Bastard Box is devastated – who’d do this for a living?

Arrived at our property at Skyline Road last Friday to find that the 120 vines at Bastard Box are in a very sad state. Just one month ago, the vines were in the prime of health with even the sniff of our first miniscule production. Since then, we’ve been hit by two severe setbacks.

The first, downy mildew. No surprise really given the extraordinary wet conditions. Last Friday was 26 degrees Centigrade, but the humidity must have been close to 100%. Unbearable, and that’s coming from someone who lives in Singapore! The second setback is locusts, Not great swarms of them, but enough of the odd one hatching out of the moist soil to completely strip some vines.

So, no harvest this year. The good news is that as a result of the calamity, I’ve been introduced to a very enthusiastic vigneron, and she’s fairly confident that with proper management, we’ll get our first vintage next year. Oh, and she wants to expand the vines to almost a vineyard!

In the meantime, I’ve been on a spending spree. I picked up a missing year (2008) of James Halliday’s Wine Companion for $4 at a favourite second-hand shop in Yarra Glen, and I picked up for only $5 each, the Complete Book of Australian Wine by Len Evans, The Australian Wine Compendium by James Halliday, and The Great Australian Wine Book by Robert Mayne, all 1985 editions, at our local Library store in Alexandra.

And to top it off, a used wine barrel bearing the stamp “Tonnellerie Sirugue, Nuits St George, France” now sits on our deck and commands that it be the resting place of open bottles, half filled Riedel glasses, scribbles of tasting notes and host to  vigorous debates about terroir, screwcaps, and HoG vs Grange.

Specials in Singapore to resume soon!

“The Stawell [Victoria] region is not productive of gold only; it has great vineyards, and produces exceptionally fine wines. One of these vineyards – the Great Western, owned by Mr. Irving – is regarded as a model. Its product has reputation abroad. It yields a choice champagne and a fine claret, and its hock took a prize in France two or three years ago. The champagne is kept in a maze of passages under ground, cut in the rock, to secure it an even temperature during the three year term required to perfect it. In those vaults I saw 120,000 bottles of champagne. The colony of Victoria has a population of 1,000,000 and those people are said to drink 25,000,000 bottles of champagne per year. The driest community on the earth. The government has lately reduced the duty upon foreign wines. That is one of the unkindnesses of Protection. A man invests years of work and a vast sum of money in a worthy enterprise, upon the faith of existing laws; then the law is changed, and the man is robbed by his own government.” – Mark Twain writing of his visit to Australia in 1895.

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Wine quotations

"A good bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world" - Louis Pasteur

“The unexacting palates of the masses…are content to ask no question [on origin] so long as a florin or half-a-crown will purchase a roomy flagon of strong , full-bodied, fruity wine” – CE Hawker writing in 1907