“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)





01 August 2013


Petagna McLaren Vale Diavolo 2008
$35; Shiraz 70%, Cabernet sauvignon 30%; 15% alcohol; cork (!); 94+ points

Paul Petagna grew this dark red devil on the Kurrajong rubble of the Sellicks piedmont just down the hill from the Victory Hotel.  He made it there in his shed.  He sure made it good.  He uses the old-fashioned shovel-and-fork Italian techniques his father-in-law taught him, with a little twisting here and there from his own deep gastronomic intelligence.  His father-in-law worked in the Penfolds cellars at Magill, but would then go home and make it his way.  Paul’s a bloody good cook, and when he offered to bring me a pot of pasta and a couple of his reds when I got home days late from Lehmann’s wake I woulda been an idiot to hesitate.  He brought me this.  It has those ancient deep whiffs of suitcases and leather, balsamic and dust, but over the top of all that there’s fruit mince and caster sugar, almonds and pepper, nutmeg and honey.  Which adds up to that fabulous and durable fruitcake beloved of besieged crusaders, the panforte. The wine is not too syrupy, but a bit.  It’s not got many fresh berries, but enough.  It’s not jammy, but you can imagine wiping some blackberry and prune conserve over your panforte then smothering it in fresh whipped cream and gutsing that down before you slurped up a gullet of this prime deliciousness and peeked over the ramparts at the barbarians.  But it has a slender, appetizing aftertaste which goes past real slow, like a girl thinking of being a film star as she saunters by in her heels, twisting a gelati round her thick red lipstick.

Petagna McLaren Vale Dio 2009
$35; Mourvèdre 100%; 15% alcohol; cork (!); 95 points

Same piedmont; same rocks; same bloke; same shed.  Different variety; different grower. Shit it’s good.  It has real pretty fragrance, like lavender and musk.  Underneath that, it’s fresh soft licorice, mulberry and fig conserve, and a squeeze of tar.  It also has a tickle of piquancy, like somebody just used old-fashioned black powder to blow off a big slab of slate in the quarry up the scarp at Willunga.  That bit prickles the edges of your nostrils, making them flare.  When you do the right thing by yourself and tip it in there, you’ll probably be amazed at how supple and slender it is, and how its natural acidity immediately makes you reach for food and another glass of it, and how the hell you can work out a way of buying a dozen or two of it.  Its aftertaste leaves just that little lozenge of blackcurrant melting in the gutter that goes down the middle of your tongue into your gizzards, reminding you that you’re drinking something.  Which you are.  I love this grape, whether you call it Mourvèdre like the French, Monastrell like the Spaniards, or Mataro like true blue Aussie dags like me. But hardly anyone does it true here.  There are one or two of different styles nearby, but the closest rivals to this MMM heaven are Tim Smith and Penfolds in the Barossa.  I want to have lunch with all of em. Petagna can cook; Smiffy can play the drums; Gago can decant some Max, and I’ll screw out some slow slurred blues to match the varicose cheese.

2011 vintage lunch at Petagna: that's brilliant Elbow Room chef Nigel Rich in the middle, the Petagnas on his left ... photos Philip White

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