Gourmet Traveller WINE
February / March 2004

In an excerpt from Wine Dogs Australia, Chester Osborn, chief winemaker and viticulturalist at d’Arenberg in McLaren Vale, looks into a possible future, one where dogs are in control of the wine world.

It’s a Dogs Dinner

The year is 3105. Over the past thousand years, genetic engineering had changed everything. In a desire to give humans a superior sense of smell and taste, and to improve their winemaking, a dog gene was introduced into new generations. The results backfired as the new race’s heightened senses meant that they disliked wine immensely, as it all tasted too bitter and strong. However, dogs were well known to be partial to a good beverage. So it was decided to give dogs the human gene for speech. This way they could tell humans what the wine smelt and tasted like, enabling them to make superior wines.

The gene for intelligence was also incorporated into the dog so that they could remember the special characters of wine. These dogs would be particularly sought after. The effects changed the world dramatically. Not only did the dogs take over the winemaking, but as humans desired more recreation time and grew increasingly lazy, their dogs learnt to do everything humans could do and often did it better. It wasn’t long before a total role reversal occurred and dogs ruled the humans. In this new hierarchy, dogs lived in the houses and humans (now named robots – the Egyptian word for slaves) lived in sheds out the back.

In the new dog world, robots did most things at the dog’s will, but if the dog considered the job to be fun they retained the work for themselves. Bigger dogs became the wealthiest, having the most robots to do their chores. Dogs now made all of the wine and just the way they liked it. Strangely, the vast majority of wine from a given variety and region was produced to taste all the same as all dogs had the same ideal perfect sense of taste. Ironically, robots remembered the stories back to the year 2000 when a country named Australia also made the majority of its wine taste the same. Since most of it was made from chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, wine in this era was somewhat boring to the masses.

The change started over the next few decades with the proliferation and spread of a wide array of varieties and genetic cross-breeding. But in the year 3105, dogs were getting a bit lackadaisical about wine because of its uniformness. Even though there was a vast array of different varieties they did taste somewhat the same. Change was afoot. It began with a robot named Chester who would beg to make the wine. One day his master Alby dog had arranged a day at the beach, but the winery was starting to run out of wine. “Chester, you make the wine today,” Alby said before leaving. Upon his return, Alby asked for a glass of tempnotaz (a genetically modified red grape incorporating tempranillos’ longer tannins, pinot noir’s great flowery fruit and shiraz’s rich gutsy structure).

The wine was made with a recent invention of oak tubes, which made barrels obsolete. Tubes were immersed in the wine and air pumped through, making use of all four sides of the wood instead of one side as with barrels. This made a more efficient use of the oak. Also the vapour out-stream (alcohol and volatile wine and oak constituents) were collected and returned to the wine.

Alby was beautifully humoured by Chester’s attempt at making tempnotaz and said, “From now on you make the wine, however under no circumstances are you allowed to swallow any.” It was perfectly fine for dogs to dwell around drunk. In fact, dogs that can consume large amounts of wine and spin endless humorous yarns are the envy of all other dogs. Robots were killed on the spot if found a little drunk. They were also never allowed to laugh or tell jokes. Laughing by robots was likened to barking by the pre-genetically modified dogs, quite an obnoxious effect. If a robot was found laughing, a laugh inhibitor was attached to the neck to prevent the reoccurrence. This is quite an uncomfortable device, making neck movements almost impossible. So over the years all robots forgot how to laugh and nobody missed it. Their entire existence was to be obedient to the dogs and to maintain composure at all times.

Gradually over the years it became very fashionable to have robots make the wines. It became quite a talking point of dogs. As he grew older, Chester’s position was to make the wines and also to be Alby dog’s butler. This involved going to many wine tastings to purchase the latest and greatest new robot wine. This was the new booming category of wines – one of Chester’s wines sold recently for $12 million (about the same price as a new Volkswagen).

Alby was quite proud of his robot’s wines and the income it was generating. One day Alby decided to throw a dinner party inviting his most humorous wine-loving dog friends. Chester’s job was to think about who was coming to dinner and to decide the appropriate order in which to drink each wine. During past dinners, Chester would stand in the corner of the dining room and watch all of the dogs as they consumed each wine, listening to every comment to build up an understanding of which wines were most appreciated. He also learnt what was appropriate, given the stature of the dogs and their preferred style.

Everybody turned up in fancy dress. That is, the dogs were dressed up – not the robots, as it was law that all robots wear a tight, grey, full body, one-piece Lycra-like neutral outfit. Robots had all their hair removed, as it was considered a very dirty thing to find human hair around, even though stray dog hair was prolific. Alby came dressed as a horse named Footbolt – a racehorse that his ancestors owned over a century ago.

The food part of the dinner was a gourmet extravaganza which was beyond description, but the interesting focus was on the wines. The first wine of the evening was Chester’s ‘The Token Cheapskate’. This wine was made from a rare old variety called sauvignon blanc. All of the wines for this dinner were made from very old varieties except for the evening’s last wine. It was fashionable for wines to be named after what the dogs particularly liked doing.

The next wine was to be brought from a winery named ‘Not Board’, owned by the dogs Jessie and Sally. Their robot winemaker Robert O’Callaghan was also present. Unfortunately they had left the wines in the basket on their kitchen table. The next wine came from a neighbour dog named Bella who came dressed in an ancient history costume worn by humans, namely moleskin pants and a blue shirt and pull-on boots. Bella was accompanied by robot winemaker Charlie Melton. Their wine was quite popular, named Find Hopes made from a variety that once was the number one variety in the world. However, grenache is nearly extinct now.

The third wine was from dogs Dirk and Booph. Both came dressed as robot hunters. It was a red wine called ‘Shave Hard’, something that dogs hoped robots would do. Their robot winemaker Iain Riggs was also present. Wines four, five and six all came from a dog dressed in an ancient comical costume called lederhosen. Her name was Cassie. They were all reds made in an old-fashioned way from varieties that only existed in these vineyards and were considered interesting but not worth carrying on about. The wines were named ‘Count Medals Son’, ‘See the Hens’ Teeth’ and ‘Mill the Waste’. The proud robot winemaker Stephen Henschke was also present.

Number seven was brought by dogs Solomon and Fronti, who had forgotten to dress up. An interesting wine from unknown varieties. The wine named ‘Are you welding’. Robot winemaker Tim Adams came along for the ride. Dog Bronson brought wine eight. He came in the nude but with a massive wig covering all. The wine was named ‘Phone Hell’ after the warm holiday venue near the equator located under Russia. It was believed the wine was made from at least 20 varieties as this winery knew all the tricks. Robot winemaker Peter Lehmann was present.

A neighbouring dog named Teal dressed in torn clothes brought wine number nine called ‘Fun Dig’. Robot winemaker David Powell joined his master.

Alby provided wine ten, ‘The Farting Bagpipe’, made mainly from a red grape Zarihs co-fermented with three obscure white grapes and wine number eleven, named ‘The Wed Yarn’. This was a straight Zarihs – highly sought after. The name referred to a great yarn about an ancient humorous habit of monogamy called wedded. The last wine was brought by Dog Toby who dressed up as a river (quite a smelly, not that wet, salty river). The wine was called ‘The Nobel 23’, a sparkling very sweet red made from Gamanet grapes (a cross from two very old grape varieties rarely used called gamey and cabernet). The grapes were left on the vine a long time to get infected with lots of different rots. The robot winemaker Darren De Bortoli was also present.

When the dinner was nearly over, it was time for the annual robot-barking contest. Each robot would take their turn barking. This was a trait lost by dogs when they gained speech. The winner was robot David Powell. His bark was so loud it even woke the neighbours, a rare but highly sought-after trait.

A great time was had by all. But it was now time to go home and leave Chester with all the mess to tidy up.