Enter the Pretender
As I’ve previously confessed, wine is right up there with modern art and ballet when it comes to things I don’t understand, but feel as if I should.
When friends discuss the differences between a pinot noir and a merlot, or debate whether a semillon or a chardonay would be best paired with their dinner, I instead hear waves crashing on the beach and seagulls crying out overhead.
I have a similar reaction to girls talking about shoes, come to think of it…
When I was invited along to the Broke Fordwich region to participate in a weekend of wine and fine food, I was just a tad daunted. My knowledge of wine didn’t extend far beyond what some would consider an impressive ability to consume a four liter cask of Fruity Lexia while in college.
Would I be welcomed by Broke’s collection of wine makers, grape growers, and wine enthusiasts? Or would I be driven out of town with pitchforks and torches as a heathen Philistine?
Having consulted wine drinking friends prior to departing, I felt adequately equipped to at least look the part. My theatrical training coupled with a handy list of key wine terminology, I felt confident I’d be able to bluff my way through.
It took all of fifteen seconds for my cunning ruse to be pierced. I stepped off the bus into a wonderfully warm and star strewn Friday night, only to have somebody call out, “You’re the one who doesn’t drink wine, right?”
I’d been hoisted on my own petard. Fool that I am, I’d imagined nobody would read my preview before I arrived.
Far from being an accusation, though, it was a light-hearted barb that would set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Our hosts for the evening, Graham from Broke’s Promise and Mel from Motty’s Farm, couldn’t have been more different. Where Mel was a warm and approachable woman whose personality reflected the simple yet delightful food she served, Graham was every bit as acidic and gruff as a very dry white.
Mike of Mt. Broke Wines was softly spoken and quiet, while Barb of Ascella Organic Wines had the bubbly personality of the sparkling Rose she was kind enough to share with us.
What I found on my first night in Broke was that, wine-aficionado or not, I was welcome. I was treated no differently than the gorgeous Swedish wine importer who sat beside me, and found myself laughing along with fresh forged inside jokes within an hour of arriving.
As an outsider looking in, I’ve always associated wine with a kind of pretension and faux intellectualism, so it was a wonderfully pleasant surprise to find that these people – incredibly passionate about wine as they were – ran the gamut from gruff to worldly, from chatty to quiet.
The one thing they all had in common? The warm, honest openness that you only really experience in the country.
A Wine Tour in Broke
Buoyed by a wonderfully fun and filling first night in Broke, I woke early on Saturday morning for the main attraction of the weekend – a day long wine tour in Broke that would introduce us to the flavours and sights that make the Broke Fordwich region such a gem.
Paul and Margueritte of A Wine Tour in Broke would ferry our motley crew of bloggers, journalists, and TV producers around for the day. I can’t think of a better representation of the area than these two. With their adorable daughter also along for the ride, it felt more like a trip out among friends than it did a tour.
A pair of Newcastle natives who love the Broke region; you’d be hard pressed not to immediately like Paul’s laid back Aussie sense of humour or Margueritte’s wildly inappropriate Irish spirit.
Our day’s itinerary saw us visit five wineries: Mt. Broke Wines, Stomp!, Nightingale Wines, Whispering Brook, and Ascella Organic Wines.
A Day of Diverse Experiences
While I’ll admit to having feared that the day would be a tad boring for somebody with no real knowledge of wine, I was pleasantly surprised.
Each of the vineyards we visited presented a different style and experience, while being similar in the way the passion and simple country openness of those we interacted with shone through it all.
Where Mike at Mt. Broke Wines regaled us with the story behind such creatively named wines as Skinny Dipping and Sticky Fingers on the wonderfully appointed deck outside his converted dairy, Whispering Brook’s Don took us into the barrel room where we were given a brief lecture on the role that the barrels play in deciding a wine’s taste and quality.
Stomp! saw us perched on stools to sample the Hunter Valley Chocolate Shop’s trademark sweets with some of Stomp!’s finest wines, while Barb & Jeff of Ascella not only gave us a tour of their extensive vineyard – but also paired wines with organic cheese and olives.
I’ll be sure to give a more detailed run down of each unique experience in later entries, but I just wanted to illustrate what a diverse day it was.
Far from being a repetitive exercise in dour lectures and fine wines, it was a day that fostered an appreciation of the craft in me not through an abundance of information – but through the infectiousness of the local passion.
I may never be able extoll the virtues of the Portuguese Barbera grape or quite fathom how a semillon grown from the same vines in the same vineyard can taste so wildly different from year to year – but I left the day with a newfound appreciation of wine.
This isn’t just because I was given the opportunity to try wines and find my own tastes, but also because that myth of exclusivity was well and truly dispelled by the people of Broke.
“I’m not going to tell a person what they can or will taste in a wine,” Graham of Broke’s Promise argued on our first night in town, “I don’t know their palette”.
“I’m a wine drinker, not a wine expert,” Marguerite confided in us later that same evening.
While there are those who will sniff, savour, and spit out their wine – my visit to Broke taught me that there’s room for a wine novice such as me, even in wine country.
Winners are grinners! Thank you Ascella Estate Wines
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everybody who helped put the weekend together and make it such a fantastic time. I’ve mentioned most of them above, but it would be remiss of me to overlook Margan’s Restaurant, Pitted & Pickled, and Pemberley Grange.
Have you ever paid a visit to a wine making district? What did you think?
Are you a wine novice considering a visit to wine country?