Best Wife in the World (and Why I Write about Wine so much)
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about some of the passionate winemakers we’ve met during our trip and how great it was to see how excited they were about the wines they were pouring for us. It’s easy for me to understand their passion. After all, they had nurtured the grapes through the growing season, most likely had to deal with weather-related issues, figured out the optimal time to harvest, then did the cellar work before the still unfinished product could be bottled. Many parents don’t spend as much time with their children.
What I have been less successful in understanding is my own passion for wine. Sure, I like the buzz I get from having a glass or two, but it’s something more than that. I think I’m amazed that something so wonderful can be made from grapes that are not too much different than what we might buy in the store. My travels through the wine regions of New Zealand and Australia have only reaffirmed this feeling. It’s truly exciting being in different places, tasting the way Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir grows in these countries and seeing how much more they have to offer than the wines they are known for, Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand and Shiraz in Australia.
We have been very fortunate on this trip to taste some special wines. A new-found friend was kind enough to open a bottle of 1997 Australian Shiraz from Mount Langi Ghiran for us and both the anticipation and experience were unbelievable. Here we were drinking a bottle of wine that my friend was patient enough to store for 15 or so years and it was shocking to see how the flavors of the the fruit still came through, while at the same time the wine had aged and had mellowed into greatness. It was definitely one of many highlights on our trip.
Happy to share his wines with people who appreciated them, he later (a different day) opened three Cabernet Sauvignons from Wynn’s Estate in Coonawarra from 2006, 1996 and 1993. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, the oldest of the wines had stood up the best.
We also met some wine lovers when we visited the Kilikanoon cellar door in Clare Valley. When I asked if they had any older vintages of the Rieslings they were pouring, the woman spent 15 minutes searching the area until rounding up a bottle of 2008 Riesling and sharing it with us even though she could only taste and spit since she had just started some kind of cleansing. We also were fortunate enough to do a vertical tasting of Rieslings from Raidis Estate in Coonawarra with the winemaker and loved the experience.
But my excitement is not limited to tasting older wines. I love trying varietals I’ve never had before or that isn’t typically grown in a specific region, and Australia has been a haven for some of those. We had an Arenis (an Italian white grape) at Mount Langi Ghiran that they were trying to get rid of at $10 a bottle that was very good. Alpha Box & Dice in McLaren Vale experiments with all types of different blends like Sangiovese and Tempranillo with Cabernet Sauvignon, while Yelland & Papps in the Barossa Valley made some exceptional Grenache and Roussanne. We also bought a bottle of inexpensive Frizzante from Hollick Wines in Coonawarra that had a spritz that was perfect for our fatigued wine palates. And many wineries here have Bordeaux-like blends with some combination of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec that have been fantastic.
With a few days off here and there, we have for the most part been wine tasting in New Zealand and Australia nearly every day over the past eight weeks. I must have the best wife in the world who has allowed and encouraged this to happen, but there are days when Jill will ask me how I can still want to go wine tasting. I think it’s anticipation of the unknown. That maybe they’ll be pouring something special or that I’ve never had before or that is only sold at the cellar door. It’s kind of like going to a sports event, where anything can happen on any given day. I feel fortunate to have been able to explore my passion all around New Zealand and Australia and also to have worked in the industry, which I hope to do again whenever it is that we return.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to cut this short. We’re heading off to a winery in Margaret River, known for producing some of the best Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in Australia. Cheers.