My birthday this year was special – not for turning another year older, but for the kindness and inspiration shown to me by someone I recently met. Basic human goodness can be more beautiful than any wine – even a Clarendon Hills!
Wine is the lubricant of a social occasion, a luxury to enjoy with or without food and with or without company, a wonderful gift, and a companion to the lonely. We all have memories of special bottles because they remind us of someone or an event or a time when we were happy, or a bottle that we trust. Then there is: ‘wine and friend pairing’.
Yes I will wax lyrical about the 2006 Clarendon Hills Brookman Syrah that graced my birthday (feel free to scroll straight to it), but bear with me as I briefly take another tack to acknowledge the humanity and generosity of character of the man from Clarendon - Mr Brook – who bought it. After meeting this man just a few times, having some laughs and sharing life experiences, on hearing he was from Clarendon in the Adelaide Hills, I immediately had my wine hat on and said – ‘that is where some of the best shiraz in Australia comes from. I tried some in 2002 and haven’t had any since.’
In 2002 I was living in Wellington, New Zealand, and was keen to learn about wine. I attended a tasting of Australian reds with a friend – my wine guru Roger. He told me to try certain wines first because as the evening wore on the best wines would run out first as those in the know employed the same tactic. He led me to three tables with amazing wines that have stayed with me – the Mount Langi Ghiran shiraz from Victoria, the Irvine Grand Merlot from the Barossa, and three single vineyard syrahs from Clarendon Hills winery in the Adelaide Hills. I was blown away by them all and my passion for wine was fired.
Since moving to Adelaide in 2007 I sampled many wines from Irvine, and met the man himself. I also partook of several bottles of Mount Langi Ghiran shiraz over the years. But the obvious gap was the third winery at that tasting.
Imagine my surprise when this man from Clarendon invites me to a barbecue and produces a bottle of 2006 Clarendon Hills Brookman Syrah. Not only was I shocked because it is not cheap at around A$100, but even more so that he had remembered what I said and wanted to do something special for me.
Now I get to the crux of why I am mentioning all this. This man of advanced years is currently undergoing chemotherapy after a second cancer scare. When I met him he had just come from the hospital having had chemotherapy treatment. He told me after our first chance meeting that having a nice chat with me that day had brightened his mood. He had laughed on a day when he hadn’t expected to, and he came home happy. What a wonderful thing to have done, yet I didn’t realise it at the time. It just shows that being friendly is far-reaching and can mean so much.
Not only is he fighting cancer himself – the prognosis is good thankfully – but he lost his wife to cancer just a few years ago. Yet his whole outlook is sunny and positive and even more astounding – he oozes compassion for others and loves good company. He could see that I was having some problems of my own and wanted to do something nice for me. It was heartfelt and pure, just to make me smile.
My friendliness to him lifted him, his kindness to me lifted me. At first sight you would have thought that both of us were problem-free because that is how we both choose to present ourselves to the world. This has shown me that we all have a story, we all have a cross to bear because that is life. But we can all still put on a smile and show kindness and compassion and be a companion. That is what matters. We can then cope better with the harshness of life and help others to do the same.
Thank you to my friend, the Brook man from Clarendon. And now to the Brookman from Clarendon Hills!
2006 Clarendon Hills Brookman Syrah
An excellent wine from one of Australia’s very best wineries, this cool climate syrah – cool by Australian standards, not global! – at seven years old was still lively yet brooding. A mesmerising deep dark crimson in the glass, complex and tantalising on the nose with spicy blackberry and raspberry, soft leather and a hint of liquorice. There were definite aged characters developing but this spring chicken of a wine still had many years left. Never mind!
The wine was savoury and dry and long – three of my favourite characters in a good red. The dark and intense fruit flavours were complemented by dried herbs and gentle spice, the mouth assertively massaged with notes of leather and soft grain tannins. Smooth but not shy, it softened in the glass.
Clarendon Hills winery is most famous for its Astralis syrah – I love the description on the winery’s website: “Lifted florals dance with rich meats, coffee, cola, chocolate, pan forte, Turkish Delight, graphite, bitumen, cigar tobacco, black cardamom, good quality soy sauce and crushed rocks. It is dense, yet creamy smooth.”
Blimey!! Unfortunately it is also not cheap and outside the realms of most of us mortals. The Brookman however is an attainable treat.
Best wishes to my readers.