Keith Dunstan, well-known Australian author, journalist, columnist and sometime vigneron has died in Melbourne at the age of 88.
I was privileged to meet and enjoy a glass or two of wine with him over the years at wine functions. One of his great tales was about the early days of home bottling of wine.
As well as I can remember it, back in the 1960s he and a good friend would rail or truck big red wines in bulk from Brown Brothers of Milawa to Melbourne. However, they always had a shortage of used bottles.
Keith recalled that his sister lived at the time in swanky St Georges Road Toorak. So, whenever he visited her he would scavenge bottles that neighbours had put out with the garbage.
His prize finds were empty bottles bearing the labels of top Bordeaux brands such as Chateau Mouton Rothschild, and premier cru Burgundy such as Clos de Vougeot.
His friend on the other hand, took a different and down market approach. He bottled his wine in brand new, unused methylated spirits bottles. (Those distinctive triangular-shaped brown glass bottles sometimes seen in brown paper bags being consumed by drunks down on their luck.)
So one evening Keith and his friend went to Florentino Restaurant – where BYO was unheard of.
They sat down and presented their two bottles – one apparently “metho” and the other French – to the Maitre d’.
He, without raising an eyebrow, opened them, gave the diners a taste to see if the wines were sound and proceeded to arrange their dinner.