“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”


DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)


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03 August 2015

MILTON HITS 64: WILL YOU STILL NEED ME

This is my favourite portrait of my dear friend Milton Wordley, whose 64th birthday was celebrated over the weekend. It's always an act of faith attempting to photograph a truly great photographer, but I have a go. This was at Fino Willunga the night we celebrated our New York book show medals for our book, A year in the life of Grange. Milt has a new blog about his mates in the wine business, which you must see here.

Here's Milton, his sister Dixie and brother Mick at T-Chow on Saturday. Dixie's holding the special Wordley Family Hat which is worn only by Wordleys on the occasion of their birthdays ... click images to clarify and enlarge

This is their Mum, Marjorie Whitrow. She rode horses in Wirth's Circus.

... and this is Dick Wordley, their father. Dick was a maverick newspaperman. His real name was Ernest George Wordley, an appelletion he hated. So he changed it. Anne Marie Wordley, Milt's daughter, took this photo

 
Here they be with Anne Marie Shin, Milt's beloved partner


My friend Chris Sykes took this one ... meanwhile, inside the restaurant


Milton's not in this one ... he was taking the picture ... in its constantly mutating forms and size, this Saturday Table has dined weekly at T-Chow since 1990 ... late in the night Milton caught me and Damiano at Enzo's ... Damiano is the best waiter in Adelaide ... love your best waiter!!!!


and here's one I caught of Milt in his back yard one morning before lunch ... Ann Marie and him live in what is officially the narrowest house in Adelaide



... but Milt likes this one mostly ... I got him getting me getting them and we both got all of em in our wicked black gizzards

 
check this too: snappers day 

29 July 2015

PETER FRASER WINEMAKER OF THE YEAR

Lovers of Yangarra Estate, near Kangarilla in McLaren Vale, think it's very cool that James Halliday and his Wine Companion last night named Yangarra Estate general manager and winemaker, Peter Fraser (above), Australian Winemaker of the Year.

The awards were presented at a big dinner at the South Yarra Capitol Grand.

Peter thanked Barbara Banke and the  Jackson Family, Californian owners of Yangarra, for their support and long-term vision, and then singled out his close staff for their dedication.

He also thanked the late Big Bob McLean for giving him his first winemaking break at St Hallett in 1995, which is when I first met him, fresh out of wine school. "He's one to watch," Bobby sagely advised. Indeed he was. Is. I reckon we ain't seen nuthin' yet.


It's not his babay, it's Shelley's babay rippin' into him ... That's Yangarra vineyard and farm manager, Michael Lane, below ... then winemaker Shelley Torressan hard at it ... and further on cellar sales and tasting manager Genevieve Molloy, McLaren Vale Cellar Door Person of the year these last two years running. When she's not wrangling tortoises.



Peter dedicated his award to our friend Jeremy Pringle, the Wine Will Eat Itself blogger who died unexpectedly last year. Jeremy was a great supporter of Yangarra, and was one of the first wine critics to 'get it' ... that's him below with Pete in The Victory. He loved to visit. 

All photos by Philip White, who lives in Bernard's old joint on Yangarra ... that's High Sands Grenache below, planted by Bernard and his Dad in 1946 and never irrigated.


"The nation’s top winemaker is Peter Fraser, from McLaren Vale," local MP and Tourism, Food and Wine Minister Leon Bignell wrote of the award.

"Pete is a great local success story and a brilliant industry leader. His dedication to the highest quality soil preparation, grape growing and wine-making have seen him garner international respect.

"His long - term persistence with following a bio-dynamic path has made others in the Australian wine industry look at what Pete is doing. He has always been keen to work with others and collaborate where possible.

“Yangarra is owned by the US based Jackson Family and I have heard first-hand just how much they appreciate and respect Pete’s work. They see him as a key asset in their international operation,” Mr Bignell said.

“Yangarra has consistently won awards in every part of its business, from best cellar - door in the McLaren Vale region to international critical acclaim for their wines.

“Congratulations to Pete Fraser and the entire Yangarra team on this wonderful accolade and acknowledgment of your hard work and dedication.

“It speaks precisely to our government’s economic priority of producing premium food and wine from our clean environment and exporting it to the world”.


After the formalities, here's what Pete said on the night:

"I am very humbled that from this country's array of formidable winemakers I have been chosen to receive this award.

"I am sure there are many equally deserving.

"Yangarra Estate Vineyard is my home, my passion and my dream ... it's pretty easy to make good wine from a place so special.

"Yangarra is owned by the Jackson Family. I first met the late Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke in 2001 ... they backed me … and since Jess's passing Barbara continues to allow me to pursue my long-term wine making dreams without compromise. Thank you Barbara.

"This award singles me out … but it is such a team effort for the wines that we create.

"I want to especially thank Michael Lane, our vineyard manager who's here tonight. Michael has an amazing understanding of our special piece of land ... we’ve worked together for 17 years on the Estate - it's been a long journey.

"And I've worked with Shelley Torresan for ten years ... Shelley's here ... She dots all the I’s and crosses the T’s in the winery.

"They both bring all my wild ideas together!

"Most recently Charlie Seppelt has brought his unyielding passion to our team.

"There' a whole group of silent achievers in the vineyard and the winery, in cellar door and sales who are all so passionate about our common goal!

"I would also like to thank a very special mentor, my friend and neighbour, Philip White who is a constant library of knowledge and sounding board for my ideas.

"And I owe great thanks to Stuart Blackwell and Bob McLean -- may he rest in peace -- for giving me my break at St Hallett back in '95.

"Lastly thank you to Qantas Epicure, Capitol Grand South Yarra, thank you to the Hardie Grant team that put this amazing event together, and to James Halliday for your dedication to tasting and discovering new and emerging wineries and winemakers.

"We will wear this award with pride ... thankyou all!

"This one's for you, Jeremy!"

Pete with the generous sponsors and the lady with the glass snakes ... DRINKSTER would love to put names up if someone could please supply them ... and the photographer

28 July 2015

THE OLDEST SHIRAZ STILL CROPPING?


Langmeil's Old Vine Garden Series reds: 2012 vintage; 2015 release ... photo Philip White

Langmeil's longmile never ends:
another release from Auricht's 
1843 Freedom Barossa Shiraz
by PHILIP WHITE

It's now four years since Richard and Shirley Lindner, and their sons Paul and James, took total ownership of the old Langmeil winery at Tanunda.

One of the many Barossa wineries that had fallen into disrepair by 1980, it was saved by cousins Karl and Richard Lindner and the Bitter family. While its ramble of old ironstone sheds looked certain to last another century or two, it was the vineyard that provided the greatest challenge: a few yellowing scraps of documentation indicate this was planted in 1843 ... could they harness and retrain founder Christian Auricht's old Shiraz block?

The Freedom Shiraz; ready to prune ... photo Philip White

The vines were an unattended scramble, with canes spreading across multiple rows, the old trunks reminding me of tattered warriors returning broken but stubborn from some great siege or another.

Not only did those vines, perhaps the world's oldest viable Shiraz, respond well to some viticultural TLC, but with a few years they were joined on the riverbank by a garden of 300 Shiraz vines transplanted, one by one, from a 140 year old vineyard whose nearby site was developed for housing by Karl Lindner.

 The Freedom Shiraz ... photo Doug Coates

Add these troopers to the ancient Grenache and Cabernet vines at the family's Lyndock vineyard, and you have an arsenal of traditional Barossa reds, whose annual release is something many aficionados observe with the anxious reverence otherwise reserved for the end of Lent.

Such ancient vines do not necessarily produce greater flavours. Unless it's  exceptionally healthy and fit, balanced and fruiting, and in the hands of an exceptional gardener, a century-old vine is no more likely to provide outstanding flavour than you'd expect to get in the steak of a hundred-year-old cow.

What is significant about healthy oldies is their stock, their DNA: since phylloxera destroyed the source vineyards of Europe after these cuttings were originally imported and propagated in Australia, these veritable clones no longer survive in the Old World.

In drinking these wines we keep the vines alive. Such overwhelming responsibility! So much left to do! 

Barossa coopers luncheon at Langmeil, May 2013 ... photo DRAGAN 

Langmeil Barossa The Fifth Wave Grenache 2012 
($40; vines older than seventy years; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points) 

I thought this was all lolly at first: a runny chocolate crème brûlée with just enough American oak to give it that lamington coconut aroma.

Those primaries aside, like many of the greatest old-style Barossa reds, this wine evokes ancient farm kitchen smells, all centered on the the woodfire stove. Poured quite cold - cellar temperature - this Grenache showed the acrid peat lug reek of the stone chimney at first, but the iron of the stove and its pots grew dominant as the whole business warmed.

Somebody's stewing black cherries. Take a draught: syrupy Marello cherry and silky heaven like sweet black gold heavy in the mouth. Do it again: eeew, it's so very shiny and polished, its matte tannin replaced by solid acid.

Transports of delight: For some reason this all reminds me of an old motorcycle. Hot engine, oil, leather ... get my deadly drift? 

Langmeil Barossa Jackaman's Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 
 ($50; vines older than 35 years; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+++ points) 

This Cabernet's as Barossa as you can get: the blackberry conserve with the reek of those tough briary leaves, the smell of the iron of the stove and the heavy cast pot ... split redgum ... just a little marshmallow and caster sugar ... these are aromas I would commonly encounter until the mid-eighties ... I haven't seen them lately other than at home or in the odd old-style Barossa kitchen.

But the wine gets much more modern when you drink it: the silky polished  sheen of the Grenache is here like black chrome plating your pipes from the inside ... it's all very firm and shiny enough to make it seem faster and lighter than it really is and I'm back in motorbike dreaming, as if the blackberries have been flamed in Cognac and fed into the carburettors to do their magic explosion before activating that really neat little matte flange of black tea and juniper tannins on the way out.

I stole this photo: Jeff Bekkers' '52 Vincent Black Lightning custom

It's Modesty Blaise sliding across the apron on her '52 Vincent Black Lightning, all her leathers freshly dressed ... I wonder if she still likes being called Princess?

It's only wine, Philip, I remind myself while I build up an unseemly dribble for juicy pink lamb. 

The Freedom Shiraz ... photo Philip White

Langmeil Barossa Orphan Bank Shiraz 2012 
($50; vines older than 70 years; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+ points) 

When Karl Lindner evicted these old vines to plant houses, he got a tractor and dug some of the rows up, one vine at a time, and replanted them in a spare patch of ground down the other end of that long mile beside the creek. This took eighteen months. You can see this transplant operation on the Langmeil website.

The vines are learning to love their new spot. You can feel their toes wriggling in the sand.

Musk, lavendar, Turkish delight, Persian fairy floss, sandalwood and frankincense, are the pretties this year ... real old-fashioned great-grandma scents.

The wine makes me think of something very harsh and modern crashing into something equally fine, old, royal and elegant.

There's lissom but intense prune and morello cherry liqueur flavour action and the finest threadbare carpet of tannin ... my suspicion is these tannins will grow more intense and complex as the roots of these orphans learn their way into the ferruginous alluvium which is new to them. I can't wait until they show signs of finally sucking rock, way down beneath all that easy, convenient loam. 

The Freedom Shiraz ... photo Doug Coates

Langmeil Barossa The Freedom 1843 Shiraz 2012
($125; vines older than 125 years; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 95 points) 

Trippy. Having been blessed to drink from the vintages of this vineyard for so many years I can tell you that the more of them there are marching off into the horizon far behind me the more I see them as a sort of inflammatory essence of the sex glands of nocturnal cactus flowers from Joshua Tree or Radium Hill or Earthquake Springs or somewhere, keeping me fed with life from the vast past dark. Then feeding me to the future. They must be pollinated by the mysterious Night Parrot. I reckon instead of just licking it up in the night if you could save any of the juice and have a bit of a look at it in the morning, it'd be a sort of gunbarrel blue-black slime with a trippy paisley slick on it like transmission oil or squid ink. But that's not fair. This bastard will assuage grief. It's the best truth drug I know, on account of the delirious welter of feelings it releases, all fantasy and fabulous bullshit as you suspect, but lover I tell you this sure beats television. And it might surprise you to discover that this is unabashedly a bed wine that has not one whiff of starchy old Lutheran linen about it. This is slippery black silk from the witches already. That's the sort of transmission I'm talking of. Get around here quick. We already lost 172 years.

DRAGAN photographs the Barossa coopers at Langmeil ... coopers are generally the toughest, most visceral folks in the wine business, and they know many secrets ... they deal with 120 - 150 year old oak as their basic currency ... I could think of no better gang to dine with in an old ironstone winery 100 metres from what seems to be the world's oldest fruiting Shiraz vineyard ... well yes I could ... where are the women, you boyos? ... photo Philip White, who managed to get in DRAGAN'S shot below anyway ... not his  hands, but!





26 July 2015

EASY STINGS FROM MOSQUITO HILL

Mosquito Hill Southern Fleurieu Savignon Blanc 2013 

$20; 13.3% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points 

A few years back when everybody thought the next Great White Wonder might well be the stylish Galacian blonde  variety Albariño -  aka Alvarinho or Cainho branco - there was a mad flurry of planting. Until somebody discovered that the cuttings being distributed were in fact Traminer from the forgettable appellation called Jura, which is near Geneva and equally droll.

Which is not quite on the Atlantic, like Galacia.

Most growers barged on regardless, displaying their disregard for the market by insisting that this transposition made no difference at all. They did, however, decide they had a better chance of selling the wine under the name Savignin, hoping this would take back some of the huge market share Australia has lost to Kiwi Sauvignon blanc.

This may have fooled some, but the buttery, peachy, oily-to-greasy Savignin-cum-Traminer is closer in style to the Alsace Gewurztraminer than anything vaguely approaching the crisp grassiness of Sauvignon blanc.

Glyn Jamieson's vineyard at Mount Jagged on the Fleurieu is cooler than most of the sites on which Savignin found itself. Something about that, and the very keen wine intellect of its owner and dreamer/planner, makes this the best example I have seen in Oz.

Apart from all the rich apricot, over-ripe pear, and even yellow peach characters typical of the grape - think Viognier - the fruit here has a fine nostril-tickling acridity that smells like freshly-split bluestone. Almost in contrast, the wine has a loveable unctuous texture in place of the sweaty gaúcho feeling many other makers seem happy to grasp.

As this comforting pat-me-down of a drink makes its progress, those stone fruits take on a slight verdancy, a little like the Chinese bitter melon, to finish with a dusting of very fine dry tannin.

Which all adds up to a wine that would swim beautifully with feisty Thai chilli-ginger-lemongrass-coriander cuisine, or something a little more subdued, like chicken stewed in scrumpy with plenty of fresh tarragon, heaps of squashed garlic cloves and little white onions. 

Mosquito Hill Southern Fleurieu Les Blancs 2011 
$20; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 85 points 

This one's fifty-fifty Savignin and Pinot blanc. It has even more of that prickly quarried rock edge in its piquant bouquet, along with a tantalising tickle of burlap, like a superphosphate sack. Which takes me closer to Burgundy than Switzerland or Spain.

The Pinot blanc seems to counteract the rich texture of the Savignin, making a more slender, sinuous drink, perhaps after the style of a particularly good Aligoté, which is probably the most widely-planted white grape in Burgundy.

Point it at poached pork or veal dishes. It's be dandy with a tender saltimbocca with capers. 

Mosquito Hill Southern Fleurieu Les Blancs 2012 
$20; 13.4% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points 

The addition of 20% Chardonnay at the expense of some Savignin, and a little more ripeness overall, sees this model leading the Mozzie Hill trinity: this one nails it.

The wine has some lemony edge with all that rockdust and sack, giving the bouquet more tempting elegance than the other two wines. The flavours have a neat junketty turn a little after the nature of fermenting bean curd and here the Chinese melon character is under control, neatly entwining with those white furry-skinned stone fruit flavours.

The acid is firm and securing; the tannins very fine but persistent, a little after the style of a particularly fine and elegant Condrieu Viognier. Which is a rarity in itself.

So what do we have here? We have a most un-Australian flavour that I'd expect geographically to find somewhere between Galacia and Jura but, er, probably closer to the latter which must put me somewhere very near Burgundy and its mellow bean stews.

The seasoned traveller will know that much-Michelined megabuck eateries aside, the best place to dine well in Burgundy is a backroad truckstop. I can imagine being surprised by, but quickly accepting a surpise find like this wine in such a place. Like somewhere on the flats approaching Mâcon.

You know you're gonna drive off much more slowly than the mad lost way you approached.

COOL BLUE JAZZ FROM OAKRIDGE


Oakridge Barkala Ridge Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2013 
$36; 13.6% alcohol; screw cap; 94+ points 

You know the smell of the canteloupe? Like intact, before you cut it? That smell of the skin? Part burlap, part green melon? This smells like that but it's got a lot more blue in it. Miles Davis' Flamenco Sketches: his trumpet under raspy, raw mute. Check it out. As the great man said, it's the attitude of the dude, not the note.

So here once again we have an EP of Chardonnays from the playing of David Bicknell and it doesn't take long in this one to hear the honey tenor sax of John Coltrane adding squishy comfort to Bill Evans' delicate gossamer piano and I dunno just listen to the music or drink or both. We're not here to talk.

But I gotta. In the swallowing sector, this is a firm wine, perhaps a little brittle, a little raspy. The more you sit thinking the more it directly mirrors its kind of blue bouquet. It's as louche as all those wandery contemplative solos but as tight as Miles' determination that the recording is the honest total of what happened in the room. This is David's rakish solo on what happened in the Chardonnay up Barkala Ridge two years ago.

I's a beautiful, riveting thing. Put it on and listen. 

Oakridge Willow Lake Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2013 
$36; 12.7% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points 

Same album; different track. All that prickly dry burlap/hemp/hessian, but with a different crop of fruits in it. In place of the melon flesh, this has pineapple and jackfruit vanillins oozing around the bottom of the cool Trane solo. The aroma gets close to golden syrup or honey on the dumplings as they're pulled dribbling from the stewing pot in their coarse linen sack. Jam melon, cubed and lightly stewed.

But it's no good simply smelling your music - you've got to swallow it. Once again, the flavours and the feelings are precise, logical extensions of all that was in the fragrance.

The biggest change is the syrup knob has been wound up past six, and this has little of the tail-end-tannin of the Barkala. By the end the dominant tone is redeeming acid rising staunchly to resolve the piece.

It's one for the runny-in-the-middle pudding folks. Those with a remaining appreciation of anything vaguely svelte may well award it another point or two through sheer jealousy.

No need for a fade-out. It just tapers away all dreamish by itself. Go follow. 

Oakridge Guerin Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2013 
$36; 13.4% alcohol; screw cap; 94++ points 

Like some unimagined crescendo the band trusted was coming to close the sesh, this mutha rolls in right on queue, combining all the loveliness of the above tracks, all their components, but a tad louder and fuller and close to harmony but still with the right amount of ragged - not much, mind you - and quite a few bits of other music in there, like quince and pear and Chinese gooseberry and probably sapodilla.

Shit it's good.

It really is Trane's train in the station and it's ticking and hissing and seething with miles yet to travel.

Somewhere out there with the chorizos and the warm green olives and the sheep's cheese is where I'd take it. Elevenses. With a cigarillo under the veranda before the daylight gets too bright a thing and a person has to snooze. Otherwise it'd be back east along the coast to Marseilles for a full-bore bouillabaisse, the local equivalent of garfish or snook on the chargrill for some crunch.

I would have the Barkala with small crayfish cooked simply on coals and served with crunchy bread and rich salty butter, fresh basil and lemon juice.

The Willow Lake needs something to contrast: lemony scallopini or saltimbocca would rock it. White anchovies.

The annual release of Oakridge's Local Vineyard Series Chardonnays is something that is now etched in the stone of my vinous gig guide: you should arrange to have the same thing cut permanently into yours.

Nobody does the ensemble business better.

Well, some Burgundian outfits may, but at twice this price.

JOURNALISTS, WINEMAKERS AND IMAGE



Media madness: It's been a big week for extravagant  helicopter abuse and minor wine scandals in the luxury living section of Australian politics and media. The author wonders whether winemakers, hacks and pollies have far too much in common ... photo DRAGAN


Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, all is vanity, and the scribes keep writing it all down
by PHILIP WHITE 


"After enough years newspapermen begin to pall on other newspapermen; they begin to take their good qualities for granted and wince at their shortcomings, of which the most common are a vanity that sometimes borders on the thespian and a sort of perpetual mental adolescence that I think stems from starting a fresh story every day or every week or month and never having time to get to the bottom of anything." 

I know, I know, that's a big quote to start a yarn but it's one damn lovely  sentence in every way and so fine a thing in form and content that only a fool would lay a chisel on it.

Also, it's Joe Liebling (left), a very favourite writer who covered the Second World War for The New Yorker. He filed that line about my line of work from Algiers in January 1942. Liebling wrote of the war from the point of view of a gluttonous genius: even under repeated Stuka fire in a bunker in the desert he wrote of scrambling duck eggs. His Between Meals - An Appetite For Paris is essential; his reportage of the halitosis of Charles de Gaulle a pinnacle of bitchy hiss.

Alcohol aside, in my post-war experience it has been journalists of a blinding range of ineptitudes or skill who have been responsible for the popular image of winemakers. This is because in winemakerworld there are very few operatives who will spend one dead cent on advertising their product or themselves.

They get it for free.

They have no idea how lucky they are. There are no milk writers, or bread columns. But every paper and shiny mag -  digital or tree-based - has at least one wine writer, whether real journalist or shill on the take. Their job is to promote the consumption of alcohol.

A wine writer lends convenient sanctity to those pages and pages of pension day liquor advertisements which have nothing at all to do with gastronomy.

The busy contemporary wine scribe scene is largely the way it is, internet chaos notwithstanding, due to the work of newspaper drink writers like Walter James, Len Evans, Richard Beckett, James Halliday, Jeni Port and Mark Shield (below), who in one combination or another made the game competitive from the early 'seventies on.


"Go get me a yarn about wunner them winemaker characters Whitey," the Ed would bark. Characters the winemen were: only a few hundred of them when I started; there are thousands trying to be characters now.

By characters I mean blokes who'd done not much more than drive tractors and drink beer. Blokes who'd scratch their arse with one of their hands while shaking yours with another one. And they were blokes. Apart from Pam Dunsford, Di Genders and Ursula Pridham.

Most of the winemakers in McLaren Vale were chook farmers when I began watching them for a living. Their wines mainly stank of hydrogen sulphide until the advent of the mechanical harvester, when they gained the added complexity of hydraulic fluid.


Long time ago, mind you. In many clever aspects of the wine business, this region now leads the world. Think Grenache.

But we still have these thirsty hacks on the one hand and your plonkmongers on the other. The first lot, who have a deadline every day or week seem to feel a kindred flush or some twist of bittersweet jealousy when writing about the winemakers, who have one deadline per year.

Which is not to say their lives are simple or easy: like good all-round journalists, the successful winemaker must master an unlikely range of skills. If such achievement remains out of grasp of either side, a great deal of utter bullshit will be required. I mean even more per acre than we regularly spread.

Winemaking? First, you're a primary producer who really must understand tractors and dirt and grass and water and stuff. Basic plant physiology, climate and pest management. Poisons, plumbing, irrigation. Agricultural accounting.

Then comes a layer of secondary manufacture, covering everything from factory design to basic biochemistry. Industrial yeasts, acids, clarifying agents. Flavourants. A degree of gastronomic intelligence comes in handy here. Then you'll need packaging skills, transport local and international, design, marketing and sales ... export law and public relations, the lure and lore of the restaurant and pub world.

Governments then expect you to be expert in tourism.


You have to be fluent, currently, in Hipster.

But critically, the modern winemaker must always be ready for that moment when the publisher sends the journo to do a nice colour piece for the food and wine section. For free.

There is a great deal of trust implicit here. Like the winemaker will trust that the writer never mentions the dangers of alcohol, but only lovely things about lemons and limes and roast fowl, with just the right dash of colourful character. This trust so far has been well-placed from the winemakers' point of view. The hacks are complicit. Peace in the valley.

But maybe the catalogue of winemaker skills should stop there.



It's when the winemakers take control of their own image that things get interesting. A bridge too far. Give them a sniff of budget, a loose idea and a film crew and let them go it alone and you might begin to understand who they think they really are.

Having mastered all those remarkable skills listed above, many winemakers now also believe they are great writers, directors and actors. 

The outstanding contemporary example of this is an ad on Youtube. It's called VALO Wine - a flight of unforgettable encounters. Really. Let me lead you through a few of the more unforgettable encounters.

We're in a vineyard with Mark Lloyd, who's pretending to prune. A biplane flies over low; he looks at his tank watch, drops everything and heads off to lunch, which explains why he's pruning in his dinner jacket at the wrong time of year with a watch you could swap for a house.

Because movie.

Because the inevitable medium-close-up of a chicken being dismembered by an expert. Because having almost regained control after losing it on a corner, some twat comes hooning up the gravel drive in a supercar. Then we see a row of boxes a bit like the ones girls used to carry their party 45 singles around but one of them has this giant aubergine-type thing in it.

Most journalists are happy to discuss the possibility of assistance with travel arrangements ... the author with Tim Knappstein's Boeing Stearman

Back that with the Last Supper shot with Chester Osborn as our precious loving Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ and two of the twelve turn out to be beautiful women. A little black helicopter chases the supercar through a vineyard too fast, interrupting an Italian-looking bloke who's frotting somebody on the ground. Back inside, Emmanuelle Bekkers hands the giant aubergine to Pete Fraser. They're wearing white gloves. He pulls the stalk out of it and the biplane flies past again. A bloody great luxury speedboat like drugrunners use down the Keys swooshes by, then the giant aubergine gets filled up with wine and goes back in its box. 

Luxury speedboats? Hacks love 'em

Somebody delivers a huge roast femur to a little dog on a beach. Mobster types get in a black limo near some white buses and a bit more biblane business goes past while a woman has a very high stiletto discomfort and then the supercar arrives somewhere else leading to the series of gastroporn vignettes, a tractor, more helicopter and eventually we see all these silvertails called The Masters Of McLaren Vale having a fine old nosh-up.

Fair dinkum.

Many journalists also like access to supercars

If this is not a good sharp picture of who these McLaren Vale winemakers think they are, or how they prefer to be regarded, then somebody has lost quite a lot of money.

If it's my region's wine imagery I want projected at me, and that's all they got, I want it instead from a Liebling, Shield, Beckett, James or a rogue like Evans. Give me the word of an expert; a seasoned newspaper hack who's used to standing in the shadows watching through their own veil of thespian vanity.

I haven't once mentioned the truth, but mark my words: you'd be more likely to get close to it this way. And it'll be cheaper. While it lasts.



Here are six helpful hints:

1. If selling science, technology and craftsmanship, try this
2. If selling wine, learn to talk straight like this.
3. If you need lots of money for a bright new wine, try this.
4. To show off your country and teach some history, click.
5. If it's decanters you're selling, learn how to do this.
6. Link your product to its lifestyle? Learn your clientele.

Oh, and here's an extra one at no cost:

Notice how women fit into all this? Where?