I do miss having a glass of wine at a bar

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“I went to the bar and asked to see the bottle: it was a 2018. I asked for the 2016 as advertised, which was poured with a nod of apology and the wine was a different creature,” writes wine writer RICHARD CALVER, remembering the days of sharing a drink with a friend… at a bar.

A MAN walks into a bar… no, wait he can’t, they are all shut and it’s no joke. 

Richard Calver.

So, what is wine drinking from home like? Let’s explore.

Well, in part, it’s normal. Often, we have a glass of wine with dinner. That hasn’t changed. But I do miss having a glass of wine with a friend at a bar as a way of stepping out of the ordinary. 

Just pre-isolation I met a friend at Joe’s Bar in East Hotel. I tried a glass of soave. It was a Coffele, Castel Cerino. The list said it was a 2016, which is good because this varietal made from Italian Garganega grapes is renowned for how it takes on rich almond notes as it ages. 

The wine came and it had a good minerality about it but none of the more pleasant flavours that age brings and was too acidic for my taste. 

As they had served it by the glass, I went to the bar and asked to see the bottle: it was a 2018. I asked for the 2016 as advertised, which was poured with a nod of apology and the wine was a different creature, no longer acid-dominated but with a hint of yellow pear and much longer on the finish. 

At home you always get the vintage that was advertised but the funky ambience and the delicious house-made Italian snacks are missing: the antipasto plate that we shared was phenomenal. 

Plus, I would never have explored the depth of Italian wines that I have had the fortune to taste if it hadn’t been for Joe’s Bar’s proximity to home and the perfect place to meet a friend as a catch up. Weird that such events are already viewed through a benevolent, nostalgic haze.

I am isolating with my daughter and she has recently finished a wine course so one of the beauties of sharing wine at home is to hear her summary of its characteristics. 

With vegetables and rice to give the meal a lift we opened a bottle of the Collector 2019 Shoreline sangiovese rosé. This is a dry rosé. It was excellent value-for-money at Plonk, Fyshwick markets where I picked up three bottles for $20 each. But the grapes are grown in Gundagai and Collector is far from the sea. Whose shoreline I thought? 

I asked: “Is it because it’s awash with flavour?” and received an unappealing groan but also an analysis of what she thought. 

“In fact, dad, it is. Delicate, taste of red cherry, good clean acid, easy-to-drink.” 

So, another advantage of isolating is getting to know family better, including my daughter indicating that I have a disturbing sense of humour when I merely remarked on the topic of food and wine that coq au vin is not a type of vehicle. 

I must say that isolation has changed my tastes in television, too: I’ve taken to watching more documentaries. In fact, I watched a documentary on marijuana the other night. I think I’ll watch all documentaries that way from now on. Hah! 

The most discernible difference though is that, other than sharing a take-away pizza and a bottle of 2008 Burge Family Winemakers Olive Hill Shiraz red with a friend at the dining room table to commiserate on the closure of the gym we attend, there hasn’t been a lot of sharing in celebration. 

The virtual Friday night drinks I had with colleagues over Microsoft teams was a great idea but it was still a drink in my study rather than somewhere away from where I work in celebration of the week gone by. 

The isolation caused by avoiding COVID-19 will be viewed retrospectively as just an annoyance but already the distance from the normal seems to have become interminable. 

In times of rapid disruption and change, what we often realise quite painfully, is that all we have are experts on yesterday. No one is a true expert on tomorrow” –Gyan Nagpal



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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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