A termite walks into a bar…

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TWO Sydney friends arrived for a sojourn. They are amongst a number who haven’t connected with my latest “walk-into-a-bar joke”. So, see how cryptic you think it is:

Richard Calver.

A termite walks into a bar and says: Where’s the bartender?

Okay, so my mate doesn’t get it until, excruciatingly, I explain it by reference to what termites eat… wood, the bar. His missus groans twice. Elevated by this reaction he says: “Oh, what about this one, it’s better:

A weasel walks into a bar. Wow says the barman, I have never in my life before served a weasel, what can I get you?

“Pop”, goes the weasel.

Groans and smiles aplenty.

We decided to have dinner where spicy food prevailed given the autumnal night temperatures and we went to Abel’s Kopi Tiam at Manuka.

The Ravensworth 2017 sangiovese was the local wine of choice. I suggested that we order this wine not only because of its extraordinary compatibility with Asian food, but to show off some of the best wine from the region. At $49.90 a bottle in the restaurant, it is not cheap. I saw a website where it was retailing at $28 but with the clear indication it had sold out at that price. But it is well worth the expense. It complemented the chilli lamb and the duck dish.

I mentioned to my friends that Bryan Martin, the owner and winemaker at Ravensworth, is also the winemaker at Clonakilla, the vineyard that carries the Canberra district’s shiraz viognier as a flagship wine. And that I knew Bryan from when I worked with him as a writer for another journal.

My friends murmured praise for the balance in the wine, a good mixture of fruit and savoury with a very clean, lightly tannic finish.

I called Bryan feeling guilty about disturbing him during harvest, but he told me he was already at the bottling stage. I asked him if he had made the sangiovese as a food wine rather than a quaffer.

“My background in cooking, I used to be a chef, meaning that this was the first variety I planted,” he said.

“Abel’s food is sort of left field for sangiovese but I made it to go well with savoury food, particularly because of the acidity and fine tannins. This wine doesn’t need a big block of meat to go with it, it can take Asian vegetables.

“Abel has had it on the wine list for a long time as he thinks it goes well with the style of cooking he adopts. Doing Malaysian food, he doesn’t need to do wine, so it’s good that he’s chosen this one.

“Sangiovese is our biggest seller. We can’t make enough. We make close to 1500 cases and they sell out within months. I kept some back for Abel. We have released the 2018 now, from March.”

So dear reader, get some in quick before Bryan sells out this vintage.

Bryan tells me that he now makes 18 different wines but the majority are Italian-based grape varieties including some wines that are not within the popular lexicon: corvina, montepulciano, fiano, primitivo (zinfandel) and rondinella. I had to admit to never having tasted either corvina or rondinella so a trip to Murrumbateman is on the cards.

The dinner and the wine were a success. It is sharing of these moments of good food, good wine but above all good friends that marks the best in life… even sharing those groan-filled dad jokes.

Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.” – Elie Wiesel


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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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