WHEN I arrived in this town in 1998 there was a joke I was fond of telling, especially to my Melbourne friends, the burg I escaped from:
Q: “What’s the difference between Canberra and a carton of yoghurt?”
A: “The carton of yoghurt has a living culture.”
That’s a joke I’d never share with Cagil “Charlie” Dagseven, the owner of a new cafe called Brew and Brew set up since August on the ground floor of the Minter Ellison building on National Circuit in Barton. He is energetically passionate about Canberra, its wine and the “educated people” for whom he makes coffee and pours wine.
He’s almost unstoppable on the subject: “I’ve grown up with Canberra wines. They are 100 per cent. They are what I sell to the people from the offices around here; offices and homes. They think it’s fabulous, that I have a small but only Canberra wine list and beer, too; the Canberra Pact Beer, it’s very good.
“The people around here, they are aware of the quality and they don’t have to visit the wineries to know that I’m giving them something from where I live, from where I grew up that is my passion, it’s really important that I can give them something I’m proud of.
“I want the point of difference to be quality, the quality you get from the best riesling that’s made and a, wow, shiraz viognier.
“I’m loyal to Canberra for a reason and that’s because the educated people, here, this location, they know that these wines are special, they never let you down. There’s nothing from a cask.”
Dagseven’s loyalty to Canberra comes from his deep connection with the place as a 17-year-old when he arrived from Turkey. His father was part of the Turkish embassy and he stayed on in this town after getting a degree in business management from the University of Canberra and a qualification in hospitality from the Canberra Institute of Technology.
He says: “I have been trying to make something of myself and Canberra has given me that opportunity.”
Dagseven has a staff of 10 serving coffee, breakfast and lunches, and on Thursday and Friday late afternoons into the early evening, a good selection of Canberra’s wine, beer and, more recently, gin made by Tim Reardon. The place is abuzz with noise and coffee queues on a normal weekday and the weekends for functions, a haven for those who want to surround themselves with noise and people and the sound of life happening all around. The noise and crowd seem never to stop.
Dagseven stocks five whites and five reds. The choices are chalked up on two boards above a wooden bar. He takes his wines from a number of local wineries including Clonakilla, Nick O’Leary, Ravensworth, Mount Majura, Helm, and Eden Road.
In his “Australian Wine Companion” Oz Clarke marks Canberra winemakers as independent with a “rebellious” view on life and the region a “must visit” for the quality of the wine. That brave outlook on the wines of this region has a companion and promoter in the likes of Dagseven who is fiercely loyal to his adopted city and whose abiding passion is helping to make the city feel comfortable with a culture of quality.