“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




01 March 2013


Old Mill Estate Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
$30; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94 points
Mellow and elegant in a Bordeaux manner, this is the sort of wine we won’t be seeing much of in 2013. Its lower alcohol number doesn’t for a moment mean the wine lacks flavour or intensity.  Grown much closer to Lake Alexandrina than the rest of the soulful Langhorne Creek mudpluggers, it lacks their typical minty eucalyptols, and instead just oozes out the blueberry and blackcurrant pretties with the mildest shadow of stylish old oak.  It was made with the help of the legendary John Glaetzer, the bloke who made more trophy winners for Wolf Blass in the '70s, '80s and '90s than anybody else has managed to match.  It’s a ravishing slender drink after the classical Australian claret style of the '50s and '60, and while there are stocks of it still around the better stores you should get out there and scoop some up.  It’s also available for tasting and sale at Settlement Wines on Seaview Road in McLaren Vale, right opposite Oliver’s Taranga and up a bit.  Even more alluring, if not quite so close to ideal drinking age, is the 2009 model, which is just beginning to emerge at a similar price but a slight hike in alcohol.  So it’s perhaps a little more intense, with more of the alcohol-soluble aromatics, like slightly sinister glints of aniseed, graphite and juniper berry.  Its flavour has more dark cooking chocolate: it’s like one of those liqueur chocolates with a crême de cassis filling, but rated so high in the bone-dry Adults Only triple X sugar-free zone I’ll guts the whole damn box. It leaves the drinker in sort of schloopy headspinning swirl of delight, its fine tannins provoking equal degrees of satisfaction, hunger and thirst. Juicy roast lamb, please!

Settlement Wines Liqueur Verdelho
$30 (500ml.); 18% alcohol; cork; 94 points
Aged about as long as me in a traditional solera barrel stack, this Madiera-style Verdelho is a very rare bird. Langhorne Creek fruit fortified with the prettiest grape spirit gives a slightly peppery caramel/soft English toffee/Spanish quince paste effect, balanced neatly by a nose-tickling whiff of the schist rock which has weathered since 545,000,000 years BC and washed down the Bremer Valley to form the floodplain of Langhorne Creek.  Fair dinkum. It has the most hopeless bedroom eyes draw on the sensories, like Cleopatra’s hyssop-dilated come hither orbs and I do mean her eyes.  You may even detect the odd asp slithering somewhere in the linen, giving the whole affair a frisson of risk to spice up that overwhelmingly desirous fru-fru.  At which point I should again declare a personal interest.  I was once the paramour of Settlement boss Annika Berlingieri, the sister of the camo-crazy bow-and-arrow hunting dude who makes this stuff, a half late-Etruscan named after Jason, the early Greek.  Think of them pranged on a corner in the sunrise.  Village life, see? I’m back to paying full price these days – still great friends -- but it’s a fabulous bargain nevertheless.  Oh, yes: of course it’s sweet, being a liqueur, but it’s never cloyingly sugary, and it has wicked drying tannins.  Try it with panforte and castrato coffee.  (That’s a black so ristretto that all you get is the squeak.)

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