Wine Life: Why you should drink the good stuff now

'Don't wait for special occasions. Drink the good stuff now.'
'Don't wait for special occasions. Drink the good stuff now.' Photo: Jennifer Soo

News straight from the grapevine.

Wine lesson

My father-in-law had a great cellar. Proper cellar, underground, dark, lots of dusty bottles. As the son-in-law "into wine", it was my job to go down and choose a bottle for dinner – anything except a few rare bottles being saved for special occasions, including a precious, priceless, irreplaceable 1967 Lake's Folly red, the second vintage from the iconic Hunter Valley winery.

Every time I went down, I'd look at that Lake's Folly, lurking in the shadows, and yearn to try it. I'd even pick the bottle up sometimes and cradle it, imagining what it would taste like.

Illustration: Simon Letch.
Illustration: Simon Letch. 

Then, a couple of years ago, when my in-laws sold their house to move into an apartment, the family gathered to share the rare bottles.

So down I went, and gently pulled out the '67 from its resting place – only to discover that at some point since I'd last examined it, the cork had crumbled, leaving nothing inside but a puddle of expensive vinegar. 

The moral? Don't wait for special occasions. Drink the good stuff now.

Stalin's Wine Cellar by John Baker and Nick Place.
Stalin's Wine Cellar by John Baker and Nick Place. Photo: Supplied

Wine book

The words "wine book" and "ripping yarn" aren't normally seen in the same sentence, but Stalin's Wine Cellar (Penguin, $35) is just that: a cracking account of Sydney wine merchant John Baker's travels in post-Soviet Georgia, on the trail of a huge cache of rare and precious 19th-century bottles. If only more wine books were as much fun to read as this one. Order online at

Wine for now

2020 Delinquente Roxanne the Razor, $25, a thirst-quenching light red blend of negroamaro and nero d'avola grapes grown in South Australia's Riverland region, is super-juicy and snappy, like munching on freshly picked red grapes. It's also screaming out for pizza.

Wine for later

Hard to believe that Taltarni's magnificent 2017 Old Vine Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – a wine that will comfortably slumber away in a cold, dark place for 20 years or more, developing greater depth and complexity – is $45 a bottle. It's easily as good as many other cabernets two or three times the price.


Wine wishlist

Who: House of Arras, Tasmania.

What: 2009 Grand Vintage.

Why: Because even when it feels like there's not a lot to celebrate, opening a bottle of this stunning sparkling wine from Australia's greatest producer is a celebration in itself.

Wine for a cause: Nikkal 2020 rosé.
Wine for a cause: Nikkal 2020 rosé.  Photo: Supplied

When: Any time somebody is shucking oysters.

How much: $110.


Wine debut

Andrew Quin's day job is winemaker at top Barossa Valley estate Hentley Farm. He and his wife, Skye, have also launched their own new label, Quin Wines. All the varietals in the range are good but the pick for me is the 2018 Grenache: rich, slinky and spicy, $55.

Wine for a cause

Breast cancer survivor and winemaker Kate Goodman has produced a gorgeous pale, dry rosé under her Nikkal label and is donating the proceeds from its sale to the Breast Cancer Network of Australia. The 2020 Nikkal Rosé comes in a six-pack for $150, plus delivery.

Max Allen is an award-winning journalist and author who has written about wine and drinks for close to 30 years.