3 Feb



I have been well aware for some time that my blog has become a bit of a bore. I assume that my long-time subscribers hang on to the now monthly post in the hope for something other than a wine review. The trouble was, and has been, that life just got a little busy. In the last two years there have been several key life-changing events that took over my time: changing jobs, getting engaged, planning a wedding, looking for a house, buying said house with a lot of garden, tending to garden, renovating the house, oh, and getting married. 

So to try and appease the situation, I thought I would post something that I do not seem to be doing so well lately: offering a great piece of wine writing by someone else – the talented Ron Saw with his piece called Snore (an apt title for this post too).


SNORE by Ron Saw

Sourced from The Australian Wine Browser, published 1979.

Now, here’s a pretty state of things. Here I am, at eleven-thirty or midnight or half past three in the morning, in the courtyard of a motel in romantic Cessnock, on the balls of my feet, poised for flight. I have been trying to climb through a window, on the inside of which some woman is screaming on a hoarse and urgent note; and all around me windows are lighting up like the slow, terrible wrath of god.

How? Why? The short answer is that wine is a mocker. 


‘The idea,’ said Max Lake, ‘is that we go to Pokolbin in time for a glass of champagne with our breakfast. Then we just put in a few cuttings. Then we drink some good wine and eat some good food. Well – a lot of good wine and a lot of good food.’

We got to Lake’s Folly nicely in time for breakfast. It had meant rising in Woollahra at 3 a.m. and shouting at my wife til 4 a.m. in order to be away at 5 and at the winery by 7.30. But already it was burningly hot, the air wriggling off the barren hillside, whacking the palate even before the wine got to it. All the wine fanciers seemed to be there: Lake and Len Evans, Frank Margan, Bob Sanders, Jack de Lissa, Bob Raymond, even the Dreaded Oxenbold; and others, recognisable as wine-buffs by the grasp, when they remembered, of the bases of their wine glasses. I was sorry when the planting began. I had just begun to realise how really well champagne went with bacon and eggs. But Lake was indicating, rather than actually touching, piles of dark-brown faggots, identified as cuttings of the cabernet sauvignon vine, and somebody gave me a pick-handle.

‘You’ll see where we’ve put the drill down,’ he said. ‘That was to break through the hard crust. The water cart’ll come by and give the hold a bit of a squirt. Then you dibble and puddle her.’

‘That’s, er, dibble and . . .’

‘And puddle. You shove your pick-handle down and dibble around to make a nice sort of, um, batter. Then you take your cutting and puddle it in till it’s down nice and firm. Then you tie on of these bits of string to the cutting and up to the wire. It’s simple, really.’

It seemed to me that it couldn’t have been simpler. I wondered what they expected me to do with the rest of the day. A dibble, a puddle, a couple of knots and the morning, let alone the afternoon, stretched endlessly before me.

It didn’t stretch for long. When I’d finished with my cutting they gave me another. Then another. I realised, with a crawling of the flesh, that it might never end. The sun was already appallingly hot. I was sweating heavily and being molested by flies, and it was still only 8 a.m.

I sat down to rest. The hallooing began at once. ‘To do things properly,’ said someone, ‘we need all the planters to move at pretty much the same pace. That way the water cart can serve everybody at the same time.’

‘So tell the others to slow down,’ I said. ‘Good god, we’re not in a hurry for lunch, are we?’

‘Hurry up,’ said my wife, ‘They’re getting ahead of you.’ She was sitting comfortably on the water cart. I dibbled, puddle and strung another cutting.

About 10 a.m. they brought around tea. I told them I’d pass. I’d already taken in about a gallon of water. ‘Where,’ I asked, ‘is Dr Lake?’ ‘There he is,’ they told me, pointing. Faraway, half way down the hill, a stout figure walked out of the winery and held a glass to the light. Evans, Margan, Sanders, Raymond and Co. seemed to be listening to what he was saying. I could tell they were following him closely. Every time he raised his glass they raised theirs. After a while they all straggled back into the winery. It was probably cooler in there.

At some time we had lunch. They blew a whistle and we lurched down the hill to sit at long tables. I didn’t eat. By the time I’d done with the white, by the time my skin had taken up, like a waterbag, it was time to go back to the piddling – I beg your pardon – to the dibbling and puddling.

On the way out I passed Lake, Evans, Margan, Sanders and Raymond. They were standing beside a crusher, or possibly a stemmer, chatting in jolly terms. There seemedt oeb talk of ‘going over to get Tyrrell and the Draytons.’ I smiled at them appealingly, but they didn’t notice.

Some time between 2 and 3 p.m., as I puddle cutting Number 966 into that terrible slope, I began to wonder whether a dusted throat could be as dangerous as dusted lungs. And about 4 p.m. I must have fainted dead away, because I remember somebody chafing my wrists and somebody else saying ‘Drink this.’ ‘If only you knew,’ my wife told me later, ‘what an exhibition you made of yourself. Sitting there and pouring the stuff down your craw and whimpering like . . . like a great sonk.’ She had spent the afternoon reading Vogue and dozing in the winery.

There was a splendid dinner. Lake and Evans were never more droll, the women never lovelier. Margan and Oxenbold sand Down the Loo. I gave them three of four verses of The Eddystone Light. Raymond did a sitz dance, and Sanders, challenged, proved that he could rub his belly and pat the top of his head at the same time. It was go-go-go for culture all the way. And somewhere about 10.30 or midnight or half past one in the morning all hands, spent, straggled to bed.

The women, with some feeling for propriety and an inclination to play it absolutely safe, had been quartered in the Cessnock motel. The men were to sleep in the rude, then unfinished, ettic of the Lake’s Folly A-frame. It would be very cold. And there were but seven beds for eight men but . . . no matter. There was a sleeping bag. My wife, a woman of great good heart, volunteered me for the sleeping bag without my knowledge and beyond my hearing.

I was last up the ladder to the attic. In the short, say three metre ascent, the temperature dropped roughly twenty degrees. Already the valley frost was heavy on the iron roof. I undressed quickly and struggled into my sleeping bag, and was overpowered by a feeling of imminent doom. The bag had been made, apparently, for either a small jockey or a child of five. Its top reached about an inch above my undressed navel. I realised that I was freezing to death.

I jack-knifed down, brought the top of the bag up to my armpits and wrapped my shirt and trousers around what was left naked. Death still seemed a chance, but I was too tired to care much. I tightened the jack-knife and felt myself drifting. Oates probably felt the same way in 1912.

The first honking came as no surprise. Margan was over to my left, asleep and with Margan one could only be pragmatic: he was sleeping, therefore he was making a noise like a large, tired horse sniffing gravel up its nose. I’d been through it before, more than once, in the even closer confines of a yacht. But now it was much worse. The iron roof, like some vast drumskin, took the frightful sound and amplified it, intensified it, sharpened it, bounced it back and forth until it was the bellow of beasts amuck.

I rolled over, got to my hands and knees and scuttled over the boards to his bedside. I recall clearly that, as I bet to him, the uproar made my cheeks vibrate.

‘Frank!’ I called. ‘Turn over!’

He sat up, clutched his throat, said, ‘Hwonnng-horkuk. G’night, love,’ turned over and got going again, louder.

I was wondering whether a pillow over his face would do him a mischief when, on the other side of the attic, Evans got at it.

When I was at school there was a boy named Buglebum Trumper who could break wind, rhythmically, without stopping, for what seemed like hours on end. I never discovered how he did it. I try not to think about it now. But with Evans on the air it was impossible to think of anything else.

The noise in the attic was now frightful beyond description. As as I sat there, on the floor, too appalled to realise that I was freezing, it got worse: Dr Lake got in the act.

There was no great character to Lake’s snoring – none of the sharps and flats of Margan’s work, none of the rasping, gasping and tromboning of Evan’s. It was just a very loud, very deep noise. One might have described it as the sound of a heavy jet of water rumbling into a big tank, enormously amplified or a lion roaring inside a big bass drum. In sheer decibels it reduced the sounds of Margan and Evans to something like the piping of mice.

‘Oh, wait a minute, ‘I said. ‘This is ridiculous,’ I crawled from body to body, shaking, pounding, even grasping nostrils. While I held on I could make one quiet, but the other two would keep it up; and I knew that I was wasting my time. I reached a decision quickly.

It was perhaps five kilometres from Lake’s Folly to the Cessnock motel where, I knew, my wife was sharing Room 14 with Joy Lake. I wasn’t sure that the distance would entirely blot out the noise from the attic, but I felt it would probably break it down a bit. And, even lying on the floor, perhaps under a carpet, I’d escape my death of cold. I dressed, stumbled down to my car and drove to Cessnock.

Room 14 was, understandably, locked. But the window, beside the door, was ajar. I pushed it wider and was halfway over the sill, halfway into the welcoming, heated air when a voice called ‘Who’s that?’ It was a female voice, but no voice I’d ever heard before.

‘It’s all right,’ I said. ‘I’m just looking for my wife.’ And now there was a scuffling and a rough, male voice gratedL ‘Who’re ya lookin’ fer?’

‘Oh, look, never mind. I’m looking for my wife, but . . .’

‘Do I sound like her wife, mate?’


‘That’s because I’m not your wife. Piss orf.’

I suppose I was lucky he didn’t spring out and break my neck. He sounded as if he’d like to break it. I realised that I should be at Room 4, not 14, I thought they’d said 14, but . . . Cursing silently I padded across the courtyard, prised open another window, leaned in and whispered, gustily: ‘Hey, is that you, girls? Here’s a refugee from . . .’

And suddenly, hideously, where there had been no sound at all, there was a shrieking. ‘Get out!’ bawled a voice of another strange woman. ‘Help! Help! Get out! AAAAUUUGGGHHH!’

I switched smoothly to reverse, backed off the window-sill and into the centre of the courtyard in one stride, and . . .


Now, here’s a pretty state of things. Here I am at eleven-thirty or midnight or half past three in the morning, on the balls of my feet, poised for flight, and some woman is screaming on a hoarse and urgent note, and all around me windows are lighting up . . .

How? Why? The detailed answer is that winemakers are mockers.

3 Responses to “Snore”

  1. Nicole- Champagne and Chips February 11, 2015 at 11:11 AM #

    What an exceptional article. I absolutely love “recognisable as wine-buffs by the grasp, when they remembered, of the bases of their wine glasses.”
    Congratulations on all the big life events 🙂

  2. Breiflabben May 22, 2015 at 10:32 PM #

    Just some Greetings from Norway, hope you are happy and busy 🙂
    Just to tell you I was in Piemonte for eigth days early April to celebrate that my wine cooling room (wish I could call it a cellar) finally was ready to be filled up.
    It is filled up now and I have come across the best Barolo I have ever tasted. Out of my roughly sixty Barolos, 26 of them are Cerrati 2004. Fantastic.
    I just had to tell you 🙂
    Congrats to you and your lucky husband 🙂

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