Friday, February 4, 2011

Crossing the Mighty Murray

Dawn the next morning marked the start of another big day of driving.  Passing kangaroos in wheat fields, we crossed to the Goyder highway, which is the mark of arable land in South Australia over to the Murray River basin, near theVictoria state border.  The River is in Flood, but has not peaked yet at Redmark, where we crossed the bridge and floodplain. We left the Clare Valley, one of the key wine-making regions, and passed through ag towns to another wine region, the Murraylands.  More meat pies, and more roads to cover.

We debated which way was the best choice of direction - follow the Murray to Mildura and then south through the Grampian mountains, or south through more farms and vineyards.  Luckily we went south, as we found out later Mildura had 155mm of rain that afternoon and several homes were "inundated" (they use that word often here it seems).  The roads in the Grampians were closed and the area evacuated  - good split-second decision on our part, dodging clouds again. 

The drive was scenic, through rolling hills and crops, with many herds of cattle and sheep dotting the landscape.  Then into the wine area of Lockier, where a lunch stop at The Poplars winery and restaurant .  We learned alot about the Australian wine industry over a glass of Cabernet and Chardonnay.  Fosters, the export beer company, has in the last 5 years or so bought up much of the South Australian vineyards, including Wolf Blass, Lindemans, Pennmans, and many of the other brands we would see in Canada.  Then they get an export subsidy allowing them to pass all production costs off to the grape producers they buy from, and avoiding all the sales taxes of the Australian local markets.  They are not well liked, nor respected as vintiers in these parts.  Ummm, with the volumes produced in ideal conditions and relatively low-cost land, it certainly makes us rethink our Okanagan production options.  There would be no possible way to compete with Fosters Beer Conglomerate.

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