“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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29 June 2016

ONE OF THE VERY BEST FROM BEST'S

photo©Milton Wordley
 
Best's Great Western Concongella Vineyard F.H.T. Shiraz 1999 (14.5% alcohol; cork; from the owner's cellar)


I'd look really stupid if I didn't say this is the best west Victoria Shiraz I can recall in recent decades. Some real old Colin Preece wines come to mind. It's like shivers right royalty of that rare sort which triggers rumours of low yields making better and therefore more expensive red wines. And vice-versa. 

But Blossoms, let me guarantee you can have buggered old low-yield vines from here to the horizon and not get within a lap of this glory.

In structure, it reminds me very much of that other great house with joyous and hopeful Federation label art, Wendouree. Nothing coincidental in that. I don't get to say anything like that in many decades, either. But I know enough of both to be so bold. In flavour, form and optimism - humble but confident, well-historied optimism - both wines are as graphical as their labels.

It delivered an evil gunblue glint during decanting. And then come those amazing olfactory folds of silks and velvets. Mattes and sheens. Black and purple brocades and satins.

Ink for pens.

After frost and drought most of the Best's 1999 Shiraz worth a sniff ended up in one barrel. You probly can't get much lower yielding than that. Viv Thomson labelled it after his father FHT.

Milton brought a bottle back from Viv. We had it decanted at Elbow Room and drank nearly all of it. The last two glasses were tipped back into the bottle and left without a cork all night. Next day I breathed them from my glass for an hour or two and sent them on down. The mob belowdecks go nuts. They do like a packers' Archibald prize with true blue shit like this.

The old CNS went so AC/DC zappo I nearly lost the hold of my glass and dropped it. Instead I'm still sitting here, reveling with what I've dropped within.

Limonene, linalool and the pinenes are some of its most prominent dream triggers, with the caramels of Shiraz in the sun. The deep soft greens and the gooeys. Grrrr.

A true rarity; a luxurious marvel; a holiday in swoon.

With it, I toast Mick Morris. And Viv, a survivor. Thankyou good friend.


The feeling such mighty wines evoke is written of in my obituary for Ian MacDonald. And here in a 1991 visit to Morris of Rutherglen, just closed by Pernod Ricard, the French owners of Jacobs Creek. Milton Wordley's interview with Viv will appear on People of Wine: Ten Questions next week.

BREXIT SNUCK UP ON SNOOZIN AUSSIES

 
Brexit dumps huge Oz wine exports to UK in utter chaos - winemakers seem surprised
by PHILIPWHITE

Jeez. Everyone's shocked. But over the weekend, Marc Soccio of the wine and agriculture industry finance house, Rabobank, worked out a statement. He thought a lower pound would send whatever was left of the United Kingdom out looking for suppliers of cheaper meat and wine.

"All of a sudden those products start to look a hell of a lot more expensive and there would be a demand impact from that if it lasts long enough ... We all expected if they did choose to leave the EU that the pound would be negatively impacted and the pound will be lower for longer as a consequence and it means the value of our key agri exports will be impacted," he told The Weekly Times.

Duh. While this came as not much of a shock to some, it coincided with whispers from a growing number of small wine producers. "Well Whitey," is the mantra, "that sure explains why my Brit agent hasn't called back to confirm that order they placed a month back."

Put simply, as far as the ethanol business goes, Brexit looked like it could bring a good-sized drop in whisky prices - it there's any good whisky left in the mountains of barrel stacks in Scotland - and an expectation that if we are to hold our tenuous acres of the UK discount shelves, our wine would have be considerably cheaper.

Of course there's nothing new in this line. They've been throwing that at their prison-camp/colony for two hundred years, Land of Hope and Glory playing while the churchbells chime.
.

But it's still not quite what the entire communities of technically bankrupt growers along our big rivers hoped to hear.
 
Soccio's explanation of the shenanigans in Britain and the EU were remarkable only in their solitude: if anybody else had anything to say in consolation or warning they certainly didn't manage to raise their bleat above all that shocked-and-disgusted white noise that filled the media.

Not to use my name too lightly.

There'd been little in the way of sage advice from big exporters who you'd think probably understood the implications of the British mischief, like Pernod Ricard (Jacob's Creek) or Accolade (Hardy's). 


Or for that matter, all those confounding wine industry councils - bodies may be the better word for them - seemed just as shocked and bedazzled by Brexit as the half of Great Britain that voted against it.

So while we wait for a better explanation, let's go back a bit.

First, the Brexit referendum was predictable.

Second, its results are not compulsory: government can ignore the people's will if it chooses. That referendum was really not much more than a very extravagent market research poll like our promised equal marriage rights plebiscite. Politicians can ignore its result.

Third, It always pays to read the treaty: the formal mechanics of a UK secession from the EU cannot commence until the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom signs the Lisbon Treaty's Article 50. This will not be happening soon.






















Whether he meant to or not, David Cameron has left his successor to fry as the lobbyists for everything stable in finance, banking, politics, international economics and the EU itself mount impossible pressure on whoever ends up being PM, probably Boris Johnson, to do something else. Anything else.

Of course a person as stable and predictable in their conservatism as BoJo can be expected to do pretty much exactly that. Whatever it is. In the meantime, it's astonishing to hear hardened Brit political hacks marvelling that Nicola Sturgeon is the only leader in the British Isles with a plan. Those whisky prices may hold.

Fourth, in this world, all the money flows to where it's easiest for it to be. So in the long term, like the real long term, if Brexit really does become an exit and the burghers of The City are smart, they can by deregulation make London an easier place to traffic, and an alternative to the anal retention across the Channel. The finance world will follow.

Even the finance world drinks wine. They'll be very thirsty after this fiasco.






















 Which may be what Mr Soccio meant by his "flight to safety: ... I think a lot of commodity markets are going to be really shaken by this result until we can fully digest it," he said. "The same goes for currency. These sorts of currency shifts are going to take a while for commodity markets and financial and general equity markets to recalibrate."

So. It's a matter of wait and see. As I suggested earlier. Duh.

In the meantime, the exporters of Australia's biggest discount wines to the traditional United Kingdom market are in very deep trouble. Whether they can continue to screw our embattled growers by convincing them to stay in their current unprofitable horror remains to be seen.

Cruelly, Brexit may simply finally force the closure of a huge part of the big irrigation, high-volume, minimal-profit market, when no amount of political wrangling over water and global warming and whatnot will ever achieve the same harsh result.

No federal politician has been game to face this.

As for that premium end where the profits reside? Those little strugglers with the unconfirmed orders?

Right now, they're not much better off.

So what has our Prime Minister got to say about all this, with an election staring us down?






















"I remind Australians that, given that we are living in a world of great opportunities, but also great challenges and uncertainties, now more than ever Australia needs a stable majority Coalition government," he said.

I reckon that's worth another "Duh!"

Hang both houses, I say.



For further reading check John Cassidy in The New Yorker or a local ABC take on the same. In the meantime,

BOLT BURNS AUNTIE BY GEORGE


23 June 2016

THE WHOLE WORLD'S GOT SHELL SHOCK

Simpler days ... having a quiet one with the gang on the way to school

We're all batty now but we gotta get through this together without denial ... gentle, gentle, gentle
by PHILIP WHITE

At an impossibly short age, Michael Dransfield, whom I reckon to be Australia's greatest poet, published a volume called The Inspector Of Tides. 

From the moment I first heard its title, I knew my young (1948-1973) guru referred to a commitment to that vigilant watching, watching, watching routine that only scarce poets know. Driven mystics with Karl Zeiss window glass, an obsession with tasty mouthsful of language and a very risky tendency to honesty. Folks who live exacerbated in a constant swing between exhaustion and ecstacy, as Hart Crane described. Humans with forensic memories.

We thought the planet was messy then. At risk of somebody blowing it up at any minute. Like all of it at once.

Michael died real early so I can't expect him to explain it in his beautiful naked simplicity but I reckon it's got much worse. There's too much terrible out there now.

Saturn Devouring His Son, Francisco Goya, Musea Nacional Del Prado
 
Try pondering the meaning of a world in which everybody must now suffer from (a) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or (b) denial of same, which is even more dangerous behaviour than attempting to winter it out knowingly.

All these kids will grow up. Into what?

Daily reminders of the rhythms of destruction lead to nasty volumes of stuff like ethanol being pumped through the community kidney filters with really obscene deliberation. Or, as above, (b) denial of same.

Even as a little boy in the Strezlecki Ranges in the 'fifties, I knew the whiff of it. Every household had a skinny bloke in it somewhere, sitting with a smoke glowing and a smelly drink in the blinds-down dark, trying to forget The War. Kids had to be real quiet in houses in case Uncle So-and-so chucked a funny turn.

One had especially to tip-toe round those who could sleep only on the veranda. You could hear them yellin' out suddenly in the night.

As if the recollection of that cherophobic epoch wasn't enough, some sort of slime mould from Hell moved into the vittles of my upper body yesterday, adding some colourful biochemical blues to the normal electrical problems, so I've been wallowing round the royal cot listening to BBC with the curtains drawn, remembering all these things while I drink lots of water and lemon juice and honey and whatnot.

Remembering Michael and those dark 'fifties rooms we came from led me to think about my first breakaway drinks. Couldn't resist going straight back into there. Like discovering the Devil's Brew from a household run by a savage Bible-bashing teetotalling father? A tricky game to play with any measure.

Like Sarsaparilla. What a powerful trigger of melancholic history is that aroma! Even as a kid I felt this was a cordial essence drink with something vinous about it. I learnt early that I could sleep in a bit and miss the bus so I could hitch-hike from Kanmantoo to High School at Mount Barker. It was so much quicker hitching that I had the time to call in at the Great Eastern in Littlehampton for a quiet one or two before opening and then on to school on the other bus with the Littlehampton kids.

I liked a pint glass filled with Smirnoff vodka, Johnston's Oakbank Sarsaparilla Cordial and soda on ice. Even after my younger brother, the beloved Stephen (above) sat me down in the Stirling hotel with a mixed grill and a bottle of red and advised me "here, you can't go wrong with a Seaview claret," resulting in an instant addiction to the fruit of the vine. Even after that, all these damn years, I still like playing with sars, vodka and soda.

You can make it short or long. You can add a dash of pomegranate and/or blood orange juice. I probly didn't but I always felt like I invented it. Stewart probably invented it. When only the best will do. Whitey's first kiddylikker.

As far as mixing alcohol and caffeine goes, that was the go long before anybody thought of Red Bull. I always make a pot of four cups of coffee for breakfast and drink two. I leave the rest of the coffee to grow cold in the pot in case in the afternoon I feel like black coffee with vodka and soda bone dry instead of gumming the olfactory up with Shiraz jam. A splash of sars goes well in this too. And a splash is suffice: it's very sweet, but it sure beats a teaspoon of straight sugar.

The Shiraz can wait.

The first sars cordial I found on this lap is the F. C. Grubb Old Style Traditional Cordial Sarsaparilla made by Trend Drinks at Gladstone. It calls itself 'gourmet flavoured syrup' and admits to be made with 'sarsaparilla flavour' and there's a bucket of cane sugar in it so what it has to do with the old Johnno's stuff from the high school years beats me.

You can make it more like real old-fashioned sars by adding a sprinkle of Angostura.

It's always good fun playing around with all these flavours, and astonishing how close you find yourself to emulating wine at different points in the play. Or Coke. L-O-L-A cola. Pity we can't readily get a drier syrup made from the real fruit of the Smilax ornata brambly vine, which is what sars is sposed to be made from. Like a thorny grape vine if you squint real hard.

I soon had casual bar work in the Great Eastern, which provided a crash course in the tinctures of the time. There were a lot of blokes who drank only Coopers Sparkling Ale. Pale Ale was still called Light Dinner Ale. It was Coopers Sparkling Ale bottled with some water in it, for the ladies to have with their oysters. We poured a lot of porter gaff, all from bottles. We drank Corio, Milnes or Gilt Edge whiskey. Goddard's Golden Braid Rum. June Smith drank schooners of cherry brandy with Advocaat egg liqueur and dry, a bloody dangerous fizzy complosion if ever there was one. I recall another lass who lived on port and lemonade on the rocks.

Jack Carroll, a Coopers Sparkling "little bottle" man, would bring his dog into the pub and leave the wife outside in the ute, staring at the wall with a pony of barmaid's blush. 

In the summer it was pints of hock, lime and lemon for the thinking drinker; more soda less lemonade for the true genius. Only professors drank Pimms.

Gradually the World War II vets were replaced at the other end of the bar by the Korea War vets and then the Vietnam lads and I remember learning with visceral hurt their PTSD symptoms. Of course in those more wholesome times things had names rather than meaningless acronyms and those blokes had what everybody called 'shell shock'. Or the lasses would say 'had a bad war, poor dear, oooh it's such a shaaaame ... like, he used to be sooo ...'

Apart from the pub, those blokes went round the RSL Club to drink and deal with their horrors together. Generations nowdays have their own clubs and bars of all sorts for like souls to wind out and dissolve the terror of outside or next door or the skies above or whatever the source of fresh evil may be.

And what does some nutbag do? He'll blow their dance bar away too. And all who sailed in her.

This is related by someone who's been looking, looking, looking since those grey post war times and knows with enough clarity to guarantee you it's getting worse now.

Shellshock, see? More people with it today than ever before. Be very careful when that vodka bottle winks at you when you're suss. Drink drier; drink less ethanol; more water.

And expect strange actions and utterances from your psychologically exhausted neighbours and friends and from those who flee to our arms for safety immediately before we lock them up indefinitely in gulags and Guantanamos. Or (b), expect even stranger behaviour from those who deny occurrence of same.

It's not terrorism. It's the results of that. Being in it, watching it incessantly. Playing games with it for money or pleasure. We lose if we don't learn.

Nope. We're all batty now. If we're gonna winter it out knowingly, we'd best do it together. 

Gentle, gentle, gentle.






20 June 2016

LOVELY BIG NOSE BY GEORGE

always honored to have the brilliant George Grainger Aldridge taking his nib snaps and passing them on to the bridge here on the mad ship DRINKSTER ... nobody qualified here doctor ... we pass em all on to the next bloke ... I'm in awe of George ... like after a half a life I'm only starting to realise how much of bis brain must be filed up neatly with his recollections of different bits of us ... like all of us ... what Doc Youds calls 'the eyelid cinema' ... flutter flutter flutter goes the shutter ... boofhead blokes everywhere you look ... on the contrary, here's dear Beloved Brother George [NO RELIGION] looking looking at The Ex


Hymn: 'The Day Thou Gavest George Grainger Aldridge' ... photo Philip White  

19 June 2016

A SHORT WALK IN THE KUITPO KUSH

Kuitpo Forest, South Mount Lofty Ranges, Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia. The borderlands between Kuarna country to the west and Peramangk on the east ... 

Introduced Pinus radiata on the left, introduced spotted gum on the right. Regardless of the colonial invader nature of both in these parts, I felt much more wellbeing in the eucalypt side, a sense which always reminds me of our ability to absorb such information through our biggest organ, our skin.

Scarce wildlife on either side, but plenty of fungal activity in the sod and up the trunks ... this is just over the faultline and the Willunga Escarpment from my joint. 

All these photos copyright Philip White, whether they're a tad soft of focus or not. I was just bashin em off. 

Never ever eat any fungi before you have thoroughly researched them. Or learn from a group of forensic experts like the team I was fortunate to join on this memorable walk. 













The formidable Pam Catcheside (hard at work, centre rear) took a group of dead serious fungi enthusiasts on this foray through some unremarkable but well-managed forest on the range at Kuitpo. Pam leads the Adelaide Fungal Studies Group, a member of the Field Naturalists' Club of South Australia.

That's Professor David Catcheside looking on from left. He's a leader in fungal DNA studies. He made my brain spin, too.

Although I talked a lot, I have rarely had such a thorough, profoundly educative few hours ... more coming on this when I've had a real hard think about some of what I learnt. 

Read the Catchesides' credentials by clicking on the links above. Remarkable people. Thanks to all, and to my good friend Stephen Forbes, who invited me.

To learn about fungi in Australia trust Fungimap


STOP PRESS: Pam (centre, above) has just distributed the list below of the fungi she identified in those few short hours with her crew. the Mushroom MI5 and 6 of our secret fungi forces ... they're scary

These photographs and forest ones below by Leo Davis.

Pam with Stephen Forbes and a lurker

ADELAIDE FUNGAL STUDIES GROUP FORAY 
SATURDAY 18TH JUNE, 2016, KUITPO FOREST

Gilled fungi 
Agaricus sp. 
Amanita farinacea
Amanita ?grisella
Amanita muscaria
Amanita ochrophylla
Amanita umbonata
Amanita xanthocephala
Collybia butyracea
Cortinarius ?lavendulensis
Cortinarius kula
Cortinarius sp. pale yellow 
Gymnopilus allantopus
Gymnopilus eucalyptorum
Gymnopilus junonius
Gymnopilus parumbalus
Hebeloma sp. medium sized, whitish cap 
Laccaria proxima
Lactarius deliciosus
Lepiota hamemorrhagica
Lepiota sp. medium, white cap, brown disc 
Leucopaxillus eucalyptorum
Lichenomphalia chromacea
Mycena albidofusca
Mycena subvulgaris
Mycena sp. small, cream 
Mycena sp. medium, grey 
Pholiota communis
Pholiota multicingulata
Russula cheelii
Rusula lenkunya
Tricholoma eucalypticum


Boletes 
Austropaxillus infundibuliformis – gilled bolete 
Boletus sp. large, yellow, not discolouring 
Rhizopogon rubescens – truffle bolete 
Suillus granulatus
Xerocomus multicolor 

Toothed fungi/hydnoids 
Phlebia subceracea 

Coral fungi 
Ramaria lorithamnus 

Jelly fungi 
Calocera guepinioides
Dacrymyces sp. 

Earthballs 
Pisolithus arhizus 

Thin brackets 
Stereum illudens 

Truffles 
Russulaceous truffle white






















Below: part of the collection of papier mache fungi and fruit in the Museum of Economic Botany in the Botanic Gardens of South Australia
 
Like many others, I can't help thinking of what some rekindled fungal activity would do should it have the chance to bring some springy life back into tired old dirt like this stuff getting a tease of a drink in the Southern Flinders ... lots to do ... understorey to start ... 



16 June 2016

THREE MORE NEW AUSTRALIANS

Sellicks Hill Wines McLaren Vale Greco 2013 
($30; 13% alcohol; screw cap)

While the wildcats of McLaren Vale plant Fiano everywhere - it grows much better at Langhorne Creek, methinks, until the Vales finds the right geology - the belligerent and knowing Paul Petagna flips 'em the bird with this, the region's first home-grown Greco. (Beach Road has a good one, but that's also from the estuarine realms of Langhorne Creek.)

Paul learned his winemaking from his late father-in-law, Modestino Piombo, in the shed where this wine was born. He makes his wine real slow and rustic. Old oak; lots of long lunches; a well-greased spit; wood oven; pots bubbling with pasta ... 

Nigel Rich conducts vintage lunch amongst Paul Petagna's Sellicks Hill fermenters

This Greco has alluring wafts of fresh-poached peach with grilled lemon and pineapple, dusted with musky confectioner's sugar and crystallised violets. And oh yes, a sprinkle of fresh white pepper. When they pack their old Ferraris away in climate-controlled storage, millionaire petrolheads put talcum on their windscreen rubbers to preserve them. It smells like that, too.

These aromas are not vividly broadcast in the flavour division. Rather, we have a neutral moment that's all about texture: modestly unctuous, then very long and dusty and tapering until those lovely things you inhaled return in your happy exhalation.

Nigel Rich (The Elbow Room and Slo Moe's) once boned a pig, stuffed it with about ten boned paddock-raised chooks, fresh herbs and a wheelbarrow full of garlic and and cooked it slow on a spit while we attacked barrels in Château Modestino there on the slope above the Gulf but below The Victory.

This delicious adult wine would go just swimmingly with that feast, were it all to happen again.Which it may, or something like it: keep an eye on the Sellicks Hill Wines website.

Torzi Matthews Vigna Cantina Eden Valley Rosato di Sangiovese 2015 ($25; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap)

I know, I know. Every time I review wines from the Torzi Matthews stable or their Long Hop/Old Plains brands with colleague Tim Freeland, I drool over their wholesome, open-hearted honesty, the  rustic sense of country they express, and their amazing value. So there. I've done it again.

And so has dear Dominic Torzi with this disarming rosé. It's not sweet: it has not one insinuation of the simple raspberry-jelly pink drinks upon which too many squander really good Grenache. Instead, we have an autumnal-coloured wine with a slightly cheesey whiff amongst its gentle capocollo and mortadella fats. Which makes it the perfect accompaniment to a proper antipasto spread: it'll handle even the tricky tannins of the pickled artichoke.

The wine is gentle and fine of structure, with just the right amount of viscosity to settle you down before the dusty tannins move in to excite you and tighten your hunger. It'll make a vitello tonnato sing, duet perfectly with veal Sorrentino, and build to a real cute choral work with saltimbocca. And it'll do this, in every case, with a role more supportive than contrasting. It will never intrude, but lubricate and very gently stimulate. So there: I'm drooling again. Vivaldi glorias please.

Torzi Matthews Vigna Cantina Barossa Valley Tempranillo 2014 ($25; 14% alcohol; screw cap)

Brazenly Tempranillo in every way, this joven style red reeks of all that Spanish leather and coal dust the variety boasts at its best. It smells complex and deep like a glowering well of country goodness.

Once again, the flavours are secondary to the wine's grainy texture - it's the rewards one finds in the exhalation that give it that long, satisfying finish. Which is never to suggest it's not appetising, too: this is one for a steaming stack of big field mushrooms, pan-tossed blue cabbage, and/or lightly-poached baby beetroots, with or without a dribbling haunch of beef.

You can spend a lot of hard-earned searching for Spanish Temps that never approach this one for sheer gastronomic delight.