“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 August 2011

GEORGIA INK GETS NEW VIRGINIA SQUIRT

CLICK THIS IMAGE TO BE LINKED TO AN INTRIGUING TALE ABOUT A VIRGINIA, USA, ARTIST AND HIS ENTHUSIASM FOR THE WINES OF GEORGIA, THE FORMER USSR CAUCASUS OUTPOST WITH THE WORLD'S OLDEST WINE-DRINKING CULTURE

30 August 2011

BACK LABEL BLATHERSKITE # 001


“A beautifully perfumed, seductive and minerally wine, with lovely freshness, richness and generosity of flavour. Drink it now or cellar for a while.”


Minerally? Oh really? Could this Master of Wine refer to the Silicate class of minerals, like, for example, those silicates with ions of aluminium, magnesium, iron, or calcium? Big range of flavours there. Could he refer to the Carbonate class, which includes calcite, aragonite, dolomite, and siderite: microscopic dead stuff commonly deposited on ocean floors or in caves. Does he mean the Sulfate class, like calcium sulfate, strontium sulfate, barium sulfate (which they squirt up your bottom to check for bowel irregularities), or hydrated calcium sulfate (as in gyprock – plaster board)? Is he confused with the chromate, molybdate, selenate, sulfite, tellurate, and tungstate minerals? Maybe it’s the halides he likes in his wine: calcium fluoride, or maybe sodium, potassium or ammonium chloride? Does he mean the bromide or iodide minerals? The oxides? Hematite, eh? Magnetite? Chromite, magnesium aluminium oxide, iron titanium oxide, rutile, or hydrogen oxide? (That latter baby, by the way, is ICE: frozen H2O – maybe he likes his Mataro, Mourvèdre, or Monastrell on them rocks!) Is it the Sulphidic minerals he sees in his drink, like fool’s gold, or lead sulfide? Does he mean phosphorus or arsenic, or apatite, the major component in teeth and bones? Could it be antimony, bismuth, graphite, or sulphur? Does he smell whewellite, moolooite, mellite, fichtelite, carpathite, evenkite or even abelsonite?

Time to get over this minerally bullshit, folks, unless you know what you’re talking about.

28 August 2011

ROSÉ TIME: WHEEL IN A SHIPMENT OF PINK

Spring Is sIn: Wine And Rosés
Just Avoid The Lollypop Bling &
Get Down With The Dry & Wild
by PHILIP WHITE


Oh boy. Bella the fortnight-old filly’s leaping about like a new spring lamb, baby birds are tumbling through their first flying lessons, the beez are a buzzin’ round the brilliant yellow wattles, and pruners are earning their first flush of sunburn. Time to throw some redfin in the smoker, polish up a glass, and attack the rosé section.

Rosé works in cycles. When the rock and stone businesses finally frightened me off and I fled to the safety of the wine racket, the Sex Pistols had just split, and Keith Moon was drinking himself to bits on the Portuguese Mateus Rosé, then one of the biggest-selling bottled wines in Australia.

Jimi Hendrix also had a long love affair with Mateus, but other than suggesting it was red wine he drowned in, the dodgy Aussie Doc who dealt with Jimi's body didn't go so far as to suggest what sort of wine it was. Maybe if he'd stuck to the Mateus, Jimi'd still be with us: click on his photo for all the gory details.

Tollana Wines, of the Barossa, successfully followed the Mateus mob in with a bottle of the same distinctive squashed pear-shape, containing a slightly sweet rosy Grenache. Houghton Wines, of the Swan River Valley in Western Australia, made another big seller: a fairly dry and austere one from Cabernet sauvignon.

As wine snobbery grew, whether they knew what they were talking about or not, people got into discussing wines at table, big Aussie reds became more favoured, and suddenly the rosé thing was as gone as poor Moonie (below).


Almost overnight, Mateus was seen to be a beginner’s wine, something for the great unwashed, and people would not be seen drinking anything even faintly pink at table, for fear of others thinking they were drinking mere Mateus. And when Hardy’s bought Houghton, they quickly butchered the distinction of the highly-popular Houghton wine by making it far too sweet for serious rosé lovers.

Even rosé champagne is cyclical: Remi Krug once suggested to me this pattern seemed to follow the occasional member of Britain’s royal family who preferred their fizz pink: Princess Diana certainly did, and suddenly everybody wanted to be seen drinking it.

PRINCESS DIANA LOVED HER PINK KRUG; WHEN WORD GOT OUT, SALES BOOMED

In the mid-eighties, when rosé was on the nose again, the tiny Barossa boutique, Rockford, became an instant hero amongst the Adelaide cognoscenti with its determined promotion of traditional Shiraz, big and soft and warming. Rob Hill-Smith, of Yalumba, was leading the trend to back labels with the warning that wine should be drunk in moderation, which we joked about being an island in the Caribbean, or near Ascencion or somewhere. Rockford determinedly plunged in the opposite direction, making unabashed alcoholic blockbusters with back labels with lines like “Black Shiraz is the sort of stuff I was weaned on”.

But the winemaker, Rocky O’Callaghan, needed a money-spinner to pay for his expensive Shiraz habit, not to mention the interminable building of his brand new ancient-looking stone winery, so he launched Rockford Alicante Bouchet, a simple, very sweet pink that seemed to ridicule the dark piety of his black philosophy. In harsh contrast, the Alicante was raspberry-flavoured fairy floss, a fair dink pink blomo. To encourage his drinkers to accept this sudden errantry, he used a humourous back label which suggested the drinker should first slide the bottle into the fridge. “I’ve even put a nice little fridge-coloured label on it for you” was the last line: a dash of self-deprecatory humour long since removed.

This instant hit was made from a grape that remains extremely rare in Australia, Alicante Bouschet. The variety was developed in France in 1870s by Henri Bouschet, whose father had invented it when he crossed Petit Bouschet with Grenache, and for some reason named it after a city in Spain, Alicante. The grape is now grown right across the northern Mediterranean, from Spain to Israel and even North Africa.

Alicante Bouschet is perfect for lollypop rosé, as is it one of the few grapes with red juice. The vast majority of red grapes have white juice; winemakers derive the colour by leaving the crushed skins in the white juice until the desired hue is obtained. With Alicante Bouschet, one can simply squash the grapes and use the red juice without extracting the inconveniently bitter tannins that come from skins. It’s instant, foolproof, and cheap.

The source of the Rockford fruit was always a bit of mystery, as was O’Callaghan’s mis-spelling, without the S. It’s unlikely that he (left) would consider dropping the S from Shiraz, after all. Lord knows what varieties a drinker would expect to find in a bottle of Hiraz. In not claiming that this huge-volume gigglepop is actually Alicante Bouschet, perhaps the winemaker could squeeze a little more Grenache in the wine without squeezing his conscience, but of course O’Callaghan’s not like that.

Grenache, too, makes very simple, raspberry cordial rosé. While the juice is white, the pink hue is achieved by leaving the wine on skins for a very short time. Other rosés are made by simply adding some red wine to white. The obsession with bright pink rosé is silly: most of the best are more like the colours of onion skin, or pheasant’s eyes.

I am singularly impressed by the winemaking of Elena Brooks, wife of that infamous scribbler of back labels with millions of words in tiny type, Zar Brooks. Their new Dandelion Vineyards Fairytale Of The Barossa Rosé 2011 smashes the standard kiddylikker Grenache model soundly into kingdom come: the wine is indeed much more onion skin than dumb pink, and has perfectly generous viscosity and unction, as well as a great deal more complexity than its rivals. It is indeed close in the quality stakes to the exemplary Castagna Shiraz Rosé, a rare and glorious biodynamic wonder from Beechworth, on the northern side of the Victorian Alps (see vineyard below).

Many were alarmed and aghast when I called the Castagna Rosé 2001 the top wine of the thousands I tasted – all varieties, all colours, all types - that year in my Top 100. But there it stood, shining out, through days of repours and re-examinations. People were really bloody snooty about it, suggesting it was even more evidence that Whitey had no idea what he was doing. It was as if the best wine in Australia could not possibly be a rosé. That wine, too, was more a burnished onion skin colour than rosy pink, and I hear it drinks perfectly now.

Elena’s Fairytale is the result of more intelligent, less intrusive winemaking than nearly all the others show: 85 year old vine bush vine Grenache from Karl Lindner’s vineyard in the very old geology of Gomersal on the Barossa’s western ridges, picked just below 13 beaumé. She used only the slightly-coloured free run juice, and let it ferment in old French barriques with wild yeast, which she quaintly refers to as “other people’s yeast” in the sense that it simply blew into the winery from wherever it came. Elena left the wine on lees for eight weeks and bottled it without a malolactic fermentation, unfined and unfiltered. For the vital statistics freaks, the wine has a whopping 7.9 grams per litre of natural acidity, a pH of 3.02, and has just under 4 grams per litre of residual suger: not enough to be discerned by taste, but just enough to add some gentle natural syrup to the texture, which was already deliciously creamy from that period on dead yeast lees. I thoroughly recommend it.

At the risk of being repetitive, I also love the Ulithorne Epoch Rosé 2010 that former Bushing Queen Rose Kentish made last year in the Côtes de Provence. She hired local ace Remy Devictor and his Domaine de la Sangliere winery, destemmed, cooled and pressed organic Cinsault, Grenache and Mourvedre, bottled it dry at 12.5% alcohol; and brought it on home. Yum.

ROSE KENTISH SERVING St ANNIKA HER STUNNING PROVENCE EPOCH AT HER CELLARS AT THE MIDDLETON MILL, ENCOUNTER BAY, ON SOUTH AUSTRALIA'S SOUTHERN FLEURIEU PENINSULA ... CLICK ON THE PIC TO READ MORE ABOUT ROSE

At the risk of having vested interests, I’m also anticipating the vibrant beauty my landlord, Peter Fraser, and his team made at Yangarra this year. Baby bush vine Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre were picked together at just under 11 Beaumé, (before the rains), left intact in sealed cabmac bags in whole bunches for a week, where fermentation began perfectly naturally inside the untouched berries, then pressed and let ferment to dryness. This wine smelled stunning from the pressing on: vibrant with roses, Turkish delight, maraschino cherries, grapefruit, and a perfect acrid flintiness, not to mention a delightfully astringent, slightly tannic palate that makes me really damn hungry! This wine will be launched, with other “Small Pot” delights at the winery on Saturday September 3rd, and it’s in limited supply, so wobble on in.

And finally, at the risk of harping about wines made by other good mates, the Old Mill Estate Langhorne Creek Touriga Nacional Rosé 2010 is a slender stunner. This time a Portuguese grape used normally for vintage port was picked early, naturally fermented with minimal skin contact and bottled without any sophistry. Contrary to the insistence of your average infant sommelier and cocky plonk grocer that only new rosés are worth attention, these Touriga Nacional rosés are great with an extra year or three on them: they grow alluring complexity and texture in the cellar.

I shall never forget, or regret, drinking ten year old Houghton Cabernet Rosé in the old Ceylon Hut curry house under Hindley Street. The wines were utterly scrumptious. Then the silly buggers at Hardys mucked it up by making it too sweet and dumb. Damn.

So kick back this spring, feet up, chill out and pour yourself some pink, salmon skin, pheasant eye or onion, whatever you like, if only for the sheer bloody hell of it. Just steer clear of the kiddylikker, the raspberry cordial, and fairy floss, and anything that’s not what it seems.



JAMIE DRUMMOND AND WHITEY TALK ROCK

Like the ancient DRINKSTER, Jamie Drummond came to wine criticism from rock’n’roll journalism. Having come in on a twenty-year-later train, he’s probably got a different name for the music, but we certainly share the passion, the hatred of sophistry, and the love, the love of good wine. DRINKSTER reckons Jamie’s about the best in this bullshit-ridden business. But where DRINKSTER spent many years playing with rocks, like stone rocks, Jamie worked as a top-flight sommelier, educator, and wine judge. He’s out of Edinburgh, and into Canada, big time. Respect. Click on his pic to see what happened when the two of us got together beside a mighty tractor in McLaren Vale. And then take a good look around his exemplary site, GoodFoodRevolution. Should be more of it!

27 August 2011

BY JINGO! JOHNNY GILBERT KICKS TOP BUTT

CLICK THE HUSKY TO SEE DRINKSTER'S APPRAISAL OF NEW BY JINGO HUMDINGERS MENDOZA CHARDONNAY FROM THUNDERBIRD VINEYARD AND A MONTEPULCIANO-ZINFANDEL FROM Mt BARKER photo MOGO CELLARS

26 August 2011

MOLLYDOOKER'S VELVET GLOVE INCIDENT

MOLLYDOOKER OWNER/WINEMAKER SPARKY MARQUIS WITH WINE DAMAGED WHEN A SHIPPING CONTAINER WAS DROPPED, TRIGGERING AN INSURANCE CLAIM FIRST REPORTED TO BE IN THE VICINTY OF $1 MILLION ... CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO HEAR THE WHOLE SORRY STORY photo MOLLYDOOKER

The Fist In Marquis' Velvet Glove
Southpaw Winery Drops Bundle
PR Machine Rings Out Last Drops

by PHILIP WHITE

So. Mollydooker Winery’s export shippers somehow managed to drop, shatter or damage a lot of cases of very expensive McLaren Vale Shiraz.

In all the international fluff and bluster surrounding the dropping of the shipping container filled with Sparky and Sarah Marquis’ Mollydooker Velvet Glove Shiraz ($185 per bottle), nobody bothered to mention that the source of the wine, the revered Gateway Vineyard owned by rival David Paxton and a consortium of McLaren Vale A-Listers, is immediately adjacent to the Seaford Heights property that the Labor government and its developer mates are determined to cover with housing.

In all the front-page tears and grief that the busted boxes triggered, nobody has mentioned that Marquis’ possible $1.025 million loss is piffling compared to the income that site would trigger were it sensibly put to clever vineyard.

Sell it for houses; it’s gone forever and you get one quick squirt of cash. Plant it to vineyard, and you’d get those very big numbers every year, ongoing, ad infinitum. Many ordinary vineyards on lesser land may come and go according to the wine industry’s crazy splurge-and-retreat cycles, but only this intellectually decrepit Labor mob would seriously consider cementing this one over.

DAVID PAXTON IN HIS GATEWAY VINEYARD, THE SOURCE OF MOLLYDOOKER'S $185 PER BOTTLE VELVET GLOVE SHIRAZ ... THE SEAFORD HEIGHTS SITE IS THE HILL BETWEEN HIM AND THE GULF St VINCENT, PATRON OF VITICULTURERS photo KATE ELMES

While the priceless 650 million year-plus siltstones of the Reynella Member and the Wilmington Formation have been almost entirely built over on the northern third of the McLaren Vale Geographical Indicator, the only bit of this geology in the Willunga Embayment is the Gateway Vineyard and Seaford Heights, just across the road. David Paxton has never had a shard of doubt as to its importance and its potential, and had sought fruitlessly to purchase the Seaford Heights land for more super-premium vineyard some years ago.

Another small outcrop of the same geology, just north of the Onkaparinga Gorge between Cox’s Hill Road and States Road, is home to the Ulithorne Vineyard, source of prized fruit for many canny Vales winesmiths, including Rose Kentish, who just a couple of years back won her Bushing Crown with it. The houses are creeping toward those fences, too.

But back to matters of publicity, which the Marquis family is determinedly grim at reaping. After gaining significant coverage through its distribution, they “withdrew” their original press release, and issued another statement requesting that “journalists and other readers should disregard the news release Years of Tears and Sweat and More Than $1 Million Worth of Fine Wine Go Down the Drain, issued 25-Jul-2011 over PR Newswire.”

The news of this turnabout seemed to garner more international press than the first, presumably erroneous one. While that apparent backflip sizzled around the internet and the tittering tippling classes, they were left awaiting yet another release to correct the first: a dramatic pause that the Bard himself would find savoury.

Even London’s pompous Decanter magazine had a huffy hissy on its website, complaining that while “a revised release 'will be issued at a later time' … it has not been possible to contact Mollydooker for more information.”

I scoured the first release for possible legal hitches and insurance problems – the container had been fully insured – and thought I saw a few claims and suggestions there which some lawyers may think to be possibly contentious to one party or another, but surely in a very minor way.

CLICK ON THIS MOLLYDOOKER PROMO IMAGE TO WATCH VID OF THE MARQUIS RESPONSE TO THE GOODWILL THEY'VE HAD SINCE THE VELVET GLOVE INCIDENT

Just fishing, I thought I’d ask the Mollydooker owners which parts of the release were inaccurate. Janet Gawith, Sparky’s Mum, was quick to respond. She said the release I had was in fact the third one, with all the corrections in place.

“Somebody accidentally sent out a draft of the first release”, she advised. “It had the wrong heading; the wrong facts. You’ve got to be very careful with these things, with big insurance claims pending and so forth,” and assured me the release I held was the correct one.

She also thanked me for bothering to check, and said no other journalist had done so.

Surprisingly, Sparky himself then sent me a copy of the erroneous one – the one you wouldn’t want falling into the hands of the press. Again.

“I wasn’t sure if you wanted to see what the differences were from the press release that was the draft and mistakenly put online and the correct one,” he explained. “I found the draft on the Coca-Cola internal web site (that in itself made me laugh – maybe we are competing against Coca-Cola).”

Attached was a link to that initial, presumably erroneous document. It’s fascinating to compare the two.

The headline – “Years of Tears and Sweat, and More Than $1 Million Worth of Fine Wine Go Down the Drain” - had disappeared from the third release. But Mollydooker had already got that tearjerker into circulation in both the first release and their second one, which “withdrew” the first.

How anybody can “withdraw” a press statement which had gone around the world, won the winery a front page in The Advertiser, this state's only metro daily, and even made the internal mailing list of Coca-Cola staffers, is a baffling notion, but there you go.

In the corrected version, the line about the container falling six metres “and doing away with one third of the winemaker’s annual production” was gone. As was the bit about the failure of the forklift’s “security locking device … sending the wine more than 18 feet to the ground.”

Another paragraph down, however, the revised version then re-inserted the line “luckily we still have two-thirds of our production left so we still have plenty to share with our friends.”

So, we’re half way in, and there’s barely a scrap of difference between the withdrawn document and its replacement. But then the revised version adds a plug for “International Mollydooker Day”, when the wine was intended for release in the USA on September 15th.

ANOTHER OF THE PROMO PHOTOGRAPHS MOLLYDOOKER DISTRIBUTED TO THE PRESS AFTER THE VELVET GLOVE INCIDENT

“The Marquises and insurance assessors are now checking each bottle by hand to determine if any of the $1.025 million shipment can be salvaged,” it added, dropping the initial claim that “at least 70 per cent of the cartons have been reported damaged.”

The revised version also includes a new plug for the confounding “Marquis Fruit Weight” index, which is trademarked, and apparently helps determine which parcels of fruit make the Velvet Glove appellation. Then it goes on to add more breathless claims to the wine’s quality, as measured by the equally confounding USA wine press in the form of that dreaded lover of jammy gloop-gloop high alcohol wines, Robert Parker Jr., who has awarded the Marquis tribe “more 94-99 point scored than any other winemakers in the world” and dubbed them “Top Wine Personalities in the World.” The equally adoring Wine Spectator magazine has included four Mollydooker wines in its Top 100, and so on, and so forth. They’re not missing any opportunity to rub in the bling, but nowhere do they advise us that the Gateway Vineyard, the source of the fruit in the dropped bottles, is owned by David Paxton and his partners, and not Mollydooker.

So there you go. Three waves of press attention in place of one, and now I hand them a fourth. At least this should sit in neat counterpoint to the tear-jerking stuff they’ve put all over Youtube and Facebook.

Just between you and me: the Northern Hemisphere’s fascination for late-picked wines of incredibly dense fruit is waning as blogosphere rabble dilutes the opinions of the few US critics mentioned above. On top of that, the Aussie dollar now buys 110 US cents. So if I were Sparky, I’d be happy to see a successful insurance claim deliver the money: it could be safer and quicker than waiting for the USA salesmen to cough up. Sparky’s former USA partner, Dan Phillips, comes to mind. Their bitter court battle was not so long ago; Phillip’s Australian operation is still in receivership.

GLENTHORNE FARM: ONCE AGAIN UNDER HOUSING THREAT photo LEO DAVIS


And, sorry, but one last plug for the viticultural worth of the ground which produced this expensive luxury. There IS one more bit of it left unplanted. That’s the 209 hectare Glenthorne Farm at the top of Taps. This, of course is the farm we taxpayers bought from the CSIRO, and gave to the University of Adelaide for $1, provided it set about using the land for desperately-required viticultural, horticultural, and winemaking research.

As Planning Minister, Deputy-premier Rau is the only one who could release the University from the solemn deed it signed a decade back, promising to carry out such research, and repeatedly forbidding it from any sub-development. As Attorney-general, he is the appropriate Minister to advise the Planning Minister as to the legal hitches which might be encountered in scrapping the deed, which the University desperately wants to do, so it can sub-divide and develop the site. It has never really attempted to keep its pledge and use the site for viticultural, horticultural, and winemaking research.

In his suggested plan for “saving” McLaren Vale from further ghetto spread, the same Minister makes it clear this land should be excluded from the preservation zone, meaning that once again, it, too, would be ripe for another outbreak of dreaded villa rash.

Given their phenomenal international reputation and respect, their skill at the gathering of such fame, and the fact that they can get so much money for a bottle of Gateway which may cost them, say $20 to produce, perhaps the Marquis family might exert some influence? Do something civic-minded?

BOTRYTISED SHIRAZ WITH SEVERELY STRESSED LEAVES IN THE MOLLYDOOKER VINEYARD BESIDE THE WINERY, VINTAGE 2011 ... MOST OF McLAREN VALE HAD PICKED OR GIVEN UP BY THIS STAGE OF VINTAGE, AND YET MOLLYDOOKER WAS STILL WATERING THESE VINES DURING THE SECOND WETTEST VINTAGE IN HISTORY ... CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO LEARN ABOUT MOLLYDOOKER'S TRADEMARKED FRUIT WEIGHT INDEX

And that's not all they've trademarked. There's also the Marquis Vineyard Watering Programme (sic) ™ ...

On April 28th, the Mollydooker Facebook entry said "The Marquis Vineyard Watering Programme™ tells us how much water we need to apply each day in the weeks before harvest to keep the canopy working and to hold the grape sugar levels down. Because we are watering, we can leave the grapes on the vines for an additional 10-14 days to accumulate extra flavour and colour. We don't pick grapes for Mollydooker until the flavour levels reach Awesome, and the juice has a Marquis Fruit Weight™ of at least 60%. It is our guarantee of quality to you. Janet."

On April 16, the site had reported: "We are watering to keep the sugar levels down and the canopy flourishing so that the Mollydooker grapes can continue to bask in the beautiful Indian summer sun. The vines are maturing and sending ripe tannin signals to the grapes, which gain extra flavour and richness every day."

ZERRUTTI: WORLD'S BEST PRO SNIFTER?

CLICK ON THE FALLING MAN FOR REVIEW OF DRINKSTER'S FAVOURITE TASTING GLASS AND REVELATION OF Dr WHITE'S PATENTED HOLD FOR FALLING ASLEEP WITHOUT DROPPING IT!

DRY WOWSER BASTARDS KILL BOHO STREET

MARGUERITE DERRICOURT'S WONDERFUL SCULPTURE OF FOUR PIGS - "TRUFFLES, HORATIO, OLIVER AND AUGUSTA - A DAY OUT" - IS A BIG HIT WITH KIDS AND THE FAT ELVISES, BUT IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE TO LOVE ABOUT THE BLEAK SMOKE-FREE CANYON CALLED RUNDLE MALL, FORMERLY THE MAIN DRAG OF LITTLE OLD ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA?

Prohibitionist Drones Kill City
Who The Hell Are These People
%@#&! Interferist Do-gooders
by PHILIP WHITE

There are three good things about Rundle Mall(1). John Dowie’s girl on a slide, Bert’s balls, and Jane’s pigs. Sculptures. The rest of it is either a pox on the creative intelligence of the lot of us, or a perfect reflection of it. Or maybe both.

BERT FLUGELMAN'S BALLS IN AN EMPTY RUNDLE MALL ... NOW A CUSTOMARY MEETING PLACE FOR THOSE WHO DARE ... COMMISSIONED BY PREMIER DON DUNSTAN IN THE MID 70s

I walked its length last week, all the way along that haunted jangle of a gully from the chocolate shop to Hungry Jacks. I kept my spending hands safe inside my jacket pockets, hunkered in as a sort of protective thing, but it was no comfort. The only joy was that splendid lace verandah of The Exeter (2), glimmering like Heaven way down there on the left. The place which Thinkers-In-Residence habitually attend to gather their lucrative ideas – mercenary touch-and-go missionaries paid great fees by the state which takes this money from those of us who think unpaid and unheard.

MILLIE DREW THIS POSTCARD WHEN SHE WAS ABOUT 13

The Exeter. Exactly where it has been since the day when it was erected and named after its contemporary temple of free thought, Exeter Hall on London’s Strand, where the suffragettes and the anti-slave movements held their meetings, and the enlightened documents for the South Australia Company (3) were drafted and signed.

EXETER HALL, THE STRAND, LONDON







The minute Don Dunstan (4) ripped the fountain out of Henry Ayer’s (5) front lawn, plonked it in the middle of that vile stretch and filled it up with champagne, I have always felt that Rundle Mall was no place for smokers and drinkers.

I learned about these carnal arts at a very early age: just after the war. They were the habits of admirable men and bachelors: the rakish Jimmy Clarke, my grandfather, A. J., and that golden Greek, Cockless Themostokolas. I knew they were one hundred per cent hellbound, and while I primarily loved the smell, I could see through my bright infant eyes that they were enjoying themselves a lot more than the Exclusive Brethren.

With the relentless march of the years, these glamorous tendencies gradually infested my soul, driving the god of those droll Johns, Wesley and Calvin, clean out. Before Dunstan took control, we would drive straight down that old Rundle Trundle from Terrace to Terrace in Threddie’s grey FX, pulling the odd smokey from the retreads while perfecting the wolf whistle and the drawback between slugs of Seppelts Sedna, that miraculous speedy brew of powerful alcohol and kola nut which one could buy from the chemist, even in school uniform.

When Donnie D decided to cut off our traffic, brick the street over, and devote it entirely to the pedestrian worship of mindless expenditure, the main public discussion focused on whether mall would rhyme with ball, as in Bert’s, or mal, as in malfunction. To the bemusement of the nasal whiners of Melbourne and Sydney, the plummy St Peter’s (6) throat of Adelaide won the day, and by the time we’d all got used to that new word, Rundle Street was cactus. Flugelman’s glistening orbs were installed to reinforce the pronunciation, and the whole mob got quietly down to the mindless greasing of the wheels of commerce.

It’s been downhill ever since. And now, as if it will save that decrepit wreck of a precinct from civic damnation, the hammy burghers, money-changers and Sadducees of the city council have declared it a smoke-free zone.





















THE WONDERFUL GABRIELLA BERTOCCHI WITH LEGENDARY EXETER PUBLICAN, NICK BINNS, IN 1996 photo VICTORIA STROUB autograph NICK BINNS - THE PERFECT PUBLICAN'S SIGNATURE: NEVER WASTED ON A CHEQUE! NICK'S RETIREMENT WAS CELEBRATED IN THE GRIEVANCE DEBATE IN THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENT


The anti-smoker movement is precisely that: it is more a revilement of the person than their unfortunate habit. It the opposite of the enlightened philosophies that flowed from Exeter Hall, changed the world forever, and put Rundle Street where it is. It is essentially a wave of savage contempt for people who are hooked on nicotine: generally poor folk who pay more tax than just about anybody else whilst easing the pain of their addiction. This contempt thrives in the twisted souls of the wowser, the interferist, the sanctimonious and the pious.

There are still millions who find smoking a kindly twin of drinking. Many of us prefer these perfectly human pastimes to the droll compilation of the types of caucasian artefacts peddled by the businesses of the Mall. We should be reviling this determined erosion of our preferences by those who don’t share them.

The wowser bastards who revile the smoker are the same mob who impose alcohol bans. They are white and wealthy, the types who habitually attend church to eat their god and drink his blood. They have forgotten their idol was known as “a gluttonous man; a wine-bibber; a friend of publicans and sinners” as they bow to the same graven images he explicitly forbad.

Once we accept their ban of our pleasures in that most boring stretch of Adelaide pavement, it will creep malignantly to devour both east and west. It will ruin the Exeter Hotel and its like, and drive underground those of us who prefer such halls of determined enlightenment.

Last week I overheard the velvet tones of Theo Maris, the developer, soothingly re-assuring ABC listeners that he felt this prohibition would be a good thing for the precinct. Last time I looked, he owned the southern side of the East End of Rundle Street. One must surely presume his general consistency would assure that what he thinks is good for the bit he does not yet own will bring the same wave of profit to the bits he does. So there goes the stretch from the Stag to Frome.

From there, the whole of Hindley Street and the north side of Rundle Street must appear to be a cinch to this Nanny State.

Once they’ve driven great halls like The Exeter into extinction, and we’re all hiding at home, locked in the dark with our browsers, our smokes and our booze, where will the Thinkers-In-Residence learn what to advise the Premier?

NED MELDRUM PHOTO OF THE EX FROM THE BOOK COUNTER MEAL: RECIPES AND STORIES FROM GREAT AUSTRALIAN PUBS (FUNTASTIC, 2005)

FOOTNOTES

1. Rundle Mall. The main street of Adelaide, capital of South Australia.

2. The Exeter. Named the best pub in Australia by Mark Shield in the Penguin Guide to Australian pubs. A formidable boho haunt with an astonishing wine list and really good food.

3. The South Australia Company. A private company set up in London in 1835 to settle South Australia as a convict-free colony.

4. Don Dunstan. A gay, left-wing, libertarian graduate of St Peters College who was Premier of South Australia from 1970 to 1979.

SA PREMIER DON DUNSTAN WEARING HIS PINK SHORTS TO PARLIAMENT IN 1972









5. Henry Ayers. Patrician and highly influential early settler who built a grand mansion a block away from Rundle Street. Ayer's Rock - Uluru - was named after him.

6. St Peter’s College. Posh Anglican boarding school.

MADE IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA: CHRYSLER VALIANT OUTSIDE THE EX.

MARIUS EXPOSED: WHITE WALKS WITH PIKE

ROGER PIKE IN HIS 4.5 ACRE MARIUS SHIRAZ VINEYARD ON THE FAULTLINE AT WILLUNGA, McLAREN VALE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, THE SUN IS SETTING IN THE GULF St VINCENT, PATRON OF LOST THINGS, SCHOOLGIRLS AND VITICULTURERS photo KATE ELMES

The Elusive Rake Wakes In Spring
Nobody Spits Anything At Marius
The Pike Opens Up For Drinkster

by PHILIP WHITE

“I know this much: in the late eighties a Maserati Ghibli Spyder was found abandoned on a bend near Monte Carlo. Not far from where Princes Grace died. Pretty sure the Basque said Spyder. It was traced to a pair of bikini models, sisters, from Paris – and an Englishman called Pike, a wild man who was seen driving one of them. Pike sounded interesting, it made me listen. Think about this: wine is always judged in little sips. It’s always been about wine tasting. The bouquet, how it looks in the glass. They even spit it out afterwards. They spit it out! But what happens after a litre? What’s the effect over a night? As the Basque puts it: you can admire an ocean from the beach – but to love it you have to swim out. Pike knew that. Drank European vintages to oblivion, logged their behaviours, met with their gods.


“Fingers of gas rise off the black wine to beckon me.

“Anyway, this car’s abandoned. Pretty sure Didi said a Spyder. Nobody knew what happened. Pike was never seen in Europe again. He vanished. But years later a wingman of his, from Formula One racing, was invited to a chateau behind Cap d’Ail. A stock of experimental wines was there with handwritten labels. And he recognized Pike’s hand. When he tasted the wine he knew things had changed. He went on to trace Pike to this hidden acreage. Found him bearded, living in the vines, driving an old truck. One of Europe’s great rakes, uh. Fucking mystery to everyone – unless you know what it is he discovered that day behind Monte Carlo. Today he’s just there in his vines, trying to put the secret into grapes … ”

From Lights Out In Wonderland, DBC Pierre (Faber & Faber, 2010).

Aficionados of literature as measured by the Booker Prize, the Whitbread Prize, the Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize, and/or the James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin, will be aware of DBC Pierre, the author of that great trilogy of works concerning the collapse of everything: Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, and now Lights Out In Wonderland.

Odds are on that other, more ordinary people, who can feast on almost anything and read and drink and get proficiently on the lash, will also comprehend. DBC is king devil, in his perfectly damaged human manner.

DBC SHARING A BIRTHDAY KRUG AND A SMOKE AT CASA BLANCO photo PIKE

As if to put a full stop to end all full stops, DBC completes his unholy trinity with a line from the mysterious Pike, as in Roger, who, as the book’s elusive winemaking hero, typically appears only at its very end, to murmer one perfectly Pikish rogering, no doubt through a cloud of pipe tobacco. Pike is the sort of bloke who wouldn’t get through an airport without the odd mighty suck or two of concentrated nicotine, and it is in an airport that he delivers his lonely line. It is his sole utterance in this entire rollicking picaresque ode to extreme indulgence, and it comes in response to the narrator’s prompt: “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

So this writer felt it opportune to lately sit down with the now-you-see-him-now-you-don't Pike, at his verandah table, overlooking his four-and-half acre block of Shiraz, and record the following conversation. Click on the photo of the weird terrazzo-like geological formation Pike found and planted, to observe this exchange.

THE FREAKISH KURRAJONG TALUS GEOLOGY OF THE MARIUS VINEYARD. WHILE THIS CAME DOWN ACROSS THE WILLUNGA FAULT IN A MIGHTY EFFLUVIUM IN RELATIVELY RECENT GEOLOGICAL TIME, THE GRAVELS WITHIN IT ARE FROM VARIOUS FORMATIONS OF THE UMBERATANA GROUP, FROM 650 MILLION TO 750 MILLION YEARS OLD. CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO SEE VID CLIP.

And here are this writer’s thoughts on Pike’s current trilogy of vintage wickednesses:

Marius Sympatico 2008

“I want to wake up in the morning with that dark brown taste”, sang Eartha Kitt in I Want To Be Evil (1962); “I want to see some dissipation in my face.” Whether or not she was actually singing about smoking cigars and looking wasted is one thing; the other is that if she had a box of this under her bed she wouldna bothered getting up to sing, in the sense that she’d probly prefer to lie down and purr. If we must anthropomorphise wines in an attempt to cut out the confounding nonsense of writing about flavour and smell in a language which has few words specific to either, then we should write more about the feeling such luxuries can impart. So. This wine makes me feel like the young Eartha, as in to want, to devour, and not to be like, although enough of it would likely set even me slinking about in a very pale imitation of her. It’s moody, glowering wine. But it’s not pouting behind any curtain: it slides around your mouth like Eartha slid across the salons and dance floors of Paris, and, daring to mention smell, it has the faint reek of polished parquetry. All the nightshades, the blackberry vines, the black cherries and olives, the whiprod acidity sit smugly in this athletic panther’s frame, and it leaves the mouth dribbling for more as that black wildcat tannin seems strangely to take the form of an African cobra. So there, it’s also got a snake. Part Eatha, part black panther, part cobra, it possesses you and sucks your blood dangerously close to the surface of your kisser. Breathtaking. 95++ points

Marius End Play 2008

This is a posh peasant wine, and I believe it’s a boy. A sort of a Heathcliff, lurching loose on the moor one night, the next assuming a rough gentleman’s posture with a briar by the fire in Thrushcross Grange. It has rude whiffs of dried figs, dates and prunes, with the appropriate flesh, but no jam. Sometimes it makes me think of Pan hurling beetroots through bedroom windows as blood pudding warms in the downstairs pot; sometimes it assumes a more elegant borscht and rich cream poise; at others it reminds me of that Lindt 85% chocolate with blueberries on an afternoon stoop between Vacqueyras and Bandol, and the lack of a hot shower commonly evident in those parts. It’s sort of squishy and gelatinous, but very large of bone. More than a little like Pike, actually. Rude. 93+++ points

Marius Symphony 2008

To continue with our humanising theme, we’re back to musical lasses here, but this is a lot more Ella than Eartha. It’s more broad and relaxed; it never slithers. It has that well-danced-in tuxedo reek that Marius occasionally affects, and maybe a sprinkle of Jean Deprez’ Bal a Versailles parfum to both counteract and highlight the bouquet of a large diva who’s just sung her heart out with Nelson Riddle and his orchestra, panting gently between the stage, the cocktail bar and the boudoir. It has a background atmosphere of heavy ancient oak furniture, stained dark with two or three centuries of tobacco smoke. But while these metaphors all indicate a performance very recently past, it has the presence, demeanour, and staying power of a chanteuse so great that, given a decent rest, will re-appear for the late show, and do it all afresh, smoother and better and even more utterly astonishing and authoritative. Mighty. 94++ points

Post Script: All these wines benefit significantly from a double-decanting: splosh them in a jug, then return them to the bottle before serving.


PIKE AND HIS WORKED GODZILLA PAY THE AUTHOR A RAINY-DAY VISIT

24 August 2011

VINTAGE 2011 - 2ND WETTEST IN OZ HISTORY

THE AUTHOR ADDRESSING THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN WINE PRESS CLUB IN THE NATIONAL WINE CENTRE AT THE 2010 VINTAGE ROUND-UP LUNCHEON. BILL MOULARADELLIS IS TO THE LEFT, WINEMAKERS FEDERATION AUSTRALIA LOBBYIST ANDREW WILSMORE IS PEEKING OVER THE SPEAKER'S SHOULDER, AND THAT'S CLUB PRESIDENT BRENTON QUIRINI ON THE RIGHT photo LEO DAVIS

2011: Year Of Moulds & Misery
Far Too Much Bad Fruit Picked
Wine Lake Still The Same Size
by PHILIP WHITE


AT last year’s annual South Australia Wine Press Club post-vintage lunch, which I had been invited to address for many consecutive years to appraise the vintages just finished, Bill Moularadellis stood up at the lectern and said not one Australian vine should be uprooted because his company wanted every grape it could get.

Bill, who has recently been appointed to the board of Wine Australia, the industry’s governing
body, is the managing director of his family’s Riverland winery, Kingston Estate. Wine Press Club Chairman, Brenton Quirini, of Empire Liquor, who introduced Moularadellis to a full house in the National Wine Centre, had just taken on the distribution of Kingston Estate. The event felt like a re-launch of the brand, with the wines being poured liberally to the throng of businessmen, bankers, and wine industry identities.

I quite liked the Sauvignon blanc.

Some readers may recall Kingston temporarily losing its export licence in May 2000, after I’d written about it using, amongst other things, silver nitrate, a clarifying agent used legally in some countries, but banned in Australia. Respected wine consultant Dr Tony Jordan, who works for the French giant Louis Vuitton Mőet Hennessey, is also on the board of Wine
Australia. He suggested to me at the time that there was a good argument to permit the careful use of silver nitrate here; Moularadellis was fully co-operative during the investigations and soon had his licence reinstated.

GOOD-QUALITY SHIRAZ PICKED BEFORE THE 2011 WEATHER WENT AWRY

While it took some time for the Kingston Estate brand to rehabilitate, in the Adelaide market particularly, its was then our ninth-biggest wine exporter, contributing $12-15 million worth of Australia’s $1.2 billion total export.

There was no hint of anything other than enthusiasm for Bill and his wine at the Wine Press Club lunch. But when it came to his suggestion that not one vine should be uprooted, I spoke, shall we say, contrarily. I had suggested we were in a terrible glut of wine internationally, and
Australia would suffer, pointing out that about a third of the wine grapes grown here were not required by winemakers. I explained there were three massive presumptions our wine industry’s success had depended upon, and these were hubristic, false, and finished. Over. Kaput.

This unholy trinity of presumptions included an ongoing weak Aussie dollar (it was stupidly
undervalued, given our natural resources); a tax regime illogically, unfairly and enormously biased towards the makers of inferior swill (incurring staggering environmental, social and economic damage); and an endless supply of impossibly cheap water (which we knew was no longer there until we had the second-wettest vintage in Australian history – which is not, shall we say, normal).

REASONABLE-QUALITY HAND-PICKED GRENACHE

I had suggested that viticulture as we knew it - in the vast Murray-Darling Basin - was over, and would never return to its glory days of five years back. The world has too much wine; Australia has insufficient water to sacrifice in ratios like 1000:1 to grow and make wine which
sells more cheaply than Evian water.

I suggested that contrary to the opinions of the industry councils, which seemed to believe their punch-drunk business should shrink by around 20 per cent, I felt that 40 per cent would be more realisitic, and looked set to occur whether it was organised or not. In the most likely latter case, I said a disorganized deconstruction would be very messy, and entire inland communities
would need lots of money, relocation, restructuring and assistance.

Recently, I received a fascinating email from Bill Moularadellis’s brother, Jim, who calls himself Chief Enthusiasm Officer (CEO) of pre-eminent bulk wine brokers Austwine, a 20-year-old “grey market” merchant this year celebrating its 500 millionth litre of bulk wine traded. Jim
has written the Moularadellis family version of Vintage 2011.

PURE BOTRYTIS STRIKE ON A SHIRAZ BERRY. A LOT OF FRUIT LOOKED REASONABLE ON THE VINE, BUT WHEN IT WAS TOUCHED, THE BOTRYTIS SLIME BENEATH THE SKIN SAW THE BERRIES FALL APART photo JAMES HOOK

Put broadly, Jim agrees with my contention that while the vintage crush total was a much bigger figure than anybody predicted, given the oversupply and rotten vintage, the 1.6 million
tonnes crushed includes large amounts of juice which was reduced to concentrate to bolster other batches of fruit which could not ripen. And much of the rest of the crush will make wine so rotten it cannot be cleaned up sufficiently for sale anyway. So the 1.6 million tonnes is not an indicator of how much potable wine was made, but an indicator of how much bad fruit was picked.

Let me reiterate: vast fields of rotten, mouldy, brown pus was indeed picked. I watched it
picked, and watched winemakers in many regions struggle to know how to deal with bins of machine-harvested mildewed and botrytised grapes that turned to slurry before they reached the crusher.

All this uncertainty is forcing up the price of bulk wine in store from previous vintages – bulk wine whose poor quality had prevented its sale, even at much lower prices, until this ocean of much worse wine arrived at the hoppers this year.

Jim Moularadellis writes that this confusion has brought about a situation where the expected price has artificially levelled, so that vendors are asking the same price for bad wine as others expect for less buggered wine. Since vintage, there has been much chatter about price, but few actual sales. This, he thinks, will correct itself as the year progresses, as more wineries realise that whatever they do to clean up the mouldy swill they picked, whatever they spend on whatever chemicals, colorants, bleaches, thickening essences or reagents, the wine simply will
not make the drinkable grade.

Jim concludes that good quality supply of all the staple varieties is very tight and lean, and
remarks particularly on the sudden spike in demand for Moscato. (This is the variety BRL-Hardy had wanted to plant on Adelaide University’s 206ha viticultural research property at Glenthorne Farm in order to fund the establishment there of further wine and grape research facilities, but was refused by the university – Deputy chancellor, Brian Croser, reportedly preferred Chardonnay.)

Then, to finish his sad song of wine gone wrong, Jim says:

“2012 vintage promises more of the same due to the likely modest level of vineyard removals,
at least average winter rainfall on top of already moist soils and a persistently high Australian dollar.”

MOULDY MACHINE-HARVESTED GRENACHE

In other words, he’s not expecting the wine tax imbalance to be corrected. Nor, for that matter, was he expecting the current powerful move toward higher base alcohol retail prices by people like Woolworths, led by Coles, a swelling band of politicians, and the health lobby. Any such inevitable correction will very quickly see an increase in the removal or abandonment of unprofitable and marginal vineyards, believe me. There’s one of the three presumptions – which I call stupid – being blindly clung to.

Here’s another: Jim agrees that the dollar will stay “high” but seems to think it’s artificially so;
he seems disappointed. I think it’s normal, given our natural resources, which will take some time to extract. I heard this morning one analyst suggesting the dollar will stay roughly where it is for twenty years.

So where are we? In spite of all the deserted and uprooted vineyards, and the vast amount of the 2011 crop being used for concentrate, it is now evident that the Australian wine lake is about the same size it was a couple of years ago. The biggest difference is the quality: it’s worse. Around 40-45 million cases worth of wine was made from fruit which should have been cut to the ground and left; those vineyards should go.

BOTRYTIS-INFECTED RIESLING IN THE BAROSSA 2011 photo DAVID LEHMANN ... CLICK HERE FOR LOUISA ROSE'S REPORT FROM YALUMBA

But many growers who couldn’t sell their rotten crops this year don’t have the money to uproot vineyards or even prune them. So they sit there with the husks of the 2011 fruit intact, acting like perfect incubators for disease which will bloom and infest healthy neighbouring vineyards unless 2012 is back to the Big Dry that preceded the second wettest vintage in history.

However, given the weather we’ve had since vintage, anything can happen. It’s perfect in McLaren Vale as I write: those who can afford to prune have done it; the whole region’s sprouted and the weather’s perfect. Yesterday a mate complained that for the first time in his life he’d got sunburnt whilst pruning; earlier in the year I saw grape pickers wearing wet weather gear usually reserved for pruning in the winter.

As for the South Australian Wine Press Club: I wasn’t invited to summarise 2011. I think they invited Tony Love.

MACHINE-HARVESTED SHIRAZ ROTTEN WITH MILDEW AND BOTRYTIS

To read Jim Moularadellis's full report, click here.

POLITICS, WINE, TOURISM & DEVELOPMENT


1. Click on "Godfather" Farrell



2. Click On The Discount Booze


3. Consider These Questions:

a. If you were Prime Minister, how would you consider changing the wine tax system to remove the unfair advantage given bladder packs when you were aware that the trade union which gave you power and contributes so much money to your party contains so many members who work in cheap liquor outlets or for supermarket chains which own those outlets?

b. If you were a country parliamentarian in a wine district, and you were faced with a community opposed to a huge new supermarket or hardware development in the central village, how would you consider it, when you were aware that your party holds power only with the support of the workers employed by such businesses?

c. If you were on an independent planning authority whose role it was to advise the planning minister on tricky issues like approving fast food outlets in premium wine regions, how would approach these decisions when you were aware that the politicians who gave you power depend upon the money and support of the union representing the workers in those retail businesses?

d. If you were a politician facing the dread reality of reducing irrigation allocations for grape growers in the dying Murray-Darling Basin in order to save the river system, how would you handle the notion that the retailers which sell the wine whose manufacture is helping to destroy the river employ the people whose union membership and money got you into power and keeps you there?

e. If you were a politician whose electoral boundaries were about to change in a way which would disadvantage your re-election chances, how would you approach planning approvals you knew would guarantee you more fast food and supermarket outlets which would employ more members of the union which holds your party in power?

ADD YOUR OWN QUESTIONS TO THE COMMENT BOX BELOW

23 August 2011

TOP SA VINE LAND STILL GOING TO HOUSES

PLANNING MINISTER JOHN RAU IN THE MEETING ROOM AT THE McLAREN VALE WINEMAKERS' HEADQUARTERS, ANNOUNCING THE GO-AHEAD OF THE HIGHLY CONTENTIOUS SEAFORD HEIGHTS RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT ON PRICELESS 650 MILLION YEAR OLD SILSTONE GEOLOGY, PREFECT FOR PREMIUM AGRICULTURE. THIS IS THE ONLY PIECE OF SUCH GROUND IN THE WILLUNGA EMBAYMENT. VINES GROWN ON ITS MARGINS BRING $185 PER BOTTLE.

Still Cementing Top Country ... We Came We Saw We Concreted More Labor Pollies On The Nose
by PHILIP WHITE


The Hon John Rau, MP, Deputy Premier, Attorney-General, Minister for Justice, Minister for Urban Development, Planning and the City of Adelaide, Minister for Tourism, and Minister for Food Marketing is currently studying community responses to his highly contentious plan to “protect” the great Australian vignobles of the Barossa and McLaren Vale from housing sprawl.

In so doing, his suggestion paper ignored the official Geographic Indicator boundaries for these regions. These took countless thousands of hours: many years to finalise and then have recognized in international law. Indeed at his rather ragged press conference in the McLaren Vale Visitors Centre, when I asked him about this after he'd announced the Seaford Heights go-ahead, the minister seemed unaware such formal boundaries even existed. Rau’s suggested boundary for what he thinks is McLaren Vale, for example, extends some 24 kilometres into the Adelaide Hills GI, all the way to the South-eastern Freeway at Crafers. No Adelaide Hills winemakers were consulted. This land has nothing to do with McLaren Vale.

In exchange, he wants open slather on eave-to-eave housing north of the Onkaparinga River, an area which makes up one third of the McLaren Vale GI and contains some of the very best and rarest geology for premium vineyards.

In the meantime, Rau and Labor continue with horrid developments on irreplaceable agricultural land, in all three wine regions.

One of the most dubious is at Mount Barker, in some of the state’s best dairy farming and viticulture land, on a site with little or no infrastructure in place. The Labor government ignored the voice of the community, which outspokenly opposed the building of thousands of houses there.

It seems that developers and Labor politicians aside, about the only ones happy about the development is the board of Hillgrove Resources, which is digging a giant open cut copper pit nearby at Kanmantoo. As it would have been out of the question to take water from the dying Murray River to supply this enormous hole in the ground, it is highly convenient for Hillgrove that the new Mount Barker suburb will suddenly appear so close by. The pit can now proceed, using the effluent water from the new super-suburb. The pipeline is conveniently short.

THE KANMANTOO MINES PIT DUG IN THE EARLY SEVENTIES. THE LAKE IN THE BOTTOM IS SULPHURIC ACID. THE NEW MINE WILL BE SEVEN OR EIGHT TIMES THIS SIZE, AND REQUIRE ENORMOUS AMOUNTS OF FRESH WATER

Nobody seems to want to suggest the water for the housing must come from the beleaguered Murray anyway. A cynical person could be forgiven for suggesting that the new suburb is a kind of reverse filter, making the clean water dirty enough to be sufficiently politically correct to supply the huge mine.

Former Liberal premier of South Australia Dean Brown is chairman of Hillgrove, the mining company. He is also a sort of replacement for Karlene Maywald, another Liberal, who had been for years Labor Premier Rann’s specialist on critical water issues like the Murray River. Maywald took a cabinet ministry in Rann’s government. Brown has not, as far as we know, also been offered a cabinet position by Labor.

Perhaps he doesn’t need one.

In a recent contentious cabinet reshuffle, Rann, who has since promised to resign in October to make way for the eminently popular and more believable Jay Weatherill, seemed to have no choice but to let John Rau select his ministries. (You may get the gist of some of this contention at the essential ICAC-ICAC site.) Among his other great list of portfolios, Rau chose planning after the humiliated Planning Minister, Paul Holloway, resigned in the wake of approving a string of extremely unpopular planning developments like Seaford Heights in McLaren Vale.


Last week Rau addressed a luncheon of the Urban Development Institute of Australia, and openly criticized the way planning had been run before his ascension to power.

“One point I need to make very clear is this – I am not in favour of decoupling rezoning from infrastructure planning,” he told a house packed with planners, developers and builders. “With the benefit of hindsight, this was a problem in the Mount Barker rezoning – there will be no more Mount Barkers on my watch. The lesson has been learned.

“I will not allow rezoning to run-off without infrastructure planning being bedded down. We cannot deliver communities without infrastructure – it makes no sense to let developers build houses without the Government and local councils being able to support that community with infrastructure.

“I will not allow developers to push me into rezoning when infrastructure needs are not known, not planned for and not funded.”

Opponents of the Mount Barker debacle and Seaford Heights thought momentarily that this indicated a softening of government’s determination to proceed with such intrusions onto the sort of plush agricultural land that this, the driest state in the world’s driest continent, has very little of.

But Rau in fact promised the opposite, in his determined rewriting of the Residential Development Code legislated by Holloway in September 2009.

“It is clear that the residential code was not delivering the improvements that we were expecting,” Rau said. “Just this week, Cabinet has approved for me to proceed with reforms to the Code, and I plan to implement these by the end of this year. These reforms will include 22 changes identified by industry and should deliver a code that is easier to use —with simplified information requirements, clearer terminology and definitions and less prescriptive design requirements.”

“Local planning policy has become dishevelled, disjointed and inconsistent leading to unnecessary complexity and barriers to development,” he said. “My department has made it a first priority to refine zoning policies through SA’s planning policy library. I am about to finalise the first stage of zoning reforms. These new zones will make it easier for councils to align with The 30-Year Plan.”

Seemingly oblivious to accusations that much of South Australia’s planning was being done, de facto, by Transport Minister Pat Conlon, who insists intensive high rise housing should surround his railway stations and bus routes to keep fares down, Rau said “the new zones support the growth of new neighbourhoods, targeted infill around corridors, Transport Oriented Developments and employment activities.”

The next morning, the author took a small part in a discussion of these matters on ABC Radio 891. Here is his own transcription of that conversation.

DAVID BEVAN: Philip White is a wine writer and McLaren Vale resident. He’s also a part of a group opposing Seaford Heights. He’s called 891 Breakfast. Good morning Philip.

PHILIP WHITE: Good morning. I just need to say urgently that this bumbling of [former Planning Minister] Holloway also includes a lot of properties in the south. And it’s time that they just put a stop to it.

DB: You’re saying John Rau’s just focusing on Mount Barker. But if it’s confession time, they should be looking beyond that.

PW: Absolutely. The Seaford Heights site is an impeccable piece of agricultural land. It used to grow barley with world record sugar levels. Guinness used to buy that barley. It’s a very very important piece of ground, and it’s intellectually decrepit to put cement over it.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Philip White, but John Rau steered that decision through.

PW: Well he has but –

MA: - and I think he’s quite proud of the work he did on that one in terms of trying to quarantine the important, what he saw, or what the state government saw as important parts of the dirt down there.

PW: But he has to listen to the community. He obviously doesn’t understand the importance of that piece of dirt. It’s really silly, and hypocritical to say ‘I’m saving your district, but we’re gonna cement this bit over.’ Huh! It’s just crazy. It makes no sense. So if he’s feeling any remorse about the stupidity of the Mount Barker decision he should also include what’s going on down here.

MA: Philip White thank you. Philip White is well known in Adelaide as a wine writer and journalist and is a McLaren Vale resident.

EARLY PROTEST AT THE SEAFORD HEIGHTS SITE. AMANDA RISHWORTH IS THE LOCAL LABOR FEDERAL MEMBER. DOZENS OF HER ELECTION CAMPAIGN PLACARDS WERE POSTED IN THE FIELD.

After the news break, the announcers introduced The Hon. JOHN RAU, Deputy Premier,
Attorney-General, Minister for Justice, Minister for Urban Development, Planning and the City of Adelaide, and Minister for Tourism.

DB: … when infrastructure needs are not known, not planned for, and not funded, how did developers push the government?

JOHN RAU: Ah, well now, I’m, I’m … getting representations from time to time from people who would like to er have rezonings occur ah and I have looked into the into the background of rezoning over the last few years and I’ve looked at it through the context of the Thirty Year Plan which has now been in place for a year, and my point in making those remarks was Mount Barker was something which I think is a good project, should go ahead, I’ve got no issue about that, but I don’t think all of the infrastructure issues were nailed down as well as they should have been before the rezoning occurred. So my remarks were about timing of process.

SIGN ON THE DOOR OF THE CONFERENCE ROOM AT THE McLAREN VALE WINEMAKERS' OFFICES WHEN MINISTER RAU MADE HIS ANNOUNCEMENT THAT SEAFORD HEIGHTS WOULD PROCEED










DB: Yes. Your remarks were specifically about Mount Barker. How did the developers push the government on Mount Barker?

JR: I didn’t say they did.

scrambled interruptions

MA: Hang on, by, well, by implication, by implication –

JR: I didn’t say – I didn’t say - I personally, I personally –

MA: Well John Rau, let’s just go back to your speech.

JR: Mmm.

MA: I’ve got a copy of it here.

JR: Yes.

MA: “I will not allow developers to push me into rezoning when infrastructure needs are not known, not planned for, and not funded.” And you give Mount Barker as an example of a development where there was not enough attention paid to infrastructure planning. You give that as “decoupling zoning from infrastructure planning” –

JR: Correct –

DB: In the same breath you say “there will be no more Mount Barkers on my watch –

JR: Correct –

DB: Okay. So in what way did the developers push the government on Mount Barker?

JR: Well as I said, if you read the speech you’d see that my remarks about Mount Barker were essentially this: Mount Barker was a situation which I still believe is a good project – it should have gone ahead – I’m glad it’s going ahead – but the question about planning for the infrastructure I do not believe was adequately dealt with before the actual sign-off. That was my point.

MA: But how did developers push, how did developers push the state government into rezoning Mount Barker –

JR: I’m not suggesting they did –

MA: Well you are suggesting that – if, if, if, let me just put, no, let me put it -

scrambled interruptions

JR: We’re spending a lot of time on the semantics of this but what I was trying to say –

MA: No, no, no, John Rau, John Rau, as you know, John Rau –

JR: You’re not going to be able to push me, having made -

LOCAL BUILDER KEITH WALKER IS TYPICAL OF THOSE WHO SUPPORT THE SEAFORD HEIGHTS DEVELOPMENT







MA: John Rau, if I can just – if you don’t mind – you’re a lawyer and you know the power of words, and the importance of words, so semantics are important, if you say “I will not allow developers to push me into rezoning when infrastructure needs are not known, not planned for, and not funded,” do you think a reasonable person would draw, would draw the implication from that, that up until now, developers have been able to push your government into just that activity?

JR: No I don’t.

DB: Oh so it hasn’t happened in Mount Barker?

JR: No, I don’t, I don’t think it did. That’s not my point. My point is having watched Mount Barker, having seen the amount of, of, community concern that was expressed about Mount Barker - now some of that is “I don’t want a development at all” – I’m putting that to one side – I’m talking about the people who said “Well look. Okay. We don’t mind a development but the process could be better.” My point is I’ve listened to that. I’ve acknowledged that. I’ve got it. And as far as I’m concerned, for the future, that point has been made, and my point was to say that the developers in the future don’t try and push me along the path of redevelopment without me being satisfied that process has been dealt with. That’s all I was –

DB: And, and, you used the example of that as being Mount Barker.

JR: Yes but I, I think you’re assuming that the reason that that Mount Barker’s process was not as good as I think it with retrospect in restrospect okay I’m not, I’m not – I’m being wise after the event here – the reason it wasn’t quite as good as it might have been – I’m not suggesting for a minute was because somebody was pushed – I’m not sure that given the scale of that, and the redevelopments we were doing that people actually had realized the importance of this order of precedents in a way that you get –

DB: Ooooh. So in the case of Mount Barker, it wasn’t that you were pushed by developers, people just didn’t realize what was going on?

JR: Look, I wasn’t pushed by anybody –

DB: No, no, no. It was Minister Holloway. He just –

MA: Are you saying he just didn’t know, he just didn’t know that if you put the equivalent of a Mount Gambier up there um in the Adelaide Hills you’re going to need some infrastructure to go with it?

JR: Of course he did. Of course he did.


MA: sniggers

WHEN THE DEVELOPER KARIDIS RECENTLY BOUGHT THESE VINEYARDS ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF McLAREN VALE IN ORDER TO SUBDIVIDE THEM, HE PAID FAR ABOVE THE GOING RATE. A LONG-TIME DONATOR OF FUNDS TO THE LABOR PARTY, HE IS INFAMOUS FOR INTRODUCING THE FINANCIER TIRATH KHEMLANI TO THE WHITLAM LABOR GOVERNMENT WITH THE PROMISE OF PROVIDING HUGE LOANS, AN EXERCISE WHICH EVENTUALLY BROUGHT WHITLAM AND HIS GOVERNMENT DOWN, LOCAL ALP MEMBER, THE POPULAR LEON BIGNELL, PROMISES "KARIDIS WILL TAKE A DIVE ON THAT ONE. WE WON'T LET HIM DO IT." photo KATE ELMES

JR: Look, can you please – I know that that you you you’re enjoying talking about these particular words but the point I was trying to make was this. The pub – you’d you have had to have your eyes closed for a couple of years not to realize that people were unhappy about the way the Mount Barker process rolled out. I am not acknowledging and did not acknowledge and don’t believe that the Mount Barker redevelopment is a bad thing. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I have listened carefully to what the people have said. In fact the first thing I did after getting this job was to go up and visit the council in Mount Barker and have a talk to them about what was going on. And I have come to the conclusion that although the end outcome will be fine and is good and I support it and always have, the process by which we got to that point could have been better –

DB: Mmmm. Okay so when you said –

JR: And that’s easy for me to say because I’m wise after the event –

DB: Okay. So when you said “I will not allow developers to push me into rezoning – ”

JR: Correct.

DB: - did you have anything in mind at all? Or is that just a hypothetical?

JR: No, no, I I do, I do have something in, in, in mind, in mind in a broad sense and I’ll tell you what I have in mind –

DB: Well what do you have in mind?

JR: Okay. We have within the Thirty Year Plan, large areas of of land which over the next thirty years are to be uh are earmarked for “Urban Development”. By the time we get to that endpoint, only thirty per cent of our infill will be out there in greenfields areas, seventy per cent will be urban infill which is a completely different question. My point, my point to these people is “If you want me to rezone your land, that’s fine, but we need to have a talk – ”

DB: Okay

JR: “ – before that, about how we’re gonna plan for schools and roads – ”

DB: Okay. So just, just to be quite clear –

JR: “ – and hospitals and everything else – ”

DB: Okay. So just to be quite clear. Just to be quite clear. When you said that “I will not allow developers to push me into rezoning – ”

JR: Yep.

PLANTING THE PROTEST VEGGIE GARDEN ON THE SEAFORD HEIGHTS SITE IN THE AUTUMN ... BEAUTIFUL CABBAGES AND CAULIS ARE NEARLY READY TO EAT

DB: - you had in mind a future hypothetical thing, and not what has occurred in South Australia over the last few years, notwithstanding the fact that Mount Barker is an excellent example of allowing something to go ahead without proper infrastructure?

JR: Well, I, I, I, I don’t, well, I’ll say again. I don’t think in the benefit - with the benefit of hindsight that the infrastructure planning in Mount Barker occurred in the order that I would have preferred. That’s what I was saying.

DB: And why do you think that happened?

JR: Well, look, I think, to be perfectly frank this was a larger scale rezoning than we’d had before, I think a lot of people were, were, exploring this, this issue and, and doing their best at the time, as it turned out, as it turned out, it could have been done better and look, what is wrong with acknowledging in government that if you’ve gone through a process before which I say as I say is perfectly fine there’s no problem with the Mount with the idea of the Mount Barker development, none at all, but if you’ve gone through a process, and the public is telling you “We feel that you could have done it better” do you put your head in the sand and pretend that you’re not getting this message from the community –

MA: Well well now John Rau John Rau, let’s, you you do focus on Mount Barker. Let’s look at another development that was signed off on by the state government just a few weeks before the state election and that was Buckland Park, where by the government’s admission, there is no infrastructure, um, they’re even gonna have to run bus services from the nearest town, the nearest suburb to it, as a short-term gap. Ah, there’s no schools. There’s no railway station. Ahh, there are no playgrounds. There’s no parks. There’s nothing.

DB: And and it’s outside the Thirty year Plan. Is that an even worse example?

JR: Well I don’t think it’s outside the Thirty year Plan. I think -

MA: It’s not now. I think you’ve drawn - it was when it was announced, was it not?

JR: I think, I, I can’t answer that. But I can tell you that I’m damn sure that it’s in there now.

MA: Yeah, yeah, after it was approved I think. Is that true?

JR: Well let’s lets not move away from that. It is within the Thirty Year Plan –

MA: All right. Was that an example of developers pushing the government into rezoning when “infrastructure needs were not known, not planned for and not funded”?

JR: No I don’t believe it is because what I am saying is – look, please – we, we, if we’re trying to get to the the nub of this I’m not saying in those comments “Look the first house is being built at Buckland Park or built somewhere and at that moment all of the roads have to be completed er all of the schools have to be built with nobody in them et cetera et cetera. I’m not talking about infrastructure finished. I’m talking about infrastructure planned. And and a a general understanding of what is going to be required, how it’s going to be managed, what time scale the roll-out’s going to occur over and how it’s going to be funded. That’s what I’m talking about. It’d be ludicrous to say you you open up you know five thousand hectares somewhere, and before a single house can be built, every single bit of infrastructure has to be in place. I mean clearly that’s not going to happen.

MA: Okay. Now we need to move on. Just finally though, can I ask you this on another matter: did Mike Rann, at any stage, earlier this year, tell you he was planning to stand down next March for you to take over as Premier?

JR: No.

MA: John Rau, thankyou for talking to us.

JR: Thank you.

CONCLUSION: Talk about all parties missing the point.

One good question about the mine at Kanmantoo, and another about the mine which the Seaford Heights developers have established within a couple of kilometers of their proposed villa rash, may have flushed out better facts, or at least more amusing confusion. If Jay Weatherill is to retain his relatively clean reputation upon taking the Premiership, he will have to come up with a more convincing Planning Minister than Rau. If indeed, Caucus permits. And, as ICAC-ICAC points out in that link above, Caucus is run by the Shoppies: The Shopranos.

Maybe our promising new Premier has been shopped before he starts.