It was an innocuous comment tacked on to the end of an interview about beer, which had more than a grain of truth about it ...
"Winemakers are the most conservative beer drinkers I've ever come across. They'll buy pallets of imported, expensive, variations on mainstream lager, rather than their domestic equivalents," FogHorn brewer Shawn Sherlock said to me in January, before the start of vintage in the Hunter Valley.
Obviously, Hunter winemakers read everything I write - especially if it's wine related - and, so, in retrospect, it was inevitable that a lot of these winemakers that Sherlock called out reacted to his comments the only way they knew how ... By buying cases of independent domestic equivalent beers and posting them on Instagram for all to see, and to prove him wrong ... for this vintage, at least.
"It's a good point, to be honest ... I mean, we all complain about there not being enough Hunter wines on wine lists around the place, and then, in the same breath, we go down to the bottle shop and buy cases of Peroni, and that type of thing," winemaker Mike De Iuliis says. "And, sure, I've been guilty of that too, because sometimes you just want a beer that's got no flavour and it's cold, but there's plenty of Aussie brewers doing that now, so there's really no excuse."
In the subsequent weeks after the story was published, a lot of Hunter winemakers have been working up a thirst, crushing grapes, and looking for ways to slake said thirst with a tidy selection of non-imported, independent adult-beverages from quality local brewers, near and far.
"We've been sinking a bit of local stuff from Rogue Scholar, and the Mullet Pale Ale in cans from Shout Brewing, which is an awesome beer," De Iuliis adds.
"I've been drinking Shawn's beers forever," says winemaker Usher Tinkler. "FogHorn's Newy and King Street Pale Ales have been my go to beers to drink during vintage for ages. I'm stoked, now I don't have to drive all the way into Newcastle to get them."
Mount Pleasant winemaker, Adrian Sparks has been offering end-of-day refreshments for his vintage cru with a few cans of frothy goodness direct from the local GI.
"We've got a case of Summer Ale by local guys Ironbark Brewhouse in the fridge, and we've been drinking Hope Estate Pale Ales throughout vintage, which is a cracker beer," Sparks says.
Meanwhile, winemaker Andrew Thomas remains unbothered, with Peroni in hand.
"I'm all about supporting the little guy, but, at the end of the day, every day during vintage, I'm focused on flavour, flavour, flavour ... trying to nail the flavour in my wines. So, by the end of the day, I'm shagged, and all I want to drink is a crisp, refreshing, and relatively flavourless beer. One that I don't have to think about too much," he says.
Says Sherlock: "What can I say, it was a tongue-in-cheek comment looking for a bit of a reaction from the winemaking guys. I guess it worked."