Thursday, February 03, 2005

How Do We Learn to Love Wine?

You know how when you’re a kid you love Kahlua and Milk but wine stinks? How do we reach the point where wine becomes pleasant (alright, an obsession)?

I have two very distinct wine-related memories from my childhood. The first is a scene from Daddy Long Legs (an appalling film with Fred Astaire and the revoltingly saccharine Leslie Caron). It is a balcony scene where ol’ Fred and young Leslie are having breakfast and they clink their OJ glasses together. That subtle act is misconstrued by nosy parkers as evidence of an affair (surely paedophilia) because “nobody clinks orange juice”. Hmmmm, I thought, at the age of 7, don’t they? So I promptly made sure to clink my OJ, my coke, my raspberry cordial, but definitely not my water! The second wine-related childhood memory is even more obscure. I recall another charming quote whereby a man states: “A woman’s breasts should fit inside a champagne glass (no, not a flute you tit), as more than a handful is a waste”. Maybe it wasn’t a film, maybe it was Oscar Wilde. Maybe it was my friend Beryl. Can’t remember.

The point (I hear you beg)? The point is, how did these snippets of information feed into my psychic template of the enduring grandeur of wine and champagne? Dunno.

Regardless, at the tender age of 15, I rather precociously and memorably announced to a bunch of 70-year old golfers that the Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec on offer was “not bad for a cocktail”. I recalled at the time that the words on wine labels usually denoted the variety of grape from which the wine was derived … hence the ‘cocktail’. What I was doing drinking wine at 15 with 70-year-old golfers is another story (and not as sordid as you might think!).

Now as a supposed grown-up, I find that my wine knowledge has not expanded exponentially with my increasing years. For example … I recently discovered that sometimes wine labels do not denote the grape from which the wine is derived (shock, horror) … sometimes wine labels tell fibs!!! One of my all time favourite cab savs, for example, is actually a petit verdot (gasp!).

Well. But does it really matter what’s in wine, how it’s made, which type of oak (if any) it’s barrelled in, what the sugar content is, or whether the vintner is a cross-dressing Albanian nun? Who cares, as long as it tastes good, right? Well kind of … I do wish Tamar Ridge well for the sake of the region, but knowing what’s in it (Gunns $$) I can’t bring myself to like it because I can’t bring myself to drink it. What a dilemma!

And what of the wine epiphany … the discovery of a joy-inducing wine that becomes one’s personal holy grail? Alluring, tempting, intoxicating, and yet unattainable (just like me really). Such was my tale of woe, twice. Recently with Lalla Gully Sauvignon Blanc (see my bit on Stillwater River Café), and in the past with a Moorilla Cabernet Sauvignon.

Aaahh, the Moorilla. It was 1993 and there used to be a little wine cellar around the corner from Salamanca that had the most wonderful array of secrets and lies. I found a bottle of Moorilla Cab Sav … 1986! It was only $18! Naturally I bought it, but a word from a wise man made me too scared to drink it (“Only $18 for Moorilla … be careful, be very very careful”). So I was careful. I took it to a family function with half a zillion cousins who I don’t particularly like. Opened the bott. Splashed it about the place like a great big show-off, and downed the one sip left for me in one great gulp. Oh my god. What had I done? It was honestly the best wine I had ever tasted.

It took me another 10 years to realise that no matter how much I pestered, Moorilla were not going to magick me another bottle of the stuff. Quel domage.

These days I still know little more about wine than I did at 15. My palate and nose have been educated, but not my viticultural knowledge banks. But I still know what I like. I like wine. And champagne. Who could ask for anything more?


No comments: