I have been converted. I have seen the light. I have been saved.
If you have never had the pleasure of sampling GOOD organic wine then I cannot stress enough that you must! I promise you, it will change your perspective on the whole experience. After having the privilege of attending Merivale’s Goody Goody Yum Drops, I can whole heartedly say that natural, organic and biodynamic wines are my religion and Master Sommelier, Franck Moreau is my God.
But first, let me tell you about my journey towards the light.
The House of Worship
It was a beautiful Tuesday evening when I walked into the candle lit sanctum of Tank Stream Bar, the perfect setting for this celestial night. I walked through the threshold to discover that this bar was a building within a building. Large wooden beams line the roof to fill the room with earthly tones and a soft atmosphere that had people ceasing conversation just to admire their surroundings. I was left with no doubt that Merivale knows the importance of ambiance and boy, do they do it well.
In the centre of the room stood the shrine. Ten bottles of Holy Water were laid out, de-corked and ready to be discovered. It was behind this Altar that Master and Apprentice could be found. Sommelier Franck Moreau and his right hand man Adam Rothwell were to walk us through the coming deliverance. Our bible for the night was a beautiful pocket-sized booklet describing the various bouquets and sensations the wine would take us through. Franck began to pour out the wine and after what seemed like a lifetime of waiting we were finally ready to take our first sip of salvation.
The Sermon and Scriptures
According to the bible, organic wine is a system of vine growing that doesn’t use chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. “The goal is to lift vine health through soil condition and complexity”. Biodynamic wines are produced by a method of this organic farming that emphasises the “holistic development and interrelationships of the soil, plants and animals as a self-sustaining system”. These wines tend to lay all their cards out on the table and are perfect for first time parishioners.
Next were the preservative free and natural wines. The bible tells us that the word ‘preservative’ refers to “protecting the wine from microbial contamination or spoilage by unwanted bacteria, moulds and yeast”. With this in mind, we therefore assume preservative-free wine avoid implementing these artificial protections. Natural wines are those “characterised by spontaneity and freedom from artificiality, affectation or inhibitions”. In layman terms it refers to wine made with minimal chemical involvement.
Our final sample was an Amphora, or orange, wine. “Orange wine is usually dry and made from white grape varieties that have spent some maceration time in contact with the grape skins, giving the wine its colour”.
The Priest and Paige Boy
Two hours into the sermon, every decanter was empty. All that remained was a face to face meeting with his holiness. I sat with Franck outside the front of our church for the evening and was immediately struck by awe. This man had accomplished so many great achievements it was difficult for me to come up with questions that hadn’t already been covered by years’ worth of interviews. So I simply started with “I can read that your favourite wines are from Burgundy. I know that you enjoy the cool, crisp climates of Australian wine and I know that you have been awarded various prestigious awards including Sydney Morning Herald Sommelier of the Year in 2010. What I don’t know is if you ever just get sick of wine?”
He smiled and looked at me with an expression that said “well this is new”. He began by explaining that wine for him isn’t simply another item on a bar menu. “It is a passion, my passion”. The study involved with becoming a master sommelier is so consuming it becomes just another part of who you are. After learning that he has studied vineyards and their wines in so many different countries I asked why he chose to finally settle in Australia. “For love” he stated, being all very French. Upon falling in love with a Sydney woman he decided this was where he would end up. Lucky for us!
After being so completely charmed by this French wine god, I decided to ask his number two man to dish the dirt. I was out of luck. Adam Rothwell was, after years of working with Franck, still as in awe of the man as I was. The absolute love and respect for Franck poured out of Adam’s praise and I could not help smiling as I listened. “He maybe a cheeky little git sometimes but Franck has taught me everything I know”. Adam explained that the wine culture in Australia use to be all too “stuffy” however, with efforts from Franck it has become more accessible to the general public. “He appreciates the quirks that every wine has to offer and believes there is a wine for everybody. He has made it his mission to find them”. With a long leash from Merivale, Franck is able to host events such as Goody Goody Yum Drops to help match the worshipper and their wine.
Mine? A Pierre Frick Riesling ‘Sans Souffre’. Alsace, France.
Triana O’Keefe is the newest author to join the Inside Cuisine team. Triana grew up in the Southern Highlands of NSW and has enjoyed fine food from a young age. However, her love of both the city and fine dining really came into play after her mother began managing a hatted restaurant in Woolloomooloo. Since moving to Sydney she has combined her passion for food and hospitality with a media degree in journalism.
As well as studying full time she bartends at her local hotel where she enjoys both the work and the people. Triana is also a blogger enthusiast who writes The Whine Bar describing her work from behind the beer taps.
Article by Triana O’Keefe
Photos by Joe Van Der Heide and Triana O’Keefe