s study is titled Vines, Wine and Identity: the Hunter Valley NSW and Changing Australian Taste, and it is enlisting the collaboration of such leading Hunter wine identities as Brian McGuigan, Jay Tulloch and Phil Ryan, and the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association and the Newcastle Regional Museum.
Professor Germov said the Hunter Valley wine industry included more than 120 wineries and 230 wine-related businesses and the research project was the first historical sociological study of the region.
‘‘The Hunter’s role in this changing drinking culture has been pivotal, yet little is known about the region’s wine-producing community, or how wine production has shaped regional identity while it has contributed to a change in national taste for wine,’’ he said. Dr McIntyre said Newcastle was the only Australian university actively undertaking interdisciplinary wine studies research in the humanities and social sciences.
‘‘This will be the first time the story of the Hunter’s wine history and heritage will be presented to the wider community. We expect it to become a model for future studies of wine region identity and influence,’’ she said.
WINES from Hunter-based producers won six major trophies at last week’s 2014 NSW Small Winemakers’ Show at Forbes.
The much-garlanded McLeish Estate 2007 Hunter Semillon from Robert and Maryanne McLeish’s 11-hectare McLeish vineyard in De Beyer’s Road, Pokolbin, was judged the show’s best white wine.
The Mount View Estate 2013 Reserve Hunter Chardonnay won the trophy for the best boutique white wine of show.
The other Forbes trophy wines from the Hunter were the Drayton’s Family 1978 Port Blend, the Hart and Hunter 2011 The Hill Shiraz, the Briar Ridge 2013 Dairy Hill Shiraz and the David Hook 2014 Reserve Riesling, made in the Hunter from Central Ranges grapes.
The trophy for the best red of show was won by the Moppity Vineyards 2013 Hilltops Single Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.
Other trophy winners were the Ravensworth 2014 Canberra District Riesling and the Charles Sturt 2010 Reserve Tumbarumba Sparkling.
The Forbes show is open to all NSW and ACT wine producers that crush a maximum of 500tonnes annually.
The awards presentation dinner will be held on Saturday, September 20, at the Forbes Services Memorial Club. All trophy-winning wines will be served at the dinner, the cost of which is $80 per person. Further details can be obtained at nswwineshow.com.au.