“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)





06 January 2010



Where There's Smoke There's Fire Call The Messenger A Liar 09 "Excellent Year ... Excellent Wine"

"Elizabeth and Dudley themselves were under no illusion as to the unpleasant construction that was being put on the tragedy." - Anne Somerset, Elizabeth I

On January 28th last year, DRINKSTER began reporting the extreme weather conditions which threatened vintage right across south-eastern Australia. “Another torrid vintage hits”, was the first headline. “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”.

From that day on, I published honest, day-to-day reports and opinions of the havoc Global Warming, a freak summer, the ongoing drought, whatever, was delivering to the vignoble. As the heatwave built and bullied and smashed all records, then moved across the border to blitz Victoria, I attempted to project to the international reader just a hint of that violently confronting horror.

It’s sobering reading; so blank and frank it now seems to have been written by someone else. The shock and depression triggered by the mass death and general destruction seem to have been erased from the Australian psyche as its collective brain defragged and scandisced itself back into some sort of basic operating form. We all knew people whose crops were damaged or ruined. We all knew folks in the bushfires: many had friends and lovers who perished. I was affected so severely I could barely write about wine for months. It’s called Post-traumatic Shock Disorder. It’s a very confronting thing to realise your planet is bucking you off.

So I coughed a whole mouthful of Inkwell Shiraz into my keyboard last night when I discovered that McLaren Vale, the district I love enough to make my home, now has its very own personal weatherman: it’s my mate Dudley Brown.

Dudley, an upstate New Yorker from the same school as the Sands brothers, the bosses of the beleaguered Constellation, is a fairly recent blow-in, like me, but he’s the chairman of a body called McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism, which is supposed to hold this bounteous Vale together, and ensure its image is sparkling clean. (“Try marketing anything via an acronym like MLVGWATS”, the writer’s doppleganger whispers.)

Upon his election, Dudley appointed a mate from his canasta club, Elizabeth Tasker, to be his propaganda manager and office lass while he got on hand-weeding his tiny Inkwell vineyard and worked out how to scare all the lazy courtiers clear outa the palace.


Not yet famous for holding his counsel when confronted by humans who don’t measure up to his exacting demands, Dudley has had Elizabeth send a royal-ish decree to his three hundred constituents, commanding them to cease talking to people like me about things like weather. The sarcastic, the cynical, and the conspiracy theorist could call this another example of the panic rife in the skrillion management councils of the buggered Aussie wine biz, but it’s better presented as an example of ordinary hubristic blundering and normal provincial naiveté.

However, the matter deserves examination. Particularly as the whole wine business hunkers down to stare another scary summer in the eye. This vintage, South Australian records began exploding in the spring, when November, the hottest ever recorded, gave us daily maximum temperatures roughly 10 C (18F) above average, and eight consecutive days above 35C (95F), the hottest November sesh since records began in 1887. This seriously damaged the McLaren Vale grenache crop in the hotter terrains. Those in the cooler spots which flowered later, did rather well.


Senior climatologist at the Bureau of Meterology, David Jones, says each decade since the 1940s has been warmer than the previous one, and warns that this year is set to be even hotter, with temperatures likely to be between 0.5 and 1 degree above average.

"There's no doubt about global warming: the planet's been warming now for most of the last century," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “Global warming is clearly continuing. We're in the latter stages of an El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean and what that means for Australian and global temperatures is that 2010 is likely to be another very warm year - perhaps even the warmest on record."


That digested, we should get back to our friends at the MLVGWAT.

“Dear Members,” Dudley says (this Virgo admits to correcting petty errors of grammar, punctuation and spelling), “We have begun to receive media enquiries about the effect of the warm weather on the grape crop in McLaren Vale. As you well know, heat at this time of the year is not a major concern provided adequate irrigation is available.

“As most of you will well remember, we received a great deal of negative publicity during last vintage's heat wave as a result of a few poorly chosen comments made by both winemakers and growers. The effect of these comments was to attract enormous follow-on media coverage that badly affected many growers’ ability to sell their fruit. Moreover, this publicity cast an unfair aspersion on the overall quality of the vintage in McLaren Vale. For many growers in later ripening areas and with later ripening crops, 2009 was an excellent year and excellent wine was made from them. This sort of publicity results in damage to the McLaren Vale brand for all of us - growers and winemakers alike - both now and into the future.

“From hard experience, we know that the sort of stories that result from these sorts of enquiries only get used if there is something negative to report. No matter how well-intentioned members’ comments are, they will only result in unflattering publicity for you, your brand, your crop, your neighbour and the region as a whole.

“Given this and the economic uncertainty in the grape and wine industry, we are strongly requesting that all media enquiries received by all members be re-directed to McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism at 8323 8999 and that no comment be made about anything, no matter how brief or flippant.

“Your cooperation in this is essential if we are to effectively provide the service that all members financially contribute to - marketing Brand McLaren Vale.

“Finally, please make a point of mentioning this request to others in your business.

“Sincerely, Dudley Brown, Chairman, McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism.”

DRINKSTER sincerely thanks those who realise that the wine critic is indeed one of the "others in your business", and I'm grateful to those who've obeyed their chairman's orders well enough to immediately mention his request. Copies of his e-mail have even come in from rival regions, who can't believe the scale of the matter. I shall thankfully consider the document sighted, and carry on.

But next time there’s a bushfire, or a phylloxera scare, a planning threat to this bonnie vignoble, politicians to be introduced or dealt with, or another record-breaking example of this thing the green pessimists seem to be calling Global Warming, I’ll look forward to phoning Elizabeth to tell me whether her Dudley thinks it’s really happening.

McLaren Vale is one of the best vignobles on Earth. It deserves better PR than this.




Why can't he stand up and say yes things are as bad as you can see they are, but good wine has been made here and there and list them? Isn't that what wine shows are for?

sam old said...

same old same old same old here in the states too thank god for the bloggers

Bruce K. Dork said...

what a dork ask him why my lawns dead

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure Dudley is only trying to save us from himself. I recall watching Dudley last year early heatwave telling the world the vintage was a disaster with 70% losses.Then some quick back peddling.

Anonymous said...

In circulating such a dumb edict, he's done more damage to the distioct's image than any amount of heatwave or mildew. I can't believe it. But, then, yes I can. Can he really believe that people aren't gonna talk about this in the pub?

the FROOTERER said...


Anonymous said...

I kinda think that this 'glossing' up of the facts has been the reason why the Aust wine industry got into such a surplus in the first place- instead of telling people how it really is & what sort of profits were realistic- only the nice comments made it out, encouraging people to plant more grapes or turn more grapes into wine.

Other People's Lives said...

Goebbel's people have been watching you Whitey. You have been reported for talking to Warren Randall, Leigh Gilligan, Andrew Buttery, and Michael Lane, and all in the short time since this errant behaviour was forbidden!

McLVGWAT said...


The weather today in McLaren Vale was cool and breezy. The temperature peaked at a moderate 27.5 degrees C at 2.48 this afternoon. Tomorrow is expected to be slightly cooler, and such conditions should carry on until vintage is complete. Irrigation today was minimal.



Jeff Hardy said...

I just made an icewine!

darry fan said...


On Wednesday, Chester Osborn, of d’Arenberg, McLaren Vale, told DRINKSTER “Nightmare vintage again Whitey. Again. Again.”

“It’s the earliest vintage by a million miles”, he continued. “And it’s very very low. We’ll pick about thirty per cent of what I estimated three weeks back, and that was already reduced dramatically from my previous estimation. Now we’ve got too many pickers. Nothing to pick.

“Anything in shallow hard ground, or reflective sands, with no deep moisture, is over. Bush vines? Poor old buggers! McLaren Vale grenache looked amazing. All gone. The sauvignon blanc’s brown. No flavour. The roussanne died. Viognier? No good, but not bad compared to the rest. Petit verdot? Shrivelled to buggery.”

drinkster 7TH FEBRUARY 2009

McLVGWAT said...

YOUR FRIENDLY McLVGWAT WEATHER REPORT: conditions 1430 hrs at Aldinga Airport:

Current Temp -12 °C
Partly Cloudy
Windchill: -12 °C
Humidity: 67%
Dew Point: -17 °C
Wind: Calm
Pressure: 1037 hPa (Steady)
Visibility: 10.0 kilometers
UV: 0 out of 16
Few 762 m
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 50 m

Unless you have a well-heated irrigation source, it is impossible to water vines today.


Day On The Green rehearsals at Richard Hamilton Wines beset by huge freeze: performer's equipment chills to extreme:


ABC Country Hour Jan 11th said...

Massive crop losses predicted from heatwave

Monday, 11/01/2010

The heatwave across south east Australia is worrying fruit and vegetable growers, with one table grape grower predicting a 70 per cent drop in yields.

As the heat continues today across South Australia and Victoria, fire authorities say conditions are at their worst in the south east of the country since the Black Saturday fires just over a year ago.

An expected top of 42 degrees in Adelaide will officially be a heatwave for the South Australian capital.

Other capitals in the south east of the country are also expected to reach tops of 43 in Melbourne, 38 in Canberra and 36 in Hobart.

Northern Victorian table grape grower John Argiro says the menindie seedless grapes are very small.

"My crop's down 70 to 80 per cent lower than last year," he says.

Chris Byrne from the Riverland wine grape growers association says local growers and wine companies will meet tomorrow to discuss the effects of the heatwave.

He says early indications are that crops are lighter than they were a few months ago, and he says over the border in the Sunraysia district, it looks like the harvest could be 30 per cent lower.

South Australian fire authorities are expecting the state's worst fire conditions in five years with catastrophic warnings across ten fire regions.

A code red warning is in force in the wimmera region of western Victoria, with farmers saying they're prepared to stay on their properties to fight any fires.

Anonymous said...

My daughter is planning to come to stay in South Australia for her holiday later this year and is asking me what the weather is doing here at the moment, is it OK for me to tell het that its a bright, breezy but altogether balmy day just like the numbnut on the MCLVGWAT ?