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Canberra Today 21°/24° | Monday, January 24, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

When parting is such sweet sorrow

Penfolds’ Carey Gully vineyard in the Adelaide Hills, which provides fruit for its St Henri shiraz.

“There is nothing better in saying farewell to celebrate it with good food and even better wine,” says wine columnist RICHARD CALVER

ON those cards they send around when someone leaves the office, I always write one word: “Devastated”. 

Richard Calver.

For those who are friends and know you well, there’s usually a laugh. For colleagues who you’re glad to see the back of, they usually get the irony. 

A recent farewell clearly fell in the first category and a mate is moving to Victoria now the lockdown is lifted here and as well as for our “Mexican” brethren. 

I had a farewell dinner for him where five of us toasted friendship, its necessity for mental equilibrium and as a human factor that was not able to be properly reinforced during lockdown. 

To match the smoked salmon entrée, we started with a non-vintage sparkling; a House of Arras, made in Tasmania. It is labelled Brut Elite Chardonnay Pinot Noir and is made in the champagne style. 

It was delicious with small bubbles, lingering mouth feel and a gorgeous peach and spice flavour. I paid somewhere around $55 for this drop. Another guest had brought a Mumm NV champagne, so it was a good opportunity to compare a French sparkling with the one from down south, yeeha, at around the same price point. The Mumm was darker in colour and the bead heavier. It was also a little heavier on the palate with a bready aftertaste typical of this style of wine, not unpleasant but not as finessed as the Tasmanian equivalent.

Was I surprised at this outcome, strangely agreed to by all guests? Well, pas de tout, as the French would say. I knew that House of Arras, winemaker EJ Carr’s Late Disgorged 2004 was named sparkling wine of the year in “Decanter” magazine’s January, 2021 issue. He beat a couple of heavyweight French champagne houses, including Krug and Bollinger. Go, team. 

My departing friend ensured that the quality of the wine to go with the main remained high. 

He brought a St Henri 2018, the Penfolds’ wine that’s been slugging it out for years in the shiraz stakes with the more renowned Grange. 

The St Henri’s better value for money, in my view. I knew that a 2018 is going for around $130 a bottle so the choice to say thanks, put it in my cellar and serve the wine I had in mind for the slow-cooked chorizo and sweet potato casserole main course flew out the window. 

When young, St Henri is not the soft earthy expression of shiraz that I experienced in drinking this wine on previous occasions, including having it presented to me as a farewell gift once. 

When young and fruit-driven it is not as complex as its aged counterparts, but it possesses a great silky blueberry taste that makes you forget the weight of the wine at 14.5 per cent alcohol by volume. Bravo for this wine all around, again without demur. 

With dessert we had tequila shots so the farewell was as rambunctious as you might expect. There is nothing better in saying farewell to celebrate it with good food and even better wine. And even my bad jokes went down well:

Every weekend I say: “Roger, you must stop drinking wine.” Luckily my name’s not Roger. AND. I asked a friend whether he knew how to say “farewell” in French. He replied: “Adieu”.


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Richard Calver

Richard Calver

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