An Aladdin’s cave

sv300455SOMETHING WAS revealed about my choice of restaurants, or my friend’s, the other day, when he said he was unfamiliar with “natural wines”.

For a few years, almost everywhere I’ve dined that’s warranted a sommelier has thought its food warranted natural wines.

Defined with appropriate imprecision, natural wines require the least possible intervention from growing to bottling (with only sulphur likely to be added). It is more than organic, since the actual making is also minimal interference, and can often be biodynamic.

In ABC’s Landline coverage of three years ago, Adelaide professor of oenology Vladimir Jiranek lost me by defending added yeast as “only” like using dried bread yeast from the supermarket. Had he never appreciated carefully-made sourdough bread?

Many higher-tech makers are inclined to scoff that natural wines have “faults”, and command undeserved prices, although others appreciate the variety, and satisfying texture.

Before I explain the Aladdin’s cave reference, here’s Anton van Klopper of Lucy Margaux wines in the Adelaide Hills.

What do I think of his wines?

They definitely feel crafted, and made from grapes, which is saying more than might seem, because conventional wine can taste more like, well, wine. These edge a little towards craft beer or cider. Having opened only two bottles so far, I can confirm their deliciousness, which is again saying more than might first appear. They are really nice to drink. Whatever the faults, I failed to notice them (not minding some cloudiness). Whether they would ever reach the sublimity of a great Bordeaux, I am not sure, but, then, old Bordeaux were made more this way.

I should confess how I came by a veritable cave of Lucy Margaux wines. Anton and colleagues are about to open a restaurant a short drive out of Adelaide. It’s called the Summertown Aristologist.

You might be aware that Jennifer Hillier and I used to operate the Uraidla Aristologist, a little further (1.4 kms) up Greenhill Road. Anton recently sent us a box each as a goodwill gesture.

Since I anticipate getting across not long after the new Aristologist’s opening, I shall report further.

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Symposium of Gastronomy, Wellington

Duncan Galletly
Duncan Galletly

SINCE THE FIRST Symposium of Australian Gastronomy, which I instigated in 1984, the serious interest in growing, cooking and dining has only exploded, fragmenting into talkative clusters of scholars, chefs, social activists, greenie growers, and more.

With only one-fifth of the available population, the gastronomic symposiums we got going in New Zealand in 2001 have arguably had a better prospect of holding together.

The recent gathering in Wellington returned to more eclectic interests, rather than specifically culinary history. The “Diversity” theme attracted an appropriate variety of papers with the nearly two dozen topics including aprons, Sunday school picnics, dining alone in foreign cities, and Wellington’s nearly lost Chinatown, around the corner.

Founder of Peoples Coffee, and keen promoter of fair trade, Matt Lamason has turned his mind to the benefits of training prisoners and ex-offenders in what New Zealanders call “hospo” (hospitality industry). Archeologist Dave Veart provided expert illumination of the ancient Maori farms further threatened with “development” outside Auckland. Exemplary cookery writer Lois Daish explained her adulation of predecessor Patricia Harris (1910-2003), who proved prickly when they actually met.

Phil Cook argued that “craft beer” is not novel, but very, very old; two Iranian postgraduate students Amir Sayadabdi and Saman Hassibi analysed the massive changes in Norwegian cookery books since the 1960s; and a commander in the NZ Navy, Karen Ward, investigated predecessor Captain Scott’s fatal provisioning for the race to the South Pole.

Medical academic Duncan Galletly might even exceed me in gastronomic obsessiveness. The colours of the covers of his journal, The Aristologist, borrow from lollies – the first from Violet Cream, and the latest pale green from “The Snifter – now extinct. Some lament its passing … other do not”.

Galletly’s scientific presentation this meeting was entitled, “Zomato – Zero to connoisseur in 11 easy kilograms”. Zomato is a restaurant review site, based in India and expanding quickly worldwide through the logics of mobile phones, social media and finance – purchased companies include Urbanspoon. As Duncan explained:

For this paper, over a period of six months, I ate and drank at, and reviewed, approximately 200 restaurants and cafes to achieve what Zomato describes as “connoisseur” status, becoming one of the “most respected members of the foodie community”.

Even more gloriously than judging that amateur restaurant rankings are justifiable alternatives to established guidebooks, Duncan Galletly had published so many reports that he had beaten Taylor Finderup as top Wellington foodie.

Taylor Finderup
Taylor Finderup

In the call for conference papers, Duncan had asked for unusually long abstracts of “about 500 words”, which might provide enough reading of my “How big was John Locke’s spice drawer? An inquiry into whether liberalism favours, diversity, equality or both”.

Basic catering was provided in the function room at Prefab, the popular new venue of Jeff Kennedy (formerly of L’Affare). We unavoidably missed the Friday dinner at Giulio Riccati’s Cicio Cacio in Newtown, but did squeeze into the Saturday dinner at Asher Boote’s Hillside Kitchen and Cellar in Thorndon. I’ll explain my enthusiasm, not shared with everyone, in a separate post.

The next NZ symposium is projected for August in Auckland with an “Aesthetics” theme, and the Twentieth Symposium of Australian Gastronomy is tentatively planned for Melbourne from the evening of 2 December until morning of 6 December 2016.