Bottle shop turns on the wine and cheese

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“My concern, and one that becomes a daily personal reality with my increasing reliance on computers at work and at home, is that we are in danger of disconnecting from any form of community,” writes wine columnist RICHARD CALVER, imbued by a night at a local bottle shop. 

FACEBOOK knows I like wine: I receive a constant barrage of offers and articles on the subject in my news feed. This Big Brother intrusion is somewhat annoying and disturbing. 

Richard Calver.

However, there is occasional gold amongst the dross. Ironically, it isolated an event at the Kingston Foreshore where I could celebrate the local, meet people and help Prohibition, the bottle shop, celebrate 12 months in operation. 

My concern, and one that becomes a daily personal reality with my increasing reliance on computers at work and at home, is that we are in danger of disconnecting from any form of community. 

In the same context, with an immense variety of wines available through on-line ordering, is the local bottle shop a viable option for the future? 

I hope so, because the evening was edifying and entertaining and brought strangers with a common interest together. When Herman Melville said: “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibres connect us with our fellow men,” I don’t think he meant a connection through NBN. 

The evening was about showing how a range of cheeses matched with a range of Tyrrell’s wines, a Hunter Valley based family operation that has a long history. It was first established in 1858 and has expanded its operations to Victoria and SA. 

The connection of wine and cheese is often associated with the local because of common histories: think Italian Asiago cheese paired with Chianti, which originated in a nearby region. 

But as Tanna Korsten, the representative from Simon Johnson Quality Foods, our cheese presenter on the night, said the synergies between wine and cheese run deeper than proximity. They are both fermented products, they both benefit or degrade with age, depending on varieties, and mouthfeel is a very important component of each (old, related joke: a man assaulted me with milk, cream and butter. How dairy).

Mark Richardson, a Tyrrells winemaker for 27 years, was an equally articulate presenter; Mark and Tanna aka Sonny and Cher. Richardson was especially keen on demonstrating how terroir or where the grapes are grown, even in the same vineyard complex, can have a remarkable effect on the taste outcome of the same variety. 

The first pairing we experienced was two 2014 semillons, a classic Hunter Valley varietal. These wines were served with an extraordinary cheese, an Aphrodite Galotyri that was described as a Greek shepherd’s cheese, made with sheep and goats’ milk. It had a stunning freshness, and was soft and unctuous. 

The semillons were both single-vineyard grown, a Stevens and a Belford Semillon. 

Richardson explained that the Stevens vineyard was founded on a combination of light sand and red clay soils. The wine had a citrus burst with the acid finish that you expect from semillon, but at five years of age was softening nicely to get a more balanced wine. The Belford vineyard is about 10 kilometres away from the main vineyard and the soil is fine, like talcum powder. Same year, same variety yet this wine had greater mouthfeel, a pebbly depth and a much softer finish. 

How the local matters is expressed not just with people and human connection but in its conversion from a distinct fruit to a final product. 

There were many more wines consumed on the night, including an unusual “mystery” wine. Those gathered were asked to blind taste the mystery wine and guess its variety and age. All failed. It was a 2019 Gamay, a varietal I had only tasted as a rosé when I biked the Loire Valley in 2012. The Gamay has a sweet finish, is light bodied and the main tastes for me were raspberries and earth. But good on Tyrrells for making something non-orthodox, because Big Brother detests the unusual. 

“Orthodoxy means not thinking–not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” –George Orwell, “1984”


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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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