Thursday, 26 December 2013

Lunch with Darby Higgs

Darby Higgs is the begetter of our favourite Australian website 'Vinodiversity'. We have followed this fantastic site from the beginning and applaude Mr. Higgs's untiring stivings on behalf of diversity in Australia and elsewhere.

We have never contacted another blogger out of the blue but we couldn't go to Australia without contacting Darby and he was gracious enough to agree to come in to Melbourne and meet us while we were there.

We agreed to have lunch at the Persimmon restaurant at the National Gallery of Victoria right next to the Arts Centre where Opera Australia was presenting 'Der Ring des Nibelungen'. There was no missing Darby in the lobby and we were soon deep in conversation about the Art Gallery, other galleries in Melbourne and all kinds of things other than wine.

Once seated at out table, Darby produced an amazing present for us, a bottle of award-winning Bianco d'Alessano from Salena Estates, South Australia. Bianco d'Alessano is quite widespread in Puglia but like Minutolo, was completely unknown to Slotovino until we were faced by a bottle.

We had had a feeling that Darby Higgs might be the kind of person to pull a fast one on us in that way so we had brought a bottle os something from London in order to be able to reciprocate. The point here is that Darby is an enthusiast who just wants to share his passion. He is a true Australian original. He has managed to travel the world and acquire unparalelled knowledge of many subjects, wine being only one of his interests, all through his own initiative and while holding down numerous important jobs in Education, Politics, Libraries, Universities etc.

Of course, wine was the main topic and among the fascinating stories Darby had to tell was the case of Australian Albarino. This grape had been imported from Spain and as all plant importations had to go through the lengthy process of quarantine and certification by the Australian authorities. Once given the green light, plantings were made on a reasonable scale before it was discovered that what the Spanish had originally sent was Savignin mislabled as Albarino. This was a blow to all the growers who then had to change the name of their wines.

One grower circumvented the problem by calling his wine 'Albarinot' - a brilliant and very Australian solution. There was an unfortunate and far-reaching consequence of this debacle though. The Australian authorities (CSIRO) abruptly ceased certifying imported grape varieties for fear of such a thing happening again and them being sued for large amounts in damages. So any vigneron wishing to introduce a new variety has to pay for the process of controls themselves which is a considerable sum. We found this rather sad.

Darby has just launched an on-line magazine for anyone with an i-phone and i-pad. There is also the book 'Vinodiversity'. Darby advises, consults, publishes maps and works on commission from certain wine merchants on oders through his site. He has just launched 'Effective Tweeting for Wineries, A guide to Wine Marketing on Twitter.'

An amazing person and lovely man!

1 comment:

Darby said...

Thanks for the kind words Robert. It was an enjoyable lunch and discussion.

I see from your other posts you had a successful trip down to the peninsula. There is lot's down there and you really can't do it all.