“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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20 June 2018

BASKET RANGE'S BORDEAUX CLASS


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After four decades, the Brodericks present five unardorned beauties
by PHILIP WHITE



Once when researching the origins and earliest uses of the propagandist term "spin", as in "spindoctor", I found a 46BC recommendation of Caesar's histories in Cicero's Brutus

"They are like nude figures, upright and beautiful, stripped of all ornament of style as if they had removed a garment," Cicero wrote of his adversary Caesar's writings. 

"His aim was to provide source material for others who might wish to write history, and perhaps he has gratified the insensitive, who may wish to use their curling-tongs on his work; but men of good sense he has deterred from writing." 

In this Basket Range Wine quintet of various presentations of three prime Bordelaise red varieties, I have found wine which is good enough to deter others from trying, surely. There is no spin on these wines. No ornament. They are upright and beautiful. Unburnished. 

But I'm gonna try and write about 'em anyway. Undeterred, see? Easy trap for young players, this spin thing.

Phillip and Mary Broderick, and now their sons Sholto and Louis are the pioneering vignerons of Basket Range. Phillip planted the first vines in 1980; those below in 2001. 

Many people buy their fruit.

We start with their earliest-ripening Bordeaux variety, the Merlot, slide through some blends, and end up with the last one in, the Petit verdot. 

this photo Milton Wordley

Basket Range Wine Adelaide Hills Merlot 2016 
($36; 13.5% alcohol; cork) 

The early-ripening Merlot starts the red influx in the Bordeaux vintage. Here it is at its most open-hearted. It's fresh-faced and dead honest, a luxurious creamy framboise, a shoosh of whipped cream on the tiny forest strawberries and then some fine fresh pepper ... sip its jujube lozenge and its vapour seems to flash: blithe, lithe and ethereal. I'd love to say Chanel No. 5 but then you'd probably think I meant aldehyde and I don't. 

After all that pink and white beaded naugahyde in the T-Byrd seat behind Marilyn you hit some nice grainy tannin and yep there's a pack of Luckies rolled in her tee sleeve. It's toasted! 

This is not mellow Merlot; this is real cheeky juicy red wine with punchy toasted tobacco tannin. 

Basket Range Wine Adelaide Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2016 
($45; 13.8% alcohol, cork) 

Take the above brilliant flash and add some to that austere slide rule of Bordeaux, the gunmetal glinty Cabernet, and everything changes very quickly. Suddenly it's a sultry tango. As the blackberry leaf and briary thorn of the Cabernet twines through the Merlot flesh, they lace it with musk and confectioner's sugar. 

It reminds me of the shaved ice jungle drink of fresh-squashed sugarcane juice somewhere in tiger country with a heavenly sticky dark kachang syrup like a voodoo Cottees Topping all over it. 

Philip and Mary Broderick ... photos Philip White

It's fascinating how these extremes play together. Somehow the very major Cabernet turns the Merlot minor. It's a bluesy cool shiny shiny bottleneck Am7 in the moonlight. Elegant; sublimely fine; poised and balanced; it dances and shimmers on the water with authority and finesse, casting a real bone dry china dust tannin about ... or is that fiddle resin? 

Basket Range Wine Adelaide Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Petit Verdot 2017 
($34; 13% alcohol; cork) 

I dunno if you can remember Eleanor Bron playing Ottoline Morrell in Women In Love but this wine shares the sort of overbearing sensuality those two women, one then living, one dead, focused in the memorable screen character. 

In this drink, that bit's the influence of the Petit verdot, the last Bordelaise red grape to ripen. It's the tightener. The persistent one. The persinuator. 

So the wine seems even more railroad narrow, more steely, almost numbing. I mean look at those scarce alcohols, and then agree the wine is nevertheless heady and swoony like another flapper perfume, all black lacquer and patent polish; the distilled bark of the blackberry; prickly saltpetre, and then to ensure your forgiveness for whatever comes next, a puff of musky talc on the jitterbugged sinews. It's gorgeous. Just watch she don't clock you with that big glass paperweight. 

Basket Range Wine Adelaide Hills Merlot Petit Verdot 2017 
($35; 13% alcohol; cork) 

Remove the schoolmasterly Cabernet from the middle and we should be tighter, more wiry, eh? This starts tight and granular as coffee grounds in the sun more than wiry, but then the black Merlot syrup wells up around the shiny bergamot blade of Petit verdot and the thing takes form. 

In this its infancy I found myself feeling like I was spreading mulberry jam with a commando knife so watch your tongue. 

There are subliminal hints of peppermint and wintergreen amongst the musk and fine sugars but it's deep and black and overall, it's lush and fast and it don't look back. While you shocked try to remember whether it was gloss or matte it flicks you the butt as it eventually recedes, leaving you there in the dust and rubber and clutch smoke and the echoes of a fast-slow, hard-soft, silk-velvet motorcycle throb. 

But it never says "potater-potater-potater" like a fluffy old Harley. This killer's more along the lines of your tight hi-tweak Ducati. Bbbbrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. The agitated panther purr. 

Basket Range Wine Adelaide Hills Petit Verdot 2016 
($40; 13.8% alcohol; cork) 

So we started out soft and cuddly, according to common red wine lore, and here we are on the other side of the range in the leanest territory. The little green, neat. Partly expecting the obvious: a tapering tail. But Darling, tapering? This one's martial. It's wily and tight and shiny as ravens and spitpolished boots. Like really abruptly so. 

Nutmeg oil. Lignum vitae, smoking acrid on the steel lathe. Officer material. This is the prickly hot bit, the real risky unfinish of the whole damn perfect adventure thing. 

But tapering? Uh-huh. This wine's the polished vinous equivalent of that monolith the apes hurl bones at in 2001 A Space Oddyssey. Yeah yeah I know that menhir was titanium matte, not shiny. Forgive me for putting some spin on it. And okay, this here monument's also got lovely fragrance and flesh. It's posh as. But it's not tapering. It's got crisp 90-degree edges, see. This is a very special wine. These are very special wines. 

So you gonna throw your bones or what?

17 June 2018

BULL CREEK GARLIC: BEST ON FLEURIEU

Richard Casley-Smith (below) and Megan O'Hara grow this at their Bull Creek Garlic farm. I know of none better in these southern parts on the Fleurieu. Check their menu here



15 June 2018

THE AU$190 BILLION TOAST



Rock'n'roll in wild west China:  
Ka-linking the Kweichow fairy
by PHILIP WHITE

Kweichow Moutai 
($330 for 500ml., 53% alcohol; screw cap) 

Moutai is a smallish city in Mao country, way out in Guìzhōu Shěng in south-west China: a generally impoverished upland plateau province of both humidity and drought. 

The hills of Moutai had developed a thriving network of specialist baiju distilleries over 2000 years. It must have been like the absinthe business in rural France, until the threat of a wowser revolution replaced thousands of village distillers with the absinthium-free anise/pastis products of the Pernod and Ricard families. 

Run by triads after the Opium Wars, Guìzhōu had its doors opened when the Burma Railway arrived during World War II. Soon after, local Communists hoiked Mao into power, and nationalised these artisan employers by amalgamation into one factory which now trades as Kweichow Moutai Co. Ltd. 

Forget Pernod-Ricard: they're small fry. This rural China outfit recently nudged even the humungous Diageo aside to become the world's most valuable liquor company, estimated by Fortune in January to have a market value of more than AU$190 billion. Billion. For reference, Australia exports about AU$1 billion worth of wine into China, which figure includes Hong Kong. 

Moutai - the dragon, the Flying Fairy - is made from sticky sorghum syrup and wheat, both grown locally. Maybe some rice. A confounding series of wild yeast ferments and nine distillations over two years produces a powerful spirit which then matures and cold-settles in big ceramic pots for three years. 

Every step of the harvest and manufacture is done according to local organic procedures and the cycles of the Moon. 

Moutai maturing ... Jenny Cho Lee

I have smelled bits of this complex bouquet over vats of fermenting cheese, and yoghurts, and in breweries. Fermenting tofu. Fermenting rice. It's heady and estery, with tropicals like plantain and carambola and slices of fresh Comice, Bosc and Rocha pear soaking in kirsch. Bilberry and the rhizomes, ginger and turmeric. It is confronting to the raw ocker nostril; to my bottle-scarred hooter it's as clean as a whistle yet as complex and fascinating as old China itself. 

When the official website advises "there are over 2000 types of microorganisms in the air in the town of Moutai" you better believe them, and include a major margin for traditional Chinese modesty. Keep a bag of zeroes handy. 

The region's boundaries limit the annual production to around 60,000 tonnes. Like a Premier Grand Cru, the appellation is rigourously guarded. More than any recent millennial revisiting of the amphorae of the past and the modernist western fad of so-called "natural" ethanol manufacture, this product proves you can be both natural and perfectly reliably clean at huge volumes. Sanitary, see! 

Moutai is China's official toasting fluid, and comes very much in handy as a government door-opener. 95% of is it consumed in China. Quickly. It sells out. I love it. 

So aromatically braced, then seduced, try your drink in the kisser. The texture is slightly winy-viscous, like a grappa di Fiano; the flavours ethereal, a little nutty like the distinctive benzaldehyde of good amaretto, but fleeting. It quickly dances away, leaving the vaulted olfactory halls vibrating with choral harmonics and a naughty miasma which tells you it's due full respect in the voltage division but as the best things do, also dares you to do it again. 

It's like that sparky alerting click! when you first plug a Telecaster into a cranked Twin Reverb: it's threatening, and tingly, but re-entry becomes increasingly blithe. Once you realise that, it's too late: you're done for. The mayor knows he's got your investment, and goodness me, look at that: you still have eight officials queued up with their shot glasses loaded for toasts. 

Just hum the Billie Joe Shaver couplet "The devil made me do it the first time, second time I done it on my own" and get on with it. Rock'n'roll. 

Food? Well Chinese food, of course.


Recalling memorable Moutai moments with the master chef, Cheong Liew ... this photo Milton Wordley, others Philip White ... I'm not apologising for transposing the Telly/Twin Reverb with a Maton MS-T-Byrd from Melbourne and my ancient 15w Vox ... even better 

13 June 2018

THE INSULT OF THE STINKS



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Big opening here: making wine to suit the room ... hotshot spooks required
by PHILIP WHITE 


"An inspiring blend of fresh juniper and iced red currant, brushed with hints of coriander. As it evolves, the mix of frozen ginger, fresh bamboo leaves and geranium emerge taking center stage, while a masculine combination of rich vetiver, tonka bean, birchwood and musk create a powerful presence throughout ... " 

Best Sauvignon blanc on the block? 

Nope. 

While the President of the United States of America owns a winery in Charlottesville, Virginia, he reckons he's a tetotaller. He drinks twelve cans of Diet Coke per day, but he don't drink Sauvignon blanc. 

The 92 hectare Trump vineyard is on his 526 ha wedding farm, close to the homesteads of Presidents James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson. Really. The President's son Eric is the president there, so his Dad can get away from his golf to talk business with the Korea bloke. He's the one with the lovely teeth, Eric. We can't get teeth like them out this neck of the woods. You can get married there in their joint. Fair dinkum. Just give Eric the money. Thousands of people get married there.

The winemaker is Jonathon Wheeler, who is content to suggest his 2017 Sauvignon "has aromas of tropical fruits, citrus, green bell pepper and lemongrass," with "an exciting palate with a refreshing crisp and clean acidity." 

A good courtier would advise Kim Jong-un much such could be grown in his country. Low yields, intense high flavour. But since what Fox TV called "the two dictators" boarded their flights, one's sucked down the general drain of what in the name of the bowels of our Lord and Saviour will it smell like when Kim and Trump enter that room in Singapore? That smell! That smell? What sort of a song would Randy Newman write of it? 

You'd forgive me if I dreamt that Kim's cologne reflects the diet of his court. Salty seaweed beachy things, with leeks, radix greens and beans, like many fine Sauvignons. Bracing. Dimethyl sulphide, the whiff of windriff spume. 

Add cinnamon and pepper for piquancy, enoki fungi and quail egg jelly for flesh. I had to say quail egg jelly. You'll need them wide pants, quailing. Then kimchi made from everything that's not jelly or fat. Gunpowder and rocket exhaust. Distill essence of all the above, package imperially, have staff squirt. 

Guerlain could have made it. Turn left at Jicky

If I were the boss sniff courtier to the Supreme Leader Eternal General Secretary, I'd always have this intelligence in the basement as I grovelled impeccably to his fashionmista sista Kim Yo-jong for approvals. 

Who's gonna start selling them suits?!?

"Fine tuning, mister White." 

This is the kind of little sister who can send the face-washers out to surprise you in the strangest places, like just as you walk through the terminal at Kuala Lumpur.

Fine? How could one know? I'd be quietly wiped if I were spotted fining up my knowledge by surviving the poison fugu blowfish with the mysterious Japanese spy Kenji Fujimoto who cooked for their dad. He'd know all the smells. He reported the old man having a hearty gluttony and a full cellar. We could drink. But they'd erase me. 

Then there's the matter of the President of the United States of America who eats Big Macs and drinks Diet Coke. You can get an official limited release Raspberry Coke now with extra raspberry flavouring but I reckon there's always been a bit of it with the cherry emulators and the phosphoryic acid in the old model Diet Coke he loves.. 

Some of the things in raspberry flavouring are - I can rap this at your funeral if you're bad enough - amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl acetate, ethyl amyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, g-undecalactone, vanillin, solvent, caffeine, glucose, sucrose and fructose. 

Of course Diet Coke drops some of those overt sugars down the bottom to be in the diet appellation but you wonder what else is in the lovely stuff with the industrial raspberry and cherry and whatnot. Dozens of such essential wonders be there! 

And aspartame? Nope. They replaced that with acesulfame potassium and sucralose. Can't go wrong.

And the Presidential smell? 

The President of the United States of America sells two. Smells. 






















That back label text I quoted at the top has nothing to do with wine or Sauvignon blanc. Second glimpse I gave to the Trump Viognier, but nah, it's not that, either. It's actually the official note on his Trump Success perfume, which "captures the spirit of the driven man." 

To trump that the President then pokes Empire by Trump. 

I reckon he'd walk this in. I mean on top of the fragrance of the dry cleaning, the wig dust and sprays, the anti-perspirants and shoe polish and the friggin pore putty and collar starch and toothpaste and the canker of petrochem poison cleaners and aromatics from a clammy life in his own endless airless hotels and shit knows, he'd, as he told GQ,  "just spray my neck and behind the ears". 

Empire's tasting sheet says it's "the perfect accessory for the confident man determined to make his mark with passion, perseverance and drive. For those who aspire to create their own empire through personal achievement, this dynamic scent is both compelling and leaves a lasting impression." 

So what does it actually friggin smell of, Nostril Damus? 

"Bold notes of peppermint, spicy chai and a hint of apple demand attention." 

I have little idea of the current fashion template for ambient aromatics in impossibly expensive rooms, but I suspect if there was a country which could deliver your majesty a secure chamber with no particular aroma other than neutral expensive comfort Singapore will be doing it perfectly. 

Australia is terrible. Last time I attended the Federal Parliament House to address issues of booze on behalf of the proho FARE mob, I could map the borderlines of the dozens of individual cleaners right from my Kangarilla cab through the big flying cigar full of scented conservatives and the torrid disenfectants of Canberra airport through another cab to the parliament. 

From its front doors to innermost sanctums, I could tell in the parliament house where different shifts, moppers or monitors had agreed to draw or smudge the borders of their territories by their personal aromatic changes. You know, floor wax, wall scrub, bleach ... the many ways the same droll issue could be painted on: some of it was pure Euclid; other bits more Macchiavellian pointillism, where the best ensure nothing is what it is. I felt like some kind of cyborg sniffer mandog. Couldn't help it. 

Round at the National Gallery one hit the aromatics of somebody trying to bleach out the smell of a ten-foot slab of dribbling meat on a hook by Francis Bacon mixed up with all the lovely ridiculous fractals of Blue Poles until director Ronnie Radford swooped up like the president in a haircut and a double-breaster and I'll never know what combo he bore but Jesus. 

"What a surprise!" he said. 

Anyway there's lot to be said about aroma as public amenity and I gotta say one of things that makes it very easy for me to avoid the cities is the insult of the stinks. In his 2012 GQ interview with Andrew Richdale, Trump said "there are things you don't want to mention. In terms of fragrance, sometimes I smell things on people that are just terrible - things that make you not like them ... I have fired people that, and maybe it wasn't the main reason, didn't exactly smell good." 

Which is why it was very important that the best scientists we can entice shoulda been testing and sampling that room where the President and the Supreme Leader Eternal General Secretary sit down to chew the fat. Measure, sample and archive that air, and science the fuck out of it before during and after. Off to the skunkworks for intense data breakdown. Gimme the list of stinks, I'll do the backlabels and we'll award a tender to winemakers who can make wine to best match the texts at our price. 

I always wanted to give air currency. This one would have been the easiest and the first one off, never to be repeated. 

Depending on how the dudes react to the chemborg pheromania Singapore and whoever have pumped into that room tonight, I would dearly hope to soon announce my partner and backer in this new aromatic venture would be mainly Kim Yo-jong. Yo-jong has access to quite a lot of upland, right up to white pointy bits. All going well, we'd have a lovely Trump skwillion floor wedding factory swaying right up the middle of it. Wait til you see the labels. 

Chinese investors should call Yo-jong direct. She knows the ropes.

12 June 2018

LEARNING YOUR ADELAIDE PLAINS

These cross-sections of the recent geology of the Adelaide Plains might be handy to those struggling to understand the layer cake of sands and clays, marine and riverine, in the recent geology of McLaren Vale. The Vale is much more complex than this, but you may begin to get the drift of how it worked. 

Quite sensibly, nobody has yet published an attempt at accurate transepts of McLaren Vale.  

This is one of the illuminating illustrations in this essential 1984 book, Geology and the Adelaide Environment:


GREY BARKER RIPS TREE TO BITS

The large corvid, Strepera versicolour, or Grey Currawong, is not populous in these parts but are usually not far away. They are also closer to black than grey and a bit larger than the magpies. I have a pair with a fedgeling their size in my backyard lilly-pilly tree.

Many viniculturers think Currawongs eat grapes. I've never seen that here, but in one studious morning, the mother harried all this bark from my bedroom eucalypt, feeding on the beasties which had lived safely beneath. 

She takes about twenty minutes to remove every earwig from the bark of an old metre-tall Shiraz trunk.

They are very furtive birds who chink and clink rather than sing. Do they spread eutypa?

10 June 2018

CAMPARI BY BILLIE JUSTICE THOMSON

Campari by Billie Justice Thomson ... artist's proof ... Billie does great cocktails