Meat and fish.. what wine to order?

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“The food was ordered: my friend a rump steak and me swordfish. This was a dilemma. What wine could suit both dishes? He wanted to order a red. I wanted to order a white. So, it was either wine by the glass or a compromise,” writes wine columnist RICHARD CALVER

A GOOD friend indicated that he wanted to eat and drink somewhere different. I suggested lunch at Rebel Rebel in New Acton. 

Richard Calver.

Another friend had reported that it had a great feel and was informal yet offered fine dining and a great range of wines. And who doesn’t like a place that calls itself after the 1974 David Bowie song of the same name and includes the memorable line: “Hot tramp, I love you so?”; something I recall shouting out of tempo while dancing at an Auckland Law School party as Bowie pumped through the sound system. 

The food was ordered: my friend a rump steak and me swordfish. This was a dilemma. What wine could suit both dishes? He wanted to order a red. I wanted to order a white. So, it was either wine by the glass or a compromise. 

We compromised because I said I’d pay for the wine. We ordered a rosé: La Violetta YE-YE Pose Rose 2017. He muttered that rosé was generally a winemaker’s after thought and long gone were the days when you turned to Mateus rosé as a way of getting your teenage date tipsy and I was as far from that trope as you could get. 

I said that you could now get Mateus for under $10 a bottle and it was good as a punch-bowl filler with fruit and rum or just drinking something on a hot day that looked pink and anodyne like his face after some time in the sun. This induced a harrumph. Aussie male banter rules. 

La Violetta YE-YE Pose Rose 2017.

The wine came and it had a marvellous label: the YE-YE in capitals with the first E in a bold red. It took a while, but the brain remembered: Ye-Ye was a singing phenomenon of the 1960s, Europe’s attempt to respond to the Beatles and the upsurge of rock music from the US. 

The mostly sickly-sweet lyrics were tempered by a resolute sexuality that came over the trenches and stormed the machine-gun emplacement with the breathy “Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus” by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg released in 1969 to shock and scandal because of the evocative susurration that emulated the sounds of love making. My friend was annoyed when I warbled la la la la je t’aime, but suitably sotto voce. 

The wine’s back label reinforced this memory. There were two lines in French that were attributed to Serge Gainsbourg:

J’aperçus une roue de vélo à l’avant,

Qui continuait de rouler en roue libre

My schoolboy French was insufficient for an adequate translation; at the time I gathered that it was about a bicycle that had been seen and it had a connection to freedom. 

My friend and I gave Gallic shrugs as we poured the wine. It was dry and initially bright but not otherwise remarkable, unlike the metaphors that the labelling triggered.

On subsequently checking via an internet search these are two lines from a song where Gainsbourg meets Melody Nelson while she is riding her bike and she cuts in front of his Rolls Royce and there is a collision. The song has a salacious finale where the narrator tells us Melody had red hair and that was her natural colour. A veritable translation of the two lines is:

I see lying there in front of the car

The wheel of a bicycle still spinning.

I cannot see how these lines or the French Ye-Ye movement had anything to do with the wine: the gap between the imagery and the wine’s substance was immense. 

The internet tells me that the WA winery that has named itself La Violetta is also linked to the name of a song that derives from Piedmont in Italy and, to me, also appears somehow removed from the Aussie wines that are produced, albeit wine, women and song appear to be a trilogy without peer. Something worthy of a song or two. 

“I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.” –George Best 

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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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