Thursday, July 17, 2008

Snippet from a countryside

I just came back from holiday in Buckland Valley near Bright. The mesmerising view of snow-capped mountain, chestnut trees and vineyard are breathtaking. The place where i was staying is also offering a relaxing experience in a very different way: fireplace, a proper espresso machine, plasma TV, comfortable king size bed, and L'Occitane body care products. All of these modern stuffs give you a huge sense of familiarity of urban luxurious life. Yet, fresh and clean air, the bush and the farms send constant reminders of how far away i was from a familiar and modern urban life.

The Bright itself sucks, i must say. It is a small town in which its busyness owes much from tourists who want to go for skiing or just playing in the snow. However, i am not saying that all small towns have nothing to offer. There are few good places to eat at Bright. Simone's has a raving review in several culinary and travel mags and website. It is Italian-inspired dish and i didn't go as having driven three hours from Melbourne only to find Italian food is not really adventurous. What i expected is a sort of rustic country-style food which use local produce. Not far away from Bright there is a small town called Milawa in which their local produce could lure Nigella Lawson to include Milawa into her retirement plan. Their cheeses are fantastic! It has also a small olive shop which sells variety of olive products. Of their products, the winner is, i think, a small olive marinated with lemon and orange zest. Some wineries are also located in Milawa and the big one is Brown Brothers.

Speaking of wine, i fail to understand how people become a wine aficionado. It requires a highly sensitive palate to be such an expert who is able to describe the structure of wine. These days many people in my generation have been grown up with packaged foods such as fish fingers and take away. Surely, preservative and flavour enhancers we have consumed can cause calluses on our tongue. When i stopped at the winery and saw people testing the wine, i wasn't impressed at all. About four people surrounded the table and each had a glass of wine in their hands. They sniffed, looked at the colour, and swirled the glass before take a good sip. You can blame my philistine tongue for my failure to tell the difference between Merlot and Cabaret Sauvignon. To me these people are no more than glorified pissheads. As internet connection become more accessible, it probably takes few hours for people to bluff about their expertise on wine. Just perusing wikipedia before testing it, and careful but excessive use of adjectives, it will give people under impression that you are such a connoisseur.

The use of adjective words when describing wine is apparently very crucial. If you check the label on the bottle, at least four or five adjective words are used. When i was in this cafe at a little vineyard located in Mount Beauty, i counted how many adjective that they use in every type of wine. There is one particular type, either red or white wine i can't recall, that uses twelve adjective words! Twelve adjective in more or less than 50 words is excessive. It's like reading 14 years old's love poetry. Yet, you can't call it cheesy with wine. I thought flowery words might be a trick to persuade people to buy them. However, i was gobsmacked to notice the style of writing in the book The Science and Art of Wine that i found on the studio. It's full of adjective: vibrant, elegant, smooth, silky, refreshing, intense, supple and so on.

I haven't had a long chat with these connoisseurs but would love to take the piss out of them. There was one moment i remembered but it wasn't about wine but an expert in general. A girl came to cafe where i work and asked the flavour of muffin that we sell at that time. She told me that she is a bit picky about her muffin. In my response, "So you seem to be a muffin connoisseur, why don't you write up a muffin review in a culinary mag?". This poor girl took it seriously and went on about what good muffin should be like and liked the idea of writing up a muffin review. I was laughing my head off after she disappeared from my sight. Her response to my taking-the-piss-question has a lingering finish, nevertheless.

Mt Beauty

Lake Catani

Trees recovering from bushfire at Mt Bufallo

Buckland Valley


Katadia said...

Where did you stay? Sounds great. I am sure they don't like families with little kids terrorisig the whole place though (kita tau diri:))

Yes, wine can be overrated. But you got to admit, it's so much better than all those awful lemonady vodkas, no? I better shut up. Been on an alcohol ban since pregnancy and now, breastfeeding. :)

Lingering finish.... like verdelho? ;)

Helen said...

Spew, spew, spew, as a student of history I'm shocked that you care so little about gastronomic delights. Really my friend, it shows a lack of sophistication that counters your affection for the Humanities.

Loving and describing the intricacies of food and wine cannot be taught or learned from wikipedia, it's the singular application of experience, knowledge, and discernment similar to the arts.

It is ok for you to eschew the delights of the palate, but it is rather boorish to presume others are acting pretentious just because of your own inexperience.

(now mind you, I'm talking sensitively as a friend, not lecturing)

You know how in the study of history you'll start to notice a pattern or trend or change and you'll develop a thesis around what initially began as a niggling suspicion? And you know how the more you learn about history the more readily you can understand and contextualize new information? And you know how you use deductive reasoning and critical thought skills to organize all that information?

Tasting wine (like experiencing art) requires the use of that same analytical and discerning part of your mind, but it also demands the courage to describe what you're tasting.

The more wine you experience the more discerning your palate becomes. The problem is that people can rigidly control what they taste and/or smell. So when something is outside their normal parameters, they can apply one of two descriptive terms and let those terms become the crux that shapes every other experience (e.g. ew, that smells bad, or mmmmm, that tastes good).

The other senses are not like that, so we all, more or less, must experience the same ways of seeing, hearing, and touching (obviously there are people that are ultra-sensitive in these aspects, too).

Just because things are outside of your realm of experience, my friend, does not mean those that fully appreciate and experience them are wrong or pretentious.

If you ever want to learn more about wine, I would suggest taking a course instead of wikipedia, this is certainly one of those things that demands experience to learn fully.

**sorry for kidnapping your comments, I do feel passionately about the subject, though... not wine necessarily, just knowledge through experience and appreciation of others' skills**

spew-it-all said...

Maybe not like Verdelho...Merlot

Thanks for the comment helen. Undoubtedly I will appreciate those who are really passionate about wine or anyone who gain knowledge through experience.

As for wine, some people tend to feel themselves different since they have this skill. I mean they can easily up themselves as wine as culture itself is still accossiated with bourgeois class. I am against the hierarchisation of culture.

I was being sarcastic when i said that you just need to read wikipedia to know about wine. Some might do this as they want people under the impression how savvy they are.

Bonnie said...

I love a good wine. But I have no idea exactly what it is about it that I like.

I just have the few that I like, and stick to them.