The lawyer as wine tourist
Monday, July 23, 2018
Justinian in Wendler on Wine, Wine

Wine man Gabriel Wendler visits the extraordinary Thomas Hardy Wine Library in Adelaide and d'Arenberg's Cube at McLaren Vale ... One of the great wine book collections in the world, while The Cube makes a big impact on the Southern Vales 

THERE are twenty recognised wine making regions in South Australia of which the most prominent are the Barossa, Clare and Eden Valleys, Adelaide Hills, Southern Vales, Langhorne Creek and the Coonawarra.

This is reason enough to visit the Festival State as a wine tourist.

A wine tourist's South Australian itinerary should include two readily accessible unique wine phenomena of powerful curiosity, namely: the astonishing Thomas Hardy Wine Library on the first level of the South Australian State Library, North Terrace, Adelaide, and the d'Arenberg Cube at McLaren Vale in the Southern Vales region.

The rich history of South Australian viticulture includes the significant contribution made by the Hardy family.

Tom Hardy, a native of Devon, England, arrived in South Australia in 1850 and established his first vineyard four years later at Bankside Farm on the River Torrens.

By 1875 Hardy was producing around 103,000 gallons of wine. One year later he established himself in McLaren Vale following the purchase of the Tintara vineyards from one of Australia's pioneer winemakers and early wine writers, Dr A.C. Kelly.

The company, Thomas Hardy & Sons Ltd, was then incorporated and wine cellars  constructed in 1893 on the edge of the City of Adelaide at Mile End.

In 1895 Hardy's was the largest wine producer in South Australia. Tom died in 1912 and the  business was passed down through generations of the family. In time there came the addition of further vineyards in the Barossa Valley, Riverland and Coonawarra. In 2003 BRL Hardy was bought by the beer, wine and spirits mega-corporation, Constellation Brands.

The Thomas Hardy Wine Library holds one of the largest collections of wine reference books in the world, made possible by regular financial grants from the Hardy company, commencing in 1968. New publications on all aspects of wine, winemaking, wine appreciation and viticulture are regularly added to the collection.    

The library currently holds about 2,000 titles comprising rare books on wine and viticulture, some going back to the eleventh century, dictionaries on wine, books by famous and obscure wine experts, specialised books on particular grape varieties, books concerning all the winemaking areas of the world and their wine estates, famous and not so famous producers, technical journals and records about wine and winemaking, books about wine in French, German and Italian.

Whenever I am in Adelaide I visit the collection and marvel at the cornucopia of wine literature. Where else can one access such disparate titles as:

Alcohol and Old Age - The Black Horse Of The Apocalypse; Wine, Alcohol and Civilisation; Dialogues on Drink; Chinese Wine; The Wine Grower in South Africa; Wine Trade Exhibition Drinking Vessels; Wines of Eastern North America; Nose – a detective story about wine; Inns, Ales and Drinking Customs of Old England, Amarone - the making of an Italian wine phenomenon - only a fraction of the titles in the prodigious Thomas Hardy Wine Library.

Access to the TH collection at the State Library is free and easy during business hours.

The idea of the Cube occurred to d'Arenberg's ebullient chief winemaker Chester Osborn in 2003, apparently inspired by Chester's fascination with the complexities and mathematics of the process of wine making. 

The Cube: Rubic in Wonderland

The Cube cost $15 million to build and was ceremoniously declared open to the public in December 2017. It consists of five levels of concrete, harlequin chequered glass and steel in a vineyard setting. It insinuates Erno Rubik's Cube together with Jeff Koons and Alice in Wonderland. As a trophy building it is despised by some and admired by many.

A $10 admission fee enables entry to the Cube and subsidises the free wine tasting on its fourth floor with panoramic views of the Vales and the Fleurieu coast. It contains a restaurant, art gallery of modernist paintings and more. There are eccentric life size wax figures of both Chester and his father d'Arry.         

There was no Cube when I lived in the Southern Vales in the 1970s. I often purchased wine from d"Arenberg in those days and, as I recall, there was a tin shed attached to the winery where wine could be chosen and the money left in an honesty box. No flash tasting area using Riedel glasses then. 

D'Arenberg Osborn, "d'Arry" took over as wine maker in 1957. He is now almost 92 years of age. I have fond memories of the Gold Medal Burgundy and the Cabernet-Shiraz. Both wines had distinctive white labels traversed by a thick red stripe - which remains the d'Arenberg motif on many of its wine products such as The Coppermine Road, and the excellent Dead Arm Shiraz.

In the late 1960s and early 70s the Burgundy was a multi medal winner. The  Cabernet-Shiraz of 1964 was described by Len Evans in a Bulletin wine article "as reminiscent of the plush of a nineteenth -century Paris brothel". 

Wendler with wax figures

Forty years ago there were 25 recognised wine making regions in Australia, today there are 72 - precipitating robust competition for the wine tourist dollar.

However one wants to define the Cube and its impact on the Southern Vales it surely is a successful and clever marketing vehicle attracting wine tourists not only to d'Arenberg but also to the many other excellent wineries in the Vales. 

Long may it do so. 

Gabriel Wendler is a Sydney barrister and Justinian's wine correspondent

Article originally appeared on Justinian: Australian legal magazine. News on lawyers and the law (http://justinian.com.au/).
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