Published on August 22nd, 2017 | by Greg Roshier0
Por Larranaga Belicosos Extra RR Asia Pacific (19/7400) (EMA Jul 08)/Emerson’s Hefe-Weizenbier Dunkelweiss (6.3% alc)
I’ve been doing the Aussie/Kiwi end of the Best Wine in the World competition for what seems ages now (you can vote on your faves – www.tastingbook.com) and decided to disappear down to a little place the family has on the northern NSW coast to catch up on other work done, sans distractions. Took me half a day to finish up with stuff in Brizzy, pack the car, water the plants and so forth. A bit under two hours’ drive.
Then took me 16 trips up the two flights of stairs to unload (well, I lost count around 14 so not exactly sure, but who knew my little vehicle could fit so much stuff!). Unfortunately, I forgot both shorts and my fly rods – 8 tonnes of fishing gear and I forget the rods. Did have some normal rods so not a total disaster, but no shorts – fishing in jeans. So unprofessional. And uncomfortable.
But I did toss in a few bottles so I could do some tasting while away. I’d have guessed maybe a dozen, perhaps 18. I counted – 86 bottles. Well, I am here for a few days. Not sure how that happened but it does mean it will be one very big tasting – or as we call it in Queensland, lunch at Di’s!
Ducked down for a quick fish at dusk and managed a nice little flattie first cast. Took pity and sent him swimming away (in the photos, I should mention that the knife is actually the size of a sword). Glorious full moon came up over the sea. Gave the horizon a wonderful bruised plum colour and then we had a magical dancing silver bridge across the ocean. After all that, home for a hot (well, would have been, if the hot water system didn’t take forever to heat up) shower and then it just seemed right to crack a beer and a cigar and settle down with a good book for an hour or two.
Had two books to start (have been reading the Conn Iggulden series on Genghis Khan on Rob’s recommendation – loved the first but half way through the second and not so excited: seems he has not got out of second gear here, but I’ll persist, and have already bought the third) – plan was a chapter or two of an intriguing book on the food of Spain and then an old classic I read in the early 70s as a kid – ‘Watership Down’ by Richard Adams. I remember I loved it then and wanted to see if it held up (had seen it reviewed recently as good, but also bagged as not enough female rabbits, hence the author must be a misogynist – spare me). Yes, it is supposedly a 600-page kid’s book about rabbits, but I disagree – what kid’s book quotes Hamlet (the play, not the roller) and the Greek playwrights?
The first, Matt Goulding’s ‘Grape Olive Pig’ started fabulously. He is an American who is behind the Roads & Kingdoms site and wrote a much-hyped book on the food of Japan. This is his second – he now lives in Barcelona. Anthony Bourdain wrote the forward, expressing the view that anyone so blessed deserves to have his next book be about Orlando. The problem is this is going to make me want to jump on the next plane to Spain. But I always want to jump on the next plane to Spain anyway.
As far as great destinations go, I came late to the party regards Spain. When I lived in England, it was always France, with one brief trip to northern Spain. When I say brief, I mean we drove across the border for 20 minutes and then returned to France. So we could say we’d been to Spain. Pointless but fun.
My next visit, thirty years ago this December, was at the beginning of nearly a year spent travelling, the first seven months of which was in a group of about 18 of us, on the back of an old Bedford truck through Africa and parts of Asia, finishing in Kathmandu. We left London mid-winter, a couple of days in Paris (camping on the outskirts in minus 5 temperature but Paris is always fun, and we only stayed more than overnight as we needed Algerian visas and the place was clogged with people seeking the same for the Paris to Dakar Rally – little did we know that a month or so later, we’d be towing one of the entrants, who’d broken down in the Sahara, into Tamanrasset). Then it was just plugging south to Algeciras to catch the car ferry to Ceuta.
Granted Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in the north part of Morocco, was not the endless Serengeti, the dense jungles and mountain rainforests of central Africa or the massive Sahara – they were all to come – but I still remember the amazing thrill and goosebumps and a tear or two that I was finally on African soil. Africa had always fascinated me since I was a tiny kid, and when I saw Attenborough in the middle of the mountain gorillas, I had one thing and one thing only on my bucketlist – to sit amongst the gorillas. And yes, I did manage it (the most remarkable thing I have ever done)! But I digress. I remember almost nothing of Spain – slow-going on the highway, cold miserable weather and someone pointing out a smudge on the horizon which was apparently Madrid. Since then, been many times and love the place. A week around the sherry houses in Sanlucar and Jerez last year the latest.
The second book – ‘Watership Down’. Absolutely loving it. Brilliant stuff.
The beer and cigar (yes, I’m getting there – think of this as like a par five where you take the requisite number of shots, but along the way, you end up in the rough and a bunker or two. You don’t draw a diagram, you just mark the final score).
The Por Larranaga Belicosa from 2008. You’d like to think they’d be hitting peak form around now. This was my third and the jury is very much out. The first, I marked 84; the second, 94. This one? Disappointing. A dry rice cracker note, inoffensive but very little flavour. It was as though time had leached all the character and flavour out of the poor thing. Well-constructed, at least until near the end. All a bit blah. I have another with me so might try and even the score. This one? A generous 86.
And what a shame as the beer deserved much better. Emerson’s was one of the very first Kiwi craft brewers and I was a big fan, though they were hard to get (Emerson’s was sold to Lion around five years ago – I’m sure our Kiwi brethren could expand on how it is faring these days – and I think this beer is now simply called Dunkel). This bottle was actually from the back of the pantry where it had sat for way too long (expiry date of March 2009 is a clue – hey, I recently finished a bottle of Dettol with an expiry of 1992 and found a bottle of some sauce in mum’s fridge with the expiry date of 2000). So I thought it would be stale and flat and way past it. Amazingly, time had done it wonders. This was a wonderful beer – deep, rich flavours of chocolate and especially caramel. Notes of banana toffee. Loved it.
It deserved a cigar with as much choc/caramel flavours as possible. Now that would have been a match from heaven. Sadly, the Por L behaved poorly and let the side down. Enough to put a rabbit off his lettuce.