You can enjoy a drink in many ways and one pleasure of mine is mixing cocktails. I like the way you are in control, the freedom of ‘cooking’ and then moving up a notch when creating a signature drink. The great teacher was David Embury and he calls this pinnacle of the cocktail art, ‘rolling your own’.
These days I reflect a lot on the early wine trade and find its most creative and enjoyable time is not today, rather it was the 1960’s to 1980s. This period covered the great leap forward in wine quality, the opening of new regions, and an explosion of experiments with fizzes and pops, flavoured wines and really anything that might appeal to drinkers.
Years back there was a red sparkling wine, Lambrusco, made by the McLaren Vale winery Maglieri which had wide appeal, enough for the company to sponsor a yacht in the Sydney-Hobart race. The business changed hands and the sour mob of new owners turned off this enjoyment in the same way they no longer made the fizzes and pops that had once made them famous. Yes, I get how markets move on, I watched as the million case bottlings of Lindemans Ben Ean Moselle slowed, yet I see a lot of sweeter styles being sold and makers and retailers must never forget that exciting customers is our business.
Big companies want sure things, big retailers are so cautious and with a wine making hierarchy promoting quality and medals over all other ideas the thought of wine being an adventure has been lost. Time passed and I became a regular visitor to the old Maglieri winery to taste reds. The signposts were long gone, though I observed the frequency of visitors still searching for the real Lambrusco. An old retailer seeing a customer being turned away does not sit well but would they create a batch to keep the discovery going, no way.
I also feel for my neighbour uprooting his 65-year-old Semillon vines because the market has moved. No market should move from well made, well priced, tasty wine and something is not quite right. The appeal of wine is not about ridiculous concoctions like Treasury Wines 19 Crimes and nor is it about the Halliday Compendium which classifies wines and wineries as if they are insects. Wine is not a grand work of art, neither is it about the worth of your cellar, it is about opening a good bottle, and enjoying that moment. That is all it can be and to deviate from this view is to worry about the price paid, ratings, all the knowledge needed to understand the finer points, and even, ‘what will others think’.
Hardys in the late 1970s created an orange flavoured sparkling wine called Swinger which contained real bits of orange. These would slowly sink and flocculate at the base making the presentation less appealing. My morning job for a few months was to open the shop, go to the fridge and shake up the Swinger to bring back the sales appeal. The taste was brilliant. Time it returned.