When an invitation to lunch arrives to celebrate the “world’s hottest new secret wine varietal”, it’s hard to remain suitably nonchalant. To my mind, the words ‘secret’ and ‘wine’ are seldom used together enough so it was with piqued interest I showed up to Kiwi chef Justin North’s Clarence Street restaurant, Etch (a dressed-down sibling to the acclaimed Becasse) to find out more about a French varietal to be launched by an Aussie wine label.
In what proved a bounty for my viticultural vocabulary, I shared a glass of Moscato on arrival with the winemaker himself, Scott Comyns. Winemakers are wonderfully down-to-earth companions at these kinds of events. They tend to quaff their wine, rather than sip, which means they’re instant fun. Plus, they are handy with pronunciations.
Aranel. Said like a-ran-nel. It’s certainly not the most elegant of names but it is French so it may be excused, n'est-ce pas? Grown here in Griffith, from the one surviving cane imported from France more than ten years ago, it is maker Tempus Two’s latest foray into what they like to call innovative European wines with an Australian twist.
This boutique winery has been subject to European charms since its inception and when founded in 1997 by industry trailblazer Lisa McGuigan, was born to the name of Hermitage Road. A year later when the French appellation campaigned to stop the use of the name Hermitage, it was renamed Tempus Two. Which, not by coincidence as it turns out, is Latin for second time around.
Tasting Aranel for the first time, it quickly registers how lucky we are McGuigan didn’t hold a grudge against the French. I’m not a qualified oenophile, despite a dedicated devotion to wine over the last decade, so I looked to a gentleman holding court at our long table, earnest in his dark-rimmed glasses and silver hair, looking like he knew a thing a two.
Not Peter Bourne, obviously, but when he spoke people paid attention, as did I.
“Lovely with this trout,” I overheard as he referred to the morsel on our plates.
“But calling for oysters,” he added. Nodding their heads in agreement, his audience was enthralled. Then in an instant, a lady shifted forward in her seat and my viewing was switched off.
Nonplussed, I had other things to concentrate on. An aged Semillon, a Melange a Trois, a Tempranillo – it is amazing how quickly an afternoon can pass when you’re tasting wines. Realising I was late for the airport I reluctantly made for a quick exit.
Rushing out the door, I ran straight into the man I’d decided was a member of the wine cognoscenti, dislodging the contents of his arms.
Following my apology, I gave into my curiosity and, politely, or so I thought, asked the man if he was a wine scribe of some note. Visibly annoyed, he simply replied that he wasn’t going to tell.
And I shrugged it off. Perhaps he too was caught up in the clandestine nature of the lunch invitation?
It wasn’t until last night when I turned the top on a bottle of Aranel that I thought again of this mysterious man who swore in French. Whoever he may be, he was absolutely right, how well it works with oysters.
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