“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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15 May 2012

STEINGARTEN: SAVED; THEN DILUTED

Who's this dude in the Louisiana State prison garb, and what's he doing flapping paper around on the Barossa Ranges?  It's me, offering a white balance (!) for cinematographer Gus Howard while we made the first serious promotional movie to advise the Brits about Australian wine, 1984-ish ... the client was the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, now called Wine Australia ... that thin green line right behind my head is the once famous Orlando Steingarten Vineyard ... a few years later, I took Victorian winemakers Ron Laughton (Jasper Hill) and Graeme Leith (Passing Clouds) to show them this remarkable and crazy vineyard, planted by Colin Gramp in 1962. Determined to achieve a more Germanic style of Riesling, he'd used gelignite to blow holes in the stone so he could plant this tiny vinegarden which he literally named Garden of Stone. It was revolutionary for Australia.  Its wines were indeed exquisite, varying from year-to-year from flinty, Ernie Loosen Pfalz-like styles to slightly sweet versions more like Mosel spaetlese. But as we arrived through the back gate, from over that range, we discovered a crew of workers in there with a hydraulic pruner, cutting the vines off flush at the ground. Half the vineyard was gone: pathetic little trunks weeping sap into the stone which had somehow nurtured them for 25 years. The workers told us they realised they were wreaking a terrible blow to the heritage of the Barossa, but were under orders to remove the entire vineyard.  To their disbelief, I suggested they should cease the destruction while I drove down to the Orlando head office at Rowland Flat to have a bit of a word with MD Gunther Prass. Which I did, thrashing that ol hemi V8 Valiant police car down the hill like Jehu, my guests cowering and whimpering in the back. I burst into the boss's office in a most unseemly haste; Gunther squirmed, shuffled some papers, showed what I think was genuine shock, and immediately ordered the operation to cease. Since Pernod-Ricard bought Orlando-Wyndham, these imperious Frenchmen have completely buggered the Steingarten brand by using it on an amorphous blend of Riesling from other, more industrial grapeyards, and rebadging it Jacob's Creek Steingarten. Now they wonder why they've lost their market distinction!  If they looked after this tiny vineyard properly, and put a stone wall around it to keep the wind out, like the French would do in their own country, they could be selling this Riesling  for $500 a bottle. I'd love to see that movie again, by the way.  Anybody got a print?  

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

It was called "Wine From The Heartland" - might be able to track it down...

Stuart Robinson said...

Nick Stock's written a piece on Steingarten in the latest Gourmet Traveller Wine. This episode in the vineyard's history has been (conviently?) omitted.

History owes you a favour.

Stuart Robinson said...

Nick Stock's written a piece on Steingarten in the latest Gourmet Traveller Wine. This episode in the vineyard's history has been (conviently?) omitted.

History owes you a favour.