“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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13 August 2014

TINCTURES FOR A FREEZING WINTER


Brrrr ... Dawn frost, Brancott Valley, South Island, New Zealand ... photo Kevin Judd , Greywacke Wines. Kevin is a master of both photography and very fine wine.

A winter of hybrid sniffles:
when even a red won't do,
try Dr White's homemade brew
by PHILIP WHITE

This be the winter of hybrid sniffles! For months the farmyard's been marked by men with wheezes and lurgies of many insidious breeds. Short of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, I can think of little worse than pruning through such a bitter break.

It's been bad enough in here at the desk. The thought of being a proper farmer getting out there and doing what vineyard workers do every winter has made me wince like a wuss.

Greenock Creek Seven Acre Vineyard ... pruned in the freezing cold by the proprietor, Michael Waugh ... photo Philip White

One indirect effect the ill season's had is the depressing confusion it brings to winemakers preparing to release their 2012 reds. The honest wines are tight and ungiving - it's a vintage thing - and having been freshly bottled, seem more confusing than usual, so there's been a fair bit of peer group reassurance being sought about release dates.

It's winemaking by group therapy. Like "You still on the cough lollies, mate? No? Ah cool can you take a quick look at these reds for me ... I can't work out where the buggers are going." The makers who are nervously keeping their wines so close to their chests that not even their mates can offer reassurance will learn the least in the end. 'Twelve will bring us some true beauties, but the best look like taking their time.

My attempts at red appreciation have been faltering at best. Looking back, I may just as well have surrendered to that cursed Dry July fixture, but only as far as red wines go. I've still managed to enjoy austere whites, like the more acid-crunchy high country Rieslings.

And I've been forced to get the blending brain working again to make a cleansing and comforting drink to get me through these nights.

This year's stalwart is based on raw Buderim ginger. Get the really fleshy fresh stuff if you can - the drier old stuff will blow your juicer and the kind of blue smoke juicer donks are capable of exuding will do nothing for your blocked scone. For my 1.5l jug, I start off juicing enough ginger root to fill a cup with juice. The novice may prefer much less, but the ginger's important. I put a few chillies through at the same time. Similarly, don't go nuts using chillies you're not accustomed to. The very shy may settle for a glob or two of Tabasco.

I've tried that Buderim Ginger Refresher Cordial, with its cheery back label advising this product is "the natural enemy of bland ... our famous zingy cordial takes you away from drudgery to a place where flavour is its own reward." I'll bet this was written by a person with a haircut. Forget zingy, replace reward with obscene sugar, push the bottle to the back of the fridge for a year or two and juice some fresh ginger.

Then I squeeze three or four lemons.

Lake Alexandrina, Murray River estuary ... just a-walking in the rain ... photo Philip White

While this is underway, I'll have a large teapot brewing. If you can't get real herbs, I'll admit to accepting the Madame Flavour line of packaged tisanes. One little baggy of mint and lavendar; one of lemongrass, lime and ginger, and one of licorice. All in together. And one of Nerada Organics Camomile; maybe two. You'll find the lavendar, licorice and camomile settling and snoozing you off, while all the other stuff works as a nose and throat clearing agent.

It's a bit back-and-forth, but if you've used sufficient camomile, sleep will fall.

If you must have a little sweetener, use a dob or two of Leatherwood Honey. R. Stephens' Golden Nectar Organic Leatherwood from Mole Creek Tasmania has been a stalwart all my life, but it's hard to find. There are honeys available which purport to be leatherwood: beware. I'm sure there are fakes. I bought one in a huge sugar and fat shop recently that tasted like it was made from ground-up joggers. On the other hand, a truly lovely pot I bought from Buzz Honey, at Ding Dong Road, Dawesley, made clear its source: Tarkine Rainforest, Tasmania. Where your actual leatherwood grows. The rainforest that former Federal Environment Minister Mark Butler decided was tough enough to endure a mine or two. Presuming, I suppose, that the miners would vote Labor. That's always silly with miners.

Anyway, you gloop your Leatherwood honey into the bottom of the jug, and dissolve it by pouring  the steaming herbal brew over it. Then add your ginger, lemon and chilli.

At this point, I confess too to the yearning for, and surrender to, a shloosh of scotch and/or vodka. Two or three nips, and stirrr. You may also garnish with a few slices of lemon and ginger if you have somebody there you need to impress.

Not to tease you, but if you can get it, I also recommend you place three or four sticks of Ku Ding in your herbal brew. Ku Ding has remarkable properties and is a vital cornerstone of many Chinese barefoot doctor remedies. I prefer the mildly caffeinated Ilex kaushue type, from the holly tree; there are others. The leaves are picked and rolled into a stick then dried. Thus the Ku Ding Cha name: bitter nail tea. In the brew each 'nail' unrolls to become a fresh-looking intact leaf. The infusion is very bitter, but I swear by it - in the summer I drink it cold. Give it a Wikki.

And if you put Ku Ding in your infusion, you might desire another teaspoon of leatherwood honey.

Peter's Creek, Yangarra ... it took awhile to get started this year, but she flowed pretty much on schedule once she did ... that's rain, not snow, but it's sure been cold enough for snow ... photo Philip White

So there. Once I've tipped my hot brew in on the honey, and then the juices, I'll refill the teapot and let it sit, so if I find my jug emptying half way through the night, I can top it up.

One more thing. It may make your skin sting a little, but rather than resort to the types of nose and sinus-clearing squirters and tablets the officious ladies at the pharmacy recommend, buy a little bottle of Ti-tree oil, melaleuca. Using your fingertip, carefully wipe just a few small drops around your ear holes, and you'll be astonished at how quickly the antibacterial fumes infest your nasal passages, driving the awful stuff away.

On another level, you might always try a Bullshot if you're in a hurry and you happen to have some properly clarified beef consommé in the fridge. Have it in shot glasses, half-and-half with freezing vodka and Tabasco.

See you for a few reds when the days get longer, eh?

ps

Another thing I like to do with ginger root: if you have a little Italian espresso pot for the stove, grate sufficient fresh ginger to fill the coffee receptacle without packing it down. Put one star anise on the top, and brew it just like you do with coffee. You can easily run two pots of water through the same lot of ginger: the second batch is usually smoother. I let this liquor cool in a wee jug, and have it with a good clean vodka, like Absolut. About half-and-half does the trick. A touch of lemon will give it more tang; a shot of Tabasco more hellfire. Very good for the dark gizzard. Chiz!

pps

As the whisky boom continues, and the giant corporates pillage Scotland's barrel stacks to blend all sorts of cheap scotch - and some far too expensive for its quality - I find many of these new opportunistic brands tainted by too much caramel, or too much raw new or bretty old oak. I find most of these borderline whiskies more palatable when blended with Absolut. 

McLaren Vale in a gloomy winter ... in the teeth of the front ... you need lots of feisty tincture on a night like this ... photo Philip White
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2 comments:

ross said...

Where were you a month ago when I really needed you Dr White?

ross said...

Where were you a month ago when I really needed you Dr White?