Grape Expectations - postcard from purgatory

Max Crus
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Heemskirk Wines in Tasmania

Heemskirk Wines in Tasmania [©Max Crus]

Balthazar of the Barossa in South Australia
Cargo Road Wines, Orange, New South Wales
Brookland Valley, Margaret River, Western Australia
Dog Ridge, McLaren Vale, South Australia

Long ago, visiting far-flung mates was fraught: Ne'er a proper bed, air conditioning, decent food, safe parking, enough wine (let alone a clean glass), enough shampoo (let alone a clean towel), toilet paper (let alone a clean toilet) etc.

Disappointingly, despite their wallets growing commensurately with their bellies, some mates still struggle with essentials.

Take Rimbrant: Rich beyond his wildest dreams, yet arrive seconds too late and you sleep in a tent in lieu of another guest getting first dibs. What about frequent visitor points? Who gets only one guest at a time?

Furthermore, after decades of drought and lack of infrastructure spending, the entire house is surrounded by a dust bowl, through which you must trudge to said guest-tent - no point showering, how unsavoury after a 45 degree day.

But his hospitality is legendary - after you wash the dishes that is, because the kitchen still harbours last year's unwashed remains - and dinners of farm-fresh food (so named for the duck poo and dirt garnish) are a delight under the stars on the outdoor dining table, except there's no insect repellent.

When dawn arrives (burning into your retina through the mesh walls of the tent) other shortcomings emerge: no Panadol, no clean water, guest number one has exhausted the hot water - correction, the gas - so no brekky since even if there was anything in the fridge apart from dirty duck eggs, you'd have to eat it raw.

Coffee? How about ten year old Pablo or the dregs of some obscure chocolate-flavoured grindings, and a milk substitute called Slim or Shape or Strange.

Almost fortuitously, the power has failed anyway.

And don't get me going on the outdoor dunny, read 'really outdoor': no walls, just a (dusty) bowl and cistern, reminiscent of a chimney around which a grand homestead once stood, now memorial to unfulfilled aspirations, expectations and stupidity.

Yep, that's exactly what it's like.

Luckily the yarns around the campfire (lounge-room) always compensate, if you remember to BYO.

But that dunny's gotta go, or I'm not.

Balthazar of the Barossa 2005 Shiraz, $60
Seldom does the Big Ant go to bed with bottles unfinished, but after two 16 percenters the weekend's excesses were taking their toll. 8.8/10.

Yeringberg Yarra Valley Shiraz 2006, $40
Feel like a pinot but just not quite? Yarra Valley shiraz is the answer, real red with pinot 'fistication and none of the poof. 8.5/10.

Cargo Road Gewurztraminer 2008, $22
Thick and chewy with loads of 'G' stuff so have it with a couple of dim mates and overcooked calamari with chilli and spice. And check out the cool scooter-chick on the cover. 8.6/10.

Dog Ridge The Pup McLaren Vale Shiraz 2007, $18
Perfect for the doghouse whether home or away. Gruntley's favourite wine, and Michael Clarke's too.  Whoops, spilled some. Out damn Spot. 8.4/10.

Heemskerk Tasmania 2008 Riesling, $40
Freight to Tassie must have increased, this has doubled in price since 2004, making it almost Australia's most expensive riesling. It's still worthy however. 8.8/10.

Brookland Valley Margaret River Verse 1 Shiraz, 2007, $21
Uncannily this scored the same four years ago. Am I missing something? 8/10.


  • Explorer Country (NSW)
  • Orange (NSW)
  • Barossa Valley (SA)
  • McLaren Vale (SA)
  • Pipers River (TAS)
  • Yarra Valley (Wine) (VIC)
  • Yarra Valley, Dandenongs and the Ranges (VIC)
  • Margaret River (WA)
  • South West WA (WA)

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March 07th, 2009
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