My initial reaction to the campaign by McLaren Vale winemaker Stephen Pannell to ask Australians to pledge to drink only Aussie wine in January was phew! Well at least we can still drink French Champagne on New Year’s Eve!

As Rebecca Gibb reported in her article,  Aussie petition accused of protectionism,, 24 November 2010, Pannell has caused a bit of controversy with his online petition, All for One Wine, which invites people to pledge that they will only drink Australian wine from 1 January to 26 January 2011 (Australia Day!)

I can understand why the Kiwis aren’t happy about the campaign (Australia is New Zealand’s biggest export market for wine), but accusations that Pannell’s promotion amounts to protectionism are surely not justified. After all, he’s not asking retailers to pull the foreign stuff off the shelf, he is just advocating that consumers buy local wines for 26 days (not even a whole month)!

Shortly after I had read the article about Pannell’s campaign, I drove out to my nearest Dan Murphy’s to stock up on some Xmas grog! Not the biggest Dan Murphy’s in the country, but still numerous aisles of mainly Australian and, yes, New Zealand wines. Despite the impressive selection, however, I was actually struck by the omissions. Of the approximately 2,300 wineries in Australia, I’m guessing that only a couple of hundred at the most were represented!

So I really think Pannell has a point when he says that he sees the campaign as an opportunity for Australians to “discover incredible local wines, and celebrate the rich diversity and quality that exists in this country.”

Yes, New Zealand makes very fine sauvignon blanc, but so does Australia! Dandelion Vineyards, Geoff Weaver and Shaw & Smith are just a few of the dozen or so top wineries in the Adelaide Hills region, for example, that are making superb sauvignon blanc.

And, when recently researching a post on chenin blanc, I discovered the Coriole Chenin Blanc 2009. Fresh, lively and clean with spirited tropical fruit characters and aromas, it’s a great alternative to sauvignon blanc and a very good example of how a growing number of Australian wine producers have embraced and mastered a wide range of alternative varieties!

So thinking again about what to drink at the party we’ve been invited to on New Year’s eve. No, I probably won’t turn down a glass of Krug if offered (!), but I am going to bring a bottle of Centennial Vineyards NV Methode Champenoise Pinot Noir Chardonnay – a great Southern Highlands’ sparkling and one of our highlights at the 2010 NSW Wine Awards Top 40.

In his book, Small is the New Big, Seth Godin advocates ‘zooming.’ In a nutshell, it’s about doing the same thing as usual, only different, or, in other words, stretching your limits without threatening your foundation. So if you’re passionate about French Burgundy or New Zealand pinot noir, for example, see January as a perfect opportunity to try the best quality pinot noir from the Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley or the Macedon Ranges. Odds are you will discover exceptional wines of quality and good value for money that you wouldn’t have considered if you hadn’t made the pledge!