Crossing the grape divide

Max Crus
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Vines at Pipers Brook, Tasmania

Vines at Pipers Brook, Tasmania [©Mark Smith]

I had often wondered about the lack of imagination that Australia’s early explorers showed when naming some of the country’s incredible natural features.

It was The Big R who cleared things up...’the explorers, mostly Poms and Czechs, were unaccustomed to the harshness of our vast land and set out with their cucumber sandwiches, tea bags, bully beef and unpronounceable names.

‘Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson, embarked on what should have been an easy stroll westward from Sydney to discover the grape growing regions of Orange and Cowra. Instead they bumped into this huge dividing range. ‘Great’, explained Blaxland, who’d had enough by already by the Parramatta RSL.

Thus Wentworth duly recorded the Great Dividing Range.

Gibson, in search of the fabled giant inland vineyard and the Ord River scheme, and having just crossed and named his own desert, thought he was home and hosed until...’Oh, great, another sandy desert’. Accordingly his surveyor marked the spot. They then turned around and headed south whereupon they came across yet another desert.

‘Great. Victoria here we come’, and thus another was born.

Similarly, as Matthew Flinders rounded the bottom of Western Australia in his quest to circumnavigate the wine growing regions of the new continent, he declared that’d be a great spot for cab sav and the Great Southern appellation was born.

A little further on and in a hurry to get to the Barossa, what was he confronted with but...’that’s just great, an Australian bight’.

Matthew continued undaunted and a few days out from Geelong, looked northward and declared, ‘that’d be a great spot for a road’, and the first road atlas bearing the Great Ocean Road came into being.

The history of the Victorian town of Great Western is shrouded in mystery but it is believed to have something to do with Clint Eastwood.

Why not cross the great price divide and celebrate our early explorer’s endeavours with some great wines?

Pipers Brook Vineyard 2004 Gewurztraminer, Tasmania, $25ish. Somewhat subtle for a gewurz’, unlike Ms L and I, according to Little Ms L, who was somewhat disturbed at the volume of our lunch conversation. Perhaps it was the volume in our glasses. Delicious. 8.7/10.

Seppelt No.1 2001 Barossa Shiraz, $60ish. Out of huge Riedel glasses, from which you can smell the entire history of a wine including the winemaker’s tinia, I couldn’t help but think something was a bit funny about this Barossan monster but everyone else thought it was pretty flash so I kept quiet. They coo-ed about 9/10’s worth.

Penfolds reserve Bin 03A Chardonnay, $79. A pretty subtle and humble chardonnay for one so expensive, completely unlike moi. 9/10.

Mitchelton Blackwood Park Riesling 1997, $11 on special in 1997. The fluorescent greeny golden glow was a dead giveaway to the wine’s age, but showing neither prejudice of colour nor age we drank on. Fabulous stuff. 9.2/10.

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River 2001, $35. This is the sort of wine that makes you question your preference for shiraz, and is also the sort of thing that you match food to rather than the other way around. But hang on, we always do that. 9.3/10.

© Max Crus

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