“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 February 2016

VINTAGEOLOGY BY GEORGE


MERLOT VIO RONDIVINO BELLS ALL RUNG


It's over 35 years since Peter Wall convinced his employers at Yalumba that Viognier, rather than Chardonnay, should be their next fashionable white variety. Bacchus only knows what would happen if they were to have opportunity to make that decision afresh, now: While Yalumba persists with nine or ten bottled versions of it, most of Australia's Viognier, in recent years, has been hidden in Shiraz. To mention this on the lable usually means certain death on the retail shelves: most Viognier drinkers don't even know they had any.

So I can forgive Anna and Derek Hooper, pioneers of winemaking at Cape Jaffa, for avoiding use of the V word on their new Cape Jaffa CJ Riptide Limestone Coast Red Blend 2014 ($29; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap). This red was made by fermenting very ripe Viognier juice on Shiraz skins.

While it has some of the stone fruit - peach and apricot - usually expected of Viognier, I doubt that many would identify it here, even if served in a black glass. The wine smells unquestionably, overtly red. It's very heady, opulent and fleshy, and makes me think of very ripe Black Russian tomatoes and ripe beetroot juice, as you find in borscht. Fruits? Think mulberry and quince, poached together in  pomegranate juice and Sauternes.

The wine is uncommonly fleshy of texture, with very little tannin, indicating the Viognier must have been very ripe indeed: I think the grape's best attribute is the overt tannin it shows when picked at a more modest sugar level, like enough to give 13% alcohol, not 14.5%, and I suspect this wine is a few notches stronger than even that claimed number.

So. Whatter we got? We got a kind of dry red Sauternes, lush and heady and plush, ready for lush, heady, plush party guzzlers and runny cheese fanatics who don't like the dryness of tannin. That borscht hasn't got a swirl of yoghurt: that's a dollop of real rich cream there baby. While I've never seen another drink quite like it, I'm sure there are those among us who will really love this for its pulchritude. And I mean pulchritude in the Hugh Hefner sense. I reckon I could sense a staple in the poor dear's navel. 

Heading inland and south-east from Cape Jaffa, past Big Heath, Bool Lagoon and the Comaum Forest you'll get to Wrattonbully, almost at the Victorian border. Here you'll find fleshy pulchritude without so much California banality and no staple. It's called Ruckus Estate Single Vineyard Wrattonbully Merité Merlot 2013 ($50; 13.5% alcohol; cork), and it's unlike any other Australian Merlot I know.

Colleen Miller and her partner Mike wisely chose a slope where the dirt's a Merlot-friendly mix of ferruginous loam with clay and limestone and set about planting four clones. With winemaker Sue Bell, they chose two clones for this assemblage, which got the business: new and old oak, wild yeast, open ferment, some whole bunches ...

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: It worked. This wine is staggering in its smooth intensity, royal opulence and harmonious complexity. It immediately joins Blue Poles and the odd Oakridge and rare Highbank at the leading edge of this misunderstood variety Down Under, and I'm certain it would knock deep silence into some very famous château owners in Pomerol and Saint-Émilion. Only rarely can the Old World make a wine like this.

It has a whiff of mint leaf floating in a well of mulberry, mushy blackberry and bitter morello cherries in kirsch. It has that pretty topnote of musky marshmallow sugar and crystallised violets; even a slice of candied lemon. And all this is instilled in a polished silky blackness: a robe for the Bal a Versailles.

There's no hint of ruckus about it. On the other hand, it's hardly mellow. The flesh inside it is dark, slightly sweaty and oozes a sexy tabac miasma. Holy hell. You're in trouble, Son. 

Muscles.

SECOND IMPRESSIONSAfter a day of air, the new barrel smacks the old one into submission and that macho sawpit smites the first impressions, where the oak was more ethereal than this lumberjack who rears up, honing her axe.
 
Nevertheless, it's difficult to avoid just schlücking this wine in mighty impolite gulps. Which is my ultimate measure of great drinks. Like, when I can get it, I gulp Krug from tumblers. 

The time for spitting is past. 

To think that they got all this together at just thirteen-and-a-half alcohols is as alarming as everything else about the wine. I'm loving watching it prove you can achieve all this without the normal ocker gooey, gloopy, jammy, flavour-stifling alcohol.


You can get this glory at $100 the two-pack from the Ruckus website. I'd move real quick: there was only 920 bottles to start with.

If you're driving, it's another eighteen hours east to the Freeman vineyards in the Hilltops region, near Young, Wombat and Nubba.

Worth it though, if only for the Freeman Secco Rondinella Corvina 2011 ($35; 14% alcohol; screw cap). Grown and made by 'retired' viticulture professor Brian Freeman, this involves two rare Veneto varieties made by the secco, or amarone technique, where some of the harvested berries are dried before fermenting in the juice of the others. In this case, Brian borrows a neighbour's prune dehydrator at Prunevale.

This is dusty, beautifully austere, savoury red wine. It makes me hungry for lemony spaghetti vongole with plenty of Italian parsley and just a sprinkle of parmesan. Or, to be truer to Veneto, calf's liver, spider crab, pigeons, horsemeat, rice and peas, rice in squid ink ... why? Because that's exactly what this beauty is for. Its tantalising mix of mellow fruitfulness and bone dry, appetising tannins simply opens the floodgates of my dribble sector. I come over all unseemly.

Especially at this price. If it was from Veneto, vino of this quality would cost you a whole meal for four, not one main and a bread roll.

25 February 2016

PRESIDENT'S DAY: BELATED NODS FROM OZ

Matters of state being what they are, the DRINKSTER's people have only just managed to advise that President's Day, the third Monday of February, was ten days back. So while our people in Oz struggle through the files trying to work out who the president actually is, we felt obliged to congratulate the two most likely candidates. Keep your buns on the cycle. Kinky and Van Dyke with Thomas Paine's dog, Scents.
 
 

24 February 2016

A NOSE FOR THE FUTURE BY GEORGE


STEPHEN TRACEY THREE YEARS DEAD

29th of February will always be a day of reflection, not much of it morbid, on the life of my dear friend of many years, Stephen Tracey, who died on this date in 2004. 

There've  been only only three twenty-ninths since then, which may help explain why it seems more like three years back than twelve that the dear man finally returned to wherever he was before his conception.

The above photograph was taken by Leo Davis in 2000, when Stephen had just discovered his cancer was back. I think it was the third bout he'd had over many years.

We spread most of Stephen's ashes in a row of Shiraz beside Greg Trott's house at Wirra Wirra. Trotty was a beloved mate of Stephen's. He intended to make a special barrel of wine from Stephen's row but he too was dying of cancer and didn't live to get it done.

I met Stephen when he worked for Remy Martin in Melbourne about 1982. He became the SA state manager of Remy Blass until he was chewed out by the savages at Bilyara. 

Robert O'Callaghan gave him work on the road for Rockford, but Stephen was too ill and depressed then to function.

He would never talk about it at that stage, but he gradually improved.

Stephen then spent many happy years working as a top sales dude for Gerald and Wolf Viergever at AQ Printworks, the wine lable experts in Nuriootpa. The sort of person who took every service upset personally, he knew acutely how to look after his customers, none of whom will forget him. 

In return, AQ looked after him through two more bouts of cancer 'til his death.

Not a day goes by without a moment when I itch to call him to arrange drinks or swap winebiz scandal.

Some of his ashes were spread around the world, on all his favourite cricket grounds, from Edgbaston to Adelaide. Realising now what happened to some of that sacred turf as the planet turned plastic, I love the thought that most of the Big Lad Stemmo is in a row of old Shiraz,  just down the road from here.

all these photographs by Leo Davis

HITTING THE TILES AT DAPHNE

DRINKSTER loves this 2nd century AD mosaic - of a lass ready for springtime 
revelry - from the floor of a Roman villa at Daphne, a billionaire's resort near 
Antioch. It's in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, thanks to the 
Americans who dug it up and stole it in 1937. PS: See what happens when you put 
a square obect smack in the middle of such a rectangle? It looks like it's closer
to the bottom, inviting one to swoon and spill, especially in a heady spring.

23 February 2016

VATICAN: MORE BAD NEWS BY GEORGE


ASHTON HILLS MARRIES WIRRA WIRRA


Stephen George, left, with Wirra Wirra managing director Andrew Kay and chief winemaker Paul Smith, testing the new tasting bench at Ashton Hills winery in the heart of the Adelaide Hills ... the bench is of perfect functioning height, depth and appearance

Ashton Hills goes to Wirra Wirra
but founder Stephen George stays on to tend his beloved vines
by PHILIP WHITE

Stephen George made no secret of his intention to get out of the wine business. The day-to-day ritual of running a room where you give expensive wine away in order to encourage people to buy it retail had long decayed through droll necessity to annoying obligation; the constant repetition of selling wholesale on the road had become an insufferable grind; collecting money from the late payers was more droll an occupation, even further from Stephen's gentle character. 


Which is not to say he wanted out of grape growing: rather, he sought to take some of the business out of that, too. If he could, he preferred to stay on as the considered, patient and respected vine gardener that time has proven him to be.

The Ashton Hills vineyard and winery had been his life for nearly thirty-five years. More than most vignerons, he belonged in his bonnie three-hectare patch of Riesling and Pinot noir.

So it wasn't exactly a takeover he sought. He preferred that rare position where someone would welcome him to stay on as viticulturer but take those niggling daily business duties away.

This writer, for one, was delighted to hear that Wirra Wirra was interested. Under the managing directorship of Andrew Kay, Greg Trott's old wine company had taken a new vitality since Greg's death in 2005. Andrew had collected a vibrant and talented staff and moved that McLaren Vale business into a fresh realm of growth and popularity without losing any of the direction, vision, or family/community atmosphere that Greg had nurtured there for decades.

Family and community: Cath Trott slings a watermelon into the void, using the Trott Family trebuchet at the Beginning-of-Vintage Bell-ringing, 5th February 2016 

To bolster its popular McLaren Vale reds, Wirra Wirra had also developed a few fine wines from the Adelaide Hills.

Given the sudden death of Stephen's lifelong partner, Peta Van Rood, in 2009, the temptation to use a word like 'marriage' is at first distasteful, but it fits. While Wirra Wirra had a new management and direction, Stephen had found a new partner in love, and sought to devote more time to that happy relationship. In parallel, the Wirra-Ashton nuptials give him precisely the partner he wanted in wine.

The deal was negotiated carefully, gradually last year; this vintage, Stephen is assisting the new winemaking team, under Paul Smith, learn how best to approach the exquisite fruit he grows while he helps Wirra Wirra viticulturer Anton Groffen get his head around his vineyard on the slope there beneath the summits of Mount Lofty and Mount Bonython.

Stephen was winemaker at his parents' Skillogalee Winery in Clare when I first met him. Encouraged by his father-in-law, Peter Van Rood, he'd moved his attention into the cooler uplands of the Adelaide Hills, where together they established the vineyard in 1982, a decade after Greg Trott had released the first Wirra Wirra Church Block.

So Ashton didn't happen suddenly. Stephen's love of the wines of Burgundy and Champagne had him transfixed with Pinot noir, a variety very few Australians then understood. After growing and trialling 25 different clones of this tricky grape, all the way from cuttings through winery to maturation in bottle, he has finally settled at five, and the sparkling and still wines he has perfected from this will-o-the-wisp are an instant adornment to the Wirra Wirra household.

Or any other, for that matter.

His red has long been at the forefront of Australian Pinots, and is regularly the best of this variety South Australia produces; his sparkling wines are similarly outstanding.

So it was a delight to visit Ashton Hills with Paul Smith and Andrew Kay last week, to feel for the first time how smooth this amalgamation of driven minds has been. I have never seen Stephen look more satisfied, and it's obvious that the new owners can't believe their luck. 



Vineyard and winery aside, the Wirra Wirra crew has commenced their side of the relationship with a refit of the tiny tasting room, which was also Stephen's bottling 'hall'. There's a fine new recycled galvo bar that's the right height for my elbow, and it was reassuring to hear Andrew suggest that they'd done a bit too much uncluttering and perhaps it's now time to put some of that back.

The Ashton Hills sparklers are an accomplished, confident trio. In the record wet of 2011, Stephen could feel the moulds coming over the Hills, and was worried that at those altitudes he'd have trouble getting full ripeness in his still Pinot, so he picked early and used it all in his fizz.

The Blancs de Noir 2011 is fleshy, almost squishy in its gentility and form. It has the best strawberry pith flavours and just enough sweetness to provide reassurance and comfort without actually tasting sweet. It's the ideal aperitif.

One sweetness step beyond that is the Salmon Brut. Since its conception this wine has generally lost its overt smoked salmon flesh pink: with the many vintages its colour has gradually paled to be more along the lines of the salmon's bright scales. Stephen is very proud of this finesse. I can think of nothing better suited to drinking with smoked salmon, rye, chèvre and capers.

But being a crusty old bugger, I think the crunchy-dry Brut Sauvage 2011 is the triumph of the trio. Sweetness gives cushioning comfort; without any, the raw bones of the wine are starkly exposed, and if they have the racy design of this wondrous thing, such honesty can make the thirsty aficionado very happy indeed.

Over the decades, the Ashton Hills Rieslings have moved from the style that the high dry of Skillogalee determined towards the more accomplished, fleshier types of Germany. The 2014 - nearly sold out - is perhaps the best yet from those five meagre rows. It has creamy white peach adding softness to its stony carbide and cordite chassis, so it's just tickety-boo, especially for those who find the austere Clare style a little confronting.

The 2015 Riesling, the first finished at Wirra Wirra, is more lemony and steely in this its infancy. I suspect it'll head along the same track as the '14 with another year or two of slumber.

Then there are the Pinots noir. My goodness. The standard 2014 has all the Burgundy traits: grilled cashew hints amongst ripe strawberry pith and blackberry, with handsome tea-tin tannins sitting there in its basement with lemony acid, guaranteeing a good long blooming in the cellar.

Ashton Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2014 is another thing again: it has all that but in a more polished and concentrated form. It's as good as Pinot has ever got in these southern parts. Yum.

When I asked Stephen how close his claimed alcohol levels - 13.5 per cent - were to the reality, the Wirra Wirra blokes looked a tad sheepish when he said "I've never checked an alcohol level in my life."

He said this with the confidence of a wise winemaker who trusts implicitly the pristine nature of his wines; not for a moment questioning their elegant stature.

I imagine the new owners will be having a closer look at these vital statistics as they unravel the mystery all those decades of gastronomic intelligence have instilled into the dead honest but lofty wonders of Ashton Hills.

There's no imagining needed, however, to measure the pleasure Stephen shows as he continues to tend that precious patch of Australian wine pioneering.

... all photos ©Philip White

VATICAN RING PULLED BY GEORGE


OAKRIDGE REDS: WILDER RIDES DEPT.

Oakridge Wines Rose of Baton Rouge Yarra Valley 2015  
($21; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap)

Rosé. Ew. Gooseberries and loquats in a blood orange marmalade. Rich, fresh turkish delight. Soft, fresh maraschino nougat. Like all the best of David Bicknell's Oakridge wines, it pulls those fleshy delights into a cage of rapier acidity with a range of tannins stretching clear across the ridge from bone china to walnuts.

This is one of those rosés that needs no hard chilling. It's made from the first run juice they spilled off the Pinot noir and Pinot meunier wines reviewed below, before it absorbed much skin colour or tannin, so those would be thicker, darker and more complex, with more body. 

That worked. 

But maybe this one's got the best of it.

To most enjoy its carnal comfort, fifteen or twenty minutes in the ice bucket is ample. Had so, with all the foods the first paragraph mentions, and some smoked salmon, chèvre, feta, pecorino, capers, and saltimbocca, dammit, is to fall dangerously to my level.

Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Tom Jobim. Cool music. Walking music with a half-step. Astrid singing flat half a beat behind the Ipanema girl. Joe Pass. 

Oakridge Meunier 2015 
($26; 13.7$ alcohol; screw cap)

Meunier. I know what happens here. This is worse. Damn thing smells like the whole building just melted. Like a person stepped out of a blast furnace or a malting kiln with smoke coming off 'em. Like the scorched clutch of the vintage Mercedes-Benz W196 Mercedes racer Juan Fangio drove round at the first Adelaide Formula One street track. She was built to use the highest grade vegetable oil when all the petroleum had gone to the war, so once he'd got her warmed up the whole business smelled like a hot restaurant screaming past. Anyway, that's the smell. Hot metal; fried tyres; grilled beetroot and Fangio's hairoil. Haloumi. Melting buildings. Lots of crashing noises.

See. I can't stop. It does eventually begin to get something along the lines of the smell of fruit going down, but you'd hardly call that an exuberant or rapid development. And I can't quite peg the fruit but it's something very dark and runny from the tropical jungle. Phantom angry jungle tremble juice.

Then you realise that the very naughty things going on in your mouth is actually this wine and to the technical connoisseur I'd suggest mother's milk fatty acids are in it from some malo-lactic ferment but to everybody else I'll just say SENSUALITY. Then I'd go one step further, quietly whisper SENSUOUS in my own ear and try to be first to grasp it all, even before the Bandar put it on the tom-toms while pigmeat replaces the missionaries in the whale oil pots and the clearing fills up with writhing boogie.

Siouxsie and the Banshees. Grace Jones. Esther Phillips. 

Oakridge Lusatia Park Vineyard Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2014 
($36; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap)

Moving across to Lusatia Park is like leaving all that jungle and aluminium and settling in a much slower, lower, more totally chilled hammock by the peaty fire in the Big Chief's study. She's serving quince paste and fig slice and prune chutney with her fingers in the dark and when you drink the liquor it's like it's got kalamata pickling juice in it and lots of brilliant whip-aerial acidity. Like suddenly you're old enough to be in a secret room with the one you adored through all your exploding years and she's got cheetah tails wound round her ankles and her voice is a low honeyed contralto like Nadia Reid's. Maybe it IS Nadia Reid. In the dark, she seems older than Nadia Reid. Now she pops you a pickled walnut.

But you know: you gotta take it slow. Learn all the chords. Calve's liver with morels and Nadia's first album, Listen To Formation, Look For The Signs. She might have only two dozen short years on her belt, but this woman speaks fluent Big Chief. 

Oakridge Willowlake Vineyard Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2014 
($36; 13.4% alcohol; screw cap)

The Willowlake Pinot is a move back to the macho and abrupt: a square crash gearbox built by muscles with big hammers twenty years before the screwdriver men made the silver Merc lozenge Juan fanged around town. It's a secure vessel: the smoky oak of the Lusatia and at least a hint of the hot forging intention of the Meunier secure the fruits of all these dreams in a time capsule that you should forget until your dad's a boy and your dog can talk. 

No music yet. 

Very small crop.

20 February 2016

NEW NEIGHBOURS AT IRONHEART


GEOLOGICAL MUSIC BY PHILIP WHITE

The Way The Rocks Hold The Current IV: geology music by one of the other Philip Whites ... try putting this shit on a terroir map you bastards ... I expect an overlay of profitability

ATTONBITUS: BEST OF ADELAIDE FESTIVAL




Little Whitey had a big night out at The Exeter this morning. Astonished to find Michael Brigante playing in the lane ... he calls his stuff Attonbitus ... his new CD's been ripping my cottage air apart since I found home in the sunrise ... check this stuff!




sometimes Michael takes me to Mercury Rev; othertimes he's pure Philip White - not me, but my New York brother whose Colonic Youth blisters me .... photographs©Philip White



18 February 2016

BLOCKCHAINS AND THE WINE BUSINESS

Wines of great and proven provenance are enjoying phenomenal export sales ... many vendors of wines without such reassurance play many games to add value to lesser products ... they envy the provenance of wine like these ancient St Henri Claret bottles in controlled storage in the Penfolds cellars at Magill ... photo©Philip White

Cryptographic digital bullshit- annihilator could revolutionise
the entire wine business model 
by PHILIP WHITE 

I have seen the future of the fine wine industry, and its name is blockchain.

This is tricky to explain, so forgive me while I try.

As the value of expensive exported wine continues to increase, many opportunities arise for those who would tinker with that main key of added value: the wine's provenance. The history of the wine; its source; who made it; where and why and how. The quality and source of its oak. The conditions of its cellaring.

While these things are highly valued and jealously protected in the heady regions of extravagant luxury wine, the murk of time unremembered is easily manipulated by the sophists: bullshitters and shills peddling wines which are a touch short of your actual legit provenance. Age of vines, age of dirt, geology, altitude ... and we've not even reached the winery.

The language used squeezing this sort of stuff onto a back label, a website or a brochure is often of comic book level. Vainglorious claims of this and that, feigning science and history, all skwoze in between the bit about the old draft horse next door and grandpa's skill at honing scythes and it goes best with most food or truffles.


Once the wine hits the market, the backbiters and syndicators really get loose. John Lee Hooker sang about these hanging round the juke joint doors in his Backbiters and Syndicators. I'll bet some smarty has dared to put that on a back label somewhere.

There are many audacious middlepersons in wine.

For a long time, the stock exchange has housed many of them: people who invest and sell who influence the monetary value of wine companies, for starters. But now the Australian Securities Exchange is trialling a brilliant new technology which can be spread to other backwaters of provenance.

Like, possibly, all of it. Science - climate, weather, soil, geology, winemaking and other, more folkish history. Not to mention every step of its financial status, locked in on a self-updating ledger common to all participants in the chain from the dirt to the drinker. It's called blockchain, and it removes middlemen. No more wholesaler.

"It's going to be a very pervasive element of a future model of commerce," IBM's Henning Diedrich told Richard Aedy, in his brilliant new ABC Radio National show, The Money.

"It's going to be like the highways, like the internet ... Blockchain is probably going to become a household name just like everybody knows what the internet is today."

Diedrich heads IBM ADEPT, an elite unit which is developing the technology.  Clever people in many businesses are onto it.

You must listen to Richard unwinding these wild ideas here:  
The most well-known blockchain example is Bitcoin, the emergent crypto-currency.

Blockchains use cryptography to keep buying, selling or renting transactions secure ...  the exchanging of things of value. The technology can be used for more applications than anybody's really got their heads around.

"It's a distributed ledger," Dilan Rajasingham, Executive manager, technology innovation, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, told The Money. "We're looking at things that will commonplace five to ten years out ... [Blockchain's] something which allows multiple parties, which need to communicate together to exchange something of value ... to do that in their real time, and it allows them to do that in an almost completely automated manner."

In Australian wine, a great deal of this information is extant. Many bodies collect wine industry intelligence for their own purposes. The government, the phylloxera people, the Bureau of Stats, the Winemakers' Federation, Wine Australia, the regional bodies, countless wine hacks ... the vendors of sprays and all vineyard and winery suppliers ...


Woolworths is a master at gathering the finest details of their wine suppliers' information on their suppliers, costs, taxes and manufacture. Woolworths has huge influence, being involved itself in grape-growing, winemaking, wholesale, export, retail and even the tertiary auction market.

Whatever Woolies or the other half of that duopoly, Coles, thinks or does, blockchain could replace it all by automatically compiling all that information the instant any change or transaction occurs, then opening that encrypted ledger to everyone in the chain. 

Everyone has the same information. 

It's always up-to-date. 

The punters will expect it.

"The underlying technology of the blockchain is that it is immutable," Rajasingham told The Money. "It can't be changed. It's programmed that way. That gives us the wonderful opportunity to use it for things like alleviating poverty. You can give an asset to somebody and there's no intermediary that can rip that person off."

"It's the ability of people and entities and things that don't know each other - especially over the internet - to be able to come together," said Leanne Kemp, founder and CEO of Everledger. 

"... It allows me and my computer and whatever service I'm using to agree with someone else's computer on what service they're providing. So for the first time in the world, you and I, and a company, a different company that don't know each other can agree on the state of things, whether it's how much money someone has, whether an action was taken, and basically agree on the truth of something."

"With blockchains you can have new forms of decision-making in governance," said Constance Choi, CEO Seven Advisory and Founder of Coala global, " ... you can have oversight and transparency in the way corporations are run ... you can automate many of these actions... it provides an ability to really change the way we do business in a more fair and transparent and equitable way and also maybe create new economies that track more of what people really care about and value."

This stuff is in its infancy. But think about it. "Drugs are the most counterfeited products," Aedy pointed out. "It's estimated that people pay $200 billion a year for drugs that are not what they say they are ... but you can use the blockchain to track pharmaceuticals through the supply chain, which means you're certain that they're the real thing."

Increasingly, incredible detail about grape-growing is being collated by regional organisations and others, like those that administrate organic and biodynamic certification. Beyond that, computer-driven water sensors record moisture levels in the soil of specific vineyards; weather stations record and transmit the minute detail of day-to-day conditions; we know the soils and are learning the geology; Beaume and mould records are kept; leaf analysis ... this detail is ripe to be included in a blockchain that provides the eventual buyer of the wine with that information.

Add the day-to-day records of ferment temperature and whatever in the winery; real alcohol levels; the conditions of storage; the list of places of storage; successive owners; the tax paid ... it's not a great stretch of imagination to see this applied to wines, especially those of extreme value and provenance, because the international customer will expect it, whether they care to comprehend it all or not.

The trickle-down effects of this are wondrous to consider. Many modern producers all over the world will find it increasingly difficult to snowball their customers, however meagre the price or lowly the discount bin.

Location, location, location ... Provenance takes many forms, even if it's trippy reflections in a restaurant window ... looking from the table at Penfolds Magill Estate, over the Shiraz vineyard (just picked this week), the original Penfolds Grange cottage, Adelaide, and the Gulf St Vincent ... you can sit here with great confidence in the vaults of mighty wine lodged in the hillside behind you ... they bring them to your table ...  photo©Philip White


Without the precise information consumers see being afforded to upmarket products, those modest discount wines could only diminish in relative value unless they catch the blockchain train: If they don't, the customers' appreciation gap between fine, profitable wine and bulk mindless alley juice will widen.

It's not so much that folks would expect an instant hike in quality. 

Regardless of how much they're spending, they'd probably just prefer to know they're not being bullshitted to such an extent.


17 February 2016

VINTAGE 16: VINE OF THE YEAR?

They picked these baby Shiraz bush vines outside my window this cool grey morning. You can easily estimate the depth of the topsoil by the size of the vines - they're six years old. Beneath them it's not so much particulate ironstone or gibbers - galets, they call them in France - but solid terrazzo slabs of the stuff, big as houses, virtually impenetrable, like this:

In spite of their cramped tootsies, all the smallest stragglers in that tough regiment managed at least one bunch each this vintage. Here's my favourite: my vine of the year (so far), in grass from freak January rain ... that tiny bunch is in the fermenter now:

these will be the old vines of the future                                                          all photos©Philip White