‘It has a chalky finish, plenty of fruit on the palette and without the big acidic notes you get with some wines. Also a hint of ginger there, it’s very subtle, a complex drop’. We are at Skillogalee in the Clare Valley and Ian and I are sampling the goods while Emma distracts Amy and Oliver outside amongst the vines.
‘Uh huh’, I think to myself. I enjoy tasting wines but our host is looking for a response and there is pressure to sound like I know something, anything even, about wine. Is it my approval he’s after or just confirmation of his bold description, I wonder? Under the expectant gaze of a passionate viticulturist I feel like a rabbit trapped in the headlights. All my feeble knowledge of wine permits me to say is ‘yeah it’s good’, but that’s so weak I dare not utter a word. Instead I cast my eyes to the side and look over at Ian. ‘What about we try the cab sav next?’.
Ian saves the day, changing the subject to express his surprise at the production of a rose he has noticed from the… I cant even remember which grape raised his eyebrows.
‘Oh yes’, comes the response. ‘It all depends upon how long you leave it on the skins’.
‘Yes time on the skins’, I mutter under my breath. What are the skins? All I know is some of the wines taste good. Smooth to drink, maybe they are the ones without the ‘big acidic notes’. Note to self, when talking about wine ‘notes’ is a good word!
Despite the occasional awkwardness there seems no point visiting Clare or the Barossa without sampling the goods. And I like the stuff. I do. I just don’t have the lingo down. So sample we did at Sevenhill, Skillogalee and the Last Word in the Clare. We also dropped in on Penfolds and Yalumba in the Barossa. Yalumba had its own cooperage which made for a fascinating interlude. Remarkable just how they can assemble a few bits of oak into a watertight (or wine tight as the case may be) barrel without even a drop of glue. While perusing the countryside many other names I am familiar with, if unable to adequately describe, such as Orlando, McGuigans and Jacobs Creek also passed by.
The country side is fantastic. The landscape is full of broad scale patterns, rich with colour, be it grape vines contouring around hills, wheat crops smooth and golden ruffling in the wind or hay pastures with big round bales scattered as far as the eye can see. Up above is that distinctly South Australia sky, an unfamiliar shade of blue with scattered high level cloud thrown in for interests sake. Mixed in are a distinctive and surprisingly large eucalyptus species which makes for woodland breaks amongst the agricultural production. Each little town has its own charm owing in large part to the stonework buildings that line the streets. It’s all very easy on the eye, as the food and wine is on the palette… and the whole scene lacks acidic overtones!
While not visiting wineries we could be found visiting the local markets, out jogging the Riesling or other trails, lunching at parks with playgrounds (the national playground tour as we are starting to refer to it) or tackling the Mintaro maze (thanks Ian). We also enjoyed a few simple pleasures, like pancake breakfasts with chef Grandpa in the leafy grounds of the Clare caravan park and running races at twilight on the green ovals of the park in the Barossa. Sometimes the happiest moments are the most straightforward.
The talking toilet at Port Augusta on the way to Clare also seems worth a mention as it has been the cause of much mirth since. It was one of those super indestructible jobs with doors on a slow moving guillotine mechanism. After Amy and Oliver had done what needed to be done the toilet spoke up…’thank you for using exceloo’. We found this to be quite hilarious and it oft is now repeated even as leaving standard amenities.
Our Clare and Barossa adventure concluded with a crash… But that is a story for next time.