A few months ago, I did a shameful thing. I wondered if there was even a remote chance James Halliday could be my real father. Ridiculous, I know. But Domaine de la Romanée-Conti can do that to you. Specially if you’ve never tasted it and you read about the 250 bottles of it in somebody else’s cellar. Soon to be auctioned for budget-crushing amounts, but with a few bottles almost certainly available for a farewell family tasting.
I quickly realised how idiotic I was being. What was I going to do – check for errors on my birth certificate and/or christening bib? I knew it was a crazy idea the moment I saw how long the queue was at the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. And not just other people desperate to have James Halliday as their father. People hoping they might have once been married to him as well.
I’m writing this as a public apology to my own dear parents. If they were still here, they’d gently point out that my crazy notion was completely impossible due to geography and fidelity. And biology – Mum didn’t like red wine. They’d also gently point out it was my own dear Dad who, decades ago, opened the bottle that started me on a lifetime of wine adoration. Before that fateful day, I hadn’t drunk much red wine. In earlier years, an uncle had often dropped in to our South London home with superb bottles of German riesling; its complex sweetness appealed to my youthful palate and my preference for tasting it without taking the jelly baby out of my mouth.
But the only reds I’d tasted had been in the bottle shop where I worked after school. The manager kindly agreed that any wine seeping through the corks of badly stored bottles belonged to me and my shelf-stacker colleagues. Some of the casualties were fine reds, but as the junior, my lick was always last and therefore sadly diluted.
Then, shortly after we arrived in Australia as ten-pound Poms, Dad extended our adventure of emigration to embrace the wine of our new homeland. That first bottle of McWilliam’s Cabernet Shiraz was a revelation. One pint and six fluid ounces of Riverina nectar, kissed by the sun and some not-too-expensive oak.
Thanks Dad. That was the bottle that launched 10,000 other bottles, many of them from the same maker, some shared with you in fond communion, others enjoyed separately on our respective wine journeys. Ironic, then, that Dad should pass on at the same time as McWilliam’s – Dad to glorious vineyards somewhere I hope and McWilliam’s into receivership. Correlation? Causation? Only the wine gods and the McWilliam’s accountant can know.
I love you Dad and I wouldn’t have swapped you for anyone. Not even for a bloke with treasures in his cellar and universal acclamation as Australia’s godfather of wine. I doubt any of those treasures will ever pass my lips, but I wish them and their owner long life and good health. Wait a minute. Godfather. Now there’s an idea. What do you think Dad?