Shaky metaphor stirs Aussie wine writers

The first handwritten postcard arrived in early July 2006, postmarked Paris, 30 June. It read ‘Dear Chris, It’s a long time since we’ve seen each other as I have been away for nearly 10 years now. Funnily enough I am back where I started and it made me think of you and the old days. Anyway, I plan to catch up with you when I get back to Australia soon. Love & wishes OBS’.

It made me think of the old days, too. But I couldn’t remember ‘OBS’. And I couldn’t think of any lost friends. My wife raised her eyebrows; grown-up kids seemed amused but suspicious.

A week later the second card arrived from Dubai, postmarked just one day after the Paris one. OBS was on the move. ‘Dear Chris’, she greeted me (it was a woman’s handwriting), ‘Dubai is hot at this time of year and will get hotter. The gold here is beautiful, good value and adorns the most stylish.

New Dubai is the vision of one man – truly amazing. 25% of the world’s building cranes are here. It makes me realise that with dedication and passion there are no boundaries to quality and success. I’m so looking forward to talking with you about our mutual friend. Love & wishes OBS’.

So, I shared a mutual friend with OBS. ‘It’s a prank’, said my wife, eyebrows relaxed; grown up son joked about a secret sibling, winked.

Almost two weeks later came the London postcard. ‘Dear Chris’, wrote my long lost friend, ‘Well it’s all been happening here what with the World Cup, Wimbledon and the sales. I was the toast of London and I both dressed and played up like you could not believe. But everyone loved me and it made me so proud to be an Aussie.

It’s now time to plan my journey home although I’ll probably make one more stopover. When I do get there I’d love to spend some time with you. Love & wishes OBS’.

By now we were looking forward to the postcards, their hints of lifestyle and self-promotion adding to the OBS mystery. A week or so later came another, from Beau-Rivage Palace, Lausanne, Switzerland. ‘Dear Chris, I’ve travelled well across the alps to Switzerland and I’m now rested in this world famous hotel.

I was feeling quite intimidated by the famous parade of names at the hotel when a delightful, professional man agreed to join me in a drink. He liked me immediately and we enjoyed each other’s company most of the night. However, I miss you and my other friends at home and look forward to being with you soon. Love & wishes OBS’.

By now we’d concluded that OBS was a drink. She was Aussie, she saw no limits to quality or success, she’d been the toast of London, she’d travelled well across the alps, and even against other famous names had been enjoyed by a professional gentleman, albeit to excess.

But questions remained unanswered. Who was she and why had she been out of Australia for ten years?

The final postcard, from Sydney, arrived in early August but OBS revealed little: ‘Dear Chris, It’s great to be home safe and sound what with all the trouble in the Middle East right now. Winter is really here isn’t it whilst Europe swelters.
‘The Sydney fish markets received a visit yesterday and a seafood feast was prepared last night, which is something I have missed more than nearly everything else. Oh what joy! I’ve been away for some time now and I can’t tell you how much I have been looking forward to seeing you and making up for lost time. Anyway, I’ll call you in the next few days to try to catch up. Love & wishes OBS’.

But the phone didn’t ring. Instead, came a letter from Richard Owens of Hunter Valley winery, Oakvale, apologising for ‘a marketing programme that may have back fired’. He was also ‘sorry if you or anyone in your family has been concerned or hurt’. What had my fellow wine writers been up to in the good old days? And what were their partners thinking now?

At Chateau Shanahan we’d been puzzled at first, then amused and then curious after the Swiss postcard. We wanted to know who OBS was, not an apology.

And Richard answered our question in the same letter, revealing OBS as Oakvale Barrel Select Shiraz – and she’d been travelling around Europe in a suitcase.

As it turned out OBS wasn’t an old friend – we’d never met – and we didn’t have any mutual friends. She was a metaphor, and a pretty shaky one at that. But she’s welcome to our next dinner party, perhaps accompanying the roast beef. She might even spend the night.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2009