Posts Tagged ‘cocktails’

My favourite wine

December 11, 2009

Welcome to Favourite Friday. This week the management is pleased to announce a special offer—two favourites for the price of one!

I wanted to talk about my favourite wine. I don’t want to sound like a wino, but choosing a favourite from the many wonderful drops available was never going to happen. I just like wine too much—all sorts of wine, wine from different regions, wine by different vintners, wine of different ages, wine at different temperatures, wine drunk in different places. Narrowing it down to two types was a wrench, I can tell you.

On to the first favourite: Champagne.

Let me make one thing clear from the start. Most of the white fizzy wine I drink doesn’t come from the Champagne region, in fact it’s probably never heard of France. But I’m damn well going to call it Champagne here and in every other conversation I have about the stuff. Sparkling wine it may be, but to me it’s always been Champagne and always will be. Any other name is cowardly legal twaddle and an insult to the romance of this beautiful drink.

What is it that makes Champagne so attractive? It has many charming qualities, but somehow it has a little something more, something that other wines don’t possess. The pale golden hue, the sight of bubbles rising. The delicate scent, grassy or buttery, sometimes with a faint whiff of flowers. The clean, fresh taste that’s just on the right side of too dry, the feel of bubbles on the tongue…and yet, and yet. Champagne has a certain romance about it. When you drink it, you could be in a 1920s nightclub listening to jazz. You could be a 50s-era film star, celebrating your latest box-office success. You could be at a friend’s wedding, or on a first date, or making someone’s birthday a night to remember. Champagne, apart from all its measurable qualities, has the taste of celebration, the smell of parties, and the look of romance.

See how it lights up my otherwise dull and dirty kitchen bench? Champagne is instant glamour.

Of course, another of its good qualities is that it is so versatile. You can mix Champagne with just about everything. Half-and-half with orange juice on Christmas morning. Allow a strawberry to macerate slowly in the wine as you drain the glass. Add a wild hibiscus for some colour and flavour. Mix it in a cocktail—I love the Classic Champagne Cocktail, the French 75, and of course the Bellini. Or throw in whatever you’ve got laying about—this evening I added some leftover raspberry syrup, but saffron syrup also makes an exotic and delicious blend.

Actually, it’s funny, given how much Champagne I consume, that I can’t find a photo of myself drinking it. Perhaps some angel with more regard for my reputation than I would usually show has destroyed all the evidence?

Summer, with its propensity to increase the consumption of Champagne, is also the perfect time to drink my other favourite wine—Rosé. With a colour halfway between red and white wine, but a nose and flavour all its own, Rosé has always fascinated me. It’s perfect for those occasions that call for something a little more fragrant and a little more flavoursome than Champagne. I love discovering new Rosés, and I honestly can’t remember ever buying the same bottle twice. There are so many different Rosés available these days, made (as far as I can tell) from several different sorts of grape. Some are fresh and dry, others have a hint of sweetness, and I can remember one that smelt distinctly of strawberries. Distinctly.

These are the three bottles that are currently in my possession. Appropriately, they are from three different regions—Queensland, the Barossa, and Western Australia—and I believe all three are concoted from different grape varieties. And one’s even bottled under a cork, bless their old-fashioned little cotton socks. The central Rosé in this picture is actually of particular significance—it was the first Rosé I ever discovered, having never before heard of the existence of pink wine. Mum bought a bottle of this from the vineyard when we were in the Barossa in 1998, and I can remember being fascinated by the matching pinks of the brolga’s wings and the wine it attended.

Rosé is the wine I like to introduce Summer with. It’s fruity enough to drink in Springtime, and refreshing enough to carry you through Christmas lunch and to the hot days beyond. And there’s hardly a woman I know who isn’t attracted to pink wine.

With romantic Champagne and fruity Rosé, there’s plenty to keep me occupied this Summer. What will you be drinking?

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Conferences are not sleep-friendly

July 9, 2009

Despite the title, this is not going to be a grumpy post. I’ve been having a great time in Melbourne, but unfortunately I’ve had such a great time I haven’t taken any photos (not a single one) so you’ll just have to imagine the wonderful things I describe.

The conference I’m here in Melbourne for—the annual meeting of the Astronomical Society of Australia, or ASA—is the biggest event of the Australian Astronomer’s calendar. Many Astronomers from Universities all around Australia, and just about all the students, converge for five days of scientific talks, scientific posters, and somewhat scientific drinking (Drinking has a science, right? right??). I managed to come down with a cold on the first day so my week has included a bit less alcohol and a bit more sleep than I planned (and in comparison to most other students!) but I’ve still managed to do my share of networking. That seems to be mainly what conferences are about—the social stuff that goes on after the talks have finished for the day. (Before I left, my supervisor asked me somewhat sardonically whether I’d get any work done this week. But everyone here agrees that the drinking—sorry, ‘networking’—is just as important as the science. I think next time I’ll say, ‘you can’t spell networking without work!’)

I was a little disappointed with the selection of talks this year—too much cosmology and galaxy Astronomy and too little stellar Astronomy for my taste—but overall the quality of the science has been really good. This is heartening as Australia isn’t really one of the heavyweights in the International Astronomical community. But two of my friends and fellow students gave really good talks, and one of them even got a prize—very well-deserved. I gave a poster again this year (wasn’t successful in my application for a talk) and was lucky enough to be awarded the prize for best student poster! Which made my week.

Socially this week has been great, and it’s been wonderful to have the opportunity to discover a bit more of Melbourne. We’ve been to a fancy wine bar to learn the intricacies of wine-tasting and try some wonderful cheese. We walked to a quirky but fantastic Greek restaurant where we never saw a menu but ate the most amazing food. We’ve sneaked out of talks to go shopping in Fitzroy, the City, and Prahran, where I got some cute and unique jewellery. We’ve drunk cocktails with names like ‘Lawn bowls on a hot Melbourne day’ and ‘Things to do in Denver when you’re dead’. We’ve taken trams, buses, trains, and we’ve walked. Oh, we’ve walked. All our feet are sore, but the choice between catching the last tram or staying for one more drink is not really a choice at all. Not when you’re meeting new people, and having a proper chat with old friends in a new environment. It’s been lovely.

But, as I said, it hasn’t been sleep-friendly. To our credit, despite the late nights that were actually early mornings we’ve hardly missed any morning sessions. The ready availability of good coffee in Melbourne has helped with that. But I’m looking forward to the weekend, to staying with Libby’s parents, to cups of tea and early nights and time on the couch. And then discovering a different part of Melbourne, and hopefully shaking off this cold. And, of course, doing it all again next time.