• Giles Cooke Quarantine Diaries: The final days to freedom…

    When you read this Giles Cooke MW would have hopped and skipped his way out of the hotel room that has been his home for the last 14 days as he escapes from quarantine to finally head to his beloved McLaren Vale to start harvest on the wines that will make up the 2021 vintage for Thistledown Wines. In his final quarantine diary he reflects on the last two weeks and just what being confined to one room has really been like.

    When you read this Giles Cooke MW would have hopped and skipped his way out of the hotel room that has been his home for the last 14 days as he escapes from quarantine to finally head to his beloved McLaren Vale to start harvest on the wines that will make up the 2021 vintage for Thistledown Wines. In his final quarantine diary he reflects on the last two weeks and just what being confined to one room has really been like.

    mm By February 28, 2021

    Over the last couple of weeks we have shared the highs and lows of Giles Cooke MW’s quarantine in a hotel room in Adelaide. He’s very pleased to say this is the last one…

    Days 13 and 14

    The final breakfast…and no eggs! Seems the hotel catering is acclimatising Giles Cooke for his re-introduction to society

    It’s the end of day 13 and tomorrow is my last day. Today has been horrendously dull, not helped  by waking at 3am and not being able to get back to sleep. I must have known that the Wine Advocate scores for Thistledown were just about to be published. A solid set of scores but the only result that I was really interested in was my PCR test. Thankfully, this arrived early in the morning and was negative – now I could really plan to leave on Monday.

    2020/21 has been marked by a La Nina influenced weather pattern and, as such, it has been much more moderate, with higher levels of rainfall than in the most recent past vintages. Crops look more healthy and marginal vineyards, that last vintage there was no point in picking, are certainly viable this year.

    As soon as I get out of here, I’m hopping in a car and heading down to McLaren Vale to start sampling vineyards. It’s been lovely, and touching, to have chatted to so many of our growers while I have been here but now I need to do what I came here to do. I just need to work out whether we’re hugging, elbow bumping, shaking hands or keeping our distance

    Mental Health

    I’ve been contacted pretty much every day to check on my physical and mental health and I must say, it has been better than expected. I guess the fact that I have spent a lot of time on my own in Australia over the last few years has helped prepare me – but there is a difference to being on one’s own out of choice and being forced to stay in one place. Mental health has become an important part of my life, not only because life events have forced me to attend to my own, but because those same events have encouraged me to help those struggling with poor mental health through my not-for-profit wine project, Our Fathers. www.ourfatherswines.com

    Me spending a lot more time in Australia coincided with the death of my parents and it is fair to say that my time spent here has been both productive in a winemaking sense and as a form of catharsis. I tend to suffer from low mood when Autumn arrives in the UK and my long term insomnia has been made much worse since my mother’s suicide. My times in Australia, though sometimes solitary, are filled with sun, with fulfilling manual labour and, ultimately, the crafting of some pretty good wines. It’s been my therapy as well as my vocation.

    No Seconds

    I believe it is customary for those on death row to be granted their desired last supper but, unless my last supper request is for some pneumatic eggs or the enlarged testes of a particularly hirsute gorilla, I don’t suppose I’ll be getting it. Though I could have ordered in some food at any point, I’ve latterly adopted the approach that I’ll save any gastronomic joy until I am out of here. I fully expect to be a bit giddy come Monday evening when I have my first supper.

    Uisge na Beatha

    A little memory of home has helped Cooke through the last couple of weeks

    I’m not a big spirits drinker but I always pick up a couple of litres of good single malt Scotch whisky on the way out to Oz. There’s always Pete at the winery who requires the odd dram to keep him onside during vintage, and then there’s a few growers that are partial to a drop. This year though, there’s a bottle missing. A little bit of home, some familiarity was called for and a regular night-cap has helped soothe my mind prior to sleep – that and the “spooky voices” of the slumber app that I use to get me to sleep.

    Freedom beckons

    Shears at the ready! Giles Cooke MW is heading straight to McLaren Vale and the Thistledown winery on his release from quarantine

    It’s the final day! I’ve downloaded the app that I’ll need to scan in to shops, bars and restaurants and I’m rounding up the contents of my “cell” of the last two weeks. The tools of my trade, “snips”, plastic bags and a refractometer are primed and ready for vineyard sampling from tomorrow morning. It’s a beautiful day out there and I can almost smell the freedom. I really don’t know whether it feels like a long or short time since I arrived here – time has been an abstract concept.

    The news this morning contained reports on the slow easing of restrictions in the UK and, from a distance, the situation in the UK looks even more bleak than having lived through it, our leader, Boris Johnson, even more shambolic and unfit to lead than it appears when in situ. Though this process has been complicated and quite challenging, I’m very grateful to Australia for welcoming me back to my second home and for dealing with Covid in such an effective manner.

    Thank you, if you’ve got this far, it’s been good to download and hopefully entertaining to read about someone who has even less freedom than you do currently. The quarantine diaries have come to an end. Look out vintage ’21, here I come.

    • Find out what the quarantine has all been in aid of by visiting the Thistledown Wines website here. 
    • Thanks to Giles for keeping us all entertained – and hopefully his own spirits up – over the last couple of weeks. Good look with the harvest chief! 

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