It coulda had sumpin to do wiv Pauline. In an old tasting notebook I found some sketches I’d made of her younger face. It seemed more pentangular then. I’d been bemused by the way her hair looked like a bushfire in the heavens above the map of Australia which her blood red lips formed below. I drew her with a little Tasmania there as a beauty spot.
I was scared of her. I knew too many people like her, who would like her. I knew she would surprise and excite the cityfolk, who have only diminishing understandings of the bush and the buggered, embittered old.
Other than the blood red lips, this hardly has immediate connections to wine, but I also think of what we drank then, and what we drink now. Like with fish ‘n’ chips and tomato sauce and salt wrapped in old newspaper so sometimes the fat made the journalism go all runny.
I’m shockin colourblind and I can’t see red like most of you do but I’d love it on those nights when the printers got too much ink loose on the big Goss press and there it’d be black and white and blood red in the fat and the bits of starch and shark. On a gastronomic note, I doubt that even the Devil knew what was in Rupert’s ink.
We were swamped in horrible Chardonnay then. The high-alcohol red fashion was on the build. Over half the wine we drank came from bladders. It was, and still is, the old bladder-kidneys-bladder routine.
Since, looking at Pauline, I should remark that like my narrow wincing lips, hers too have tightened and thinned. The map is flat now and it’d be a slight on beautiful Tassie to include it. No jokes. A doomed desperation. Shorter in the tendon; longer in the tooth.
I fear this is particularly a winter occurrence on my own account. It is cold. The Southern Ocean gales have gone but it has been very cold. The pruners are done; having first devoured my parsley and rosemary, the sheep are teaching their bonnie lambs to eat the weeds. The country rodents come inside to sit by the fire with Unca Philip. The lips tighten.
I’ve been thinking about winter and age and the way the desires alter. Like 20 years back, in winter, I’d likely be schlücking big rich alcoholic Barossa Shiraz. Not only was that somehow the wobbly front of international fashion, but it was pretty much all there was. Out there. Wobbling like jelly.
While a lot of beautiful old Grenache was being uprooted, there wasn’t too much going on in McLaren Vale 20 years ago. Other than Greg Trott, who usually seemed to be in the city having lunch with me or somebody so nobody else could get him. We plotted and schemed. He had great visions for his region, and his beloved Wirra Wirra. He’d love to see it now.
And what am I drinking? Leaner wines. Somehow the narrow chill of Riesling suits the wintry moods better than those fat reds did. I love the racy Chardonnays of the Yarra, like Oakridge.
Speaking of the Yarra, I have open two lovelies from Dominique Portet: both slender and whippy: a crunchy, appetising Fontaine Rosé 2016, with a tease of turkish delight its only hint of flesh, and an elegant, thoroughbred Cabernet 2015, velvety, perfumed and austere.
Back when Pauline was on her first ascension, I doubt such beautiful wines would have got much more than a smudge of attention in the wine column chips wrapper, with all that heady alcohol swilling round the reds and anything called rosé being a guaranteed sugar pot of raspberry. The last of all the great Grenache was going into lollypop rosé.
It was telling to see Pauline march into her old shop and scold the owner, Thanh Huyhn, a boat person from Vietnam, for not attending the fish market. She wasn’t to know those beautiful fresh hand-made dim sims in front of her were the source notion for the horrid extruded western version, the Chicko Roll, in which she’d specialised back in her day. Buy it by the metre; saw it off; fry. One eye, no doubt, dutifully watching that the level of butylated hydroxyanisole didn’t rise too far in her fat. You don’t want too much of that stuff in your fat.
I shall overlook her calling potato cakes “scallops”, which they are not.
Pondering all this in that place perfect for such dismal ponderings, the supermarket, I stupidly thought of trying a piece of modern culinary fashion, cutting edge, just as a sort of dutiful contrast to the Pauline Chicko. The Syndian Natural Food Products gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, Kosher, Halal Curried Pumpkin Bites caught my eye. I heated them in the oven, as instructed, and attempted to eat them.
This was something I shall never forget. The pumpkin world could raise a class action.
What happened later was stranger. It felt like the dark, reliable tunnel of my gizzards had been fed a long piece of anchor rope: the type made from THC-free hemp for navies in wars. It seemed to go from one end to the other without a hint of possible pull-through action. I got scared.
So what would go well with these Bites? The biggest, fattest, jammiest, gloopiest Shiraz on Earth might breath an illusion of life over their bones. And maybe mine. At least the Chicko had fat.
So? Light the fire, cook a steak, drink that delightfully easy, appetising Portet Cabernet and move across to a mellow highland malt, not too much water.
Try to write a column about wine. In which case, skip the malt. Open a Grenache from the vines outside and fill a little bowl with those amazing tiny olives from Coriole.
I’m sure we can get through this.
Local News Matters
Media diversity is under threat in Australia – nowhere more so than in South Australia. The state needs more than one voice to guide it forward and you can help with a donation of any size to InDaily. Your contribution goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. Please click below to help InDaily continue to uncover the facts.