The subject of wine has allure, fable and mystery interwoven within its being. The practice of buying wine should also be a romantic experience, right?
Driving slowly through the entrance, you’ve been looking forward to this all day. You steer the car into the next available park. It’s busier than you expected, nevertheless you stretch out wide and inhale that fresh air. You’re in no hurry and take in the views and scenery and a tractor whizzes past. There are other people making their way back to their cars with bottles and cartons, chattering happily. Ahhh! This is the life! You saunter leisurely over to enter the sales room, and you stop to read the sign above your head:
DAN MURPHY’S. What?!
Sorry, did I forget to mention that tractor was towing supermarket trolleys?
We’ve all done it – made the not-so-romantic trip to our local bottleshop. But when did we choose convenience over romance?
A bottle shop offers a diversity of varietals, styles, regions, labels. However, there are more and more overseas wines competing with our home-grown beauties on a bottleshop shelf. Why are we buying New Zealand wines, but preaching about buying Australian oranges? And talk about killing the romance. If my hubby brought home a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, I’d have to say “Not tonight honey. I’ve got a headache.”
A cellar door is never going to offer you 4c off your fuel, or ask for Fly Buys. But when you open that majestic Hunter Valley Shiraz, you’ll recall that story the sales person at the Cellar Door told you. You’ll boast to your friends about how the block was originally drafted as a Graveyard, how the 2007 Vintage was particularly good for the Hunter Valley. And that’s if you even want to share these quality wines with your friends!
Like many people, I have two wine racks. The farcical yet innocent frontline display of “quaffers” that can be viewed by visitors; and the hidden delights of the never-never wine rack that select few will ever patronise. The two collections tend to also be divided in their contents – the public viewing contains mostly bottleshop purchases and the secret vault hides most of my special occasion/’touch and you die’ wines. The rationale? Sometimes you loved a wine so much you just want to keep it all to yourself – a monogamous relationship. Having to pour another glass for a guzzling mate would just be sacrilege.
And that’s just it. Cellar Door wines tend to have that special quintessential romance that is just lacking in a bottle shop purchase. They are not just fermented grapes in a glass vestibule. Cellar door wines have the essence of terroir (place), handcrafted components lovingly melded into a distinctive product. A bottleshop purchase is just Everyday Rewards points and a standard wine that you’ll consume and forget within 24 hours. At a Hunter Cellar Door your wine will be love at first… taste. Cellar Door Only wines are often smaller production, higher quality and in more interesting styles than monosyllabic and barcoded supermarket wines. This is where winemakers bring their love to the table, their expressions of taste or specialty. The cellar door is where winemakers spruce their talents and at the same moment, share their passion, stories and infatuation with you.
It is this cultural capital that you collect as you venture from Jan at Gartelmann to Kathryn at Wandin Valley and back to see Sharon at Leaves & Fishes for a fabulous lunch. In a day you could learn that your favourite variety is Viognier, especially with French oak, and that you’re not a fan of wild yeast wines but are in love with a good Charmat Chambourcin.
And even better? You’ll have learnt the lingo, pronounced everything perfectly and understood what it all meant. Brad at IGA Liquor has never been this insightful. Not only will you have a wonderful time, you’ll be more popular at the water cooler on Monday morning, crooning about lovely Hunter wines and the even more fascinating Hunter gossip.
So if you need an excuse for your next weekend to the Hunter Valley just remember that it’s all in the Romance. It’s not about the sentimentality of a naughty weekend in the Hunter Valley, nor is it the beautiful and relaxing scenery or the marvellous dining opportunities (those are just the bonuses)! It’s in the nostalgia of a great cellar door experience. Besides, a great bottle of Hunter Valley Chardonnay is better than a postcard for those pokey neighbours you are always trying to out-do.
(And if you can’t make the trip – search out Hunter produced wines at your local and go to the festivals – it will keep you going until romance can flourish once again!)This article was published in Breathe magazine – Autumn 2011 ” Hunter Valley Food and Wine Month Editon”.