ENGINEER MEETS OENOPHILE
CAN THE EXACTING DISCIPLINE OF AN ENGINEER SEE EYE-TO-EYE WITH THE HALLUCINOGENIC TASTES OF AN ARTIST? MARK ALLEN THINKS NOT
WORDS BY MARK ALLEN
PHOTOS BY FRANCES ANDRIJICH.
Right from the moment I mentioned to Kristy, my know-it-all wine connoisseur and companion for the next 1500km, that this BT-50 diesel engine was so smooth and responsive, I knew I’d have to keep an eye on her...and keep her away from ‘MY’ Mazda!
“Oh, lucky I didn’t fill it up with petrol...is it really a diesel?” she nonchalantly responds.
“Oh, is Merlot different to Shiraz?” I snapped back with a mocking grin...couldn’t resist stirring her up a bit. Little did she know I wasn’t kidding; I was out of my league with wines but was fully prepared to fake it for the next few days. Surely I could learn the lingo and not make a fool of myself!
Turbo, intercooler, electronic sequential fuel injection, 115kW of power and 380Nm of torque, high and low range gearing to climb just about anything...she had no idea and didn’t seem to give a damn about the capabilities of our set of wheels! Young Kristy was in for a lesson or two – whether she liked it or not! Once we’d cruised a few hundred km’s of sealed roads at 110km/h with the revs just ticking over (not that she would have noticed), we hit the dirt roads. Never have I seen a grown lady transform so quickly from a cool clever-clogs to a white-knuckled scream-machine as I got the Mazda drifting slightly sideways and powered on. I loved it and didn’t back off the right boot as we tackled the loose gravel roads, wash-aways and mud. Kristy probably didn’t even notice that I’d switched the centre-consol-mounted dial to 4WD mode to ensure we got maximum traction. No point wasting my breath explaining it to her either!
My fun ended the moment we entered the winery gates; talk about instant boredom! Hours of swilling, spitting and vague, fluffy descriptions of Rieslings compared to Chardonnays’ and this drop compliments that food...honestly, who can tell the difference and how on earth could you tell that a grape had been grown on a western facing hill, or it had been handpicked instead of machine shaken from its vines? A lot of head-nodding in bamboozled agreement with the wine maker and Kristy to keep the peace is how I treated my excessive wine tasting session. Anything to expedite getting back onto the 4WD tracks.
Must admit though, having been offered a keg (‘barrel’ as Kristy insisted on calling it) of wine to take home had me smiling and nodding in harmony that the contents had a sweet, breezy, Australian summertime taste and exhibited a hint of deep southern blend of Cedar and blah, blah, blah...who cares it was free and it easily fitted into the ute of the Mazda. Besides, once the contents were downed with my mates, the keg...err barrel...would make a great BBQ table in my back yard!
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, I say you can’t teach an artist (an that’s pretty much what an oenophile really is – one who gives an airy fairy illustration of what you’re about to swallow...or spit out) any aspect of an exact science like the mechanicals of a brilliantly manufactured machine or the best way to tackle a muddy mountain.
Who cares, I’m happy; not only did we (or I) have a great time behind the wheel of the BT-50, but we got to swallow (why on earth they spit out a good drop is beyond me) some great wines. My preference was for the reds, but don’t tell Kristy I liked it, she thinks I’m an uncouth, uncivilised Neanderthal that can’t see past the bubbles of a simple cold beer.
I think I’m on the money with my taste perceptions (I simply like it or hate it) and my choice of 4WD’s. She, on the other hand has no idea, but is happy living in her fairyland of arty metaphors!
Just as well she didn’t put petrol in the diesel tank! Seriously, how could you not know the difference?
MARK’S TOP 4WD TIPS
· Be prepared; carry recovery gear at all times – “No Kristy, Berocca is not what we call recovery equipment!” Shovel, tyre gauge, straps and winches is what’s needed.
· Be patient; if you do get stuck, don’t go at it like a bull at a gate, take a break and think about the best way to get out.
· Be educated; learn about your 4WD and recovery gear before you head off. You’ll look like a fool if you don’t have a clue how to use your equipment properly.
· Take it easy; getting out into the bush and onto the beaches in a 4WD is all about having fun. Relax, experience it all and at the end of the day have a nice cold drink...a wine if you must!
The Aussie Oenophile
If you really must know more about wines, you’ll not find a better taster and critic than Kristy Schmidt; she swirls, smells, sips and spits better than any I’ve ever met. Check out www.theaussieoenophile.com. Try asking her about what wine goes best while camping on the beach, or in the rainforests, or when covered in mud after 4WDing… just don’t tell her I got stuck on purpose! It was great watching her on the shovel, while I kicked back and relaxed.
Drinking alcohol and driving a motor vehicle doesn’t mix – so don’t do it.