Who's on first, What's on second, I don't know who's on third! In an uncertain and ever changing world, it is often comforting to know somethings don't change or at least some aspects of life give the appearance of timelessness, which lend comfort and security to mere mortals as the specter of eternity haunts our human psyche. So from time and memorial or at least what seems like forever, two nations have come to be synonymous with wine the fruit of the wine and the work of human hands that makes glad the human heart and many a lover of wine has gained solace from those sources of joy and the knowledge that some wonderful things don't change. And if we asked any number of wine drinkers which nations they may be, the resounding response would of course be France and Italy. And if pressed further and asked what two countries export the most wine to the United States, the answer from consummate oenophiles would again be France and Italy, but those so-called wine experts would be wrong, indeed. For the first time since any one can recall and what appears to be forever, France is no longer one of the top two exporters of wine to the United States, even though she remains the planet's second leading wine producing nation behind Italy. And lest one thinks that this phenomenon has anything to do with the recent political unpleasantness or the quality of wine or lack of from America's oldest ally, he or she would be mistaken. The most recent figures, which corroborate this stunning change and have been echoed by several independent sources, are from 2002 before the political upheavals of 2003. Moreover, international critics, Americans included, agree that French wines on average have never been better, and we heartily concur. So who's on second, you ask? Presently, Australia, with its laid-back manner and the visions of boomerangs, sprawling sheep ranches and the desolate Outback that still pervade many Americans' views of the world's smallest continent, does indeed supply the United States with more imported wine than any other nation, except Italy. The general response has been: How and why did this happen? Well, the simple response is rather quietly and methodically. For the past twenty years, Australia has been steadily increasing its vineyards and wine producing capacity, and now contains some of the most modern and efficient wine producing facilities in the world. Australia has also engaged in a tremendous marketing campaign in the United States and around the world, but most importantly, the quality, value, and styles of Australian wines suit us and are easy to pronounce. From Australia one can purchase a case of a decent, simple inexpensive Chardonnay or a staggering dense old vine Shiraz that could pay most regular folks' mortgage for a month, but in any case the consumer knows what he or she is getting. So twenty-five years ago when Australia desperately needed to reshape its export picture because the worldwide demand for wool and lamb had been waning for years, Australia embarked on a great experiment to bolster its fragile balance of trade, and fortunately for us wine won and not vegemite. As an international wine club, C&H is committed to offering our members the highest quality and variety of wines we can find from all of the world's leading wine producing nations, which now include Australia as well as the United States. For the record, only Italy, France, and Spain fashion more wine than the United States, while Australia constitutes the world's eight largest producer of wine up from twentieth place less than two decades ago. However, with only twenty million or so inhabitants, Australians must export or perish. Not even Australians, known for their unshakable thirst, can drink that much wine, so we will do our best to bring you more interesting wines from the movers, shakers, and rising stars from all over the Land Down Under. and elsewhere.