“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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31 December 2008

BEST MERLOT: USA OR BETHLEHEM?


FROM WHICH TERROIR WOULD YOU PREFER TO TAKE YOUR MERLOT? BETHLEHEM (top) OR THE USA (bottom)?



AMERICAN MERLOT


Felix Salmon in Conde Nast Portfolio

(comparing the new US trend to seek apartments in shopping malls):


“The history of the wine market in America (bear with me here) has a central role for merlot: a relatively sweet and easily-drinkable varietal which got Americans -- who had been more accustomed to beer and sweet white wine -- comfortable with the idea of red wine. Nowadays, merlot has something of a bad name, but it's still hugely popular.


“I think of these mall condos as the urbanist equivalent of merlot: a gateway, if you will, to the urban lifestyle, without the tannic downside.


"I'm not sure they'll ever become quite as ubiquitous as merlot. But they're clearly part of America's real-estate future.”


DRINKSTER finds this amusing because:


1 Merlot is neither sweet nor more easily-drinkable than other wines. It is a tannic grape variety from Bordeaux, with flavours of chicory and rocket when young. Properly aged, these phenolics oxidise to take on a character akin to bitumen or dark chocolate, adding astringency to red fruits that plump out the rest of Merlot’s aromatic and flavour structure.


2 Americans still don’t know that Merlot is a serious red grape variety with astringency akin to Cabernet Sauvignon. Real merlot is not mellow.


3 If you’re comparing Merlot to real estate, check Chateau Petrus, where 11.4 ha of vineyard produces a maximum of 2,500 dozen bottles a year. The 2004 Chateau Petrus is available from $A1,200 - $1,600 a bottle; the 2006 from $2,160 to $5,300.


BETHLEHEM MERLOT


(from a Vatican blog)


Austen Ivereigh writes about the Cremisan winery of the Salesians of Don Bosco, who make merlot on a hill outside Bethlehem. It is a wine of choice for Christians clustered in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and those in Israel.


"Cremisan's distinctive 'David's Tower' and 'Shepherds' Fields' wine is a vital symbol of the identity of Arab Christians: Drinking Cremisan wine sets them them apart from Israeli Jews (who have kosher wine) and from Muslim Arabs (who do not drink alcohol).


“Moreover, the wine has begun to be exported to Germany and the United Kingdom to compensate for the drop in Christian visitors to the Holy Land. Cremisan's "Messa" altar wine has proved popular with abbeys and large churches in the United Kingdom, who buy the wine as a means of directly supporting the Christians of the West Bank.


“But since early November, Israeli soldiers have been refusing to let the wine through the Hebron checkpoint.”


Cremisan wine "has an important social value," said Father Franco Ronzani, the Salesian rector. "The ones who profit from the wine sales are not us."


Some 30 families depend directly on the winery, which supports many projects among the poor in Bethlehem, including a technical school and a bakery where the poor gather to collect loaves.”


It feels like the final straw for the elderly Italian Salesians living in the friary.


The house looks out over the 30-foot-high concrete Wall of Separation, which the Israelis say is necessary for their security; but its path makes clear that its purpose is also to protect illegal Jewish settlements on the West Bank, and to annex lands that once belonged to the Christian families of Bethlehem.


The loss of Christian lands, and therefore grape supplies, combined with the obstacles to free movement of people and goods since the intifadah in 2000, is the main reason why Cremisan production has dropped from more than 700,000 bottles to just 200,000 in recent years.


When it is extended next year, the wall will snake behind Cremisan to include an illegal Jewish settlement, thus severing Cremisan from Bethlehem -- and from the workers who tend the vineyards and make the wine.


If it is unable to reach its customers in Israel and abroad, the winery will be forced to close; and its demise will be a major blow to the continuity of the Christian communities in Palestine and Israel.


Father Ronzani puts it simply. "We want to continue to exist," he said. "We've been making wine for 120 years, and we want to carry on for another hundred."


DRINKSTER abhors this because:


It’s just a tiny addition to the towering stack of steaming shit behaviour the Israelis have built for us all to admire this Christmas.

29 December 2008

CHINAMAN BUSTS AIRPORT WINE RECORD

CARTOON BY GEORGE GRAINGER ALDRIDGE


Staff at Paris’ Roissy airport liquor store are still bemused at the record-breaking customer who whizzed through on Christmas eve.
A mystery Chinaman broke his dash to a Beijing flight to spend $A89,013.00 on wine for Christmas, doubling the previous record spend on the good oil at an airport. Our thirsty traveller’s cache included 1991 La Tâche, a 2002 Romanée-Conti and a 1947 Lafite-Rothschild. No doubt the world’s most famous winemaker, Jesus Christ, would have been delighted to see his birthday celebrated so heartily by a wine man from the east. One wonders about the Christmas dinner menu. In Australia, the airport anti-terrorism droogs would confiscate the wine before he caught the plane, and it’d be back to that sweet Damascus rosé for the next birthday clambake with the lads on Galilee shore.
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THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY


Philip White Sees Encircling Gloom in 2009


a version of this story appeared in The Independent Weekly on 19 DEC 08



Next year? Next year’s already been buggered by this year.


Ignoring a few modest-scale exquisities, like the early-picked rieslings of Clare and Eden, 2008 was a disgusting vintage. Even the degree of industrial accidents soared as winery workers endured impossible shifts, trying to get everything turned into wine before the heat turned it to currants.


But in spite of the empty river and the drought, Australia’s crop was up one third on last year, and yields per hectare went up by a quarter. Where the water came from beats me. Then, export volumes went down 9%; and domestic sales down 5%, leaving us with 2 billion litres of wine to drink.


To put that in scale, Italy’s just beaten France to become the world’s biggest winemaker, its production up 8 percent to 4.7 billion litres. While Italy has reduced its vineyard area, its quality is steadily increasing. To add insult to alcohol producers everywhere, French heart specialist Dr Olivier Ameisen, 55, is claiming that by taking a muscle-relaxant called baclofen, he’s lost his desire for alcohol, and wants his theories tested on more thirsty people.


And now I hear the price of temporary water from the River is less than half the price it was last November. I know where that’ll be going.


There will be plenty of wine to drink next year, and a lot of utter swill from that heatwave, industrially corrected to varying degrees of digestibility.


But in the face of increasing large-scale vineyard plantings, and grape prices at rock bottom, many, many family-scale specialist grapegrowers will hit the wall. As Foster’s disappears and Constellation withdraws, towns will empty.


Nevertheless, 2009 will be the year the lumpen mass will wallow in lousy cheap wine at the expense of the Australian countryside, setting alcohol-related public health costs through the roof. Those of the rest us who miss out on Dr Ameisen’s tests will be furiously trying to drink our favourite specialist wineries through the crisis. Small, high-quality producers will need faithful support like never before.


We will see the continuing, phenomenal rise of China as a player in the wine market. The first paper to report those Italian figures, for example, was the Shanghai Daily. They’re onto it, and they’re increasingly getting into it.


As for the little matter of all the money in the world suddenly disappearing, Tony Bilson says his three-star temple of gastronomy in the Radisson in Sydney is still packed with tourists at dinner, but the business gamblers who’d filled it for years each lunch - at, what? $200-$500 a head? - are now down at his Number 1 wine bar on Circular Quay, hassling the staff about the price of cleanskins.


We will see the continuing tightening of control of restaurant outlets, with wine lists being bought and chopped up by one or two of the transnationals, who might then allow a big family show, like Yalumba, Taylors, Angove's or McWilliams in to add a bit of colour. Unless you can buy your way in, new producers with wines over $25 can pretty much forget it. That, of course, will include hundreds of brands which are hobby or vanity additions to family vineyards planted in the wrong places to the wrong varieties for all the wrong reasons of fashion and whimsy.


The liquor retail world will continue to constrict as Coles and Woolworths ruthlessly undercut the indies with their share of that 2 billion litres. Desperate money’s flying everywhere in retail, as floor and shelf space goes to the highest bidders. Check out the brochure Yalumba’s just produced for The Edinburgh – there’ll be more of that. If you have a specialist wine store that stocks your favourite littlies, coddle it.


Which is not to say that the big guys are limited to swill: the phenomenal cheapie imports Jeremy Stockman buys for Vintage Cellars and 1st Choice have staggered me this year for their range and quality. The exotica they’re bringing in should inspire our winemakers, providing lots of ideas for new flavours.


In the kiddylikker sector, expect a return to the original coolers of the late ’eighties, when they were made from denatured or disguised wine bases rather than spirits, and tasted pretty much the same.


In the premium regions, led by McLaren Vale, we will see more determined replacement of the old petrochemical spray regimes with an internationally-unprecedented wave of rigorous organic and bio-dynamic techniques. Margaret River, Clare, the Victorian Alps ... more and more regions are seeing this beautifully healthy and brave conversion.


And, fittingly, 2008 will see McLaren Vale – Trott’s View sell out. You can buy the last copies at Wakefield Press in Kent Town. This beautiful volume of photographs of the late Trott’s favourite folks, events and locations is our last glimpse of the Vales that used to be.


The fight to retain what’s left will reach fever pitch in 2009.

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18 December 2008

ANCIENT FLAVOUR WHEEL PROTOTYPE


DRINKSTER has just unearthed this early prototype of the flavour wheel. While digital hand-held computers seem set to replace these quaint old devices, we feel certain they will eventually have their day, as they require no batteries, are fully water-resistant, and are available in Braille forms for those whose eyes have been damaged by the glory of it all.

17 December 2008

SAUVIGNON KING LEAVES CLOUDY BAY

KEVIN JUDD will be spending a lot more time on his brilliant photography. Check out his work by clicking on this image.


Juddy Mosies On


1984. Kevin Judd, probably the quietest man in the wine business, walked into my office grinning like a giant clam and said he was into this new thing with David Hohnen of Cape Mentelle. But New Zealand? Yep. A place called Marlborough.


“We’re gonna plant sauvignon blanc”, he gurgled through his smoke. “Best place for it.”


I liked two sauvignons blanc: one yellow softy made at Angle Vale by Rocky O’Callaghan; the other was Hardy’s tawny fortified made from Bob Hardy’s ancient vines at upper Tintara. Wolf Blass had been buggering about with some, blended with riesling and aged in mostly American oak(!).


Then came the radical Vales blitzkriegs Iain Riggs made in ’81 and ’82, at Hazelmere Estate (now Serafino Maglieri’s). Riggsy used fruit from the Edge Dennis vineyard that d’Arenberg has just bought. He picked it into milk crates so the grapes wouldn’t squash and oxidise, chilled it, then gave it the Oenotech treatment devised by Dr. Tony Jordan and Brian Croser, using their distinctive R2 yeast. The wine was a blast: crisp, grassy and fresh as a lemon, with all those alarming R2 whiffs of banana and passionfruit.


R2 had been isolated by Croser at Chateau Rahoul near Sauternes in Bordeaux, where Len Evans was spending Peter Fox’s money. But the financially-challenged Fox solved his Adelaide Holdings problems by driving his Ferrari flat out into a concrete wall, and Peter Vinding-Diers bought Rahoul, to make exquisitely fine, almost brittle sauvignon blanc. The savvy-B explosion ignited, and soon Rob and Michael Hill Smith had a great lunch at Yalumba, where they served Vinding-Diers’ inspiration: “Y”, the dry savvy-B from the mighty home of sticky, Chateau d’Yquem, in Sauternes.


Sometimes d’Yquem picks its sauvignon early in the vintage to make a dry wine, rather than letting it botrytise with the semillon and go into the mighty sticky for which that Chateau is revered. There have been only 23 vintages of “Y” since the first in 1959.


So we guzzled our “Y” while the Smiths quizzed us over the chance of dry savvy-B becoming the next chardonnay. Rob eventually went in the viognier direction, and while I have a tape recording of Michael deriding savvy-B that day, he went on to make it a stalwart at Shaw and Smith. There was much discussion of the cat’s piss grassiness of the variety, which comes from its natural methoxypyrazines (3-isobutyl-2-methoxypyrazine and 3-isopropyl-2-methoxypyrazine). These compounds are common to cabernet sauvignon, soursob, rhubarb, tomato leaves, and grass. Hemp, and jute, or hessian, is full of it, and sometimes austere sauvignons smell rather like superphosphate sacks, which combine the remnant methoxypyrazine with the smell of guano, which I reckon comes from combinations of sulphur, soil, and yeast.


Humans detect methoxypyrazine at around one part per trillion, which is like smelling one grape in the entire Australian crush. The grape manufactures it to deter predators, and only when the pip is ripe enough for germination does the vine suddenly cease its production and instead pumps sugar to attract said predators, which become incubators for those seeds.


Vignerons panic if they can’t get their savvy-B off quick enough in heatwaves, as the plants quite abruptly cease manufacturing this compound. On a hot day, the value of a crop can plummet in hours. The winery wants the methoxypyrazine for its distinction, but suddenly it disappears, leaving the grower with a grapeyard full of sugar but devoid of character and smothered in birds.


“I knew Stephen Hickinbotham was sniffing around Marlborough - he knew sauvignon had a future there”, Hohnen says. “He was first into everything. Kiwi sauvignon had the eyebrow factor: nose in the glass and up goes the eyebrows. But it was all too sweet and too acidic.


“Juddy instinctively knew what to do. He’d worked four vintages with Merrill at Reynella, then went to Selacks in New Zealand. We found three or four growers with 120 tonnes. They didn’t know what to do with it. Juddy made it after work. We built Cloudy Bay in ’86, and off it went.”


Kiwi savvy-B is now an international hit. Hohnen sold Cloudy Bay to Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey in 2000. In the twelve months to October, Australia drank 26 million litres ($206 million worth) of Kiwi white, most of it sauvignon blanc. Like Hohnen, Juddy’s off to make a little wine for himself, and get on with his first love, photography.


I would have liked to talk to Juddy about all this, but at the time of writing the Cloudy Bay people haven't responded to my enquiries.


You couldn’t squeeze another grape onto the Marlborough plain now - the vineyards are climbing over the hills. Google Yealands and you’ll get my drift. But too much of it’s mean greed, all acid and sugar, devoid of soul or balance. Same old tale.


At home, the world’s biggest wine company, Constellation, just won the top sauvignon blanc gong in the Adelaide Hills show with Oomoo, and while Rob Hill Smith’s waiting for viognier to become the next chardonnay, he still imports d’Yquem and, when they make one, the crunchy “Y”. They’re only $685.

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16 December 2008

WOLFIE'S BLASSTARDISATIONS

Wolf Blass, left, mit frauleins


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ITEM: from a recent seminar in the Barossa, sent by a reader, quoting the great Wolf Blass:


“Wolf also revealed the burden of being one of Australia’s biggest wine businessmen. ‘I used to be six foot when I came here 40 years ago, now I’m only four foot two—talk about bloody knockers in Australia. That bloody Philip Vite and those other writers said I couldn’t do it, but I showed them all and I’m bloody proud of it’.”


This arrived while I happened to be browsing the April 1983 issue of Winestate, which I edited. I had invited Wolf to be a judge at a tasting called “Dry White Blands”. It’s worth perusing some of his quotes:


On the blends then called “riesling and hock” (“riesling” was usually semillon, crouchen, or both, in those days, mixed with only Bacchus remembers what; real riesling was generally called “rhine riesling”):


Blass: “I’m amazed at some of the leading wine companies ... so many winemaking faults that show not only in the bottle here today, but will show in their balance sheet next year and into the future. They’re just not competitive and it will be absolutely detrimental.


“It’s in the media’s hands at the moment to slander the wine industry because we are not truthful enough about what we are putting on our labels.


“I don’t think we should use the word ‘riesling’ – I honestly believe it’s a bastardisation of the real variety. For this style ‘hock’ or simply ‘dry white’ are better.”


On the blends then called “traminer riesling” (which often contained neither gewurztraminer nor riesling, but were blends of semillon and fronti):


Blass: “This has become a very popular blend with wine-makers recently, but it isn’t an easy one to market, so only the fittest and best will survive. To say this is a style of the future is wrong.”


In those days, Wolf was determined to prove that chardonnay would never become popular in Australia. He fought the new chardonnay trend with his Classic Dry White, which was usually colombard and crouchen, sometimes with trebbiano, whacked with overt oak, usually American. Wolf contributed to the following tasting notes:


Wolf Blass Classic Dry White 1982: “A top wine by all standards, showing a ton of fruit amongst the strong wood characters imparted by both American and French oak. The wood has given the palate a lot of flavour without overbalancing the fruit, and when left a few more years the bottle, this one should become a true classic.”


Wolf Blass Classic Dry White 1981: “Another very clean dry white from the Blass stable, showing similar wood treatment to the 1982, but perhaps in restrospect lacking the flavour of chardonnay that the 1982 features. Still, a well-balanced and integrated wine in a style that improves with short-term cellaring.”


And finally, to summarise the class then called “white burgundy”, which could quite literally contain anything:


Blass: “I’m sick and tired of the dishonesty of many companies putting chardonnay on their labels – it’s a bastardisation of the grape variety.


“We cannot make top class burgundies without blending, however I think we need to explore new winegrowing areas and new varieties at this time.”


As I continue perusing such ancient writings from the archive, perhaps I shall occasionally publish Herr Blass’s astute observations here as Blasstardisations.


AND FURTHERMORE:


Wolf Blass’ recent derisory volley, fired, I think, at my repeated suggestion that Australia should be experimenting with new varieties and new flavours, pushed me further back into my old tasting notes.


Wolfie summoned me to a tasting of his Classic Dry Whites in September 1982, delighted to point out how these wines were generally defeating the chardonnays at wine shows.


Always averse to chardonnay and the idiotic marketing extant in those days, he said that day of his white blends “I refuse to call it burgundy or chablis because we’d confuse the marketing issue overseas ... the law will prohibit the use of these words anyway”.


In those days, every company had a burgundy or chablis, made from whatever entered their little crushers. Generally, burgundy meant oak; chablis, none. The oaking was terrible. Wolf used mainly American, a little French, and mainly barrels rather than chips.


“What’s being done with chardonnay in this country is parallel only by the stupidity of the red wine manufacturing in the ’sixties”, he said. “I think the chardonnay belongs in the champagne. There’s a few companies who can make good chardonnay. Those should specialise. But at the moment, every company in Australia, in every region and every state, is trying to bring a chardonnay out. There’s no room on the shelf. The public is so confused that in a couple of years chardonnay is just a joke.


“If chardonnay of sufficient quantity and quality becomes available, we may replace the tokay [which was actually muscadelle] in the Classic Dry White with it” he concluded.


Also present at this tasting were Brian McGuigan, Brian Barry, Peter Fergusson, Ian Mackay, Paul Lloyd and George Truby, whose scores I have averaged with my own.


The wines were as follows:


77.5 points

Wolf Blass Dry White 1974 - 60% sauvignon blanc; 40% riesling


81.5 points

Wolf Blass Dry White 1975 - 100% trebbiano


75 points

Wolf Blass Dry White 1977 - 40% muscadelle; 30% riesling; 30% crouchen


75 points

Wolf Blass Dry White 1978 - 50% crouchen; 25% muscadelle; 25% sylvaner


79.5 points

Wolf Blass Dry White 1979 - 50% crouchen; 40% colombard; 10% muscadelle


82 points

Wolf Blass Classic Dry White 1980 - 40% colombard; 40% crouchen; 20% muscadelle


86.5 points

Wolf Blass Classic Dry White 1981 - 40% colombard; 40% crouchen; 20% muscadelle


91 points

Wolf Blass Classic Dry White 1982 - 40% colombard; 40% crouchen; 20% muscadelle

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13 December 2008

GRUNTY PARKERILLAS CRASH WITH DETROIT


Roberto at Wine Expo more gallons per smile







No Fish Eye Merlot At Wine Expo


By PHILIP WHITE – a version of this story appeared in The Independent Weekly 05 DEC 08


Australia’s invasion of the USA wine gullet was always Quixotic as much as chaotic. Other than the $1000 per bottle gobstoppers like those wine shipper Dan Phillips delivers to Robert Parker Jr., who loves them, the bulk of our ordnance has always been industrial plonk lobbing at the price of bottled Italian water. I’ve left a lot of good work out, but you get my drift.


When capitalism fell over the other day, the Australian blokes responsible for both horns of this wine dilemma, and their bank managers, went out and got cactus, were awful to their wives, and contemplated suicide. The smarter ones then took a tablet, begged their wives for forgiveness, hired a lawyer, and sued their American distributors for payment.


Expensive Wines Rot On LA Shelves”, Jerry Hirsch trumpeted in the LA Times. “Sales of high-end wine are plummeting ... the Wall Street meltdown is rippling across the alluvial fields of Napa Valley to the chalky limestone vineyards of Champagne in France...”


Note: Jerry has to explain that Champagne’s in France. Either the location of Australia is obviously too difficult to explain (so we missed out), we just don’t count, or American distributors owe Australian winemakers so much money they’ve rubbed us off the map.


Ridiculously expensive wines – even Bob Parker’s personal favourites - are certainly taking the biggest hit. Mouton-Rothschild ’05 has slumped 50% to $549 per bottle in a few months.


“People are still drinking wine”, Jerry continued. “They are just spending less”. He listed a few examples of people who have cut their wine budgets from $20-$30 bottles to $10 jobs, and quoted the owner of a posh wine shop who went to a the supermarket and bought a big swag of commercial cheapies from which he selected two dozen to “offer in the store as ‘recession busters’ starting from $5.99 for a Fish Eye Merlot ... he then demanded a price break from his distributors so that he could match supermarket prices and still make a profit”.

Jerry quoted another favourite retailer whose sales “were off 28% in October compared with a year ago. November sales are running 16% below last year's figures, even after factoring in a bump-up around the presidential election earlier this month ...”


Wondering about all this, I called my maestro, Roberto, Wine Director at Wine Expo in Santa Monica, who was introduced to me by his former neighbour, Dan Phillips. (No expensive gobstoppers or River cheapos at Wine Expo, though. Roberto won’t stock them.) The LA Times generally raves about him and his store, which you should visit on www.wineexpo.com.


”They interviewed me for that story but I guess I was not telling the story they wanted to write this time”, he said. “We are selling MORE bottles to MORE people but at lower price points.


“Those in the Carriage Trade are getting to eat the cake they baked themselves and finding it is frosted with rat poison”, Roberto said.


“Those of us that have ALWAYS been about alternatives and value for money, travel the world and buy direct, are down somewhat, but not out by a long shot. We want you to be able to buy twice as much wine but spend half as much money with NO compromise in quality and we believe this is not only possible but that it is a lot more fun as well!


“Curiously, with all that ranting about Champagne being dead, we still sell boatloads of high quality farmer fizz in the $40-60 range”, he added.


Australia would have done better selling water to America.


Just one little desal plant, and we could tip the whole of the Gulf St Vincent into California. For a start, they’re short of fresh water. Then, Vince is the patron of schoolgirls as well as viticulturers, and you don’t strike too many California schoolgirls without their bottle of designer water. Call it Great Southern Ocean water. Great Australian Bight Water. Desert Water. Clean Water. Cool Water. Whalesbreath. Shark Bay. To keep ’em thirsty, we could also sell ’em the designer salt we took out of the water. A marketer’s dream!


All the money we wasted on the wine industry – pipelines, perma pine, wire, petrochemicals and refineries - could have gone into maintaining the River.


But we buggered the River by tipping it on the desert sugar quarries we call River vineyards, added some ground-up American oak, some cream of tartar and concentrate, dressed it up in fake aboriginal art, called it something really bloody stupid, and flogged it to America at the smallest margin possible. Brilliant.


There’s a serious challenge here. If our lads can’t tip our bursting wine lake into the USA before the Aussie dollar returns to equity, then they might as well regroup now for the second mighty wave when we flog America our water, unadulterated. I’ll bet Dan Phillips could sell water at $1000 a bottle.

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11 December 2008

HONEST BOFFIN TAKES POLISH FROM POLL


Another Leo Davis photograph of the beautiful Glenthorne Farm, complete with sheep. Given to the University for viticulture research, the farm is now under threat of housing development...


PHILIP WHITE was invited to discuss Glenthorne Farm with the University's star environmental scientist, Dr. David Paton, on ABC radio. Apart from being a textbook example of how NOT to release an highly contentious poll, it indicates how dangerous it is for the University's communications managers to insist on wheeling their most popular and revered scientists out to make these announcements and defend them. The trouble with great scientists is they tend to tell the truth, and the trouble with wheeling them out like this is they must feel their great reputations wobbling as they speak....


Releasing The Radioactive Sheep


Matthew Abraham: Coming up in a moment: Glen Thorne Farm. We’ll talk to the Adelaide University Professor who has big plans for the site.


David Bevan:
Glenthorne Farm is one of the last remaining large open spaces in the southern suburbs. If you’ve ever driven up around O’Halloran Hill along South Road and you look to your right as you’re heading south, you look to your right, there’s a big open space there.


Well it was given to the Adelaide University on trust, but the University says ‘well look, let us sell off a portion of it”, and “it’s a relatively small portion, for housing, and with that money, we can then do great things to preserve woodlands right across the Adelaide Hills.


They put out a survey to ask what people in the area consider, and Dr. David Paton, associate professor from Adelaide University, can tell us the results. Good morning David.


Dr. David Paton: Good morning David.


DB: David, what is the result of the survey? How many people did you survey, and what are they telling you?


DP: Well initially we put out 10,000 surveys –these are pamphlets which talked about the large-scale initiatives and also what we proposed to do with Glenthorne and we got good response. We got some 800 of these printed surveys returned; we also had a company, we had Harrisons ran a random phone service for people say within the vicinity of Glenthorne and they surveyed 400 people and both of those came back with something like 69% of those people supported the woodland recovery initiative, and that’s a very strong support for that program, there was also an um ...


DB: Can we, just quickly, before you do that, can we break that down, because it sounds like we’re mixing in there a questionnaire that went out as a leaflet –


DP: That’s right –


DB: ... and the two of them in there –


DP: ... the two almost gave an identical result, which was a surprise to everybody, so –


DB: And okay say 69%. And what is that consisting of?


DP: ... and that was probly something in the vicinity, well 31% were, did not believe that woodland recovery in this issue was not a sensible thing to be doing at present despite that being the only solution for species loss within the Mt. Lofty region.


DB: Right –


DP: ... which amounts to that.


DB: Yeah. And 69% support or –


DP: ... 69% had a very very strong support or some support –


DB: What was the breakdown on that?


DP: Ah, I think is was probly something in the vicinity of 45-24, something in that vicinity.


MA: ... and and how many didn’t care less?


DP: .. ahh, that’d be 31%.


DB: Okay. Now is that support for woodland recovery or is that –


DP: That’s the support for the woodland recovery initiative initially, that’s a big one, and now we come to -


DB: What about the question of housing? How do you support us selling off part of Glenthorne Farm?


DP: Okay. 64% were in support or neutral to the proposal that the University put forward to use some of the land to generate the income to do the large-scale program –


DB: And what was the breakdown of that?


DP: Oh probly something in the vicinity of 44-45% in support of the the farm being used in that way and 20% or so that were were neutral.


MA: And so that the neutrals can go either way. You could also lock them in with the opposed. So you could say you could say that more than 50% were opposed.


DP: You you may say that. The key here to bear in mind is that that the project that the University’s about is that it’s not just something that’s good for the state and this is just the local community within a close vicinity to Glenthorne, so a broader survey is almost certainly going to push those numbers elsewhere if you wish to go to a broader survey –


DB: David, you’ve you’ve spent your life trying to get figures, statistics, to reflect reality and and nobody would question your credentials on that as a biologist ... w, w, do you agree that if you take a cold hard look at the survey in terms of support for housing, you’ve got less than 50% of people actually saying they support selling off part of Glenthorne Farm for housing –


DP: You can also use the other one which is something in the vicinity of 35% or so that were not in favour of ah housing being put onto the property. Now you’ve got to put that in mind with 31% of the people not interested in the woodland recovery issue so the people who were probably against that and I don’t have the figures here in front of me are those who don’t believe that we should be concerned about wildlife losses within the State.


MA: Mmm. Mmm. Er, David we’re going to continue this conversation in a moment ah with Philip White right after the news so you may choose to stay with us; there may be a response that’s needed.


PROMO AND NEWSPORTWEATHER


MA: Just before the news we were talking with Dr. David Paton um from Adelaide University. Now he wants, the Adelaide University want to effectively be released from a er a deed that governs Glen Thorne Farm, the large area of open space at the top of Taps there near the old drive-in and ah they want to sell some of it for housing and use that money to develop woodlands um throughout the Adelaide Hills

Philip White is the wine writer with The Independent Weekly. He has, um, quite an intimate knowledge of the Glen Thorne Farm deed. Philip White good morning ... do you?


Philip White: I was fascinated by –


MA: Oh, sorry, sorry Philip, I just just er, we, good morning to you and what are you fascinated by?


PW: I’m fascinated by the audacity of the University here, and I, I think that is gonna be more of a Victoria Park than a Cheltenham.


Um, the University deed that it signed actually prohibits it undertaking to seek development of the land without Ministerial approval. Now the Government has refused to sign such a thing so far ... ah, I can’t see this government taking the risk of er, of letting this housing go ahead –


MA: So are you saying that just by doing what it is doing at the moment, and that is consulting the community about selling the land, it is breeching its deed?


PW: Yeah, I’m not a lawyer but 4.2.2 of the deed says that it prohibits the University to undertake or permit development or seek to undertake development of the land for uses other than those specified da da da da without the writing – er, without approval by the Minister in writing. And that hasn’t occurred.


AB: Now you’ve sent us a copy of that deed, and that is indeed what is says. Um have you got a response from the Minister? Has he actually said –


PW: The local Member, Leon Bignall, in McLaren Vale, er has said, has said that no such signature has been provided.


DB: So will there be some sort of legal challenge, Philip White? Because you’re talking legalese here aren’t you?


PW: Yeah, but I don’t know. If that’s – I’m just amazed at the audacity of it. And but I think that, well, you know, there’s some light at the end of this tunnel. I don’t see the government affording another Cheltenham.


And just a fortnight ago we had Minister Holloway, the planning guy, saying there would be no more development of housing in McLaren Vale or the Barossa. Now Glenthorne is inside the Geographical Indicator boundary of McLaren Vale. The boundary was actually drawn around Glenthorne with the University’s knowledge - to include that in the McLaren Vale appellation for viticulture.


DB: Mmm. Okay. So where does this go next? Will you and the people that you are a part of Philip, who are opposing this development, will you be getting together soon; will you be considering some sort of court action, or are you just going to keep up a political campaign?


PW: Well I think you can feel, a, a brewing brew-ha-ha with the McLaren Vale winemakers who certainly have never been consulted with this, over this.


The University sort of indicated that the wine industry pulled out of the deed because of er, various reasons, one of which – this is a good story – ask Dr. Paton about the radioactive sheep.


SILENCE


MA: Well, er, he’s listening. You’d better tell us David Paton –


DB: Suppressed laughter; giggling.


MA: Are there, are there sheep glowin’ in them thar hills? Radioactive sheep?


DB: giggling: Dr. David Paton:


DP: There is some, some rumour I think that er some of the sheep I think from Maralinga were buried on the property, um, there’s been some surveys done looking for um you know, high spikes in radioactivity er radioactive material coming off the property at present. Nobody’s found where they are. Nobody’s actually knows where they’re buried so it may just be rumour.


But there are concerns, um, let’s say, out there, about these things and the University, if it was going to go ahead with doing anything, um you know, we’d argue that that why is the thing being used as a farm if there’s radioactive material interred.


MA: Well why would you be using it as a housing estate if there was –


DP: Exactly.


MA: Sheep that would possibly have, plutonium? Er plutonium waste?


DP: I have, I have no idea what the actual material is and as I say nobody actually seems to know where they are if they were actually were buried on the on the property where they actually are so other than doing surveys that’s all we can do at this stage but at present the surveys have been done so um levels below um or level two that’s normal backgrounds you’d expect for these sorts of areas so obviously it’s fine at this stage -


DB: So David Paton is it correct to say Adelaide University has gone looking for radioactive sheep but hasn’t found any?


DP: Eh-heh. We’ve had other other organisations which are looking at looking at using the site for say the desalination pipeline, they’ve done broad surveys across the er the er property to determine whether or not there’s a risk for them to put the pipeline across so, er I don’t think they’d be thinking about doing that if they weren’t comfortable that there was no risk.


MA: Course, er, plutonium would not show up in background radiation, would it? It has a very long half-life – about 1,600 years – but, ah, a plutonium particle cannot penetrate for instance a piece of cigarette paper; the thickness of a cigarette paper, but if if, it, it gets into your body in any way it will give you cancer. It will.


DP: Look I can’t actually talk about the actual processes - the other people have been doing that - but if there’s a farm going that’s being used as a commercial farm, which it currently is being used for, then you’d argue that that’s a risk as well.


MA: Yeah.


DB: Mmm. What about the other point that Philip White has raised a number of times and that is that under the deed the university shouldn’t even be sounding people out regarding a development, without first getting Ministerial approval?


DP: Oh look that er, that’s in a that’s in a deed document to which I’m not privy to and the details for, um, I think something I mean which is meant to be kept confidential, or at least I thought it was meant to be kept confidential – so I haven’t seen it – look if there are those issues then fine, perhaps the University has stepped over the line here, but I think that the issue here is, the key issue, that, the if the community changes its mind about how it wants to see an area used, then um we need to take that on board, and not be sitting back on something that was decided, under duress, back in 1998 or so when there was er hurried arrangements between the Federal and State governments and the University to, um find a solution for Glenthorne.


MA: Brenda from Hackham has called. Um, hullo, Brenda.


BfH: Good morning. I’m absolutely furious about the University’s suggestions for Glenthorne Farm. Glenthorne Farm is the lungs of the south. Why should we have more housing down here to beautify the woodlands in the Adelaide Hills, where they’ve got their trees already? The houses that would go on there would be the same as the houses down at Seaford on small blocks that don’t even have enough room to grow a decent solid tree! I think that if this goes ahead the words “In Trust” should be deleted because they have no more value.


DB: Ah, Brenda from Hackham, thankyou. And look thankyou Dr. David Paton for coming on and also to Philip White, wine writer for the Independent Weekly. David Paton is associate professor at the Adelaide University.


...and here it is:


DEED BETWEEN THE MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND URBAN PLANNING


and


THE UNIVERSITY OF ADELAIDE


essential ingredients


RECITALS


B. For many years the CSIRO has used the land for purposes of agriculture and as an agricultural research facility.


D. The CSIRO has only agreed to sell the Land on the proviso that the Land will be preserved and conserved for agriculture and other related activities and will not be used for urban development.


E. The University, as the person nominated by the State, has agreed to purchase the Land from the CSIRO , to preserve and conserve the Land for other related activities and not use, develop or permit the Land to be used or developed for urban development.


4. OBLIGATIONS OF THE UNIVERSITY


4.1 The University covenants with the Minister that it will, subject to obtaining all necessary statutory approvals, do all reasonably necessary things to ensure that the Land is


4.1.1 preserved, conserved and used for Agriculture, Horticulture, Oenology, Viticulture, Buffer Zones and as Community Recreation Area, and


4.1.2 is available for Project Research Activities, University Research Activities, Education Activities and operating a Wine Making Facility.


4.2 The University covenants with the Minister that it will not at any time hereafter:


4.2.1 use or permit the Land to be used other than as provided for in subclause 4.1 unless such other use is approved in writing by a Minister acting as agent of the Crown,


4.2.2 undertake or permit Development or seek to undertake Development of the Land for uses other than those specified in subclause 4.1 unless such other use or Development (excluding Urban Development which will not be approved) is approved in writing by a Minister acting as agent of the Crown.


4.4 The University covenants with the Minister that it will not at any time hereafter sell, transfer or otherwise dispose of the whole or any portion of the Land unless it shall first procure from the purchaser or transferee a binding undertaking either to be bound by this Deed or to enter into a Deed with the Minister on the same terms as are contained in this Deed.


8. ASSIGNMENT


The University covenants not to assign its obligations under this Deed without the prior written consent of the Minister.


THE COMMON SEAL OF THE MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT was affixed and signed by Di Laidlaw, Minister, in the presence of Tim Quinn, witness, on 22 May 2001.


THE SEAL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ADELAIDE was signed by Susan Graebner, Officer who affixed the seal, and witnessed and signed by Mary O’Kane, Custodian of the Seal, on 24 May 2001.


BY authority of the Council given on the 26 July 1999.

.