Wallet-crushing in search for ‘something spectacular’

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“I wanted something spectacular. On the wine list were a couple of Barolo’s, the Italian wine from the Piedmont region made entirely from the varietal Nebbiolo,” writes wine columnist RICHARD CALVER stepping out for the first time in a while. 

SOMETIMES you can be walking down the street and in your mind’s eye you look back at your youthful self, remember what you were like or what you said and express an involuntary sharp outtake of breath or even suffer a shudder. 

Richard Calver.

I recall when I was in my twenties, a friend once shared a deep sense of disappointment with me. Coldly, I said: “Yep someone famous said life is 90 per cent anticipation and 10 per cent regret.” How’s that for a complete lack of empathy? And annoyingly my current search for who proposed that aphorism failed. 

But anticipation was something that recently became palpable; it was building for my first post-isolation venture to a bar. 

I was hoping that there would be no regrets. I met a friend at Joe’s Bar at East Hotel for late-afternoon drinks. 

I wanted something spectacular. On the wine list were a couple of Barolo’s, the Italian wine from the Piedmont region made entirely from the varietal Nebbiolo. Both were at a wallet-crushing $160 a bottle. I rationalised paying that amount for a 2012 Trediberri Barolo by reminding myself that I hadn’t bought more than one tank of petrol during lockdown and I was supposed to be in New York in May where I would probably have spent a great deal more on food and drink each day. 

The wine comes from the Western part of the Piedmont region. The poetry of geography: Berri is a small village in the westernmost part of La Morra, located in the Langhe hills of Piedmont, close to the Tanaro River. 

The 2012 Trediberri Barolo… a wallet-crushing $160 a bottle.

The first part of the name of the vineyard derives from the fact that there are three winemakers who first produced Barolo in 2011. Their second attempt was good: it had white pepper and clove on the nose and an intense fruit flavour that at first was overwhelmed by the tannins, famously high in this varietal. 

Considerable air was needed before the wine reached equilibrium. It was excellent at that point although some of the vibrancy of this style was missing; we reckoned it had reached its peak 12-18 months ago. It went very well with the bread, meat and cheese. 

I’m glad I had a lash out. Roll Piaf’s Non, je ne regrette rien (sorry I don’t know an Italian equivalent). 

The whole process of having the wine brought to the table, the look of the colour, the pouring for the taste, the swirling in the glass and just being surrounded by heat and comfort was wonderful. The wine was very good without being stunning. That didn’t matter, we were out and about, there were even four other people there (same outtake of breath as referred to earlier). 

As a side note, I have had the Ravensworth Nebbiolo 2017 and frankly I prefer this local wine to the Trediberri, although the comparison is unfair given the difference in vintages. 

The weird component of getting out of home, though, was that the whole time, two police officers were in the lobby of the hotel. Two police cars were parked outside. We asked the woman who served us: “what is happening with the police. Were they expecting criminals?” She said no but that the hotel was populated by people who had recently returned from India and they were in forced quarantine. The police were there to ensure that the people didn’t leave. On the walk back, I felt like I had escaped twice, once from home and once from the hotel. 

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called. –AA Milne

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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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