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The perfect Christmas. A glass in one hand a book in the other

Christmas Day itself can be as exacting as it is enjoyable and you would not be showing the correct spirit if you take yourself into a corner with a book just as the turkey arrives.

But there are quite a few holiday days to follow where a glass of great wine and a great wine book are a great combination. The perfect Christmas.

We have two books for you. Or for you to buy as presents for known winelovers. Highly recommended not just by TML but everyone who knows anything about wine in Australia. And the world for that matter.

Australia’s First Families of Wine by Richard Allen and Kimbal Baker
A perfect Christmas This Magnificent Life
Image: Kimbal Baker

As with many human pursuits, the booze business is increasingly dominated by mighty conglomerations.

Quite understandable. The pursuit of profit by economies of scale.

Bigger may not always be better but in the global economy today it helps to maximize returns.

A perfect Christmas This Magnificent Life
d’Arenberg Wines Chester Osborn (Image: Kimbal Baker)

We like to think that wine is different. We believe the best comes from a sense of place and an identifiable human input. Well defined sites, carefully managed by people who have come to know each row, who have learned to encourage the magic from each years crop.

Almost all wine made across the globe in nowadays pretty drinkable.

And there is plenty of it.

To stand out you must have a story. An authentic history.

The Brown family Image: Kimbal Baker

What better story than a family who has been at it for decades or centuries? For four, five or six generations.

Assembled here is not just one family but eleven – Australia’s First Families of Wine.

Richard and Kimbal (writer and photographer with enviable experience in their fields) introduce us to these families with a book released to mark the 10th anniversary of their coming together.

The perfect Christmas. A glass in one hand a book in the other.

The family wineries are: Brown Brothers, Campbells, d’Arenberg, Henschke, Howard Park, Jim Barry, McWilliams, Tahbilk, Taylors Wines, Tyrrell’s Wines and Yalumba.

I bet you’ve tasted one of their wines.

Maybe they made some of your all time favourites.

A perfect Christmas This Magnificent Life
Image: Kimbal Baker

Australia’s leading wine commentator James Halliday AM explains in his foreward to this book the reasons behind these families coming together and the benefits of their shared passions.

Be sure to read it before you turn slowly through page after page telling you how it looks and feels to be part of this magnificent Australian heritage. 

About two pages to a sip should do it. That makes for a perfect Christmas.

Available at good bookstores or check with Melbourne University Press

Champagne Guide 2020-2021 by Tyson Stelzer

A perfect Christmas This Magnificent LifeIt always does our hearts good to see fellow Aussies recognized around the world as a leaders in their field. Many times it’s sporting teams, but in arts and science we often generate global applause and respect.

Tyson Stelzer is sitting right at the top of his tree, a glass of bubbles in one hand and a pen in the other.

Today he smiles politely when people say he must have the best job in the world, necessitating, as it does, a tasting of every wine he reviews. To most it would all be great fun.

A perfect Christmas This Magnificent LifeBut this is serious heads down stuff. The detailed research, the assembly of photos, references, maps and histories and the amount of original writing in this nearly 600 pager is truly awe inspiring.

This is the sixth edition of this vital work.

The first 80 or so pages are vintages, vocabularies and thoughts on Champagne’s place in the world today, and its likely trajectory for the future. The rest of the volume talks in detail about 127 Champagne Houses (How many of those could you name?) and reviews their wines, 834 in all.

It’s a big world and headwinds are predicted.

Each year 4159 growers, 395 houses and 42 co-operatives lob some 302 million bottles into the world.

Tyson says: “The Guide is purposely not an overview of them all, but rather a behind the scenes introduction to the very best, the most important and the most interesting.”

Taste Champagne This Magnificent LifeThis is not a completely rosy picture. Tyson is fearless in his reviews. Listing wines spoiled because of bad corks, criticising some current practices, and down grading some bubbles you may have thought unimpeachable. As an ‘outsider’ who has travelled the world and evaluated many more wines that most of the locals he is a passionate encourager of all to continue to lift their game in the approaching global challenges.

Make room on your shelf

Some enthusiasts will already have the first five editions and can re-read the legends of the Champagne region’s growth and direction. Also they can confirm Tyson’s evolution as a writer of world note.

Both stories are fascinating.

If bubbles to you are just pop and giggle, save your money to put on a horse.


But if you really appreciate how one region has developed one of mankind’s finest pleasures, this book should be in your collection.

Hardie Grant is the global distributor. The eBook is also available – go to

Wishing you all a perfect Christmas.





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Ian MacTavish

Mr MacTavish is a celebrated writer and one of Australia's more respected Wine reviewers, appearing regularly in national magazines, in print and on line. So far, he has never been heard to say 'no' to a wee dram.

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