A Lesson in Short Term Cellaring, and Life

I waste an inordinate amount of time coaching people on wine. Most of it falls on deaf ears, which irritates me. What’s most annoying is I did not initiate it; people come to me asking for advice – what should I drink? Where do I get it? How much will it cost?

If only they would stop for moment – and not listen to all the ‘noise’ and take advice from a seasoned palate.

I will never forget when Walter Bourke, legendary chef, ballet dancer, wine bar proprietor and a filter of all that is good about wine and life said to me, “I can’t understand why they don’t appreciate this Saint-Aubin we have by the glass, it’s drinking perfectly with 4 years on it.”

The point Walter was making, or the reality, is that so much wine is drunk before its time; mostly wine that does not have the associated pedigree of longevity or price status, thus not afforded the benefit to blow of its primary fruit and simplicity or have any appreciation of ‘quality’ and what the wine might look like at its optimum.

Walter left us in 2003, in September and a few weeks later my daughter was born. An emotional stretch I am still trying to come to grips with – ‘The Lord gives; the Lord takes away.”

I’m enjoying a Domaine Faiveley Mercurey ‘Clos Rochette’ Blanc 2008 as I write this, having purchased 5 cases for a charity dinner a few years back, to which I managed to save a few bottles and stuck in the cellar.

I was pooh-poohed by the Singapore wine snobs for selecting this wine, a mob that has Montrachet chiselled on their palate. It’s sad really as they actually have cauterised tongues and their olfactory sensuous is directly connected to their wallet.

Ironically, Allen Meadows (aka Burghound) had endorsed the wine, as the speaker for the evening. He even gave it a “Love Heart” in his notes, obviously lost on our superior Singapore socialite palates.

But I am burbling on here and should get on with the message, or two messages.

The Faiveley Mercurey is brilliant – infused with wet limestone and chalky minerality as this appellation illustrates with ease. There’s a wonderful pong about the wine, cheesy and a little grubby, and I like it. But it is the palate that is most gratifying with its oily, white truffle, creamy nougat flavours, and soft slippery and oh so harmonious texture augmented by a teasing lemony, minerally tailing that makes it such a wonderful drink.

It drinks way above its stature, largely because it wasn’t gargled as a mouthwash in its youth and with what a mere 3 years in bottle has blossomed. I’m keeping a few bottles for a look in about 3 or 4 years as I reckon it will still improve, beyond expectations or the norm – but I love working outside the norm.

Walter Bourke relished working outside of the norm. He educated so many of us in the un-normal, or a least to embrace discovery without prejudice, although I suspect we did not realise the frontiers we were nudging then.

I miss him. We grew up together in the evolution of the Melbourne wine and food scene. I had my wedding dinner at Walter’s Wine Bar, so soaked in La Tache that the tears of joy tasted like dark cherry.

I have so many memories of Maria & Walters and Walter’s Wine bar that encompass every perforation of wine, perhaps none more so of Walter’s Pie & Pinot Day inaugurating at TarraWarra vineyard in the Yarra Valley.

I cannot think of a more wholesome, down to earth yet palate exhilarating gastronomic experience than this – duck pies to die for, or was it the quail pies… all I remember is people gorging themselves stupid on pies on a wintery Victorian day and necking unimaginable quantities of pinot.

Enough said.

I am somewhat crushed by my sentimental thoughts and yet invigorated by Walter’s unbending thirst – for ordinary, good wine. ‘You can lead a horse to water…’

Lest we forget

Walter Bourke – enjoyed his Champagne!


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