The Western Bulldogs will play the Sydney Swans in the AFL Grand Final on Saturday.
The Bulldogs (formerly Footscray) haven’t won a flag since 1954 – two years after the first commercial Grange release. Peter Gago was three. The Dogs were founded in 1877 – the year McWilliam’s founder Samuel McWilliam planted the first vines. Halliday gave 2014 McWilliam’s 1877 Hilltops Shiraz 96 points. At $80 a bottle (two cartons of VB and three packets of Nibble Nobbys Nut) it has nothing else in common with Footscray. They’re working class: more Stone’s Green Ginger Wine than Grange (Carlton). They’re everyone’s second team: 99 percent of Aussies have never agreed on anything. Until now. The Age wine writer Jeni Port loves her red, of course, along with white and blue. “I met my future husband in January 1976 – 40 years ago this year – and he took me to my first Bulldogs match in March of that year,” she says. “It was Footscray versus North Melbourne at Arden Street. We lost. It was like that for many a year, I can tell you.” After last week’s stirring Preliminary Final win Jeni tweeted: “Keeping up the Footscray standard. Starting our second bottle of Moet to celebrate one of the greatest evenings of our lives.”
Loyalty is a beautiful thing. Imagine supporting a group of human beings for four decades through the wind and the rain, the shit pies and the heartache – and never knowing what it feels like to win the only thing worth winning. That fancy silverware would stand out in Footscray. Quealy Wines’ Kevin McCarthy’s grandpa was president of Footscray. “His name was Dr Kevin Aloysius McCarthy,” says Kevin, “and he lived in Footscray with his five sons.” Lallemand’s Jason Amos follows The Scray. There won’t be enough yeast in the world to make the VB needed. So, Jeni – 40 years. “Hope it’s a good omen of some kind,” she says. “My husband, Gary, is third-generation Footscray-born. He has been waiting all his life for a Grand Final run.” I slept in Footscray once – with one eye open like a junkyard dog – at a caravan park near trains, planes and automobiles before the 2007 Big Dance. The next day we caught a bus to the city and a lad in a Footscray guernsey got on carrying a big old-school TV – he got off a few stops later and stumbled down the street with his arms outstretched carrying the Rank Arena. I’d been to a lot of Grand Final parties before but never one with BYO TV. Footscray, do it for the burbs. The underdog. Do it for Jeni Port. And Gary. “It’s going to be an emotional week,” says Jeni. “Dare we dream…”
This is an updated version of The Week That Was published last Friday. To subscribe to the wine industry’s most popular e-bulletin visit wbmonline.com.au