“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)





11 May 2009


These Hardys Will Not Be Eaten
New Wave Of Smarts Cross Range

by PHILIP WHITE - a version of this appeared in The Independent Weekly on 8 MAY 09

In McLaren Vale, they call it “over the range” ... “up on the range”. It’s over the Willunga Fault, the handsomely revegetated escarpment to the east of the Willunga Basin.

In the ’eighties, all the McLaren Vale vineyards were in the basin. Over the Range, Brian Croser was preaching his Piccadilly gospel; Ashton Hills was established, Geoff Weaver, Prue Henschke and Tim Knappstein were opening the Lenswood ridge, Lloyd Light had a vineyard and winery above Clarendon, and unless you went way up north to the serious visionaries like Karl Seppelt and David Wynn, that was about it for Adelaide Hills/South Mount Lofty Ranges viticulture.

Geoff Hardy had wine in his gizzards from the womb. He helped make Australia’s first seriously good – and probably the only – commercial pinot noir in 1978, the famous Hardy’s Keppoch. That neat, nutty, revolutionary red made from a champagne clone grown broadacre near Padthaway was still good a decade beyond its use-by date, by which time Hardy’s had eaten Reynella, only to be eaten by Berri-Renmano, which was eventually dutifully eaten by Constellation.

Geoff has never been eaten. He’d established himself as a canny, clean, swift establisher of vineyards by 1980 when he bought the Willunga piedmont vineyard, Pertaringa, with fellow viticulturer Ian Leask. Since then, he’s planted over 3000 hectares of vines and consulted to over 200 different vineyards in Australia, France and Italy.


He took me for a drive around his gorgeous Kuitpo vineyard the other day, in Greg Trott’s old Audi wagon, which seemed utterly fitting. In the back, where most people keep their kids and dogs, Geoff had a crowd of baby grüner vetliner vines, all swaying to look out the window.

“I’m toughening them up, he grinned. “Trying to encourage them to put a bit of wood on”. The car, with all that glass, is warmer. An incubator.

So why Kuitpo, the place with the unpronounceable name that nobody knows the origins of?

“I’d been looking for the ideal cool climate vineyard site for eight or nine years”, he said. This was the fourth place I’d tried to buy. It wasn’t for sale. I found it through the Lands Titles Office, and contacted the owners. Bought it in 1986; begun planting in 1987.”

The reason I’m writing this story now is that Geoff’s wines, labelled K1 by Geoff Hardy, are suddenly very, very authoritative. Geoff would say that’s been gradual, as the vineyard matures and everybody in the winery gets their head around what sort of flavours it wants to produce, but in my case, it’s been the fruit of the last two years’ releases that caught my attention. The wines have become confidently stylised and enticing.

And that’s just the beginning. Apart from the usual staples, and the baby grüners in back of his car, Geoff has planted arneis, dolcetto, durif, graciano, lagrein, marsanne, montepulciano, picolit, primitivo, roussanne, and savignin blanc B, which was called albarino until the CSIRO admitted it wasn’t actually alborino just a few weeks back.

The vineyard plunges dramatically through the sclerophyllous scrub between the Kuitpo forest and the edge of the Willunga escarpment, on sand and clay and reefs of ironstone so pure that Lang Hancock would squirm.

“Few of these things have stood the test of time yet”, Geoff says. “Like arneis. What will it do? Like the nineties had a cool chunk in the middle, 95-96, and I thought ‘fantastic! Pinot and chardonnay country!’, but with global warming the ripening curve has moved two and a half weeks to the left and we’re growing really good shiraz and cabernet, so who knows?”

One dude who’s learning to know rather abruptly is winemaker Shane Harris, a former chef who’s beginning to really make a mark at the contract winery at the foot of the scarp, McLaren Vintners. Shane’s now got the room to apply his high gastronomic intelligence to his wine science – something that’s pretty thin on the ground amongst the white coat brigade.

The wines are quite different, of course, but K1 by Geoff Hardy and Shane Harris has developed an authoritative, seamless style and stance that reminds me somehow of the way Wolf Blass and John Glaetzer gave Wolf Blass wines a trophy-winning presence that changed the whole wine business in the mid-seventies. There was no stopping them; no way they wouldn’t be recognised. Which is happening now, increasingly, to Geoff’s brand.


Just in time, really. His four kids are all out working in the wine business, but they’re ready to move in on Dad. This is the beginnings of new Hardy dynasty: the momentum is almost urgent in its confidence and detremination.

So. When will he build them a winery?

“Well, Whitey”, he says, wheeling the Trottmobile over a spectacular ironstone knob that’s just been ripped for vineyard, “it was always going to be right here. But the money wasn’t quite right, so this is where I’m gonna plant these grüners. If the kids want their winery, they’ll have to convince me to pull a vineyard out. So it won’t be a snap decision.”

Hand Crafted by Geoff Hardy Adelaide Hills Arneis 2008
$18; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points
The savvy Linda Domas made this wine from Kuitpo fruit. That means it’s out there, as far as pioneering goes. Barolo bianco hits kangaroo ground! Pear, marzipan, honeydew melon, chick peas, peanut butter, artichoke: them’s words I don’t use much on wine descripto. But that’s what swam around my glass, with grand mealy tannins and, contrary to Auntie Jancis’ claim that arneis has low acidity, plenty of that too. It makes perfect sense, planting a white from Italy’s piedmont on land like K1, but it still seems freaky. The result is profound: this is a big new flavour indeed! Cool pork cassoulet.

K1 by Geoff Hardy Adelaide Hills Cabernet Tempranillo 2006
$18; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 92+++ points
Yuppie Itie wine perves will know Sassicaia, the hyper-priced super-Tuscan red. Forget it. Here comes the Sassikuitpo, the Spanish version via the ironstone and kangaroo turds of the Hardy vineyard way up past the Base Camp on K1. Neat, clean, seamless, and as tightly-formed as a leg of cured Iberian ham, which it manages to smell like, this is one for the long haul dungeon as much as Norberto’s house of meat right now. And when you’ve drunk it all, which will take a month, we’ll get the 07, which is even better, with all its violets and lavendar atop the Zorro boots. They’re both stunning wines!

I shall be posting notes on all the K1 by Geoff Hardy wines on DRANKSTER later this week.

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