The Enomatic machine on display at the Centre protects wine
by pumping argon gas into open bottles, keeping each one fresh for a
few weeks. This allows them to serve about 20 wines by the glass, many
with age on their side. As I drank, Andrew Bird's violin poured out
of the speakers and Shiraz spurted from the Enomatic's little steel
tap. It was a pleasant and unpretentious drinking experience, and that
seems to be the point.
Here's what my wine-stained notepad
"Light whiff of vanilla from the oak,
herbaceous, prominent tannins and good acidity. Unusual and well-balanced.
Yum." (That, for the Ghillie Shiraz 2004, made by Capercaillie. BTW: "Yum" is the best wine term I have in my
And this: "Black pepper, cumin, soil
and leather. Elegant. A hint of fruit, but not a lot...Cherries. They're
playing 'Paranoid Android', which is also nice." I wrote that about
Park Terracotta 1998, which
an iPod at the wine bar decided to pair with Radiohead's best album. Welcome to the New World.
Then there was a Thomas Wines Kiss 2007 that was aggressively oaked and very fruity,
and finally the Brokenwood
Graveyard 2005. The Graveyard
Shiraz is probably the Hunter's most celebrated red. That wine, which
was equal parts red fruit and savory earth, tasted like it would age
wonderfully, but it was admittedly strange at first. Sort of like
After a short tasting, my perceptions
of Shiraz had been turned inside out. So I went to chat with a few people
that are making these wines. That led me to two young wine makers, both
of whom grew up in this windy hill country where kangaroos probably
outnumber cars on empty weekdays.
First I met Liz Jackson at First Creek, a contract winery that makes wines from fruit
sourced from across Australia (which is common here). But Liz likes
her local grapes best.
"There was a time, maybe ten years
ago, when we got really worried here," Jackson said, "because
big Shiraz was booming and that really hurt us. We make medium-bodied
wines, and you can drink more than one or two glasses, and now people
are coming back to that style. The Hunter wines also age really well."
I just finished a bottle of her 2006
Shiraz in my apartment in Bangkok, and it was youthful and fruit-driven,
with a wonderful nose of berries and herbs. Indeed, you can drink more
than one glass.
Next morning the sound of sqwawking
spoonbills pulled me out of bed. I'd slept in the Pepper's Convent, a Victorian structure that was split in four
pieces, trucked 600 kilometers to wine country, and painstakingly restored
there. It's an enchanting place to stay for a night.
I followed the vines outside to neighboring Pepper Tree Wines, where Luke Watson emerged from his winery
in baggy jeans and a t-shirt. He has a boyish face that would probably
get him carded in a stateside bar, and he's one of Australia's promising