“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)





16 April 2013


Langmeil Jackaman’s Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
$50; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 89++ points
The Barossa’s Old Vine Charter guarantees this wine came from vines over 35 years of age. It’s prickly and piquant like the smell of sun on stubble, with dense, tight layers of coffee, kalamata, blackberry vines hung with ripe fruit, figs and soft blackstrap licorice.  Oh yes, much bitter cooking chocolate, too. So what distinguishes it as a Barossa Cabernet? Probably those blackberry leaves more than the fruit, and maybe the coffee.  Call them the dark green hints amongst the berries and roots.  The palate is more lithe than that complex, compact bouquet would suggest: it has no jam or jello, and it’s snaky and slender.  The finish seems a little hot, but I suspect this may subside if you let it have a big breathe, or five years in your dungeon, and give that fruit time to swell.  The tannins are fine and dusty; the acid stiff and ready to help if you’re somebody who prefers to wait decades. It’ll probably last decades. [Same bottle tasted three days later: opulent, smooth, silky, much better assimilated and more harmonious; 92++ points]

Langmeil The Fifth Wave Barossa Grenache 2010

$40; 15.5% alcohol; screw cap; 91++ points
The Barossa Old Vine Charter guarantees this wine came from vines older than 75 years.  James Lindner says some are over 90.  One of the king-hitters of the new generation of straight Grenache wines aimed directly at the top of the market, it’s nevertheless made in the old school manner, with leathery tones and hints of charry oak, in spite of the majority of its barrels being well-used old French.  Through all those rustic aggie aromas looms the classy Grenache fruit: maraschino, raspberry and red currant.  The palate disarmingly carries these fresh fruits high over the wafts of old timber and harness leather, and finishes with a dry rise of fine sandy tannins teasing the lingering remnants of that fruit. Interesting that while it is slightly hot from all those alcohols, the Grenache fruit seems to carry it better than the Cabernet. I’d be starting to nudge it in 2015; but it’s fine now after an hour or two in the jug. [Same bottle tasted three days later: smooth, gradually losing its zap; drink now – five years; 90+ points]

Langmeil Orphan Bank Barossa Shiraz 2010

$50; 15% alcohol; screw cap; 94+++ points
The Barossa Old Vine Charter guarantees this wine came from vines older than 100 years.  They actually came even further than that: these are the ones developer Karl Lindner dug up and moved, one at a time, so he could squeeze more houses into Tanunda. They seem a lot happier, now they live on the creek beside The Freedom vines, which seem certain to have been planted in 1843.  As with the other three wines in this remarkable set, this one is more slender and supple than its alcohol would normally indicate, perhaps a result of the kindly vintage conditions of 2010.  It has a certain genteel intensity about it, sometimes reminding me of a blueberry flan with the odd juniper berry tucked in to add piquant savour, sometimes just sitting there in the glass with the same smug attitude a cast iron pot of blackberry and mulberry conserve shows on the woodfire stove.  That’s the aroma division.  Drink the darling, and you will marvel at its cool sinuous attitude and slick silky texture: it is a thing of rare elegance but obvious determination and breeding, and of the three wines reviewed thus far, this is the one that really deserves a decade in the cellar. It does of course show its large alcohol in the afterbreath, but its polish, intensity and posture are of such class that this barely seems to be worth a mention.  It is like drinking a museum of gastronomy and agriculture. Stunning. [Same bottle tasted three days later: silky, plush, more juniper, less primary fruitiness … it smells a bit like grandpa’s rifle cupboard now.  94+++ points]

Langmeil The Freedom 1843 Barossa Shiraz 2010
$100; 15% alcohol; screw cap; 96+ points
The Barossa Old Vine Charter guarantees this wine comes from vines older than 125 years; the Lindners believe they were planted in 1843, and can produce documents of the age to show that Christian Auricht planted his vineyard to Shiraz on this site in that year.  There’s nobody around who can recall whether or not Auricht’s garden was replanted in the first half of the 1800s; but it does seem highly unlikely.  They’ve certainly never been replanted since.  Those old Lutherans weren’t big on pulling things out once they’d got ’em in.  I recall visiting the unkempt vineyard in the ’eighties (that’s the nineteen eighties) just before the Lindners decided to buy it and rejuvenate it.  Its canes were wildly running across three or four rows: Karl Lindner grinned and suggested they had a big change of attitude once he’d waved his axe at them.  Instead he used der schnipsesOnce they got reinterested after their first haircut in years, he got the shovel out and moved the Orphans right in there beside them.  Karl’s left Langmeil to concentrate on his business with Dandelion Wines.  Langmeil's run by other Lindners: Richard, who
sold his slice of Rockford and bought the Langmeil partners out.  His sons, winemaker Paul and sales and marketing manager, James run the show.  They rock.  These wines rock.  We rock.  To poke one’s nose into a glass of this marvel is almost the act of a pervert: it's like licking the plasma of a very old soldier, and feels strangely rude and intrusive until you remind yourself that these incredible plants have lived there all those years for one purpose alone: to make you happy.  So, proceed with impunity.  First, the wine has been given the sort of right royal oak that fruit of such provenance deserves: it’s like a gingernut biscuit.  Second, it’s obvious that this pitch fruit will simply suck that wood up and digest it without leaving so much as a splinter.  Third, the fruit is stunning in its intensity, elegance and lissome athleticism.  That’s right: athletic.  It’s like Serena Williams’ forearm.  Go on: bow deeply, then lick it.  Silky, plush, polished to a slightly sweaty sheen, it has that impossible balance of muscle, sinew and comforting flesh that very few wines can boast.  Things like acid and tannin simply do not enter the vocab once you’ve got this in your system; even that gingernut oak quickly disappears into the past.  Easily the best wine I’ve yet seen from this priceless garden, it alone is loud evidence that South Australia’s Phylloxera regulations should be tightened, and not relaxed in the way the big refineries and the vine nurserymen desire. Which is another good reason for you to procure a bottle or two and tuck them away.  It’ll be vines like these that the dreaded louse will first behead should it ever cross the border. These vines are unique on Earth, and should be protected and conserved with the same determination and endeavour we show the Koala and the terrible Tasmanian Devil.  I’ll drink to that. [Same bottle tasted three days later: the wood seems to have been distilled to the perfume of a brown shoe polish; the rest has barely budged.  Amazing.  96++ points]

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