Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Melissa Harrison's Anthology for the Changing Seasons with Campbell's Rutherglen Muscat

I've been dipping in and out of these books all year without having read enough of any one of them at any time to feel ready to post about it. That's partly because once I've posted about a book I feel like I'm finished with it, at least for the time being. It disappears onto a shelf, it's space by my bed, chair, or in my bag, taken up by something new. I'm not ready to put these books away yet.

Melissa Harrison has done a fantastic job of drawing together different peices of writing to capture each season (George Orwell writing about toads in 'Spring' was the point where I fell in love with the series). There's old writing and new, things which will probably be already familiar and things which are not, excerpts that remind me I've got, unread, whichever book they originally came from and that it's long past time I read it. There's also an inevitable list of things I want to explore further. They're friendly books to carry around, both comforting and thought provoking, and I thoroughly recommend them.

Campbell's Rutherglen Muscat specifically reflects 'Winter', and maybe late autumn, to me. It's another sweet and sticky Australian wine, and those are winter treats. At least this one is easy for me to get my hands on (it's widely available in the U.K.). The lazy way to describe it is as being a bit like a mince pie in wine form. It's a slightly more evocative description than 'raisined' - images of dried fruit don't capture the lushness of the wine, or it's freshness.

I've been reading a bit about Australian dessert wines over the last few days (both reminiscing and exploring) and one thing I can't help but notice is how often they still compare themselves to European wines. It's not that there's anything wrong with describing a wine as being reminiscent of Vin Santo (as this one has been) but it doesn't do the muscat justice. It doesn't give any indication of how exciting and imaginative Australian wine making can be either, which is something else I've been remembering over the last few days. The range of wine I currently work with is good, but it's also very safe, so I'd rather forgotten just how much interesting stuff is happening, especially outside of Europe where the rules that protect quality and local identity can also prohibit innovation*.

Anyway, Campbell's Rutherglen Muscat is widely available, around £13 for a 35cl bottle, and an excellent introduction to the world of liqueur muscats. It's an excellent alternative to a tawny port or a  PX sherry (both of which share the raisin/dried fruit characteristics to some extent). It's very good with a cheese board, more than acceptable with a mince pie, and, yes, like Vin Santo you could happily dunk cantuccini in it (I certainly have). It's also pretty good on its own, and is, in short, just the sort of thing to come home to after a winters walk - or sip appreciatively whilst reading about someone else's winter walk.

*A subject for another time maybe.

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