Bright Side

As wines get “brighter” is the rest of the world going in the opposite direction?
Words
Morris Gleitzman
illustration

As the idea of truth goes a bit wobbly around the world, this magazine continues to uphold the highest ideals of truth in drinking, and in spitting out. I support that endeavour, so here are some true stories.

Scene: An Australian capital city that should probably remain nameless. Six of us in the latest hot new restaurant, grimacing.
Waiter: “Is everything OK?”
Us: “This food. It’s massively over-salted. Does the chef realise?”
Waiter: (brow furrowed sympathetically) “Yes, he hears that a lot.”

Scene: A wine bar that should probably remain nameless, round the corner from an Australian State Library that should also probably remain nameless. Four of us, thirsty and hopeful.
Me: (to sommelier) “Recently I had a Si Vintners Margaret River Cabernet that was extremely delicious. Beautiful contemporary style. Complex and balanced. Not heavy, not aggressive, not even passive-aggressive.”
Sommelier: “The word we use these days for that style is bright.”
Me: “Bright. Good Word. Thanks. Do you have a wine like that?”
Sommelier: “Absolutely. Leave it to me.”

The wine arrives, served at room temperature. Unfortunately the room is 22°C degrees, heated by a fossil fuel that should probably remain nameless.

I taste the wine. Or rather I taste a furnace-blast of alcohol fumes, followed by a tar pit of sullen chocolate and a gang of tannins just back from starting a fight out in the street.

I ask for an ice bucket. The sommelier gives me a puzzled look and brings one. I plunge the bottle into its cooling depths, feeling like an extra in Chernobyl. I ask the sommelier about the half-life of this much oak, but he doesn’t know.

Scene: An Australian aerial transport hub that should probably remain nameless. Every square metre from kerbside to terminal is covered in widely-spaced crinkle-edged brick pavers, harder to wheel bags over than the Great Stony Desert before it was carpeted. Elderly people are crying. Children are stranded. Items of very expensive luggage are disintegrating only moments out of warranty. Travellers hungover from too much rough red are close to doing the same.

Then I stop in my tracks, rendered immobile by a terrifying realisation. The law of universal causality must be at play here. You know, when a butterfly flaps its wings in a rainforest or a suburban garden centre and causes a massive effect on the other side of the planet. The Venetian blinds, for example, rattling and keeping you awake at night.

This is more a case of reverse causality. As our winemakers achieve more flavour and complexity in medium-bodied wines – as our wines, in other words, get brighter and brighter – some of our chefs and sommeliers and airport landscape designers are going in the opposite direction.

It’s enough to make us want to drown our sorrows in a tannic tar pit. But there is one upside. At least it explains our current crop of world leaders.