Sunday morning, darling daughter in-law drives us – two hangovers and a loud baby – to Adelaide airport. We fly to Sydney in time to attend a family birthday Tea for Two. (He's two.)
Next day, after a walk to see the fruit bats in the botanical gardens, we visit our new Sydney office. No similarity whatever. There's the sign 'Laithwaites Wine People'. Proud? Fit to bust! A terrific team all built up by our Rachel; the Mighty Atom of our wine world. Dan does the buying and Andrew Stead is Wine Director ... he is 'family'; Barbara's sister's son and doing brilliant work. They all are.
Tough market; Australia. Maybe the toughest of all. Two supermarkets dominate – about 88% - and a hell of a lot of keen, sharp people scrabble for the rest. Us included. But we have a very determined crowd; they are growing fast and also selling into Hong Kong. Seven solid hours of presentations did actually fly by. Had drinks with all. Mumbled some stuff. And off into the night.
At Circular Quay, one of my favourite places on earth. The buzz and bustle. There are manhole covers named after Clive James and Dame Edna and other interesting people you've not heard of. There's the Opera House, the Bridge, great yachts, the constant movement of ferries, the hooting of same, the bats, the street art, the open air eateries and good food, bloody lovely wines, the moon on the water, the slapping waves never stop, nor the pad-pad joggers. I could sit there all night. So I do. To get tired for the long flight tomorrow.
Thanks NZ. You are a lovely country. Lucky country in the view of one who loves to eat. Fish, meat, veg, fruit … ALL your produce is just so good. And these days you can really cook too. (Different from when I first came!) Superb wines. But you know that. That's how come you can charge what you do!
You just watch too much telly or something. I mean, where are you all? There's hardly anyone out on your roads. Bit weird. Like rush hour is four cars! Get out more! We'll be back. And stay longer.
Thanks Oztralia. You are a lovely – but so very different – country too. Most of the fun I've had with wine in the last 20 years has been thanks to you mad lot. I tell all who'll listen you are still world leader in wine. Plenty competition now for sure. Your currency is far too strong for comfort, and the natural world seems to have it in for you. But you cope with all that. Growing up surrounded by so many lethal life-forms sharpens you up early.
See you both next year, God willing.