Australian airport terminals are odd places right now.
Even at peak hour on Wednesday, the Sydney Qantas terminal was hauntingly empty, with 3 pm masquerading as 10 pm, complete with a vague sense of COVID-inspired fear still hanging around air travel like an old fart.
Yet my first short, Sydney-Canberra flight in over a year felt like freedom.
Finally, after 12 odd months where the world felt increasingly smaller, I was back on a plane and back at a wine show. I realise that’s a weird thing to count as normality, but it feels like a business-as-usual wine world creaking back into life…
I like this show too, with the 2021 Winewise Championship like a highlights package of the best judging elements. Every entrant already has a gold medal at an Australian show, for one. Plus, the flights are small, with no more than six wines at a time to taste, unlike some local shows where 100 wines in a flight is not out of the question.
And people wonder why we end up with massive variability in show results…
Already I like most of the trophy-winning wines too. Less chaff, more wheat. Or some other sort of idiom. It’s a pleasure to be here, in Canberra, and not doing some stupid sporting activity (which is what I normally do in our nation’s capital). It meant I’ve had time in between judging and events to venture into the local environs – like the BentSpoke Brewpub – to try the brand-new iteration of the Cluster 8 (4.5 stars, a gloriously robust, yet drinkable IIPA welcomingly back again).
In other happenings, Tuesday night’s dinner was at Temperoda (thanks Lester and Adrienne), with its elevated tapas menu and Spanish list (excellent, would recommend). Last night it was The Italian Place (beef ragu also delicious, would recommend the food, but can’t vouch for the list) complete with that most Canberran experience, spotting a politician in the wild (Bob Katter, who I half expected to be wearing an Akubra and touting a shotgun, even at night).
Meanwhile, I can’t let slip about what wines have taken home silverware at the show, but a few highlights have lobbed up at dinner (thanks David), like the 1998 Ornellaia, which again reminded why I love Ornellaia. Modern, very much Bordeaux-inspired, and shaped by rich fruit and sumptuous oak, it’s a wine driven by a velocity of tannic fruit. Polished, delicious and in no chance of falling over.
Sadly a 1998 Bourgogno Barolo was oxidised alongside it but made up for with a mid-noughties (2008, I think, but my photo is sketchy) Foradori Teroldego which was achingly youthful. At 13% alcohol, it is still red-fruited, bright and generous, the profile more like a cross between a mulchy Ribeira Sacra Mencia and a Sangiovese, complete with sprightly acidity and fine tannin. Not the same robust expression and mouthcoating intensity as the Ornellaia, but more than making up with its svelte profile and almost Pinot-esque prettiness (thanks Andrew).
Today is going to be a big one too, with brackets likely to include at least one of Shiraz, Cabernet, Riesling and Chardonnay, which means a big day ahead. Plus, there is a hill to run up before breakfast too.
It’s good to be back…