The bloke with the red teeth and the elbow-patched sports coat introduced himself. “I’m a Pinotphile,” he said, and guffawed at his own ingenuity. “I know I said. We all are.” He seemed crestfallen. I turned back to Pete Caldwell who was of course screeching with laughter. He hadn’t heard the bloke. He was just laughing. Like he does.
There was a lot to laugh about. Forty special guests hunkered down in the Old Lion Tunnels in North Adelaide, like a Da Vinci Code sect. Chalices of the red stuff. The best red stuff. Winemaker Helen Masters had made the trip from Ata Rangi. Lovely warm friendly gal she kept big Rob Gerard transfixed with stories about frosts and helicopters. And Jacqui Murphy from Two Paddocks, also across the ditch, told us how Sam Neill started the Central Otago marque. She didn’t talk about the wine. She just told us a story about the film star and his passionate affair with a lady called Pinot Noir. And we fell in love with the audacity of it. Just two paddocks. Small production. Precious.
Then Pete. The evangelist from Dalrymple. We time-travelled with him to his vineyard where you can see the hazy spray of Bass Strait off in the distance. Where he meticulously separates every parcel for controlled release blending. About his Tasmania of hidden away vineyards and surprising weather and shallow soils. About an eccentric commitment to one variety which borders on a type of madness. Pinot madness. Then there was the orphan – Faiveley all the way from Burgundy. Facilitator Mike Bennie gathered it under his wing and told us how this 1825 domaine had fallen out of favour in the 1980s but was now roaring back, especially since the purchase of 20 hectares in Gevrey-Chambertin.
The vintages? The tasting notes? The scrawled napkin was lost somewhere after we retired to the bar for a cleansing Coopers. But the first bloke (who was now asleep in his cups) was right. We had been converted – Shiraz Australians who normally like our reds spread on toast had been treated to an ethereal moment of raspberries and red currants, smoke, earth, rust and minerality…and just a hint of truffles. Sublime.