“Port is the preferred drink of clubby English gentlemen and deros who want a quick, cheap fix. That dichotomy tells you a lot about the quality range of this fortified wine,” writes RICHARD CALVER
AS you grow older, the memories of events that hardly seemed significant at the time take on more gravitas: the colours become bolder, the smells more pungent and the context more defined by what you have become.
Recently, the pink in a glass of fizz evoked the memory of a date in the early 1970s with a lovely woman who was wearing hot pants in a vibrant, eye-watering pink. I was a slip of a boy at 18, sporting shoulder-length hair and purple bell-bottoms. She was slightly older and had slightly shorter hair.
When I came to the door to collect her for the first date, her father roared at her: “You’re not going out dressed like that and you’re not going out with him.”
The door slammed on my vision in pink.
The current day pink that was so evocative was the colour of the Roxanne Petillant Naturel that Lark Hill, the Bungendore biodynamic winery, has on offer. It was served by AJ at the Mint Bar in Gorman House. Feeling the gloom at the end of the day we had wanted to celebrate. (Quick interpolation: A horse walked into a bar. The barman said: “Why the long face?”) I asked AJ: “What do you have in the way of champagne?”
“Were you after something local?”
“Well that wouldn’t be champagne as the French will quickly tell you, but rather fizz or sparkling wine,” I fire back. “But sure, what do you recommend?”
“Well, we sell a lot of the Lark Hill Naturel just on the colour,” he said.
“Okay, pour a glass and let’s see what it’s like.”
A glass was poured, and the colour was an astonishing, cloudy pink. This style of winemaking is becoming popular: the process of just serving up unadulterated, fermented grape juice. With this style, the wine is fermenting in the bottle. It has nothing added to it: the carbon dioxide creates the fizz and acts as the preservative.
The wine was a shiraz-based rose. It had an acidic hit that belied the vibrant pink colour. It was different, tangy and tart but fresh. The wine is advertised at $25 a bottle on the Lark Hill website. It sells for $13 a glass at Mint.
I spoke with Chris Carpenter, the winemaker from Lark Hill, about what had induced him to make the petit-nat: “Well, the colour with pinot noir that was the previous Roxanne was unstable, so we tried with a shiraz rose and the colour was permanent and was an iridescent red.
“Rather than go through the entire process of making a champagne, we bottled the primary ferment just as a bit of fun. But it works and the shiraz rose gives the wine so much red berry fruit character.”
I smiled at this explanation: my enthusiasm for the colour had been shared: it was one of the governing concerns of the winemaker in producing this trendy style of wine.
Would I want to drink petit-nat wines all the time? The answer is “no”, but as an experiment in having a wine produced at an affordable price as a bit of fun, the wine is a success.
It is certainly evocative of the fun that ensued from a father labelling me a “bad boy”: there were many successful, passionate dates that followed the “hot pants” fiasco. I remember them swirling a glass of that pretty, pink wine.
No memory is ever alone; it’s at the end of a trail of memories, a dozen trails that each have their own associations – Louis L’Amour