Our leaving Qatar and returning to Australia in the middle of 2009 was a bit of a shock. I was feeling bitter about what had happened, how unfair it was and how it cost us a fortune because of petty politics, both within the bank and within the royal family of Qatar. We were jobless and homeless and had only enough money to pay the previous year's taxes and live for about 6 weeks before we would have gone broke. Prospects were pretty grim, especially given the GFC was rolling downhill quickly at the time!
Fortunately within two weeks, Deanna had her old job back, and my prospects were looking good, with three job offers firming nicely. Once we found a place to live and both secured jobs, I was starting to put the terrible experience behind us, and really wanted to treat myself to something special, and for me, that would be a most special bottle of wine, which seemed to be a good cause for celebration, especially after coming from a controlling, alcohol-restricted country!
My wine was all stored in a public cellar as I had moved it out of the cellar I built in our house (which we were leasing out at the time). Therefore, once we purchased a car, I headed over to my cellar and pulled out my oldest and dearest bottle of a 1954 Lindemans Vintage Port. It was a truly heavenly drink and I had it over several months, relishing every drop. It came in a beautiful bottle (the label actually) and was a real treasure. I wish I had a picture to show you, but I threw the bottle out when I was finished as we were living in a small apartment and space was at a premium. This was a mistake I have regretted ever since.
As much as I missed that bottle, it taught me from then on to save my 'precious' wine bottles and to display them. They provide great memories and for each great bottle of wine, I can remember the time and the people I shared it with and with reasonable clarity (especially difficult since most of these moments involved a lot of wine!). I call this 'my photo album for winos'.
In fact, I almost get as much joy out of my empties and my memories as I do walking through my cellar and selecting new bottles to drink. With the bottles in the cellar comes a great responsibility to (1) drink them at the right time (always a challenge if one takes this seriously), and (2) who to drink this particular bottle with? I sometimes find 'friend matching to wine' even harder than food matching! Whereas with the empties, I just have fond memories of times gone by and the great friendships we have shared.
Yes, this does take some' real estate' to store so many bottles, but as you can see, we have used the tops of cabinets and the tops of bookcase for 'display' and for very special events such as Deanna's 40th birthday party, we have turned the display into 'art work'.
Wow - what an evening that was all around and probably the very best wine tasting evening I have ever experienced (see line-up in picture above)! 9 courses of food perfectly prepared and matched to the wines I selected. Most of the wines came from Treasury Wine Estates and we had the perfect party served up at Lindemans, organized by Michelle Tracey, with Damien Harrison, who was our personal sommelier for the evening and contributed from his own collection a bottle of 1957 Lindemans Vintage Port (it was as close as anyone could find to the 1954 Vintage - thank you so much Damien!) and the food prepared by Craig Parkinson, Lindemans Head chef, with Pip Mason also serving us that evening. But Deanna's 40th and the wines deserve their own blog entry which will follow soon. This one is really about why to save your empties and how to turn them into memories.
Look at the character of this old bottle of the 1957 Lindemans Vintage Port from Damien! Water damage to the label, but the wine was exquisite.
These empty bottles really mean a lot to me and I greatly enjoy them over and over again. Most are displayed at our place in the Hunter Valley. I only keep one bottle of each (a separate bottle though for each vintage), except for the two best wines in the world - Chateau D'Yquem and Penfolds Grange. We drink so little of each that we do keep each and every empty we have created!
It takes a bit of room, but after tossing the 1954 Lindemans Vintage Port bottle, I learned a lesson. That was a bit like tossing a 1951 Willie Mays rookie baseball card! I greatly regret it and make sure to keep all the precious great bottles I have drunk since. And if anyone can find me a bottle of the 1954 Lindemans Vintage Port, it will be greatly appreciated - filled or empty!