Winston Churchill’s champagne and Shiraz for troubled times.
Finding reasons to justify a cellar has never really been a struggle but preparedness for the shutdown of society has just rocketed to the top of the list.
To paraphrase Michael Stipe, “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I have wine.”
I’m halfway through a period of isolation because this time last week I arrived back from a trip to a distillery in Oregon. I’m in an empty house, away from family, so I had to put together a list that my partner could fill from the cellar and drop around to me in my confinement to lubricate the loneliness.
I called for a bottle of Champagne. Pol Roger seemed the obvious choice, because like the House’s greatest fan Winston Churchill, “In defeat, I need it.”
Sangiovese from Tuscany and Nebbiolo from Piedmont, because in Italy’s darkest hour, it’s good to be reminded of the joy that place can bring.
Pinot noir, from Burgundy, New Zealand and here at home because when there’s ugliness all around us beautify is an island that can be reached by swimming through a bottle of pinot.
Riesling because…well, just because it’s riesling. It’s purity feels cleansing.
And a selection of wines made by some of my dearest friends, people just popping their head up from the trench of the toughest vintage in recent memory just in time for a blood big boot to kick it.
It’s the next best thing to actually drinking with them.
There’s hard liquor too, because I’ve convinced myself, against all wiser teaching, that higher proof alcohol is an internal disinfectant.
And then there’s the mixed six-pack of Wendouree. No other producer is better represented in my cellar and I’m not alone in considering it Australia’s single greatest Estate. I’ve always said that if the time came, I’d toast the end of the world with Wendouree cabernet Malbec. At least now I’m prepared.
Why is Wendouree so special?
Primarily, it’s a great vineyard, but also the fact current custodians Tony and Lita Brady have made the wines for the last five decades in the same way the Birks family did it for eight decades before them.
Int times of stress and uncertainty, investors seek safety in gold. Wendouree is my gold.
And then one last bottle I specifically called for, a bottle, that like the Wendourees, is a direct link to another time.
A bottle to remind us that there can still be stability, that the old ways can survive and the foundations we’ve laid can be built upon again.
This is it.
Ox Hardy ‘Slate’ Shiraz 2018, McLaren Vale $8-.
Andrew Hardy is known to all and sundry as Ox. He is the black hole into which the balletic grace disappears. He walks the earth as though his footfall is the only thing stopping it floating off into space. Yet his wines are anything but cumbersome.
For a long time he steered the ship at Petaluma, all the while devoting what spare time he could find, to the vineyard he loved above all others.
Hardy, along with his brother and sister, owns the famed Upper Tintara vineyard in McLaren Vale. They inherited it from their father Bob, who loved it so much he’s still there, taking his eternal rest on a wooded hill looking over the vines. He got it through an inheritance sequence going back to his Great-Grandfather Thomas Hardy who bought it in 1871.
Over the last year, Hardy has released a serious of eponymous wines from the vineyard that attest to its reputation as the grandest of the Vale’s crus, but this latest release in the most intriguing.
The property also contains the ruins of the old Tintara winery, including five slate fermenters in various states of sturdiness. Hardy restored one, resealing it with wax and filled it by shovel with destemmed shiraz fruit from the Moreton Bay block of the vineyard. Asked why he didn’t fill all of them Hardy replied, “I’m not sure they’d all stand up to it. I could risk filling one, but I couldn’t afford to lose all five.”
The wine is beautifully composed ode to the pat, made out in the open in fermenters that had sat dry for almost a century. It’s full of dark plums, boysenberries and boot polish, licorice and warm spice. It’s the structure that really strikes you, as sooty, shaley tannin impression that is utterly unique. A sepia snapshot from another time, a reminder that amid great change you can still follow the threads of continuity. A timeless wine for troubled times.