“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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26 August 2013

COME TO THE GARAGE FOR A CACKLE

This is an open invitation to all readers of DRINKSTER to attend the launch of the first edition The Daily Toper.




This collection of drawings by George Grainger Aldridge, with words by yours truly and a foreword by the winner of both the Booker and Whitbread Prizes, DBC Pierre, is described by the illustrator as "not a serious attempt to be funny, but a funny attempt to be serious."

The work is an evil hybrid of The Economist and Mad magazine drawn by a luny antipodean Bruegel.  As DBC (below, photo by the author), wisely observes, "if any book was an excuse to take a drink, this is it."



Get your burnt arses along to the Garage Bar at 63 Waymouth Street, Adelaide, at 2PM Saturday 31st August to hear winemaker Rob Gibson officially set our nuts work loose when he launches this mighty historical tope.  Er, tome.



All the original artworks will be available framed for perusal and sale.  Autographs are also a possibility early in the piece. Many of the cartoons George has provided to DRINKSTER are included.  Here is a self portrait by the artist a coupla Christmases back.  Come and raise a glass to laughter and madness.  We need a lot more of both.




18 August 2013

MORE WINES THAT END IN O


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Oliver's Taranga Vineyards McLaren Vale Fiano 2013
$24; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 88 points
I always thought it strange that when the Champenoise went nuts and had us pass laws to outlaw our use of their name they let the Italians get away with Campania, which means champagne.  Or broad open countryside, which we happen to have a lot more of than either France or Italy.  Anyway, the Italian champagne, er, Campania, also known as the buckle on Italy's boot, has given us Fiano, a tough workaday white grape that suits Australia particularly well because it ends in O.  We suddenly love varieties that end in O.  It's a surly, thick-skinned, small-berried, low-yielding grump of a grape that enjoys a mystical symbiosis with hazelnut trees; the two are often co-planted, as in Viognier's long-time symbiosis with apricot trees.  This wine, from Don Oliver's delightful stretch of campania on Seaview Road, McLaren Vale, does not smell particularly of hazelnut.  It smells a little greasy, like an avocado which has just been hit with the lemon juice. Its texture is fluffy as much as avocado-buttery, and its acid fairly gentle.  I don't recall ever eating avocado with woodfired prawns and scallops, but this wine makes me think a lot about how I could conjure something like that for lunch.

Oliver's Taranga Vineyards McLaren Vale Vermentino 2013
$24; 12% alcohol; screw cap; 85 points
Vermentino grows slow and late in Sardinia, Liguria, Corsica, Piedmont and Provence.  It has various names, and seems to love living by the sea.  This one, from Seaview Road, beside the Gulf St Vincent, patron of vine-dressers, smells thick, like Macadamia oil, lemon and avocado.  It's soft and fluffy in the mouth, and big and blousy of demeanour, with very little acid.  So regard it like a big, hearty Grenache/Shiraz blend from a hot year, but a white one.  I reckon many would think it was a red if it were served in a black glass.  This is more about texture than your actual flavour: I think the flavours are white, while this chubby texture is more commonly found in reds. It would probably harmonise with the fatty nature of crayfish, but might be better served where it plays counterpoint to something like the hard verbena lemon and ginger chilli of Thai tucker.  I can't see it becoming the blue-eyed Jesus of McLaren Vale whites, not like Savvy-B is to Marlborough, but it's an interesting sideline in this form.  I can't help wondering how it would look if it were picked earlier.  You could be forgiven for thinking this one's more fourteen than twelve.

Dowie Doole McLaren Vale Vermentino 2013
$25; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points
While this wine's half an alcohol higher than the Taranga, it's a leaner, meaner version of the same grape - so different in form you'd never think it was the same fruit.  This one smells of acrid hemp and peppery burlap, with only the slightest hint of the chubby puppy fat of the Taranga.  It still has that unusual reek of fresh unsalted Macadamia, but it's tied up tight with all that hessian ... the palate too is more focused and precise, more of the blonde shrink with the steel trap brain than the cuddly caring Taranga. Which is not to say it's as razor sharp as Eden Riesling or Marlborough Savvy-B.  It still has some comforting form.  I'd be tipping it on some delicate veal and lemon dish with capers and chopped spinach on the side. Or char-grilled garfish. Anything Duncan recommends at Amalfi.  Get one of each of these three, two mates, a well-laden table, and let me know how you go.  I find all this really fascinatingo.        


       



A BRIEF HISTORY OF DRINKING

 
Christ dining in Young & Jackson's ... John Percival 1948
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So how did all this get  started?
Why do we sit round drinking?
I'm gonna blame it on elephants
by PHILIP WHITE


I’ve been having a recurring dream.  I’m sitting in the pastis bar on edge of the Rhône at Tournon, drinking the Ricard 51.  Which number is an indicator of its alcohols.  My companion is Lord Twining, noticeable for his full silver beard.  We have been at it a long time.  He drinks the candle and sets fire to his face.

Can’t quite place it, but I have a nagging suspicion this happened, if somewhere else.  Might have been in the Botanic in the noughties, when the ancient peer’s girlfriend often sat under the table.  I don’t think it was sado-mas.  She just seemed to feel safer down there when the table was awash.  She was a tiny dancer.  It woulda been safer.

It started under the marula tree.  My photographer mate, Milton Wordley suggested I write about why we sit around tables, drinking wine with each other.  I always thought it would have been a very early mob of us watching the elephants get drunk after eating too much over-ripe marula fruit then drinking water so this king-hell ferment takes off in their giant gizzards and when we were gibbons or whatever we were we copied them and invented wine.

Because it looked like fun.

It has to do with the childish human obsession with replicating the gravity-free timelessness we enjoy in our dreams.

I was heartbroken to discover that the purist bastards at National Geographic calculated that it would take nearly two litres of pure ethanol to get a proper pachyderm tipsy, in which case it would take 27 liters of marula juice at seven per cent alcohol to come up with that much goonbag.  They reckon an elephant would therefore have to guts at least 1,400 rotten boozy fruits to get shickered, which they think was below the style of your average tasteful elephant, who would of course prefer the fresher fruit.

I still reckon a good elephant could get a liking for the boozy fruit.

Somebody invented it. Humans couldna invented it.  Humans copy stuff.

A camel can drink 120 litres of water in ten minutes, so I sort of trust the girth of the elephant to offer a much bigger tank, and if that was already fizzing with marula fruit on the turn …

I’m resistant to the suggestion that the recipe was written by a drinker.  Given the lack of laptops and the way experimental drinkers work, I don’t believe an early convert to ethanol would have recorded the recipe.  They were all far too busy developing the market.  The recipe would have been written down by one of the forerunners of the National Geographic: some hornrimmed dude with a jacket full of pockets and pens and a keen sense of observation.  A friggin wine writer!  An early blogger would have got it published on the tom-toms of the day and it would have spread. 

Five minutes later, everybody’s sitting round listening to the boom-boom glossies and they’re into gastroporn and drinking wine.

But now, it just can’t be accepted that an elephant could get properly plonked.  Something obviously went wrong at the National Geographic.  If elephants never got plonked, who the hell did we copy?

The really tricky bit of the history of booze is the emergence of the alembic.  The still.  When it became apparent that the primitive still could concentrate the colour black for al kohl, the concentrate of lead sulphide worn as eyeliner in north Africa, some clever nutter worked out that it could also be used for concentrating the fragrant essences of plants and their flowers to make perfume, which led to the next genius trying it on beer, or wine, to make what my Shetland grandmother daintily called spurruts.

Looks like the Irish pinched distillation from the Moors, while the Vikings found it in the Mediterranean and took it back up the rivers to Russia to invent vodka.  Vodka, the water that does not freeze on that long cold row from Scandinavia to Iceland or further, like to the prime real estate developments of Greenland last time things warmed up.


Or on that dragon boat of lads that set out from Bergen, Norway, to row to Shetland, missed it their vodka haze, and discovered America halfway through their hangover.  Vinland, see.  Rootstocks for 800 years later, when phylloxera ate Europe and the only way you could get vines to grow was to graft them onto American rootstocks.

So you could sit around the table together and drink.

If you had a barrel of water on the longboat, it would freeze, and there’s not much firewood in the North Atlantic Ocean to make a blaze on the floor of your wooden boat  to melt that barrel.  If your vodka started to freeze, on the other hand, that indicated a fellow rower had taken more than a fair share and topped it up with rain.

Sharpen up the axes.


This is not what you’d call your actual history, but I long ago taught myself that history is gossip written by the winner, while gossip is history related by the loser.  Both these theses are applicable here.  The ethanol business, that vast tentacular money-making beast which writes all the history because that’s what it actually did, actually does write the history.

Gossip?  Since the great newspapers carked and spat all their wine writers against the internet, where many of them will not stick, the wine bloggers run the gossip.

This is of course unacceptable and totally out of control.
  
But your actual spread of folks sitting round a table drinking obviously started under a tree in Africa and spread with us through ancient China and Phoenecia and the old Greece and Caucasian Georgia.  Try this good old Viking poem, written by the Icelander bard Snorri Sturlosson in Edda nearly a thousand years ago.

Röst gefr ödlingr iastar
- öl virdi esvá – fyrdum.
Thögn fellir brim bragna
- biórr forn er that – horna.
Máls kann mildingr heilsu
- miödr heitir svá – veita.
Strúgs kemr í val veiga
- vín kallak that – galli.

Which means that while the boss Viking gives floods of fresh yeasty ale to the troops they prefer the older lagered beer in their horns.  To get them back on the conversational track, the King pours mead.  But to really have the whole saga sung, he pours wine, and guarantees dignity’s destruction.

Which is bad news for blokes like John Rau, the attorney-general who tries hard to sort out our vicious drinking laws by weaning us off the spurruts and onto the more genteel vinous bevvies.

Add this hard intelligence to what he’s learnt from the Georgians, the Phœnæcians, the Greeks and the good folks round at Pernod-Ricard, who just happen to own Jacob’s Creek here and also make the wicked 51 there on the Rhône, and we sort of wobble straight back into Milton’s initial query about why we sit down together at tables and drink.

Blame it on the elephants, I say.  If you need any clarity, first extinguish the candle, then ask Lord Twining.

15 August 2013

HAVING WATCHED MY FATHER DIE



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A piece of old Buick

i

There's a bit of canvas rag with a handle blowing around. 
It looks like a handle:
hickory and brass screws with countersunk washers. 
You couldna work out what it had been even if
you had weeks to watch it scat and drag this way and that
in the dust as the sky blows the mountain into red cloud
which flies by in no particular order and quite often comes over
many times, back and forth, back and forth,
just for purposes of irritation and an urgent desire to settle.

You can sit right back and watch
bits of shit like this blow around.

Maybe it's part of the old ragtop Buick.

ii

The mountain seems to want to make its mark.

Which is not to mention the noise. 
These big old homesteads'll shriek like banshees
as they fall to bits and draw their guts cross the ground. 
Iron and stone and dead dry wood. 
Not a pretty noise in a wind like this.

Nails.

iii

The bloke from the wash house has been standing over there
near that dry tank with his hat on.  Gotta give him his due. 
Slept on the wash house floor with his hat on for at least a year
after the tap dried up.  Now he stands over there
in the dust beside the dried out tank, holding his hat
on like that with his other hand in his pocket.

iv

And that Sylvie's been no good
since the Rawleigh's traveller bloke perished in the gully.

Her supply of vanilla ran out. 

Loved her vanilla essence, our Sylvia.



Philip White
14 Aug 13





Me at Dad's grave ... for Sylvia's eulogy click here ... photo by Mick Wordley

photo by Annie S Boutrieng


08 August 2013

MAYNARD FIRST PICKS A 13 FRIDGEFUL























It's ON at Caduceus, Jerome, Az. First vintage message  from Maynard: "Picking the Judiths Tempranillo in the morning. 25.5 Brix, 3.40 Ph, .63TA, 200 YAN. 2013 Vintage has officially begun. All stocked and ready to engage... (Brown bag is stuffed with a plethora of Bresaola. Pork rinds are on the counter.)" ... photo Maynard James Keenan