“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)





09 April 2013


Inkwell Road To Joy McLaren Vale Shiraz Primitivo 2011
$25; 14.9% alcohol; screw cap; 93+ points
You gotta love the sass down this Road to Joy.  Not quite abrasive, but certainly struttin’, it wears its alcohol like a stripey French sailor shirt.  The dude’s on shore leave.  And then the suggestion of cherry cola arises, which leads to L-O-L-A Lola, which is a bit too far left of the sailor for the wine in my opinion.  It’s not at all sweet.  Probly makes no diff in this part of town.  But if you gave me a glass blind, I doubt that I’d pick either variety quickly. Blackstrap licorice, bullwhip polish, Parade Gloss, star anise, all the alcohol-soluble aromas are here in martial wallops.  But then it’s bracing with sandy tannins and the sort of stiff acid bone-dry structure that makes me really hungry. Which is good. Blood orange.  XXX-rated chinotto. And them bitter morello cherries … no jam!  Savoury, strapping, intense … it’s a really good example of the new cutting edge of McLaren Vale, if a little hot. All of South Australia has to work out how to get these alcohols down in this New Heat – nobody seems able to pick early enough. I like the accurate reference to the geological group of the vineyard on the back – Pirramimma Sandstone.  To me this seems a lot more easy to understand than the sub-regional boundaries currently being discussed.  It’s not a marketing thing, it’s simply telling the truth in its most basic form.  The geology was here first.  Thanks for your help getting the geology map published, Inkwell proprietor/grapegrower/winemaker Dudley Brown.  And thanks for this smack-in-the-face wine! 

Inkwell McLaren Vale Blonde On Blonde McLaren Vale Viognier 2012
$20; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+ points
I never thought I’d see this happen.  A Viognier that doesn’t smell like apricot syrup is a rare beast in Australia.  This smells like stone fruits about as much as Sly and the Family Stone did.  If indeed you can get more stone than Sly, this is more stone: it’s called Pirramimma Sandstone.  That’s what it grows in.  As far as its album name goes, it’s probably best drunk with Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat.  It’s that edgy, and has a similar bone dry sass.  Two batches, one riper than the other, were blended to keep that alcohol down and let the wine’s savoury, hunger-triggering lean meanness rule.  Without getting syrupy, the riper component has provided just enough viscosity to provide some padding to that brittle snarl.  The makers (Chapel Hill’s Bryn Richards working with grower Dudley Brown) have wisely bottled it unfiltered, to leave the sandy tannins intact: to me, one of the key aspects of Viognier is its unique tannin, which disappears in the lunge to over-ripe apricot syrup fruit.  Then winemakers tend to fine the life out of it anyway.  Wrong.  I’ll now commit a travesty and suggest that if one were to add Viognier to Shiraz, as was the short-lived fashion a few years back, this is the sort of tight, crunchy Viognier which would actually add some character to your typically over-ripe Shiraz. So what did they do?  They added over-ripe syrupy apricot to over-ripe, jammy Shiraz.  But that’s a travesty easily avoided.  Pick your Shiraz early enough and you won’t need Viognier.  Best to pick the Viognier this early and let the lovers of adult-level dry white wine enjoy it at its best: neat.  If I need to put a finer edge on that edge, this wine screams sarcasm at those fat apricot jammy jobs as precisely as the stuff Dylan builds into the bones of his song:   “Well, I asked the doctor if I could see you / It's bad for your health, he said / Yes, I disobeyed his orders / I came to see you / But I found him there instead.” Sounds like the Doctor knew his Viognier.  It’d be stunning with scallops on the half-shell or spaghetti vongole; don’t spare the fresh herbs.  Only 760 bottles produced.

The Willows Vineyard Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

$23; 14.7% alcohol; screw cap; 92++ points
On deep alluvial terra rossa amongst the mighty River Red Gums at Light Pass, The Willows has always been at the front of those South Australian vineyards whose red wines reflect the volatile eucalyptols of such watercourse ground; Langhorne Creek is another.  Sometimes these aromas project as straight eucalyptus – the volatile molecules come from the trees and the soil and settle on the berries’ matte blume, particularly in humid vintage weather.  The wines are better when they’re just a wee bit minty.  People unused to such Australiana might say this one too reeks of eucalyptus, but to me this wine is in that latter, less abrasive category: it smells slightly like Eau-de-Cologne mint.  But then it reeks of many other aspects of Old Barossa: dust and leather and stable, plum conserve, prunes, dried apple, hewn Red Gum, Balkan pipe tobacco – it’s a most Australian colonial Barossa smell.  Take a draught and you’re in even deeper: Cabernet actually begins to poke its elegant head through, and you’ll find yourself yearning for a juicy haunch of beef or dribbling pink lamb cutlets, with the parsnip tails properly caramelized and some raw onion chopped into into mash and the spinach.  PS: I was smuggled a bottle of a jewel which winemakers Peter and Michael Scholz seem to have uncovered a cache of, which they’re ekeing out at a modest price:  a 2006 Willows Semillon (12.5%; screw cap; 94 points) from the family’s priceless seventy-year-old vines.  To my frank open face, this blows most Hunter Semis clean outa their water. It’s classic gentle lemon-butter honesty and grace, blessed by the smell of summer dust. Perfect drinking for autumn.  Go beg.

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