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Date: 23 June 2014

Today's Topic: Soldier's Block Wine of Australia

Triggers: Reading the wine label

My Grump: Great story, sour aftertaste

I bought a bottle of Soldier's Block Australian Shiraz in the wine shop, and for a tenner it was a really acceptable wine, very elegant, with beautiful lengthy tannins that kept your tongue interested for several hours.

A few glasses later, I was beginning to think I was onto a winner here. And indeed, I have not a bad word to say about the wine.

I picked up the bottle to look at the label and to have a read of the label. The label said: "Soldier's Block Shiraz is made from grapes sourced from vineyards in the Langhorne Creek region. Delicate red fruit and herbal aromas open up to a palate of ripe mulberry and plum fruit. The fine-grained tannin and vanillas from the oak, work in balance to deliver a wine of poise and elegance." How true!

Soldier's Block wine from Australia The front label reads: "In celebration of the "Returned Soldiers Settlement Act" of 1915. When returning Australian soldiers were rewarded with 'blocks' of land, which led to the planting of vineyards, still in use today."

Below this statement is a wonderful picture of 30 or so soldiers from the First World War, and the statement, 'Coming Home - Australia 1918'.

I thought, "what a wonderful story". That really makes my heart feel glad, that these men came home from the war, and were given plots of land by the Australian government, or "soldier's blocks" as they were known, so they could start a new life, independent and free of war. I felt really good about buying and consuming the wine, and thought nothing more of it as I put the bottle in the recycling bin.

You'll not be surprised to hear that next time I was passing the wine merchant's store, I went in and asked for "a Soldier's Block Shiraz, please". "Ah", the merchant said, "you sound as if you know what you want, I reckon you've had this one before", and did, as all smarmy little wine merchants do, proceeded to tell me what a good choice I had made, and that it was also one of his favourites. Well bully for you.

I took the wine home, and opened it that evening. Again, I was congratulating myself for finding something so worthy and proceeded to read the label again.

It dawned on me that World War 1 was 100 years ago, and all the TV programming for the next year or two is going to be about the history of WW1. So I decided to investigate this Soldier's Block story a little more, and see what else I could find out about it.

That's when it all fell apart, really. Soldier's Block wine from Australia

Yes, the Australian government had some land of its own to give away, which it did, millions of acres of it. But they also confiscated prime farming land in the reserves that belonged to the Aboriginies, and gave that away too.

Your average government calls it compulsory purchase, but the way it was done was just outright theft in anyone else's book. Pretty much the same as the Americans stole all the Indians land for the price of some coloured beads and a bottle of snake oil, and squeezed them onto wasteland reservations.

I should have guessed really shouldn't I? The 'Returning Soldier's Settlement Act' is bound to mean something sinister and unfair is going to happen to somebody else. You wouldn't need an 'ACT' otherwise, would you? Making it government policy is how you justify taking something that doesn't belong to you and doing it 'legally'.

I guess the Brits did the same in Africa, didn't we? We took the land and then forced the previous owners to work for us before sending the profits to the UK.

On that basis, I think the importers of this wine should insist on the following correction to the front label of this wine: "In celebration of the "Returned Soldiers Settlement Act" of 1915. When returning Australian soldiers were rewarded with 'blocks' of land, at least some of which was previously confiscated from the Indigenous Australian population, which led to the planting of vineyards, still in use today." At least it satisfies Trades Descriptions, doesn't it?

Things are never quite what they seem, are they?

Please share your thoughts below, thank you.



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