Malaysia is blessed with a natural habitat the envy of the world. It was here, well Sarawak to be more precise, that Alfred Russel Wallace penned his 1855 paper “On the Law which has Regulated the Introduction of New Species” which prompted Charles Darwin to publish Origin of Species 4 years later.
The peninsula, home to the majority of the country’s 23 million inhabitants, is sadly suffering from rapid development, the mass influx of people from rural areas to cities and what seems to be a general lack of concern for the natural environment.
Maybe it’s a very Western attitude to view countries’ resources as an asset to be protected, not to be used (excepting the plundering that is done by the big oil and mining majors around the world). After all what I am doing here? Espousing the virtues of responsible business and sustainability, I am hoping in a small way to influence companies to not make the same ‘mistakes’ as in the West. I’m a eco-neo-colonialist with good intentions.
With a visit from my Mother-in-Law this week we are keen to show off our adopted city. Inevitably food is a big part of that education. “I want to learn more about curry” says M.I.L – banana leaf, check. “I’m keen to try sushi” – noted. “God these prawns are INCREDIBLE” – yes, they really are.
But we also are taking this opportunity to get out of our expat-heavy enclave and explore the greater KL area – something my wife and I haven’t really made time to do so far.
We visited FRIM (The Forest Research Institute of Malaysia) which is just north of the city, early on Saturday morning at a time when KL is still cool. FRIM is a huge forested park; an educational and recreational space with paths and trails, streams and ponds. Here conservation is the name of the game – nurturing what is left for future generations to enjoy. Before I entered the corporate world, I seriously entertained the noble cause of conservation. A nature geek at heart, I could think of nothing more fulfilling than dedicating my heart to the preservation of wildlife in a disappearing world…
… but then realised that if I was ever going to get a hot girlfriend, nature-geekism probably wouldn’t result in too many braggable bedroom conquests…
We hiked up the scrubby, rocky trails to the canopy walkway; butterflies flitting about, frogs croaking, cicadas screaming, lizards slithering. The walkway offers up splendid views of the massive trees, and also the distant city, and the route back down took us past waterfalls and clear pools – the darkness of the forest pierced by intense sunlight.
Hot, sticky and very sweaty, we repaired to the condo and cracked open some wine. The M.I.L can’t drink red, so white it was. And anyway, after such a hot day the thought of a room-temperature red was the last thing on my mind.
I bought this wine mainly based on price (£15), and the lovely packaging, but also because I have a soft spot for Western Australian wine – Rieslings and Cabernet Sauvignon especially. It took some time for this part of Oz to develop as a still-wine region of repute – the insane heat and dryness only really enabling powerful dessert wines to be produced. Vineyards have been carefully nurtured, and the cool dry ocean breezes make for some fabulously saline and refined whites as well as very decent Bordeaux-like reds.
Cape Vale’s Regional Series Chardonnay 2010 is a clean and obviously New World example of the grape. There’s not the usual New World abundance of ripe/over-ripe fruit but instead it’s much more subtle – pink grapefruit, peach and a hint of toasted spice and french oak. It is very drinkable and we polished it off in next to no time, chalking it down as one to remember.
So, why the duck? What species is it? Why does it adorn the bottle? I reasoned there must be an explanation.
And yes, Cape Vale’s winery is adjacent to the Cape River which is home to many waterfowl species, including the Australian Shelduck, Tadorna Tardonides, which flourishes on the river. Perhaps their foraging for insects and subsequent excretions helped the producers with the cultivation of the vines, but in any case these birds now grace the winery’s bottles as an homage to nature.
There we have it – nature and nurture.