“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)





29 October 2011


photo: David Burnett

Old Friend Drops In For A Drink
"You Should Meet These Blokes"
Photographers Come In Swarms


My good friend and DRINKSTER contributor, the photographer Milton Wordley brought three ace photographers to Yangarra for a drink.

"I think you should meet these blokes," he said.

David Burnett, David Dare Parker and Glenn Gibson had all been speakers at the AIPP Nikon "The Event" 2011, the annual Australian photographers' conference which was held at the Adelaide Hilton last week. Over 350 photographers from all over Australia and New Zealand attended.

New York-based Burnett was keynote speaker. Milton had first worked with him on A Day In The Life Of Australia thirty years ago.

“His was the shot of the small white plane in the shadow of Ayers Rock,” Milton said. “It will always be one of the iconic shots of The Rock … it had been fairly intensive four days in The Hilton so we got a leave pass. We went to look at old cameras in the Central Market Camera Store, had lunch at The Star Of Greece and came for drinks at Yangarra on the way back.

David Burnett perving on old Holgas in the Adelaide central market Camera Shop, which is the best one we got ... photo Glenn Gibson

“Everybody loved the wines. Dave Burnett’s already tracked down his local supplier in New York.”

Burnett had just been lauded in the USA as one of the top 100 most influential photographers in the modern history of photography. He's under contract to TIME magazine, and whizzed home for an assignment photographing Mitt Romney on campaign.

You can visit his website, or check his National Geographic entry here.

Glenn Gibson, Peter Widdop and David Burnett by David Dare Parker

David Dare Parker is based in Perth and Sydney when not on assignment in Asia. Right at the front of Australian freelance photojournalism, he works shooting stills on movies to sponsor his many personal projects in Asia. Check his site here.

Glenn Gibson was a press photographer for News Ltd., but now runs blue fish, an imaging production company out of Melbourne. Glenn specialises in car photography – he’s currently the international creative imaging director for Mazda cars.

photo: Glenn Gibson

And Milton? His canon of work permeates the last thirty years of South Australian imagery. His wine industry photography is astonishing. It's pretty damn hard to spend a day in Adelaide without encountering a Milton Wordley photograph, and you'd go a long way before encountering a professional photographer more respected by his peers. You can visit Milton's galleries here.

During the course of a rather jovial afternoon, the four of them made these charming photographs. I really love the way their hands hold their cameras. Have a look.

David Dare Parker, David Burnett, the author and Glenn Gibson ... photo Milton Wordley

Milton and Glenn by David Dare Parker

28 October 2011


I only find within my bones,
A taste for eating earth and stones.

When I feed,
I feed on air,
Rocks and coals and iron ore.

My hunger, turn.

Hunger, feed:
A field of bran.

Gather as you can the bright,
Poison weed.

Eat the rocks a beggar breaks,
The stones of ancient churches,
Pebbles, children of the flood,
Loaves left lying in the mud.

Beneath the bush a wolf will howl,
Spitting bright feathers
From his feast of fowl:
Like him, I devour myself.

Waiting to be gathered,
Fruits and grasses spend their hours;
The spider spinning in the hedge,
Eats only flowers.

Let me sleep!

Let me boil,
On the altars of Solomon;
Let me soak the rusty soil,
And flow into Kendron.

Arthur Rimbaud


27 October 2011


Laura Jackson Leaves The Vales
Fierce Seaford Heights Activist
Chases Her Muse To Green East

There are people who live in places where you also live who love it as much as you do, and who, for one reason or another, suddenly go somewhere else to live.

The one reason or another usually have to do with love or hate.

Or perhaps to do with the complete lack of both.

Which is not the one happening to Laura Jackson, a good buddy and fellow musician in McLaren Vale. Music and love have drawn her to another of the most beautiful places in Australia, the south coast of New South Wales, where the great musician and writer, Heath Cullen, happens also to live, loving it.

And, conversely, hate has a lot to do with it, too.

Laura, or Jacko, was the one who set up and drove the powerful Facebook site We Oppose Seaford Heights. This alone excited and united and agitated the McLaren Vale region to rise up against the stale South Australian Labor government. She wisely hated the dumb government plan. In one breath those bastards told us they’d be saving our region from ghetto rot and the spread of cancerous eave-to-eave Tupperware Tuscany whilst they simultæneously proceeded to plan the horrid sub-division of one of the very best, most agriculturally lucrative, and most visually significant bits of it.

During her time in McLaren Vale, Laura worked at Mixmaster Studios, Shottesbrook, Primo Estate, and Settlement Wines, as well as being present, and often playing this or that instrument, at many musical soirees, at which the Vales excels.

But her role in political activism is the one we should revere the most.

During her establishment and management of the Facebook site We Oppose Seaford Heights, with viticulturer and winemaker James Hook she helped arrange and stage the biggest Tractor Action demo this senior agitator has seen.

This was both – impossibly – extremely, determinedly angry and overtly polite. The police seemed to like it; the pollies hated it. For her efforts, at the 2010 Bushing King feast, before many hundreds of locals, Laura was awarded the coveted Trott Family Trophy for her work protecting the spirit, environment, aspect and amenity of her beloved McLaren Vale.

Since then, one Minister of Planning has left his head in the bucket, and must inevitably be joined by another. If the opposite conservatives can show and sell some intellect and intelligent leadership, which they are far from doing thus far, the entire government may well follow those belligerent peanuts into oblivion.

The precious Seaford Heights site, with its rare and special 650 million year old siltstone geology, perfect for the gardening of anything from barley to Barbaresco, has not yet been touched by the developer’s spade.

It is up to us who stay to see it too stay, while those in Bega will be extremely lucky to have Jacko’s quiet determinism locking its hubs when the savages make their stupid, destructive advance.

Which they will.


26 October 2011


DRINKSTER's free news bulletin service, The Panic Button (see right sidebar) has fizzed away with hits like we've rarely seen before. The most popular item in week # 2 is about the propensity of Californian pinotphiles to pack the odd puncheon with pot. Click the crop for the full dope on the new deal party drink.

25 October 2011


DRINKSTER's current favourite book to fondle and chew while we're having a drink and a smoke: Cactus - Surfing Journals From Solitude by Christo Reid ... a pre-worn, full-of-sand history of the first surfing at one of Australia's most revered and mythologised beaches-in-the-desert, Cactus ... you can smell the salted and smoked humans in this lovely thing ... the production is just perfect, mimicking a certain legendary photo album of the time ... Christo is a veteran McLaren Vale/Port Willunga photographer and surfer, and long-time supporter of great cuisine in South Australia ... he was a vital contributor to McLaren Vale - Trott's View ... click on strangelove 2010



The Valerian Twine Of The Brett
Unravelling Some Voodoo Knits
Most Will Not Smell It The Same


Science is a furtive bastard. It lurks back there somewhere, silent and smug, conducting its perfectly precise white coat exercises in secret sanitary places, doing stuff you never run into on buses or in bars.

Until you make a really bad mistake, when suddenly it sends out an officer to sting you.

Scientists don’t seem to consider that what happens in my brain is your actual thinking. Being a free-associative synaesthete type, I tend to quote shards of science with a dangerous abandon, similar to the sort that thespians use when they pull out strands of Shakespeare.

To keep the knitting of our presentation of ideas in one silky, alluring scarf, creative types use bits we don’t necessarily understand. And then, sometimes it’s not a scarf, but more your tatty sweater with the elbows out and the cuffs unravelling. My point being that unlike scientists, intellectual vagabonds like me can elude the clinical precision of science and change approach, topic, hue and volume at whim. We can unravel as much as we knit and spin; even embroider miserable rags of thought with glittering brocade.


If I’m lucky, this happens whenever I talk about pheromones, the mysterious chemicals that we cannot necessarily smell, but which have a very precise influence on our behaviour, whether we’re aware of it or not. They’re like hormones which drift on the air. In this instance, my sloppy, imprecise manner is largely triggered by the vast vacuum of knowledge of pheromones which science has yet to fill with bar graphs and pie charts. I wish they’d get on with it.

Which leads this particular piece of unravelling straight to the exquisite Fino restaurant, in Willunga, McLaren Vale. I was invited to a special dinner there last week, to honor and entertain Lisa Perotti-Brown, the ambassador to Australia from the court of Robert Parker Jr., allegedly, and contentiously, the most influential critic on Earth. He’s a wine writer in Maryland USA, and the charming Lisa now does his Australian work for him. She keeps a respectful distance from both of us, and lives sensibly in Singapore.


The dinner was about Grenache. Respected McLaren Vale makers of this misunderstood grape, Corrina Wright (Oliver’s Taranga), Peter Fraser (Yangarra Estate), and Justin McNamee (Samuel’s George) mounted a dinner-time comparative tasting, pouring their own Grenache wines alongside some famous and expensive French ones. To do some very risky unravelling, I generally thought that the Australian ones seemed brazenly juicy-fruity, while the French models were thin and mean. Had I drunk either lot without the other, I would have enjoyed them much more: it was the challenge of the comparison that exaggerated their polarities, making them seem more extreme.

Apart from the higher natural acid and lower alcohol of the French wines, the biggest reason for their tight, slender nature was their level of difficult yeasts of the genus Brettanomyces and Dekkera. Most people in the Australian wine business loosely call these Brett, and regard them as a pestilence.

With their usual lack of precision, winemakers regard Brett as something that smells of a range of things that stretch from barnyard, horse sweat, mouse piss, wet animal, rancid cheese and wet leather through Band-aid and burnt plastic to medicinal and metallic.

Frequently, I believe, they confuse Brett with the perfectly-named trichloranisole, the aroma of the worst cork taint.

Generally they – we, in this case – agree that Brett can cause a dramatic loss of the primary juicy fruits and the jello and jam which Australian wines tend to exude since Adelaide University decided that’s what Australian wines must be like, whether anybody wants to drink them or not.

Outstanding examples of wines completely gutted by Brett were the Hill of Grace vintages from the later ’nineties and a few vintages of Cape Mentelle reds from about the same time. Some had no fruit, and they’d have much less now - they were skeletons then, and they’re be drier ones now. The cellars must have been riddled with it. D’Arenberg (which maintains a Brett tank) sometimes shows quite a lot of it; many really lovely wines show a little.

But contrary to the assertion that the hole left in place of this fruit is filled by plastic odours, like Band-aid, Elastoplast or Tupperware - which are all softened by oestrogen, by the way - I think along the earthy lines, and find Bretty wines to smell more like coal dust: the acrid, slightly woody smell of railway stations in the days of steam, combined if you’re lucky with the hearty barnyard homeliness of the harnessed hay-burning meat horses that delivered one there to catch the snorting iron model.

Where most judges write “Brett” in their tasting notes, I prefer “BSA”, an acronym for boiler-stoker’s apron. You get my drift: the acrid reek of coal and red hot iron, along with the stoker’s stale cooked sweat and the oil and grease that kept those mighty engines alive, all festering and oozing in an ancient patch of roasted animal hide preserved by tannin.

Brett occurs harmlessly in many fermented foods which don’t smell like railway stations. It is a much adored component of sourdough yeast, for example, which is one of the instances where I agree it can smell like oestrogen-softened plastic. And it’s a vital part of the Lambic beers of Belgium, many of which are also flavoured by fresh fruits: the brewers gradually infuse whole berries in the beer in big old oak barrels. In many cases, the fruitiness which these cherries, strawberries and raspberries impart counteract the acrid dryness of the yeast, bringing an entertaining see-saw of flavours to the mouth.

Over the centuries the Belge adapted their brewing and communal palate to accommodate the aromas and flavours of Brett, even developing accompaniment cheeses to help allay its acrid edge. But lacking the time and patience to evolve similarly, South Australia’s original country breweries were killed by the same yeast.

While it’s not its preferred habitat, Brett lives well in oak. It likes the sugars of wood, and so can strike new barrels as hungrily as dirty old ones, and it will live happily in old rafters and the ceilings and walls of cellars. It prefers porous woods, as they contain more oxygen.

In those days ales were fermented and delivered to pubs in oak barrels, which spread the yeast from cellar to cellar: the pubs became the blending bowls, and while they knew they had an infection in their business – they called it The Fox - they neither understand it nor had the nous to control it. By 1938 most of the little Mount Lofty Ranges breweries were Bretted clean out of business.

Pity they didn’t hire Penfold’s wine scientist, the great Ray Beckwith (above), who's about to hit his tonne, but was at that time secretly unlocking the wine side of all these puzzles in his lab at Nuriootpa. If Beckwith, who still lives in Nuri, worked in the brewing business, South Australia’s beers would be very different drinks now.

Brett, and its common destructive bedpartner, acetic acid bacteria, are among the rare critters that can survive the alcoholic rough-and-tumble of wine fermentation. They are tough critters, but winemakers can keep them under control by using sulphur dioxide and minimizing oxidation.

Acetic acid bacteria produce the acid of vinegar, which we call a volatile acid, as it will boil off, as opposed to the natural malic and tartaric acids of wine, which will not, and are thus highly useful in cooking. Apart from this volatile acetic acid, scientists generally regard the volatile phenolic compounds, 4-ethyl phenol and 4-ethyl guaicol, both “spoiler” products of Brett, as being responsible for those other “off” odours.


But perhaps the most critical aromatic ingredient in this mysterious foment is the fascinating iso-valeric acid (IVA). This natural fatty acid is found in many plants - but most famously the medicianal herb, Valerian - and is a vital blending tool for parfumiers, who love to play with its alluring fruity, floral esters: Methyl valerate is flowery; Ethyl valerate, pear and loquat-like; Ethyl isovalerate is apple-ish and Amyl valerate’s more like pineapple and jackfruit, even durian.

A powerful and vital pheromone for many species, IVA exists on nipples and in armpits and between toes. In mild doses, it is the attractor that will draw a suckling babe to nuzzle one’s pap through clothing - even the barren male breast. It is the pheromone that will make grown men quiet and protective when they enter the home of a breast-feeding mother: it appears to lower their testosterone. But in powerful concentration, it does the opposite.

In intermediate concentrations, IVA is the cheesy aroma of toejam and stale sweat, and the earthily human-and-horse component of my railway station with its harnessed Clydesdales and sweaty boiler stokers. But in extremes, it is the smell of the footy changing-room or the battlefield, where it is believed to actually make men more uncontrollably violent and women mesmerized, then quite sensibly terrified.


IVA is the anticonvulsant, mood-stabilising agent in the herb, valerian, which big pharma has only recently managed to mimic with the dodgy benzodiazepine drugs. An efficacious sedative, valerian root eases insomnia, nervous tension, hysteria, excitability, stress, intestinal colic, irritable bowel, and cramps.

However, in some humans, similar to benzodiazepine, the same plant does the opposite, agitating them, triggering twitchiness, asthma, hives and giddiness.

Valerian hypnotises cats, much like catnip, and can be used as rat bait. It will draw a rutting male moth in a straight line for kilometres, and, especially if dissolved in milk, will make a male rabbit pup nuts with hunger and lust. Slime moulds, which thrive in cellar timber and dark, damp stone walls, love it.

Like a music-mixing deck, IVA manages the way different human noses “hear” the other less alluring aromatics that Brett produces in wine. The depth of one’s reception varies dramatically, depending on the genes.

To mex the mitaphor, consider another sense, sight, and colour blindness, which varies widely in form. Some folks have a specific anosmia, which means they don’t detect some odours as well as other people do. More extreme is specific hyposmia, which means their sensories simply can’t detect some smells at all. While some pheromones have no odour, our scientist friends have done their most intensive research on the sexiest ones which do: musk; androstenone (the wild boar pheromone), and IVA.

So, subconscious reception aside, we now know that some humans can smell IVA at one ten thousandth the minimum concentration required by others, and we know these variances are genetic.

Which begins to explain why some effete winos can’t handle the faintest whiff of Brett, and others, like the Mediterranean Spanish and French, and their buyers for centuries, the English, seem to love a squirt of it. Given the pheromone’s sweaty roots, I suspect a reliable index of this lies in each community’s attitude to showering – it seems a mark of triumph amongst south-of-France humans to determinedly return to their official partner unwashed after their regular afternoon shag with the mistress or mate. What’s a bit of Brett against that background mentality?

I quite like my dash of Brett, in there with my Methyl valerate, Ethyl valerate, Ethyl isovalerate, Amyl valerate, my oak, and my fruity Grenache, which I regard as a sort of rustic precursor to Pinot noir, which can be the most sensual grape of all.

In fact, I regard Pinot as a cross of Grenache and Riesling, which is another piece of knitting altogether.

So, you whitecoats, some questions: as valerian prefers hard stony ground, how does the incidence of IVA vary with vineyard ground, and how does this influence the way different humans detect Brett in wine?

How much IVA can be found in the stalks of grape bunches? Is this a reflection of the vineyard’s geology?

How much influence does IVA have in my decision that certain wines have an alluring or detestable balance of fruit and Brett? How many others feel like me?

How many kays must I fly? Where should I suckle? In this ocean of bacteria, will it help me extract a strand of Shakespeare?

(with thanks to Heiner Mueller)

19 October 2011


Hymn For Michael Wordley

on the occasion of his 50th birthday

beyond the fence trees fizz

the close trees,
hitch-hikers from the north,
are giant rustling grasses:
the silent eucalypts admit them

they bounce and pop with birdies
dancing a bonnie bagatelle
while their silverbacks do politics

if it had different colour
- not all green like this -
it would explain the Chinese invention of fireworks

above me the hands of man have made a patio of oregon
with American vines strangling American wood, anti-clockwise,
while beneath this poem a Jarrah bench swells

welling against the tracks of the planing machine
it wants its old shape back

behind surges a mighty house in which a family happened
smitten with timber and sound it survived the Jesus thing

smug as mud

and lets herbs and fowls through the door to make more

there is no emptyness
but much where nothing is

Philip White


17 October 2011


DRINKSTER enjoyed a perfect Portuguese-influenced seafood lunch today at Philippe and Paula Horta's stunning new restaurant at Port Noarlunga, on the Gulf St Vincent in McLaren Vale. The vignoble is enjoying its first real spell of sunshine after a lot of muggy weather, so the vines are drying out and bursting into full leaf.

There were even a few bathers on the beach. A few. Check these views from the table at Horta's. If your local beach is crowded, and you're hungry and thirsty, get down here quick.

That's a glass of the crunchy, cool as ice Dandelion Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc under immediate threat.

Sky doctors, however, are warning that another La Niña is also gloomily threatening. This is the same set of conditions that saw the eastern third of Australia under floodwater for vintage 2011, and most of Australia's grapes blitzed by killer moulds and mildews.

At the moment, it appears that the event will not be as severe as last summer's, but the experts are holding their counsel, offering only cautious warnings.

Perhaps the biggest danger to South Australia - so far - is that the naive optimism of troubled Murray-Darling grape growers will be encouraged as they convince themselves that this is a return to normal river flows. 2011 was the second-wettest vintage in Australian history, which certainly filled the river, but in an highly abnormal manner.

Click here to read the lastest guarded long-term forecasts.


15 October 2011


Unless The DRINKSTER is too busily engaged in what he does best, he now offers a new round-up of the most important wine stories of the day in a free sidebar feature, The Panic Button. The outstanding yarn in the first week's dredging comes from ift-belgrade , a wine commentary of which we had been hitherto unaware.

The Best Important Penfolds Grange Wine Beverages:
"most widely rooted ... which will flip the head the other way up"

By KADEN, October 8, 2011

Penfolds wine are known for 1 tag that smoothies the complete Foreign country with a single refer to: Grange. Penfolds Grange is really a Southern region Australia wine beverages that said to be unique, additional delightful, and after this a situation symbol. And why souldn it really is? It designed generally of Sydney favorite, most widely rooted dim-skinned grape selection: the Shiraz. The Penfolds Grange comes in a number of vintages and every retro is said to be exclusive from a single an additional. These days, the Grange is a variety of Shiraz and a little bit of Cabernet Sauvignon. As a combination of two strong wine drinks, you get a freakishly beneficial wines which will flip the head the other way up.

The Grange is one of the effectively gathered wine drinks in Australia, plus it excellent to adult. You will find special Penfolds bottles of wine nonetheless, you should try initial ahead of the other individuals, beginning with the Penfolds Grange 1996. This attracting wine beverages of deep cherry colorings is probably the more expensive vintages, at first sold at Usd850 (now Usd700) a bottle of wine. It possesses a pleasing nasal area of fairly sweet plum and cassis, and is very rich and sophisticated for your Grange. It hugely tannic, of course, if supplies a advancement of scrumptious styles which can be absolutely well worth the hold out. Through the aroma of special plum and cassis, you’ll be able to at a later date knowledge some bb, licorice, chocolate, and a certain amount of capuccino. This Shiraz wide variety features a 6Pct blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and is also tremendously rigorous. It great to time for about four to five a long time.

A further will have to attempt may be the Penfolds Grange 1988 old-fashioned. It renowned for its very fragrant nasal of black, cassis, pepper, and loitering fresh fruits. It deeply violet colored, possesses nicely-methodized tannins and great complexness. The good thing is, from Buck700 a container it now sold at Buck495. It ideal coupled with ground beef pots and pans grilled in wine lessening or tomato gravy. Now one of several Penfolds wine, the Penfolds Grange 1998 is but one vintage you mustn’t miss. Vino Viewer ranked it 99 (near to great). Even wine drinks with a rating of 94 or 95 are exceedingly great. To help you to imagine how this old-fashioned will change your planet. It famous for possessing special tannins, a highly-built in acid, and covering with coating of blackberry mobile phones and cassis fruits. Furthermore, it incorporates a nasal area of darkish plum, vanilla flavour, and coco-mad oak. No surprise some individuals think of it as Fruit juice Adore. Each one of these Penfolds wine beverages are good in their exclusive means, which provides you much more motive to try them 1 by 1. For more Direct Wines related articles you are invited to visit Direct Wines [sic]

To provide a gentle reminder of the dangers of dependence upon your free Google translator, we asked the same program to switch this back to Serbian, and then had it translate the Serbian back to English. Cheers, m'dears:

Penfolds wines are known for a tag that smoothies complete with a foreign country relating to: Grange. Penfolds Grange is truly the southern region of Australia wine beverage that says that the unique, wonderful addition, and then a symbol of the situation. And why souldn it really is? It is generally designed in Sidney favorite, the most dim-seated skin of grapes choice: Dino. Penfolds Grange comes in several retro Vintages and each is said to be exclusive of one extra. These days, Grange Shiraz is different and a little Cabernet Sauvignon. A combination of two strong drink wine, get useful freakish wines that will flip the other way.

Grange is one of the crowd effectively drinks wine in Australia, and that is great for adults. You'll find a special bottle of Penfolds wines, however, you should try starting in front of other individuals, starting with Penfolds Grange 1996th This wine drinks attract deep cherry colorings is probably more expensive Vintages, at first sold at Usd850 (now USD700) a bottle of wine. It has a pleasant nose area quite sweet plum and Cassis, and is very rich and sophisticated for the Grange. This huge tannic, of course, if the stock advances wonderful styles that are absolutely worth to endure. Through the special smell of plums and Cassis, you will be able to know some bb later, licorice, chocolate, a certain amount of cappuccino. This wide range of opportunities Shiraz blend Cabernet Sauvignon 6Pct and also extremely rigorous. It a great time for about four to five hours long.

Will still have to try Penfolds Grange may be obsolete in 1988. She is known for its very fragrant nose of black, Cassis, pepper, fresh fruit and loitering. It is a deep purple color, has a nice-methodized tannins and great complekness. The good thing is, the container Buck700 are now sold by Buck495. Ideal in combination with pots and pans, grilled ground beef in wine can reduce or tomato sauce. Now one of the few Penfolds wines, Penfolds Grange 1998 vintage is the only one not to be missed. Wine viewer is ranked 99 (in the vicinity of a large). Even the wine is drunk with the estimate of 94 or 95 are very large. To help you imagine how it will change its old-fashioned planet. It is known to possess specific tannins, built high in acid, and covered with a coating of mobile phones and blackberry fruit Cassis. It also includes nasal area darkish plum aromas of vanilla, coconut and oak-mad. Not surprisingly, some individuals think of it as a fruit juice worship. Each of these Penfolds wines drinks are good in their exclusive means of providing you with much more motivation to try them one at first For more articles Direct Wines invites you to visit the Direct Wine

To read The Panic Button runner-up in week # 1, click here.


Big Doc Calls For Smaller Bottles
Rich Poms Can't Help Themselves
Deadly Urge To Drink To The End

In one of the earlier proho wowser uprisings, some of us rebelled against those pioneering arms of the wine industry which chose to voluntarily add alcohol warnings to their back labels.

At the risk of recalling such things too frequently, it’s worth remembering that in the mid-eighties, Robert O’Callaghan virtually led the bold Shiraz uprising that places like the Barossa still cruise upon.

The vine-pull scheme was threat enough; add winemakers who were actually willing to attempt to convince their customers that they should not over-indulge, and you had the end of everything as we once knew it.

When Yalumba began using the line “drink wine in moderation” O’Callaghan responded with back labels that said things like “Black Shiraz is the sort of stuff I was weaned on”. The market responded enthusiastically: mainly to please Robert Parker the alcohol levels of too much Barossa red crept upwards and natural acids fell to please those who preferred a touch of gloop in their gulp.

With the aid of adman Tony Parkinson, now of Penny’s Hill, O’Callaghan (left) was the first I know to attempt to launch wine in nice little oj-style tetra pack with a straw glued conveniently to the side. That noble endeavour was scuttled, but at the same time, McWilliams launched another product which lasted on the marketplace about as long as it took to drink: the Cab Sac, a small shiny plastic pouch of wine from which one ripped the corner, to literally squirt the contents into the throat. A mini bladder pack lacking the inconvenience of a tap, if you will.

Another reaction to the dangerous proho tendencies of the moderation mob came from Brian Miller, who was then the PR flak for Seppelts. He called one day to excitedly show me his new low-alcohol wine, which turned out to be a half bottle, or a “split”, of your standard strength Seppelt red.

“This has only half the alcohol of your standard bottle,” he quite accurately announced, plopping it on my table.

There’s a move afoot now to promote half bottles; there’s a new UK specialist shop which sells only premium halves. And in Sydney, the Bellevue Hill Bottle Shop is specializing in small bottles of very good wine, from piccolos of champagne through Bordeaux reds to sauternes. One can order online to take deliveries anywhere in Australia.

In a blatant attempt to stem the tide of customers getting wasted simply because they habitually drink the product until the bottle is empty, British supermarkets too are under pressure to supply more wine in smaller containers.

Dr Trish Groves, (left) deputy editor of The British Medical Journal, has been getting press for her insistence that the British middle classes would not guzzle so much if the containers were smaller.

"I like a glass of good wine with my supper," she said, "but, once two of us have had a glass each, it is all too tempting to finish the bottle there and then. Bottles of wine do not tend to keep very well and you do not want to throw half of it down the sink. So you end up drinking the whole bottle yourself or with a partner, when you may have just opened the half bottle if it was available.

"Coupled with the news that wine is getting stronger, with eight or nine units [of alcohol] in a bottle, it is no wonder Britain's middle-aged middle classes are getting wasted," she advised.

Reacting to research from John Moores University in Liverpool, showing that the wealthy were the worst booze offenders, drinking well into the “hazardous” realms of 22 to 50 standard drinks per week for men and 15 to 35 for women, the Doc wrote in the British medical Journal that reducing the size of the bottle would work very well to reduce the numbers of bottle-scarred warriors.


She whinged about her local supermarket offering only three wines in half bottles. "Why does wine have to come in 75cl bottles?” she asked.

"Banning supersize meals won't stop people from buying two regular burgers, and selling half bottles won't stop some drinkers from simply having two. But there must be at least one supermarket chain willing to give the half-bottle market a proper go with a decent range and fair pricing, and to trump their competitors' hands for responsible, healthy retailing.

"Come on Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Morrisons and all? Help us out. Cheers."

This is all very well: I admit to enjoying some of the finest wines on earth from small bottles, but vintage port comes to mind as readily as pink Krug.

My gripe with 375 ml bottles is that they are just a touch too small. The size was adopted simply to halve the standard 750 ml bottle, which came in turn from the confounding old standard bottle of 1 pint 6 fluid ounces, which to me made about as much sense as a penny being four farthings, a shilling being twelve pennies, a florin being two shillings, a crown being five shillings, a pound being four crowns, and a guinea, the rich man’s pound, being twenty-one shillings.

Pity that Australia couldn’t shift completely to the metric system when it thought it did in February 1966.

We should have moved immediately to the litre bottle for the committed solo bibulant or table of three or four at a serious repast. The litre bottle is handsome, and presents with the authority of a magnum without being quite so big a drink. Its presence and weight, versus smaller receptacles, is akin to the comparison of an LP to a CD.

The 500 ml bottle, on the other hand, is a better size for the lunch table of two in a hurry, or the solo flyer used to two proper glasses. It is a much better size for the likes of poor old Trish Groves, and her wealthy mates who simply lose control of themselves when exposed to normal-sized bottles of alcohol.

Given the belated occ health and safety move away from heavy cases of a dozen to six-packs, the idea of a five-pack of 500 ml bottles, or a five-pack of litres seems to make uncommon sense to this Virgo.

Which leads me to some samples which recently lobbed on my desk: two rather impressively ocker-dag packages available for $100 per six pack through the Swings and Roundabouts website, or $22 each at the cellar.

The first, the Super Sprinkler Boy Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2010 is equal to many more posh and expensive presentations from the region: gently creamy as much as lemon-grassy, with a velvety lemon-custard middle and neat, lingering bone china finish, crying out for the sort of exemplary seafood that falls from the char grills of the region; (screw cap; 12.5% alcohol; 88+ points).

And the red sibling, the Mighty Mower Man Margaret River Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2009 is another better-than-fair offer. It oozes dark whiffs of fennel and licorice amongst its morello cherries and soused prunes, with a tweak of tidy nutmeg and five-spice oak. Its palate is quite slender and racy for its alcohol, being more Bordeaux in shape than Barossa, with a long rapier of fine tannin and acid stretching its finish to a savoury taper (screw cap; 14% alcohol; 85++ points). Chops, please.

These wines quite sensibly come only in 1.5 litre bottles. Call it the Thinking Man’s Stubby and get on with shrinking the wine lake. You owe it to Australia.

This article triggered a prompt response (below) from winemaker Richard Hamilton, for whom Brian Miller worked upon leaving Seppelts.

Dear Philip

The half-bottle incident you amusingly related (Indaily 17 Oct 2011) was when Brian Miller was with "Leconfield - Home of Richard Hamilton Wines", and the wine was our 375ml Richard Hamilton Willunga Chardonnay.

"... Half the alcohol without compromising quality or flavour ..."

It was his tongue-in-cheek response to the hyperbole surrounding several "low-alcohol" wines released at the time, all of which quickly disappeared without trace.

Unfortunately, the cost of bottling and packaging 375ml wines is and was almost as much as bottling 750ml, and they never sold as well.

But that one did!

Best Wishes and I enjoy your columns.

Richard Hamilton

Which led to me consult Brian Miller, with whom I am sure I recall joking about a half bottle of red being low-alcohol wine before he left Seppelts. Perhaps it was a half-bottle of the delicious Seppeltsfield Vintage Port they'd just released, which was one of the very first I know of which included Touriga Nacional, the Portuguese variety.

Miller's response:

Tyrrell: "We began to recognize in them a strange obsession. After all, they are emotionally inexperienced, with only a few years in which to store up the experiences which you and I take for granted. If we gift them with a past, we create a cushion or a pillow for their emotions, and consequently, we can control them better."

Deckard: "Memories. You're talking about ... memories."

from Blade Runner


I had moved from Seppelt to Leconfield. One morphed into the other.

Soon after, Seppelt released a low-alcohol (*) chardonnay. The wine was well made, varietal, and dry, but the accompanying information suggested experts couldn't tell it from the real thing. I ... doubted that.

And Richard Hamilton had a few pallets of 375ml Chardonnay hanging about looking for trouble. I could not resist.

Don't eat low-fat cheese, eat high-fat cheese but half as much. Same price, better flavour and better for you. A morsel of 85% cacao chocolate is more satisfying than ten Mars Bars. This principle applies to everything except money.

My memory? I can remember your Shiva Naipaul article, but not where I left my phone yesterday.

Kind Regards


* (actually de-alcoholised; spinning-cone technology).


14 October 2011



on being seated

once fussy about where I sat
the direction I faced seemed important
so having first moved the chair
to get it pointing right
I’d follow that up with further adjustment once down

it was a matter of what needed addressing
ruled by some cool subconsciousness
a flash shard of equations
the rapid sorting machinery
delivered a sweet calm empowerment

now I find it better
to leave the chair as it stood
take to it with keen interest in the angle it has chosen
get in there with a smoke and a drink
and scour what it offered me all along

I see a better range of stuff this way

Philip White


12 October 2011



Savage Tongue-eating Bug Jumps
Fishy Species Leaps To Humans
Horror Result At Adelaide Show

Judges in Australia’s internationally-revered wine show system are in shock and denial at news of a horror parasite endemic in their ranks.

Secret research showing judges are now consistently failing to recognize and reward the most beautiful entries in Australia’s 13,793 annual wine shows had been met with disbelief amongst the secretive circle.

Everything changed when the chief judge at the Royal Adelaide Wine Show III (A.iV340-2011) coughed something into his spittoon during a tannin siezure.

The team of 493 judges were half-way though the taste-off of 789 trophy winners to select the best wine of the show when the incident occurred.

Fellow judges became curious when they discovered the chairman would no longer speak. Imagining he’d coughed up his dentures, one of the first assistant director judges drained the golden spittoon to recover the teeth when a mature Ceratothoa imbricate bit her finger.

Ceratothoa imbricate was previously known only to live in fish.

When the first assistant director judge screamed, a second parasite leapt from her mouth. She, too, was suddenly silent, and refused other judges a chance to inspect her bleeding gullet.

Finally junior judges began to admit that they, too, were experiencing strange clicking sounds in their mouths as they tasted.

Ceratothoa imbricate, a native of South America, is believed to have come to Australia on the palate of this year’s guest Argentinian judge, a male, and moved to the mouth of a junior female judge during their liason after the Chairman’s Welcome Rare Bottle Dinner at the conclusion of the Show’s first day of tasting.

5,098 bottles of extremely rare Bordeaux and Burgundy were served at the dinner.

Secret laboratory work at the Australian Wine Research Institute is believed to indicate that the parasite lives on the tongues of wine judges. Once it has devoured the tongue completely, the creature remains resident in the mouth, gradually taking over the role originally performed by the tongue.

Scientists say their research is too short-lived to establish whether the creatures remain in the judges’ mouths all their lives, as only the passage of time will tell.

They remain tight-lipped about how Ceratothoa imbricate crossed species, or when it first jumped from living in the mouths of fish to humans.

However, the general alarm has intensified since South American merchant seamen discovered a metre-long specimen of the parasite loose in a container of Argentinian Malbec.



European Carp Enjoy La Niña
Population Blooms By 4000%
Another Cruel Blow To Rivers


Australia’s bashed and buggered Murray-Darling river system, which drains 1,061,469 square kilometres of eastern Australia and supplies irrigation water for thousands of marginal bladderpack/refinery-level grape-growers, is confronted by another menace: foreign fish.

Lakes Hubs, a taxpayer-funded activist group devoted to saving the rivers’ dying estuary in South Australia, says the Carp population increased by well over 4000% in the Darling below Menindee during the 2010-2011 breeding season, which coincided with the current La Niña-triggered floods. These new fish are already infesting the Murray and vast stretches of its tributaries, and are determinedly heading downstream.

Carp populations migrate very quickly in floodwater; viable Carp eggs are commonly spread by waterbirds.

The “European” Carp, Cyprinus carpio, was first introduced to Australia in 1851. It is the world’s most widely-distributed freshwater fish. Actually a native of Asia, it quickly became an inland menace after a Singaporean strain introduced to the Murrumbidgee River in 1876 interbred with the hybrid Boolara strain introduced to Victorian rivers in 1961.

While Carp can grow bigger than one metre in length, and 60 kg in weight, most Australian examples are around 4-5 kg, but 10 kg fish are not uncommon.

Carp destroy river beds, billabongs and anabranches. Relentless omnivores, they suck insects and plants from the surface, but generally they feed like submarine vacuum cleaners, hoovering up mud and gravel from the bottom, sucking the vegetation from it, and spitting the inedible portion out. They devour native fish, microscopic algae, rotifers and crustaceans. They muddy the water to a disastrous extent, degrade natural riverbank structures, kill vast stretches of indigenous riverine vegetation, and out-compete and dominate native fish to the verge of extinction.

So Carp are outlaws. They’ve been an official noxious species under the Fisheries Management Act since 2007. If you happen to catch one, which is ridiculously easy, you are obliged by law to kill it.

Australians refuse to eat Carp. They regard it as vermin, much as they regarded rabbits and kangaroos in the past. It has an unusual second row of ribs which make it tricky to fillet, but its greasiness makes it perfect to smoke, and it makes the best ever yellow fish curry if you have a lazy bottle of Viognier seeking a meal to park itself on. I have been amused on various occasions to see it spread on tables at the wicked little street market on the Rue de Buci on the Left Bank in Paris. The market seems to specialize in crustaceans and molluscs, but the Carp is often the most expensive fish there.

If the floods continue to drain away, countless thousands of tonnes of Carp will beach and rot. But should the forecast La Niña summer eventuate, there could well be more floods which will see a reboubling of the population and the damage go extreme.

So there’s another little challenge for Australia, and particularly for those who boast that the Murray-Darling is such a bounteous food and wine bowl that its totally unsustainable irrigation regimes should be permitted to continue: find a way of using this damn fish. You could train Australia to eat it, make a million tonnes of cat food, ferment it to make fish emulsion fertiliser to nourish some of the arid land you’ve devoured … get thinkin’!

Otherwise, if you really do imagine the rivers are back to normal after such an inconvenient drought, you can ignore the Carp. Then, as you gradually realize the second wettest vintage in history (2011) was not very normal at all, and the outback and the Mallee gradually go off as millions of tonnes of rotting fish add their piquant carrion tweak to the desert air, you could think about it all in restrospect. Again.

11 October 2011



Stalwart Vales Tribe Hits 170
Huge Knees-up Feast & Frolic
3rd-Oldest Family Co. In Oz!

It couldna happened to a bonnier mob, really. The Olivers, I mean, of Taranga Vineyards in McLaren Vale.

They just had their 170th birthday in the grape-growing business.

They’ve been farming the same handsome slice of this picture-book vignoble by the sea since William and Elizabeth Oliver (left) first got their shovels into it in 1841. The Family Business Association reckons they’re the third-oldest family business known in Australia. Cousins and buddies, Winemaker Corrina and Cellar and Sales Manager Brioni are the sixth generation – the great, great, great, great grandchildren of the founders.

So, as you can see, they had a feast. Andre Ursini cooked a stunning fourteen-dish meal, and they poured eleven of their favourite Olivers’ Taranga wines, from the brave new Fiano and Vermintino whites, through Grenache, Sagratino, a formidable troop of Shiraz and finally a fabulous liqueur Muscat.

Jeez it was fun. The Yearlings played just perfectly, the table service was better than it gets, and The Swell Brewing Company ales – another family enterprise – were simply swimming.

William and Elizabeth must have been remarkable people. That's the page of their family Bible, with all the birth and death records. They came on the Delhi from Berwick, Scotland, and got straight into it: sheep, cattle, orchards and vines. In 1857, William was awarded a prize for The Best Collection Of Grapes at the Willunga Agricultural Society Annual Exhibition.

When he died in 1888, William left eighteen horses, 38 head of cattle, 400 fat sheep, a good flock of fowls and 4000 gallons of good wine. He lies there in the family crypt, alongside his wife and three of their ten children.

Their son Archibald took over then, or at least his fierce wife, Ruth (right) did, setting a precedent for bold women at the family helm. Archibald and his bothers were rambunctious rascals who were more into the product than your actual production. And on it went: the enterprising RW Oliver did more than his share of the latter, establishing a cattle stud, a Clydesdale stud, a merino stud, a proper piggery. He bought their first tractor in ’44, and with his son Herbert – HJ – and the help of the local Kaurna aboriginal people, planted the famous 1948 Block to vines which flourish to this day.

HJ is survived by his beloved Marjorie, who knits the thick socks beloved by the winery crew, and their son Don runs the firm in his cool, determined way. He is a McLaren Vale Viticulturist Of The Year, and a deeply respected bloody good bloke who knows how to grow grapes that go into the very best of Penfolds, amongst other lucky recipients.

Corrina (see family photo at top) is the first qualified winemaker in the tribe. She has established a formidable arsenal of new and traditional wines which would stand their own on any table on Earth. My biggest admiration went to that crackerjack 2009 Sagratino, but the moody, glowering HJ Reserve Shiraz quartet was similarly stunning.

I took no notes, and got home real late.