Truly creative people are frequently driven to publically, exhibitionistically realise their vision — not so much out of pure ego as out of a strongly held conviction that what they have to say is worth saying. The monuments that result can be sublime, grotesque, revelatory or ridiculous, depending on your point of view. But as time marches on, a canon forms, constantly evaluated and re-evaluated, challenged and affirmed. This hierarchy born of informed consensus validates the artist’s drive, and transforms an artefact into a standard against which other contenders are judged.
And so it is with Max Lake’s vinous legacy. Anyone who has taken the time to read his books can be in no doubt as to the passion he felt in matters of sensual pleasure, nor in the confidently expressed perspective from which his work sprang. I see Lake’s Folly as an integral part of Mr Lake’s oeuvre, as expressive and intellectual an artifact as his written works. Lake’s Folly wines are often discussed in terms separate from the mainstream of Hunter wine, and yet his Cabernet and Chardonnay are glorious exceptions that prove the two Hunter rules of Shiraz and Semillon. By being different, and successful, Lake’s Folly wines have carved a niche for themselves but also, ironically, have reinforced the Hunter’s classic styles. So Mr Lake’s belief both in the Hunter and in Cabernet are truly vindicated.
It is widely suggested that Lake’s Folly had a huge impact on the Australian industry. I’ve no doubt this is the case. For me, though, it’s about what I have in my glass tonight: Max Lake’s vision mediated via the (not to be underestimated) care and attention of Rodney Kempe. This is a beautiful expression of what wine should be. There’s nothing wishy-washy about its style or the intent behind its creation. That a wine can be simultaneously coveted, detested, discussed and dismissed speaks to its integrity. Tonight, I’m thinking about what wine in Australia might have been without Max Lake, and what it might be without him now. Surely, a glass of Lake’s Folly red is my only consolation.