MacAndrews ‘The Haven’ Chard (“SE Aust.”) 2012 by/through Opimian


[NB: This is a consumer complaint illustration. I wrote Opimian an email to tell/ask about this wine and others from the same box. This Chard, plus two Shiraz/Cabs and two Shiraz’s in the same box were ALL beyond horrible. I’m not one of their ‘members’ but bought the box from a ‘member’ out of curiosity. Opimian never answered my email; just ignored it. And I can’t find this ‘Mac Andrews Australian Wine’ so I wonder if it really exists or is just something slapped together by Opimian or some corporate wine entity. No clue. No crime to make bad wine, and lots of people do it; but it’s always better when businesses respond to consumers.]

Bad Pairings

Bad Pairings

pairingbad2A friend asked for food-and-menu pairing advice. The friendship and the advice were problematic. Both have been rethought.

My friend had a vegetarian menu:  Mushroom soup; mango curry; coconut-and-lemongrass tofu on quinoa; and cake for a birthday dessert.

She also had a 20-year relationship with a married man with children:  Deeply dysfunctional, and everyone involved was unhappy.

I suggested acidic, aromatic whites for the meal and Cava for cake. I wouldn’t today. Being farther along in my education, today I’d suggest a medium-American-oaked, warm-climate Chardonnay aged on lees. The fruit might complement tropical fruits and the American oak might match the tofu’s cocoanut sauce. Mango curry could match tropical Chard. A full-bodied white could match — while the acid would cut through — the heavier textures of the meal. I would, though, keep to Cava with a light-cake dessert. I personally don’t like wine with sweet desserts at all.

I suspended judgment on her relationship for years. It’s not my nature to moralize and impose my values on others. Yet, as time went on, I realized that the man’s wife and children profoundly hated my friend for her interference in their family. It wasn’t happily consensual. The man appeared to play both sides against the middle when not fleeing overseas for months at a time ‘for business.’

My friend justified her behaviour with pseudo-psychoanalytic New Agespeak. Viewed herself as caring, sensitive and was keenly aware of when others mistreated her. She wouldn’t face that she was, in fact, ruthless, stubborn and the cause of misery in others. Her relationship didn’t even make her happy. Eventually, I couldn’t continue the approbation-by-association. I left our friendship. For her part, she paired the meal with a tannic, medium-bodied red.

Food marriages, as with human marriages, are complex. Pairing rethought. Friendship rethought.

Excellent, instructive book: ‘Taste Buds and Molecules:  The Art and Science of Food and Wine’, by Francois Chartier (McClelland & Stewart, 2011). Big, original ideas by an award-winning sommelier. And Muriel Spark or Alice Munro on the relationship webs that we weave…

Sick Vines: Studying and Working With Pathogenic People

Vinedisease2012-01-12 at 10.12.46 AM

Diploma’s Unit 2 includes vine disease. Presentation, diagnosis, treatment (if any). From root to leaf, vines can be hit by viruses; phytoplasmas; bacteria; fungi; nematodes; anthropods; and vertebrates. We learn how they’re detected, diagnosed and, if possible, controlled or eradicated.

In the same week of this study, as if by design, a bizarre confrontation with a delusional classmate reminded me how a wine education is less esoteric and arcane than non-wine people might presume, and inhabited by all the same creatures — healthy or pathogenic  — as in the rest of life.

Later, as a liquor store employee, I answered to an odious junior supervisor with a deeply repellant personality, and self-professed daddy issues, that all spoke clearly of mental illness. One ‘gift’ of the fiction writer is a sixth sense for emotional and mental profiles; people give themselves away quickly through action and unintended self-confession. I could joke about a character being as thin and bitter as a bad wine, and it would be employing dark humour for a sober subject.

I don’t poke fun at brain illness; it is no joke. Domesticated vines have farmers and consultants to shepherd them to wellness; whereas the tragic hallmark of mental illness is that affected individuals are most often unable to comprehend their deficits and do not seek help.

As wine students, we learn about the signs of health and disease in the vineyard. Vines fall prey to many harmful and near-invisible things. The wine grower must be beyond vigilant from season to season, and control or eradicate disease when it develops. Alas, not so simple for diseased human brains.