HUGH Johnson knows wine. He wrote the preface to the best secret Santa gift I have ever received: the book “1001 Wines You Must Try Before You Die”. And, in that preface, he says: “The finest wines can go unappreciated and wines of much lesser status can create moments of sublime enjoyment.”
The tale of trying a wine or wines from the book can wait. This is, instead, a tale of two “lesser” wines that gave the sublime enjoyment Johnson speaks of: context is everything. The place, the company you keep and the situation, the ambience, delivers the most worthwhile of memories.
The first wine was served at the 2017 Savour Awards for the ACT run by the Restaurant and Catering Association. The awards were recently held at the Hyatt Hotel and I was kindly invited. The wine that appealed was the Taylor Made American Oak Malbec, 2015. The wine is almost “chewy” with plum flavours, very fruit driven, although the tannins are firm. Malbec is usually associated with Argentina where it is the main grape variety grown. It is a meat lover’s wine. On the menu was superb smoked duck for entrée and slow-cooked beef cheeks for main. The wine complemented the food and the conversation turned to gauchos, large grass-fed steaks and South America being firmly on my companion’s bucket list (Rio before Argentina, though). There was dancing but no tango, more of a tangle. It was a night where you just didn’t care that you missed your favourite TV show. We left with large smiles: but none wider than on the faces of the owners of Wild Duck, which won restaurant of the year.
The second was a wine plucked from the latest release by my wine club. It was chosen from the latest dozen sent. The context this time was a farewell. I have turned my back on trying to get intermittent rentals for my small cottage at Tathra and I was doing a final clean up before tenants move in for six months. I was being fed a farewell dinner by a lovely neighbour whose young children are six and four so a meal with them is an adventure, especially as the four-year-old is channelling fairies. Home-made pizzas were the fare de jour. And the Jackson’s Hill 2017 Pinot Grigio worked perfectly.
A glass of this green-apple, fresh-flavoured, soft wine has enough acid to cut through pizza and was as light and airy as the dancing four-year-old fairy. In fact, the bottle went as an aperitif before we even sank our fangs into the still-baking crust! As the wind whipped up and jumpers were pulled on over flowing, floaty dresses (except for me, although I would donate to that charity Do It in a Dress) I knew that this would be a crystalline moment where the sharing laughter, the eager chat of happy children and smell of the ocean would stay with me in my mind’s eye for a long time.
Jackson’s Hill is in Orange, NSW and the region is planted to 40 per cent white and 60 per cent red wines. It produces grapes defined by its altitude, extending from 600 metres to more than 1000 metres, and related cool-climate characteristics. The area produces wines of good quality. I reckon a glass of an Orange Pinot Gris or even a bite into a green apple and the happy Tathra farewell will return.
“Every man’s memory is his private literature.”
? Aldous Huxley