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Storm light in the vineyards

Storm Light, Vineyards, Beaune, FranceStorm Light, Vineyards, Beaune, France, 9th September 2017 19:43
Pentax K-x, 18-125mm lens @ 18mm, 1/320 sec, f/8.0, ISO 400. Panorama created using Lightroom.

Late summer, at the tipping point of autumn. Harvest ahead. Cycling back to Meursault in the early evening. Rain hanging around, spitting, threatening. Grey clouds glowering overhead. As the sun disappears, the clouds relent & turn golden with the dusk; bluegrey & gold, like slate and fire, iron and gold. However the day seemed prior to this, it is a benediction; it is like the threat inherent in those splattered rain drops has passed and been forgotten.

But I was heading back to Meursault. Still in Beaune, not yet in Pommard, & needing to be back before the light faded for the evening. But I couldn’t move on: the light changed from gold to galah pink, the clouds still glowering slate grey above the vineyards.

Sunset, Vineyards, Beaune, FranceSunset, Vineyards, Beaune, France, 9th September 2017 19:59
Pentax K-x, 10-24mm lens @ 10mm, 1/60 sec, f/8.0, ISO 400. Panorama created using Lightroom.

Eventually, I got back to Meursault. Late, I struggled to find a restaurant open. Luckily, the Hôtel du Centre was still open, just. The dinning room was starting to empty. A couple, a businessman polishing off the last of a bottle of wine. I had magret du canard and a glass of red burgundy. My luck was still with me: the duck was beautiful, rich, flavoursome, seared outside and bloodily red inside. The sole mishap, that I was given a glass of Côtes-du-Rhône instead of the requested Santenay, was no mishap in that it was an excuse for two glasses of wine rather than one. What had been a desperate attempt to get something, anything, to eat, was anything but. What was to be a simple meal, an unexpected pleasure. Serendipity! The meal finished with a glass of an armagnac older than me, and a petit café.

Walking back afterwards, the sky was perfectly dark. Sodium lights lit the village, and the edges of vineyards. I walked past a clos, and looked in through wroughtiron gates at the vines, sleeping before the harvest, unworldly under the orange light. Gold to pink to orange.

Vineyard on the edge of Meursault at NightVineyard on the edge of Meursault at Night, 9th September 2017 21:46
iPhone 4s, builtin 4.28mm (~35mm) lens, 1 sec, f/2.4, ISO 800. Shot using Camera+ 9.1.

Departing to arrive

Train, Milan to Lyon, 25th August 2017

A train through (and under) the mountains. Brief glimpses of alpine streams, cold and fast flowing. A person walking through a small village. What is the connection that you could possibly have with them in this brief moment — if any?

Later, glimpses of limestone cliffs amongst oak trees. Vegetation so luxuriant it’s almost tropical. Lakes and steep drop-offs to gullies.

I am still unsure what any of this means.

Determining the best Pinot Noir regions: a private pet theory

I have a private pet theory for determining the best regions for growing Pinot Noir wines that I unaccountably want to share. It’s this: all the best regions have ’03’ phone area codes. This might seem crazily over-simplistic, but bear with me for a moment. I have proof.

Pinot Noir vines, vineyard near Savigny-lès-Beaune, BurgundyPinot Noir vines, vineyard near Savigny-lès-Beaune, Burgundy, 26th September 2013
Pentax K-x, 18-125mm lens @ 125mm, 1/200 sec, f/8.0, ISO 400


  • Burgundy, Alsace, the Jura, & Champagne all have 03 numbers assigned by the French telephone numbering plan
  • Tasmania, Gippsland, the Yarra Valley, & Mornington Peninsula also all have 03 numbers assigned to them, by the Australian telephone numbering plan
  • Central Otago, Marlborough, & Canterbury all have 03 numbers, under the New Zealand telephone numbering plan

A few exceptions:

  • The Adelaide Hills region gets 08 numbers assigned to it.
  • Oregon and California both are part of the North American Numbering plan, which does not assign any numbers starting with a zero. Some parts of north-west Oregon get 503 numbers, which may be close enough — though this doesn’t seem to cover the Willamette Valley. D’oh.
  • Germany is making some very good Pinot Noirs (which they often refer to as Spätburgunder, “late Burgundy”), but 03 numbers are assigned to north-eastern Germany, not Baden, Pfalz, or Ahr, which are in the south-west.
  • Martinborough, NZ gets 06 phone numbers.

Also, some areas may be assigned 03 numbers, but not be suitable for Pinot Noir — for example, some of the warmer parts of Victoria, Australia. To this, I could only respond by waggling my eyebrows, shrugging my shoulders, and leaving rapidly before my hypothetical interlocutor realises that wasn’t actually a valid response to their criticisms.

Nonetheless, I think my theory has validity, and maybe some predictive power. Perhaps I could extend it further. Do good Cabernet sauvignons come from regions with 05 numbers, such as Bordeaux? Great Syrahs from regions with 04 numbers, like the northern Rhône? Though this might be a problem for Australia: 04 and 05 are both assigned for mobile numbers, which suggests that great Cabernet and great Syrah are possible everywhere, and nowhere (though, to be fair, I’ve never actually seen an 05 mobile number in use in Australia…). Italy has a similar problem with Pinot Noir (there called Pinot Nero), 03 numbers in Italy being assigned to mobile phones.

Or perhaps one could suggest that areas with an 08 number are good for a wide range of grapes, as this area code including both South Australia and West Australia. But this would force wineries in France to spring for a freephone ‘numéro vert’ 08 number, which may not win me friends there.

So, for now, I might leave further exploration of this idea aside for now. Still, I suspect it has promise. And I will keep returning to the allure of the ’03’ area code.

Which reminds me, I should open a bottle of something good for tonight, from a winery whose phone number starts with 03………..

Côte d'Or morning, Burgundy, 3rd October 2011Côte d’Or morning, Burgundy, 3rd October 2011
Pentax K-x, 18-125mm lens at 40mm, 1/80 sec, f/5.0, ISO 500

Vale, Summer!

Mt Wellington, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, 18th December 2016Mt Wellington, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, 18th December 2016 10:21
Pentax K-x, Sigma 18-125 mm lens @ 85 mm, 1/200th sec, f/7.1, ISO 100


It’s April already, and here in Australia we’re already bidding goodbye to summer as she flees northwards.  I cannot say I will miss summer too much, though that may seem heretical. Here in Queensland, summer brings humidity and far more heat than I can cope with. Autumn, and winter, will bring some relief.

But today I am looking back to summer in Hobart, last December. One day showed the particular contrasts present in one day. In the morning, I drove to Mt Wellington, risking life and hire car on the narrow road to the summit, constantly veering closer and closer to the edge to let large four wheel drives go past. By the time I was part way up the mountain, a steady sleet had set in. The top was coated in snow, like marzipan on a wedding cake. Eucalypt forest clung to the sides of the mountain, by the top, just moorland. It was exhilarating, and the view back to Hobart impressive, but within minutes I began to feel impossibly cold, and had to retreat to the car for warmth.

After lunch I headed for the easier life of the flatlands. Back in the lowlands, it was still summer. I drove towards Richmond, a Georgian village in the wine producing Coal River Valley. Here, there was sunshine, and warmth. I had come back from Winter to Summer — within one day, and fifty kilometres, we had changed season. It was impossible not to revel in the sunlight, and the warmth.

As summer retreats, I can at least be reassured that winter in Queensland will not be as cold as summer on top of Mount Wellington. I can look forward, at least, to woodfires and red wine, and reading. Winter always has much to offer.


Richmond, Tasmania, 18 December 2016Richmond, Tasmania, 18 December 2016 13:33
Pentax K-x, Sigma 18-125 mm lens @ 40 mm, 1/210th sec, f/8.0, ISO 125



Cluttered bookshelf

Stuff, it seems, tends to accumulate. The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of a closed system will always increase, something which becomes particularly evident when contemplating spring cleaning. As I am now.

I am envious of those who can do without ‘stuff’, and perhaps keep enough for their day-to-day needs in a suitcase. If nothing else, it simplifies moving. But how to apply this to books? Books always seem to be more than just ‘stuff’, they are fragments of knowledge and windows into other worlds — and other minds. But, they’re still physical objects, something that becomes intensely obvious when  you have to move them. A box filled with books quickly gets heavy!

The obvious answer is an eBook reader, like a Kindle. But I have too many old or unusual books, that will never be offered as eBooks. And nothing, for me, can replace a shelf full of books. Being amongst books offers a sense of security, and rootedness, that is hard to find.

So, how does one solve the problem of ‘stuff’…?


AubergineWell, this is a first. I haven’t taken blogging seriously before. I probably still won’t.

One argument I have long had against blogging is that any idiot can start a blog, and then expect to be treated as an expert — even me. Well, I finally decided to put my lack-of-money where my mouth is, and (re)start my own blog.

I do not claim to be an expert in anything — despite having studied both systematic botany and oenology — so will make no claim to authoritativeness in any particular area. Nor will I try to keep this blog focussed on any particular area — it will be eclectic and roam freely as I feel fit. There will probably be quite a bit about wine, botany, gardening, computing, photography, food and history. Unless there isn’t. We’ll see.

I also cannot promise to post daily — or weekly — but as and when things interest me, or I find time. For the moment, I can only promise ‘more soon’ …

(As an aside, I should thank Sonia Ghiggioli of Vine Time, who has encouraged me to resume blogging a number of times.)

À bientôt …