“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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12 February 2013

VINTAGE REPORT 2013 - GET IN QUICK

13 Advance Australia Blonde
How To Save Millions On PR
And Get A Good Vintage Too
by PHILIP WHITE

So far, 2013 looks like is one of those years when the promo-Goebbels army hirelings of the vino-industrial complex have nothing much to say.

I mean, they will, of course, because they need to get those invoices in.  Everybody’s gotta have some butter on their bread, you know, buy some new soccer boots for the kiddies, pay the phone bills and get a haircut or a Brazilian or something.

When there’s a bad year, like 2011, they really earn their money writing nonsense out about how good it is and sending it to people like me to copy out and forward to people like my stern Editrix at InDaily hoping that she won’t realize I just did a fast cut and paste job so I can send her an invoice anyway for spreading the lie and keeping the valley nice and peaceful.


When that great wine writer Mark Shield was alive and we hunted in a two-pack we put a proposal to the wine business.  We worked out how many millions the impoverished wine makers of Australia were spending on public relations flaks who wrote bullshit out on press releases which were then sent to us in the hope that we’d copy them  out accurately and put our regurgitations in the newspapers, which we still had in those funny old days.

There were about, aw, maybe six or seven wine writers worth worrying about, and about a thousand PR flaks sending us the nonsense so they could bang those invoices in.

Say it was two million bucks total.  It was probably more like four, even then, away back in the naughty ’nineties.  The nature of the proposal Shieldsy and I devised was we’d cut that by half to save them the money, take half each of what was left, write the stuff out ourselves, and put it straight in the paper with some photos we’d taken.  Then, to get our weekly income, we'd bang in an invoice to Fairfax or Rupert or whoever it was that was publishing us while they trained up the new generation of young hacks and hackettes to quit newspapers, set up pubic relations businesses and make up press releases full of nonsense which they could send back to those of us who were still chained nose to the winestone at Fairfax or Rupert.

Double-dipping?  Nah.  It was much cheaper than paying to train new young journalists to grow up telling the truth after relentless investigation. It was the origins of recycling, come to think of it.  The beginning of the green movement.  It gets to its most refined point when the Jacintas and Troys with the spiky hair gunk in the chrome and black glass offices actually copy out great slabs of the stuff we’ve written and published, put it in a press release as God’s honest truth, and send it back to us in the hope that we won’t recognize our own work, and obediently copy it out and publish it again.

Us genuine authors would be paid, I dunno, say $200 by the newspaper, and the flaks would copy that out badly, send it back to us, and bung in an invoice for $2000 to the stupid winemaker/client whether we reporter/critics took the bait or not.

But that’s off the track.  Under our scheme, the readers would have been a lot better off, like as far as being told the truth went, and Shieldsy and Whitey would be able to pay for a pair of new soccer boots for the kiddies and put another few gallons of gas in the Subie and the wheels of commerce would turn much more efficiently as far as we were concerned and the entire wine business could relax in the knowledge that they’d saved a million or so, the best wines were getting the sales, and, well, you know, advance Australia blonde*.

Anyway, my point is that when, say, the wheat and barley growers have a bad year, they get on the wireless and in the papers and whatever and say “shit we’re having a bad year.  The crop’s  buggered.  It’s got Freak Weevil or Irish Blight or Blue Twerp Fungus or whatever, or it’s just not there at all on account of no rain or snow or something and some government money would be nice.”


 
The wine industry’s not like that.  In a really scum vintage, like 2011, they get the cheque books out and send wheelbarrows full of money to the Goebbels division to write out lovely stuff about how gorgeous  it all is and send all that bullshit to me in the hope that when I get in a car and go for a drive I fail to notice the mould and mildew and rot that's infesting the grape harvest, as if  to provide winemakers the chance to devise a new vocab for ranking grape quality.  Like pus, slime, clag, or lumpy slime.

Anyway, that’s what they do.  And if you don’t play the game, they’ll blackball you and call you un-Australian or a traitor and won’t talk to  you in the pub.

# 1 But then, well, a year like 2013 comes around.  Just between you and me, I have to say this is looking like one of the best vintages I’ve seen in about 33 years.  The heat’s been off, the rain’s been meek, the nights have been cool and the breezes fairly constant, so everything’s getting its lungs full and all the moulds and whatever are being dried right out without the need for poisonous fungicide.

# 2 The bunches seem unusually pendulous, especially in the Shiraz: they’re long and healthy, and while they’ve got plenty of space between the berries to let that healthy air through that sparsity’s counter-balanced by the fact that the berries are tiny (better flavour) but the yields will be down (ease the glut).   

# 3 And guess what?  Anybody who believed their lies when they told us 2011 was fantastic has absolutely nothing to say.  Like what can they say? 

PS. Just a final word to the Jacinta/TroyBoys: when you copy this out, don’t worry about the top twelve pars.  Just stick to No.s #1 and #2 of the three immediately above and send them back to us. If you’re charging by the word, copy them out twice and get that invoice in.  I doubt that the winemakers will notice the repetition unless perhaps you forget and also include # 3. Or send your invoice to us.

PPS.  Before you go meltdown, I’ll guarantee that Western Australia aside, about fifty out of Australia’s 2500 wineries made really good wine in 2011.

PPPS.  At this instant, McLaren Vale and the other Fleurieu Peninsula growers look like getting better crops than the Barossa (lower humidity – less rain) and Clare (even lower and less).  Since I started on this essay I’ve had reports from mildly panicked growers in the warmer bits of both those regions saying yes the yields are quite low and the alcohols are rising very quickly. The best vineyards, I am assured, are sending in the best flavours in some time, but that's not saying much when the other 99.3% of all our vineyards are considered over the last decade.  I feel the return of the normal drought.  I’ll report later on the South Mount Lofty Ranges and both the hot north and cool south of the Murray Basin.


*FOOTNOTE: With regard to Advance Australia Blonde, here are the lyrics to the Australian national anthem Advance Australia Fair : 

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We've golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature's gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history's page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.
 

Australians all own ostriches
Four minus one is three.
With olden royals, we're fair and loyal,
Our home is dirt by sea.
I learned to bounce on nature strips
In booties stitched with care.
In mystery's haze, let's harvest maize
And plant azaleas there.
Enjoy full trains and let us in
And dance Australia yeah!
   

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We'll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing, 

Advance Australia Fair.

Many still insist that fair means reasonable and not blonde and blue-eyed.  The second verse is a mondegreen, or mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony - it gives it a new meaning but has nothing to do with the colour green. It's more like soramimi—songs that produce unintended meanings when homophonically translated to another language. It makes much better sense than the original words, which I reckon are outright racist. The third verse makes utter ridicule of our attitude to refugees. All that aside, it's blokey by nature, but  this here is probly the best real old whitefella song for our state, South Australia, and it shits on the national anthem for honesty and intent. It's sung, for starters, by Brits, who obviously want to come here but make not much mention of who may already be here.  None, in fact. Other than to stress their suggestion that they themselves were born here, which is a bit of a stretch. Which has even less to do with anything in the story we started on other than it proves some of us feel we have a voice and some of those use it all the fucking time whether or not we're capable of thinking it through, and/or whether we deserve any of it or not. Selah.

1 comment:

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