A toast to Oz wine
Chateau Chunder looks at the evolution of Australian wine

In 1972, Monty Python had a sketch that went by the name, Chateau Chunder. Making a farce of Australian table wines, the iconic British comedy merely voiced what all believed; that Aussie wine was "not a wine for drinking but for laying down and avoiding".

More than 40 years later, Australian winemaking is leading the global market and depicting that climb is an ABC documentary, satirically named Chateau Chunder: A Wine Revolution.

Delving into the history of Australian wine using the infamous Python sketch as its starting point, Chateau Chunder tells of the small group of enterprising Aussies who took on the world and won, changing the way that wine was made and marketed.

With such a topic, anyone would think that the man at the helm must be a well-versed wine buff - but chatting to writer and director, Steven Oliver, this proves not to be the case.

"I have no background in wine at all, which was great because I could come to it objectively, without pre-determined opinions or knowledge," he said.

"Wine is often a bit serious but we wanted this to appeal to a wider audience. I wanted this to be accessible and engaging for normal people who like to have a glass of wine with dinner but who don't really know much about it, because that was me before I started making this film."

If Oliver didn't know anything about wine before he started, he certainly does now. The research process was a lengthy one with the film featuring extensive archival footage from the 1970s to the present day plus Australian, English, French and American winemakers, marketers, merchants and critics.

"We put a lot of time into trawling through the archives," Oliver said. "There was no shortcut. If it wasn't good enough, we just looked deeper. An important part of that process as well was choosing our interviewees. The most important thing is that you get someone with an important story to tell.

"I wanted people who had a deep knowledge and history in wine making - such as Robert Hill Smith at Yalumba and Bruce Tyrrell at Tyrrell's. Those are the people who have lived it and whose parents have lived it."

As the story of how Australian table wine went from "laying down and avoiding" to standing up and celebrating, Chateau Chunder reveals all the key moments leading to Australia becoming the toast of the global market. As for WA, Oliver didn't forget to hold a soft spot for our local wine region.

"I really liked Cullen Wines down in Margaret River. They make a bio-dynamic wine, small quantity but really high quality. We tried some amazing wines there," Oliver said, before laughing and adding: "Keeping in mind of course that I'm talking to a West Australian."

'I wanted this to be accessible and engaging for normal people who like to have a glass of wine with dinner but who don't really know much about it, because that was me before I started making

this film.'

The West Australian

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