Melbourne, Australia. 1996. The Australian housemates I lived with in Melbourne were an inspiration and shaped some of my better personality traits thanks to their good example. But before this turns into an Oscar acceptance speech, they also taught me about wine :§)>
Not in a ‘swilling Blue Nun’ way or a poncey ‘Oh Marjorie can you appreciate the delicate nougat-y bouquet’ sense. Nope. They taught me about how a great wine can complement a great moment, event or context.
One sunny long weekend we drove down the peninsula to go camping for three days on Phillip Island. Judging by the big backpacks you’d think we were going on an expedition with Scott and Shackleton. Each pack was full of food, pots and pans. And as I found out, my pack contained all the booze.
So after a first day of trekking for seven hours at a leisurely pace we decided to set up our tents close to a babbling brook with great views across a forested valley. I’m not the most athletic guy so the days trekking really did take it out of me.
I definitely was looking forward to getting stuck into some food. In no time, the tents where up and some spicy fried chicken and fragrant rice was already being cooked up.
Then a bottle of red wine was produced… Vine Vale Black Shiraz.
Even thinking of its name now so many years later makes me tingle.
Sitting there on a little rock looking into my little bowl of chicken and rice with the cool fresh air on my face was idyllic enough. My belly was furiously welcoming the first bit of food it had seen since breakfast. The scent of eucalyptus trees, fresh pine & spicy chicken was filling my head. My ears were soaking up the sound of the crackling fire, my fellow trekkers horseplay and the nearby stream trickling away.
And then I tasted the wine!
It was an Australian red Shiraz and had the most incredible fruity flavor I’ve ever tasted before, or since. In that context, every single sense was experiencing a moment of clarity.
I looked around and said to my friends “I’ve never tasted wine as beautiful as this before”. They cracked up laughing at me in a playful way. Fair enough. Maybe I was tired and hungry and any wine would’ve seemed like manna from heaven but I don’t think I was wrong. Experiencing that wine in that context was just a flawless moment, a perfect alignment of the planets with every thread of time and space meeting up at this one little point. It’s something I’ll never forget.
The downside of course is that I continuously tried to find the wine again. Any wine seller I went to for years afterwards knew nothing of it.
Had I dreamed about this wine?
Was it a hallucination?
Was I just getting the name of the wine wrong?
Move forward 10 years and now I’m living in Dublin Ireland on the far side of the planet from where I’d tasted that lovely wine. After moving into my new place I visited the local award-winning wine shop and struck up a conversation. With me pretty much telling the same little story I’ve just told you.
The shop owner laughed and explained that the bottle of Shiraz was actually made by a winemaker called Peter Lehmann who has since gone on to set up his own wineries. And he’d just got a stock in of some of his latest wines!
So here I am… Sipping a glass of Peter Lehmann wine and happily reminiscing about a beautiful moment in time. Even just writing about it makes me smile remembering the spicy chicken, the walk, my friends, the babbling brook and the only bottle of wine whose name I can ever remember.