Talk about misfortune – this one must have come from on high.
A friend of mine from Kobe, a Ms. Tomomi Adachi, arrived in Melbourne earlier this year with a working-holiday visa and desire to taste kangaroo.
A week later the country was locked down.
Not being able to work, and not really knowing anyone besides me, she moved in. We spent the next six months watching Japanese movies, cooking (at least she got to try roo) and tasting wine. Wanna learn another language? Move overseas. Wanna learn about wine? Move in with a sommelier.
She’s gone now, spirited away to a far-off land called Mildura, where she’s picking cherries for an extension to her visa. She sends me weekly pictures of the strangest looking ones.
But then, a couple of weeks ago, on my birthday, she sent me a cryptic message: ‘Tibbs appears on page 658″.
My natural problem-solving instincts, honed through countless Escape Rooms, kicked in, and it didn’t take me long to figure out what it meant.
The reference was to a character in a Roald Dahl short story, The Butler, part of a collection I owned that she had been reading to practice her English. I opened the book to the correct page and found…another clue. The game was afoot!
Led on a perplexing jaunt through my own apartment I eventually came across the ‘treasure’: A birthday card, a box of those lindt balls that you scoff all in one go, and a bottle of wine she’d picked out for me. It wasn’t expensive, it wasn’t rare, but still, I loved it.
This was on a day when I would otherwise have been drinking something stupidly pricey, probably from the old world, in a restaurant.
I’m a bit over drinking crash-hot bottles with the aim of ticking off a ‘to-do’ list; a series of unlock-able achievements in some vinous video-game. Wines drunk and wines enjoyed are two very different things. So what makes a wine truly pleasurable to drink? I think it’s all about context.
A friend tells the story of drinking a 2 euro bottle of rosé on the water in Bandol, south-east France, and thinking it one the finest things he’d ever drunk. Finding the same wine back in London revealed less-palatable results.
We’ve all got those wines and wineries that will forever be a bit spesh simply for the circumstance in which we enjoyed them. For me, anything by Hurley Vineyard in Mornington Peninsula, for one. Many years ago I drank one with a girlfriend, cheese and chocolate under the covers one evening, an event that was known forever after as the ‘Friday Night Bed Picnic’.
Or there’s Penfolds 389, drunk with my stepdad at The Australia Club on my 21st birthday.
Or there’s the house white in a hole-in-the-wall seafood restaurant in Pisa next to the market on a humid night whose provenance and varietal remains a mystery but its taste is steeped, like fresh bread in mussel sauce, eternally in my memory.
And now there’s Nanny Goat Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2019, from Central Otago, found hidden by my friend after a treasure hunt through my apartment.
Is it the greatest pinot noir I’ve ever drunk? No, but it will always hold a fascination for me.
Dark blue fruits, juicy plums and a hint of walnuts and cumin on the nose are touched up with a fragrant spray of cherry juice. There’s a good mix of crunchy and stewed fruit on the front on the palate and the tannins are fine and distinguished. There’s a soft glide of acid that leaves a long finish at the back of the tongue, though not nearly as long as it will live in my memory.
See if you can find it.