Crisis! What crisis? Sunday lunch at my place. Sydney, Australia.

I sit writing this, a little hung over and very tired.

It has been said in the media by various financial gurus (probably the same bums that got the world into the trouble it is in, in the first place) that the best way to get out at the current worldwide financial crisis is for people to keep on spending.  Fortunately for my wife and I, we aren’t wealthy enough to have money to invest and our house is paid off, which of course means that we aren’t overly exposed to the financial chaos that is currently happening around the world.

When ever I travel in the developing World, I often find myself thinking about what some of the poor people in such countries must think when they see images from the developed world. I can understand how some people must look at such images and long for the lifestyle that is shown. Of course many of us in the developed world have the same longings.

Many people when they are asked what they most wish for, will reply that they wished they were rich.  I guess a lot of people want more money so they don’t have to work so they can relax and it would seem that a lot of people think that owning more possessions will make them happy. I think, that if I had a lot more money I would certainly travel more and of course I would like to build the dream home.  Nothing too ostentatious or grand, just nice.  Having said what I would do if I had more money I’d like to say that I don’t actually long for it and I feel that I have quite a nice life.

Actually, I have a bloody good life!

On Sunday, my wife and I had a late lunch with some oenophile friends (Brett and Cathy) who were visiting Sydney from Adelaide (for a mutual friend’s wedding) and who had brought along some extremely fine wine with them.  Both Brett and Cathy live near the Barossa Valley, which is Australia’s premier Shiraz, producing area and they know some of the most famous winemakers here in Australia.  I have another wine loving friend, Peter, who I thought would enjoy meeting Brett and Cathy so I invited him over for lunch as well.  When Peter found out what wine that Brett and Cathy were bringing and what food I was serving, he also brought over some of his best wines from his collection.

I enjoy drinking wine, but I find it very hard spending more $15 or $20 on a bottle of wine, because I just don’t think it’s worth it as I feel that I wouldn’t notice what the difference was.  I don’t think it would be a very successful strategy to start developing aristocratic taste for exquisite wines I can’t really afford.

Thanks to Brett, Cathy and Peter, my wife and I got to try some wines that were so rare and expensive that I’d never thought in my wildest dreams, that I would ever even get to taste them.  It’s just one of those things that I always thought that would be out of my reach much like the first world lifestyle offered to people of Third World.  Legendary stuff that you only hear about, but you never actually get to experience.

Brett Cathy Engogirl and Peter

Last night I got a glimpse what it’s like to drink the kind of wine that usually only millionaires can afford.  Don’t get me wrong, Brett and Cathy are not rich. They have been buying wine for the last 20 years, when it is cheap and putting it in their cellar until it is ready to be drunk.  Brett told me he bought the 1994 Hill of Grace that we drank, back when it was released for only $30. Unfortunately, the American wine critic Robert Parker found out about the wine and told the world how good it was and the price went through the roof.  If you wanted to buy a bottle of 1994 Hill of Grace today and you walked into a bottle shop you could expect to pay $500 for that wine.

So what can I say? I sure as hell wouldn’t pay that kind of money for wine, but tell you what, I’ll help you drink it!

Yesterday’s lunch exposed me to a range of experiences that I hadn’t encountered before. Firstly, I was a little bit freaked out about what food I was going to serve to complement and do justice to such wine. Luckily, my friend Peter gave me some solid advice, and told me that the truffle risotto that I had planned as an entree would be excellent, and he said that he’d bring some French pinot noir to go with it.  Peter then said that I should keep the flavours of the main meal simple so that wines that Brett and Cathy were bringing could be more fully appreciated, and not overwhelmed by strong flavours; so he suggested that I just cook a high-quality piece of meat and serve it with roast vegetables.

The long thing is a roasted kipfler potato

One of my faults is that I always confuse complexity with quality and it’s a good thing that Peter was around to make sure I didn’t make something unsuitable like a curry if I had of been left to my own devices.

Another thing that I found very interesting about being around people, who know so much about wine is that they just want to share what they have with other people.  Brett, Cathy and Peter have been so open-handedly generous to me with their wines. I guess there is hardly any point in having nice wine unless you can share it with friends. Brett and Cathy also made a very interesting point, when they told me that all the winemakers that they know are very down to earth and natural people.  Brett basically said, “look, they’re farmers and they’re not interested in poseurs”.

Brett

And I know what Brett meant when he said that, because I was at a dinner once, when one of the other guests, told me about his collection of Grange Hermitage (Australia’s most famous, and arguably best wine).  So I said to him to him, “do you drink it much?” To which he replied, of course not, it’s an investment! 

Call me kinky, call me weird, but I just don’t get that. 

He was the sort of guy that just wanted people to know that he owned a collection of Grange Hermitage, and for him it was obviously a status symbol.  As a matter of fact, I heard him say later on in the evening, ” oh, we were out on our 60 foot yacht the other day and the girls got really cranky with me because we ran out of champagne before lunch!” he kept referring to his yacht as a 60 foot yacht. I was asked later on in the evening, if I wanted to come sailing on the 60 foot yacht?

……….um……..

What does one say to such a question from such a person?  So my answer to him was, “sure”; knowing full well that I’d only go on board with him at gunpoint.

So, on Sunday, surrounded by good friends, I saw another, more natural and relaxed side of the wine scene.

So what about the wine itself, how was it?

In a word, great!

And so it should be!  The 12 wines, that the six of us (the sixth person was my wife’s uncle) polished off were worth well over $1000.

One of the rather strange and interesting things was, that we drank a French wine (1976 Chateau Cissac haut medoc) that was bottled in the same year that my wife was born.  It would be a safe bet to say, that not many of us have drunk wine as adults, that is as old as ourselves.

I’ll tell you what though, knowing all about wine can sometimes undermine your enjoyment of it.  As soon as Brett and Cathy tasted the Hill of Grace they both concluded that we had opened it too soon, and they should have probably left it for about another five years.  Needless to say, I didn’t feel that way about it, because I am so ignorant about such things.  As a matter of fact, I thought it was delicious, as was every other wine that was on the table. So much better than the “cleaning products” (to quote Tom Waites) that I normally imbibe.

Brett and Cathy also pointed out how some much cheaper wines, like the Wendouree can equal or surpass the much more famous and expensive wines, such as Hill of Grace.  I guess that’s where there the rub is. To get the most enjoyment and value out of wine, you have to know something about it.

I think I’m well on the way to becoming a wine wanker!

The only negative to the whole day was that I had to get up at 4am and drive Bret and Cathy to the airport. Now that was like a bad dream!

Below is a video of Cathy going for a skydive recently for her birthday

[youtube ovoJjrWVe5Y]