Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bailey-ing Out

Sad news that week that two of the wine world's more interesting winemakers have died. Didier Dagueneau, the wild man who took Pouilly Fumé to another dimension, was killed in a microlight, while Bailey Carrodus, the quiet but passionate founder of Yarra Yering, also passed away. A couple of years ago, Wine & Spirit did a feature about 'small producers' and I was asked to write something about one of my favourites - I chose Bailey....


Suddenly Bailey Carrodus was somewhere else. ‘Oh look, two sulphur-crested cockatoos.’ It was 1988, and I was a backpacker visiting the Yarra Valley in a beaten-up Ford Escort. I’d been working in a bottle shop in Melbourne where I’d been captivated by the wines of Yarra Yering. Their purity and elegance stood out above the Australian norm, while their labels – like photocopies of photocopies of shaky handwriting – also differentiated them from the masses.

On that day in 1988, the welcome he extended to this scruffy young Pom was just the same as that for the well-heeled Melbournites in their top-of-the-range Holdens who’d arrived at the cellar door at the same time. Not unfriendly, but at the same time detached – you sensed that part of him was operating in a parallel dimension. He had wine to sell, but he was far more captivated by the (stunning) view from his hillside estate.

I’ve met Bailey a few times since, and that other-worldliness has if anything increased with time. He’s a man who moves at his own pace, makes his own decisions and isn’t too swayed by public opinion. Nevertheless, public opinion says that his wines are very good, especially the reds. Though past normal retiring age, Carrodus is still experimenting. He has Portuguese grapes, Sangiovese and Barbera, and on my last visit to the winery, there was a barrel in the cellar of what he called ‘Cheeky Tart Viognier’, an astonishingly creamy and aromatic wine which has been lightly fortified. Truly a small but perfectly formed winery.