Sunday, August 10, 2008


A NEW wine drought appears to be on the point of whacking Bali.

Fresh on the heels of a hard decision at The Cage, to favour the "local" vintage rather than imported stuff at 170% duty, Hec had a nasty experience on his resupply mission today.

There were no casks of his (un)favourite Aga Red on the shelves. Habis (finished).

There was a time a while back - it was while officials in Jakarta seemed to be busy working out where the under-the-table-money had gone to - when wine and for that matter spirits all but disappeared.

Hec has a firm rule: he likes to be able to stand up at the end of the evening. But he also likes a drop of the grape, suitably vintaged, preferrably red (a white zinfandel is as far as he's prepared to go in the blonding department; unless it's a nice fresh Frascati for a shadily sunny Sunday brunch) and he gets a little miffed when it's not available.

Price-wise, Bali's been doing its best to provide wine at what anywhere else would be extortionate rates but which in Indonesia - where wine is drunk almost exclusively by the expatriate community and is therefore a highly taxable proposition - is actually reasonable. A local plonk need only set you back around Rp 67,000 - a snip at $Aust 8.27 on today's exchange rate, Hec notes sniffily - against a base price minimum of $Aust 16.00 for a foreign product clearly grown on the downside slope from someone's chicken run.

Hence his sudden affection for Aga Red, which is produced in Bali from grapes growin in Western Australia. (There are other Bali-produced wines but Hec's a pretty staid fellow and likes "his" brand.)

So, horrors! Having purchased a cask or two from his favourite emporium some time back he dropped in today to snaffle a little more and the shelves were empty. They were bare. The wine had seeped away. There was not a cask of red to seen.

He was disconsolate (as you can imagine). And even more so when he took his sorry tale home and, browsing the Internet in the hope of spotting something that might bring zest back into his day, found a story that told him Australian wine exports had fallen 13 per cent. Apparently the Americans have woken up to the fact that if they foreclose on your mortgage you won't have a comfy house to sit around and drink in.

Hec has a different take on this. He reckons that if the Aussies have all that spare wine, they could do worse than cut a deal with whoever has the relabelling deal in Bali, and flog off some of the surplus to this poor nearly dry little isle.

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