Calver / A glass of nostalgia brings back bad taste

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THE past, present and future walked into a bar. It was tense.

Richard Calver.

But the past is where comfort dwells; retro is cool, happening. Or, in my case, at least the extraordinary apparel that enabled me to pretend to be cool is memorable. It seems strange to get nostalgic about terrible sartorial taste: in the ’70s I wore an ensemble comprising a purple tank top, purple bell bottoms and red, white and blue high-heeled clogs. I had a pair of round Lennon sunglasses and the world was rosy.

All of these memories came flooding back recently when I was served a glass of Kellermeister Sable at the end of dinner at a friend’s house. It was the naughty treat at the end of a healthy dinner of steak and salad and fresh fruit. It was a moment with friends to savour.

“Get a load of this,” my friend said offering me an examination of the bottle. “And it only costs around $20.”

The first thing that gets you is the label: a couple resonating full ’70s elegance are displayed in a wonderful brownish hue. He has the full ’70s “porno” moustache, but it just doesn’t match the size of his large bow tie. He appears to be looking at the woman’s décolletage while holding on to one end of her coat collar, apparently about to wrest it from her. She is looking away into the brown-hazed distance, perhaps towards her drug dealer? She has a twin-coloured hairstyle that was popular in the early ’70s, a style I used unkindly to call the reverse skunk because it was a white or blonde stripe that ran the opposite direction of a skunk’s stripe. Kellermeister should be applauded for retaining this unique image. Evocative is an understatement.

So, I rang the co-owner of Kellermeister, Susanna Pearce (her husband Mark is the winemaker) and asked about the label’s derivations.

“The label was designed by the founders of the place, Ralph and Val Jones, in the ’70s,” she said.

The Kellermeister Sable label… designed in the ’70s.

“Their first wines were the Sable and two Moscatos. The label is a photo of their marketing person at the time and his wife. We’ve kept the label because it’s now retro and the Sable label will never change. It’s quite iconic,” she said.

I asked how sales were going.

“Really well. It keeps building even though it’s not a serious wine,” she said. “But you can drink it in winter to keep warm and pour it over ice cream in the summer.”

Sable is a blend of chocolate, ruby tawny, clove, cinnamon and brandy. It carries a heft: 18 per cent alcohol by volume. It is sweet and playful like the best companions. It went well with coffee. But when I sipped it on its own after my coffee was downed (caffeine addiction!) my tastebuds were not happy with the finish, too claggy, too ready to be poured over ice cream, as Mrs Pearce recommended.

The small glass I had may well have pushed me to the limit because the next thing you know, I’ve knocked what remained of the glass on to the tablecloth where the brown stain spread like a muddy rivulet that ran straight from the ’70s to the present day.

There were many apologies as the stain was attended to and I thought about the fact that the overwhelming thoughts about the ’70s were punishing me: hey, I remember watching Michael Jackson when he was black and I remember dancing disco style in a hectic but unco-ordinated way, partly attributable to the unfit footwear. I’m sure if I drank enough Sable I could do the same right now.

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present. – Bill Keane

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Richard Calver
Richard Calver walks, talks, thinks, drinks and writes passionately about wine, especially the wines of the Canberra region.

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