“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)





26 September 2013


Castagna Beechworth Un Segreto 2010
 $75; 13% alcohol; Diam cork; 95+ points 
Disarming Sangiovese and Shiraz from the solid granite of the Castagna family vineyard on a huge rise near Beechworth?  I don't mean disarming as in seductive or lace undies or anything like that.  I mean as in chopping your friggin arms off.  See, I reach that point and I'm already getting too many images on the screen.  Haven't even mentioned the Alps humping south, or the green honeyed smell of that buffalo grass air.  This is the most immediately vibrant of the Castagnas here on my table.  It may not be the best, but who gives a fig?  It may be eventually.  This is Heaven.  It's out there.  This one has an electric blue flicker and that ozone crackle after the lightning hits the blackberry vines. There's some doughy crust to the pie, and maybe some creamy zabaglione with a blue juniper cutting edge, swarf on the floor.  Much rude slurping.  Italy knows. Two days open and its acid has a sort of comforting fatty lactic curl like human milk. Oh Mummy. Umami. A work of rare understanding of earth, sky, table and sensuality. 

Pizzini King Valley Nebbiolo 2010 
$48; 13.8% alcohol; Diam cork; 92+++ 
Victoria's King Valley is not Italy's Barolo, but it's got the Pizzinis in it, which puts it out there.  You don't get many families of any sort getting so much from their valley, in exchange for putting some tireless generations back in.  These people don't seem to do anything other than make exquisite food and wine and then talk about it like there was nuthin' else to do.  When you're there, there IS nuthin' else, so you simply surrender with one of those foolish grins that money cannot buy.  With all that in mind, I'm not about to mistake this wine for a Barolo, but it sure is King Valley Nebbiolo of a very high order and I wish I had a few cases for the dungeon.  Dust, leather, burled walnut - it smells like a '66 Maserati Sebring with a bucket of maraschino cherries somebody tipped over in the back seat. Which could have happened on the way to Barolo, come to think of it.  Maybe we just have to wait til we get there.  A beautiful thing.  


DRINKSTER's love of the poetry of Charles Bukowski is no secret, but I never thought I'd see anything like this brilliant use of his work by  Dewar's White Label Whisky.  I know the poem's been abridged a little, but this single clip could  expose more people to great poetry than any other current device, no? Now all we have to do is recognise the work of someone who's still alive. Oh, and yes ... perhaps remember to give the poet a credit. And now, thinking ahead, maybe Colonel Sadness should turn this one into a fried chicken advertisement.

Tourism Australia, meanwhile, has shown how terribly wooden-tongued people can abuse the word, poetry, in its really bad pretence of high literacy: this thing called Be Changed.  As one comment at the foot of the Youtube post wisely says "Twice as good with the sound off," which is not what you want when you're competing with the likes of the Dewars/Bukowski thing, which is just as good with no pictures.   

While the followers of the prizewinning  media/marketing Mumbrella like Be Changed, their comments are a blistering indication of how stupid our advertising world really is in Australia. It sounds as if they've commissioned a writer to make a poem sound like them. 

This week the poets of Scotland, in their contribution to the UK National Poetry Day, have made a Youtube clip which blows that horrid Australian exercise clear down the bog. In their celebration of their great art and sensitivity, they have made a series of eight little movies which make me itch to go straight to Scotland. You won't be wanting to turn the sound off here! The theme for National Poetry Day was water.  Go slop about!       

19 September 2013


Look what happened to the workshop!  Reminds me of that overtly human Prince Amongst Men, the sweet soulful son of the Sears and Roebuck spark-plug wrench socket and the electricity he generated rubbing it up and down a tight-strung Strat: Lowell George : "I got mysterious wysterias  hangin in the air" ...  for the one and only vid of Lowell teaching socket wrench slide [in this case to some utterly stupid German press berks]  cry here ... which helped me see the Yangarra farmyard before this afternoon's thunderstorm ... to get that vibe, click this ... photo by Philip White


Goodieson Brewery Autumn Ale
 $82 for a slab of 24; 6% alcohol; crown seal; 95 points 
The first fair dinkum brewery to make its beer from scratch in McLaren Vale, Goodieson won the four most coveted gongs in last year's Royal Adelaide Show Beer Awards: Champion Wheat Beer, Champion Exhibit, Champion Small Brewery and Champion South Australian Brewery. That bent a few famous noses. If you're very, very good, McLaren Vale brewers Jeff and Mary Goodieson may eke you out some exquisite Autumn Ale even though the Autumn's become Spring - the beer still works! In fact it works better. It's a rich, creamy, winey unction of malt and fruit - think aged Rutherglen muscadelle - Tokay, they used to call it - with the your grandma's entire spice rack tipped out somewhere close.  The woody spices predominate.  I want to mention nutmeg, mace, and ancient ground coriander, but that's more of a mood thing than forensic organoleptic analysis. If the wind's shiverin your timbers, and you're in a pickled walnut kind of a huff and you're reaching for an aged fortified wine, this goes in like the most redeeming, comforting, satisfying medicine, and it's about the weenie alcohol level of a friggin fizzy fronti/moscato!  I can imagine having a few jugs of this with Billy the Shake and Sir John and the lads down at the Boar's Head, haunch of venison turning slowly while it hisses and dribbles into the fire. 

Goodieson Brewery Stout 
$82 per slab; 6.5% alcohol; crown seal; 96 points 
You could comb the pubs of Yorkshire and not find a stout this good. In style, it's the creamy, caressing opposite of the unique carbon hardness style Coopers makes with its soot black roast.  This sinister, smooth-talking Christmas pudding of a beer has as much dark fruit as a vintage port. It has a little of the sooty fireplace away back in its arsenal, but the front is all bold currants and raisins in a silky, syrupy texture that melts me.  Think of a new variety of peach the colour of an aubergine and you're getting close. I want to nude up and ascend the royal cot and finish my tankard there giggling and gurgling amongst the bearskins.  And it's not yet lunchtime.  This stout's so sublimely satisfying and generous that one or two gradual stubbies is enough, provided there's another one there for afternoon tea. And again tomorrow.  All that lovely consoling fruitiness is neatly offset by a persistent but gentle wedge of fine dry tannins the like of which a lot of winemakers should envy.  Perfect with dates and cheddar.

Inkwell Black and Blue McLaren Vale Fortified Zinfandel 2011 
$35 for 375 ml., about 17% alcohol; cork stopper; 94+++ points 
Forget about that winery dog porn, and all those poncy crotch-sniffing hounds that  hang around cellar door, begging you to fondle their ears and buy more wine while they wait for the make-up division to get 'em in another centrefold. Dudley Brown's dog, Satchmo, actually picked this. The mouldy blights of the mega-wet 2011 played hell with a lot of vineyards, and Dudley had written off a fair slice of his Zin, and left it to perish on the vine while he sorted other stuff. Then Satchmo, a vigilant lover of clean ripe fruit, took a likin' to the fruit of a small patch of the abandoned vines, leading his human to them. Turned out they sure were ultra-ripe, but miraculously clean, so the Brownman picked them and hit them with some clean fortifying spirit, to snap freeze the fruit that so impressed Satchmo. So here's the first dog-picked wine I know.  It's even more Christmas pud than that Goodieson's Stout, which is saying a lot.  The blackest-bluest Zin has sucked the SVR spirit into itself and closed the lid on it, smothering it with a thick layer of something so darkly syrupy that it could well have come from a dense equatorial jungle.  More like a liqueur port than your actual vintage model, with bright drying tannins and a 17 per cent exhalation, it's just nuts to sip now. But I hope somebody keeps some and gives me the buzz in ten years. Knock on the lid of my box if necessary.  Once this was made and maturing, Satchmo got so much long life into him that he up and joined his namesake in the Juke Joint of the Hereafter, leaving Dudley to locate another canine viticulturer. Daisy, the new pup, got straight into the goldtop mushies she found in the scrub somewhere well before any grapes have even formed, and is currently reacting well to veterinary attention, counselling and a lot of cuddles.  Meanwhile this lovely Black and Blue for Satchmo is in strictly limited supply, so hit the human for a bottle of dog-selected now.  And keep your eyes on Daisy. She shows promise. 

And here's a delicious memory of the Exmess before last: Christmas Ale ... photos by Philip White

17 September 2013


It started with retsina but don't blame it all on the Greeks -
they use pine, the rest use oak

"I have always considered 'Greek cuisine' an oxymoron," Jeffrey Steingarten, the New York food critic infamously wrote in The Man Who Ate Everything. "Any country that pickles its national cheese in brine and adulterates its national wine with pine pitch should order dinner at the local Chinese place and save its energies for other things."

For "other things" he suggests "The Greeks are really good at both pre-Socratic philosophy and white statues."

It's easy to take the piss out of the Greeks for their retsina: it seems kinda cute but very clunky, as if they'd attempted to move out of the big white statues business and suddenly build a car.  But there's nothing new about this ridicule.  Way back when the Italians were called Romans and were prone to invading neighbours they quickly became revilers of the resined wine which they had after all pillaged, and those were the days before Crime Converters might have taken it off their hands so they could purchase smaller volumes of something better, like their own premium Falernian stabilised with red lead.  Which poison led to the mindsets of lovely chaps like Caligula, Claudius and Nero. Killer lead aside, they were a thirsty lot anyway, and the ones that insisted on forcibly visiting Greece drank so much stolen retsina they ended up blaming that for their hangovers.

A thousand years later retsina overdoses copped the blame for the deaths of the crusading Vikings, Eric I of Denmark and Sigurd I of Norway.  It nearly killed this mongrel Viking hillbilly on repeated occasions another millenium on, with his 'seventies discovery of Theo's excellent Greek grill in Hindley Street.  But as with the Italians, those royal deaths and close shaves probably had more to do with the obscene number of oinochoes consumed at each sitting, and perhaps even the shipments of rough brandy which always followed.

In the beginning, the Greeks never added retsina for flavour.  Their clay amphorae were so porous as to leak, and they found the easiest method of sealing those huge jugs was to line them with pine resin, which was a precursor to the modern habit of sealing the tipping flaps of dump trucks with Bostik so they don't leak juice when being used for grape transport in our Mallee.  The truckies fondly call this handy sealant Gorilla Snot.

It was only when the Greeks became so accustomed to the flavour of the resin in the wine that the winemakers discovered they could secure an ongoing market if they added the stuff anyway, regardless of whether their newfangled non-leaking containers required it as a sealant.  You may snigger at the suggestion that eventually the drinkers of wine which travelled as grapes instilled with that delicate Gorilla Snot twang might demand the same distinctive flavour in their wine after better trucks are adopted, but cast your mind back to those old Italians.

During their invasion of Gaul, they discovered the Celts had invented the oak barrel.  This had likely come about following their invention of the carvel-hulled boat, or caravel.  If you could butt timbers together in a shell or pointy cup shape and rove them securely, they would keep water out so well you could board the damn thing and drive it to England.  Not much beyond that somebody seemed to realise that if you went the full three-sixty you'd have a container that kept water in, and everybody knew, even then, that man could not live on water alone, so in went the vino.

The Italians quickly realised this Gaelic barrel thing was a vast improvement on their brittle leaky amphorae, which required too many slaves to pour, and were notoriously tricky to ship.  Sure, the smashed ones were handy in road surfacing and building fill, just as we use sand and gravel, but most of them were lying on the bottom of the Mediterranean and thus difficult to recycle.  The barrel, meantime, floated, and was handy re-used as heating fuel or for smoking meats.

Which led to humans becoming accustomed to the flavour of oak in their wine.  Once wineries had perfected cheaper containers of concrete, steel and plastic, the market was well addicted to oak flavours, which the three most influential modern Australian winemakers, John Glaetzer at Wolf Blass, Peter Lehmann and Max Schubert knew all too well.  These chainsmoking Barossa gourmands grew up eating smoked meats in smoky kitchens and soon realised their wines were more alluringly smoky if the oak in their barrels had been burned a little.

This flambé business not only added controllable smoke flavours, but caramelised the sugars in the singed wood, which added soft fudgy toffee flavours.  Humans are suckers for fudge.

As Australia became addicted to its wine shows, these grew outrageously.  Instead of tasting and fairly appraising a decent number of wines per day, judges were soon facing a couple of hundred snifters at a sitting, a task far beyond the capabilities of even the exceptional beagle. 

Oak being a lot easier thing to sniff in a drink than your actual wine, and winemaking judges being fully aware of the huge cost of good barrels, we soon had John Glaetzer's mantra being whispered about the business like an om ah hum or Holy Mary :  "No wood no good; no medals no jobs."  Glaetzer could say that, being the winner of three or four Jimmy Watson Trophies, and Bacchus only knows how many Montgomery Trophies, which were the hard-core highest honour gongs of the day.  A dozen of 'em seems to come to mind.  The Monty was eventually replaced by the Schubert trophy, which goes to the top red wine in the Royal Adelaide Show.

The French being the best forest managers on Earth, it should be little surprise that they generally make the best barrels.  Chile, Australia, the USA - all big wine-producing countries make fine barrels, but the best are still made from French oak.  The French climate grows really good densely-grained oak, which is far superior to softer, more porous, faster-growing woods of grain and flavour more coarse and sappy, but to get enough tree to make two good French barrels takes well over a century and leaves a great deal of wasted timber.

In 1999, at the peak of Australia's tax-dodgers' obsession with planting far too much Chardonnay in the desert, this writer worked out that if Australia were to get every new barrel made and sold in France that year, we wouldn't have sufficient to ferment the fruit of the new Chardonnay vines which had yet to grow a berry.

So we developed the stainless steel, plastic and concrete wine refinery to feed a market which we knew had succumbed to the winemakers' addiction to raw toasty oak.  And we filled the tanks with all that leftover tree: sawdust, shavings, sticks, cubes and planks.  This is our pine resin.

Just as the Greek sophists of their day realised their woody additives were also handy for masking the faults of bad, lazy or insanitary winemaking, many of our sub-bronze slackers these days enjoy  the advantages of the same scam.

If you love your wine as passionately as coffee addicts do their coffee, you should take fifteen minutes to absorb the products available from an "oak products company" like the Oak Solutions Group.  Check their menu of sophisticated lumberjack goods on their website  and wonder whether this is more Nescafé instant than your actual Arabica beans.  There's a helluva difference between a good wine made in a beautiful seasoned $1500 French oak barrel and one manufactured in a humungous tank with a few bucks worth of "Premium Dark Roasted Oak Chips" shovelled in.

It's high time our winemakers declared these instant additives on their labels, so we can spend accordingly, and learn.  I doubt that they'll need to tell us when they begin lining their leaky newfangled amphorae-shaped fermenters with pine resin, or even Gorilla Snot, but it'd be nice to have the regulation in place nevertheless. They're not about to volunteer to impose it upon themselves, believe me.

Some premium small wineries, like Maynard James Keenan's Caduceus at Jerome, Arizona, spend great deals of money having large oak containers built, so their wine enjoys all the oxidative and temperature stability advantages of oak, but with minimal oak flavour interference ... these biggies are the philosophical opposite of the oak chip mentality of most big wineries. That's Maynard with some newies, above.  Below you see beautiful oak fermenters for Pinot noir at Kooyong, on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. Such vessels are used to derive the various advantages of oak as a natural container, without extracting toasty caramels or too much sappy flavour, like retsina, or most Australian bulk red.



13 September 2013


A Year In The Life Of Grange, the beautiful big book I've been working on with photographer Milton Wordley, who is the publisher, is finally coming off the press at Finsbury Green in Adelaide.  Whew.  That's my birth vintage above, thrusting its bonnie chest out over the Big Apple. Sally Marden was text editor, John Nowland the designer. Watch DRINKSTER for release details! These photographs copyright Milton Wordley


The Barry Bros by Jim Barry Clare Valley Shiraz Cabernet 2012 
$20; 14% alcohol; screw cap

"We wanted to create a wine that is approachable for people who don't want to sniff and swish, but who just want to share a good drop with family and friends," says Sam Barry in the press release.  Bean-counter Sam and winemaker Tom are the sons of Peter and Sue Barry and grandsons of the late Jim Barry. The press campaign surrounding this wine suggests it marks a handing-over of the company direction to a new generation.  "Now we're ready to make our own mark, and are determined to keep raising the profile of Jim Barry Wines with our passion, innovation and focus," Sam says.

 "Ironically we didn't choose something trendy like a Sangiovese or Tempranillo - we decided to take a modern approach to a classic Australian blend - Shiraz-Cabernet."

So it's a plunge toward the past at Barry's; even the label is designed to be retro: "It's a nod to our family's heritage and, while the wine is modern in style, the 1950s look branding harks back to the era when our grandparents Jim and Nancy bought their first vineyards." 

Without sniffing and swishing the wine, I find it a touch tricky to review and can't really point it, but I've been taking a hearty gulp of it off and on over the last few days, and yes, it is approachable for people.  The press release doesn't mention food, and in fact doesn't sound much like either of the Barry Bros., so I guess that means the wine is just a drink that you drink when you feel like a good drop. 

PS: Thinking, thinking ... I can't imagine the original Barry brothers, Jim and Brian, sharing a good drop without sniffing and swishing.  They would never have made one without that essential ritual, and I never once saw either of them drink a wine on any occasion without a very serious examination and analysis made of its bouquet.  The family name was built on their impeccable credentials in the swirl and sniff division.  Maybe that comes next, and the eminently amiable Barry Bros. Mk. III, are simply being modest.  Just sayin'. 

Véronique Barossa Old Vine Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2011 
$20; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93+ points

Véronique is the work of Peter and Vicki Manning, who are neighbours of Dominic Torzi at Mt McKenzie in the High Barossa. They hoped to grow vines on their property but hit a serious problem: no water.  So with some help from Dom, they began sourcing old vine fruit from the northern end of the Barossa floor, in the Moppa, making honest, unsophisticated wines of it, and selling it at prices which must make the pretenders and sophists wince.  Classic Barossa cooking chocolate, with all those deep pannacotta aromas of fig and raisins, nuts and confectioner's sugar provide the guts of this hearty but dignified blend.  The primary fruits on top are mulberry and prune and very ripe raspberries; the tannins way below so soft as to bring Ditters' dried apple to mind.  It's intense and complex, but never so thick or alcoholic as to be gloopy.  It has no overt oak, but just enough to add some spice to its summer dust and stubble whiff, and it's such a dead honest unpretentious son-of-a-gun that I can only marvel at that stunning price.  Pork belly, field mushrooms and beets should see it set alight some delight in the grumpiest, most sullen soul.  Whacko! 

Véronique Barossa Foundation Shiraz 2010 
 $20; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap, 94++ points

Bible black, with a bouquet as old and dense as carbon itself, here's a dead serious super-premium Barossa Shiraz from Greenock and Eden Valley.  It has faint reeks of anise and licorice in a gloomy, almost sinister well of blackberry, blackcurrant and prune.  It has that gently nose-tickling prickle of the ancient sandstones and schists of the High Barossa - hot summer aromas which some white coat boffins still maintain I can't possibly smell.  Believe whoever you prefer in that department, but my word  is more or less along the lines of this being a true blue Barossa Shiraz which is the son of its country and is here on the shelf at a quality and price which makes Woolies and Coles look like cheapo lollyshops.  At first, it's thick and furry in the mouth, something that four or five years' dungeon will sort, leaving you a ravishing ravagement to savour in big balloon glasses with any hearty dark meats and beets a little further down the track.  Make sure to include some raw Spanish onion, diced into your buttery chunky mash (spuds, carrots and pumpkin) at the last minute with some parsley, and once your plate's set, hit it with the fresh black pepper.  Right now, it's just schmick to schlück with a Sicilian pecorino pepato: go see Lulu at Smelly Cheese and she'll set you right. Lovely wine at a price which we can only adore.

10 September 2013


Corey Vandeleur's hand by Edwin Niczynski
Corey V kicks three-gong arse
Killer '11 McLaren Vale Shiraz
Best red best Shiraz best estate 
The coffee was on the gas and Frank Sinatra was oozing his way through September In The Rain when the fire drill siren went off at Yangarra, the Kangarilla winery where I live.  So I sauntered forth barefoot in my disgusting trackies and wine-stained tee and joined the neat winery, vineyard and office folks there in the drizzle as Charlie Seppelt counted us and wondered aloud whether he'd interrupted me having my shower.

Coffee boiled is coffee spoiled, I muttered thoughtfully to myself, remembering the stove. 

This quaint essential exercise reminded me of a weekend during the 2009 vintage, when the farm was surrounded by bushfires and I was the only person here.  The government computer rang my phone and kindly emitted that horrible siren before a robot advised me to leave immediately as my life was in danger.  It didn't bother telling me where to go in the terrifying smoke, and seemed to presume I could and would drive a car if indeed there was one lying around, which there wasn't and I can but don't since I love speed and petrol and cannot frame my will to the law so removed my driver's license from myself in 1989, which seemed a wise thing to do given my propensity to drink and test machinery to its limit, ablaze or not.

Other than in the rare dire emergency, I haven't driven a car since, which means my carbon footprint is baby-sized.  Because I can't shop on impulse I don't need nearly so much money as other folks, and I spend a lot more time at home reveling in books, music, food, wine and this beautiful countryside on account of never ever owning a television set.

They say we're in for an unusually hot summer after a wet spring, so there'll be plenty of fuel to burn come Jesus's birthday.  Should that computer ring again and the giant slurping Elvis leaves some water in the dam I shall stroll into it with a wet blanket and wait, hoping that humungous chopper doesn't suck me up and dump me on the flames.. 

Spring sunshower at Yangarra photo Philip White
In the meantime, the spring rain has dampened the vine budburst, which was too early for my liking and too aggressive.  The lovely rain will slow it down a little, and give those who have not yet finished their pruning a chance to get it done.  I went to the Big Smoke for two days and when I returned found the glory vine had not only shot but put on three or four centimetres of leaf, which will grow to shade my office casement if the possums don't eat it like they did last year, little bastards.

Without fail, that glory vine shoots at the same time as the big Pirramimma Chardonnay block opposite the Salopian Inn.  That's my bellwether vineyard for McLaren Vale, and I can think of nothing more enjoyable than to sit month after month in the cool Salopian with a gin or six and gaze at that vineyard, daring it to make a move.

Pirramimma Chardonnay on left, from The Salopian photo Philip White
But right now I'm the one being stared down by this unholy election - I write this a couple of days before the polls close and my countrymen elect a bloke who says "climate change is crap."  

This has so far been the hottest year ever recorded across Australia, in spite of the wondrous winter rains which have soused this ground so thoroughly that those pruners still can't get on a lot of country without sinking, even if September 1st. was the hottest first day of spring in these parts since records began.

Which brings me to the 2011 vintage, the wettest on record in eastern Australia.  While I took withering crossfire from some vignerons for reporting this fact, I also made clear from the start that some scarce folks made really good wine in spite of the sorts of moulds and funguses that only the French take for granted.

Corey Vandeleur doing caps at Bellevue photo Edwin Niczynski
One of these was the wildcat loner Corey Vandeleur, who has a small, impeccable winery and Shiraz vineyard in the main street of McLaren Vale.  It's called Bellevue, which is what that western end of the village was originally named.  I recommended his 2011 Shiraz here in February. I got some flack for that, too, from those who'd never heard of him, or jealous rivals who felt I'd over-estimated his gorgeous work.  But Corey called me yesterday to say that same $18 Shiraz had just won him three trophies in one of the few wine shows I respect, the Australian Boutique Wine Awards, chaired by the Sydney Morning Herald wine critic, Huon Hook.

That made my day.  I've been cackling madly since.  Not only is it a great thing for the district in which I live, but it was a serious recognition of the effort of this unsung bloke who has no formal training whatever, other than his practical life in some famous Australian cellars, not to mention a few in Bordeaux and California.

"People ask me where I studied winemaking," he said, "and all I can say is that I was always too busy making wine to study it."

Corey plunging skins photo Edwin Niczynski
Corey's Bellevue McLaren Vale Shiraz 2011 gave him trophies for Best Shiraz, Best Estate Grown and Made Wine, and Best Red in a tough show dominated by Western Australia, which had a perfect vintage with none of the sousing that plagued this end of the country in that year.  When he told his mum they should get ready for a trip to Sydney because he thought he'd won something,  she asked whether she should make some sausage rolls.

You can read my original review of the wine here on DRINKSTER.  If I were to make one change, it'd be the insertion of the word "elegant." After those extra months in bottle, I feel a deep confidence in that first appraisal as I pour the wine now from my beloved Trott Family Trophy oinochoe. 

This Bellevue still reminds me of the beautiful trophy-winners John Glaetzer made for Wolf Blass in the '70s, but its lack of both raw American oak and dodgy cork puts it way above them.  Like them, it is of lower alcohol than the gloopy gluggers of the 1995-2010 Parkerilla era. It seems to circle somewhere in the ether between those radical '70s antipodeans and the cleanest, most modern reds of today's Rhône.  I imagine both Glaetzer and those rebel French would be jealous, while regarding its tiny price with ridicule.

"I don't mess around with my wine," Corey said tonight.  "I pick it, and let it make, and leave it alone.  People say I should charge a lot more, but I won't.  It's just starting to look the way I hoped it would, but that's no excuse to suddenly put the price up."

By the time you read this the vote will be cast, I will have showered, ironed a shirt, aired a tweed and made a fresh pot of coffee, and we'll be on into another harvest of extremes.  Whether you're drinking to victory or defeat, you can pour your wine assured that Corey Vandeleur will remain as one cool honest vigneron capable of turning adversity into a beautiful honest drink without messing about with it, and without the slightest hint of ripping you off. 
There's plenty of that going down in very famous wineries that haven't won a proper trophy in years.
I reckon the Bellevue McLaren Vale Shiraz 2011 will be the best drink to deal with however you feel about your new government or the weather.  Go, buy, quick, before everyone else does.  Which they will.  China's onto it.


09 September 2013


Here's the bastard, hanging over and out, after shocking beer thievery in the far north-west ... thanks to ABC reporter Ebonnie Sprigg for the yarn, and Main Roads Pilbara for the photograph

08 September 2013


Fit and healthy mature Wedge-tailed Eagle [Aquila audax] dancing in her tutu in the bush ... notice Pirates' Party tattoo on right shoulderblade and trousers by Keith Richard ... photo by Pat Sprague ... for more about raptors in vineyards read this

06 September 2013


Abbott dries up Rivers funding
$650 million chop if LNP wins
Birmingham true to old mates

If elected tomorrow, Tony Abbott's Tories will rip $650 million from the Murray River water buyback scheme.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said this proves Abbott imagines he can win government without SA support.  

"Water buybacks are the cheapest way of getting water back in the River," he said.

As this state is at the end of Australia's biggest river system, its citizens are more aware than most of how the Murray has ceased to flow into the ocean in recent decades, as far too much water is removed from its upstream reaches to irrigate vast vineyards to feed the discount bladder pack business.  This cheapo sector of the wine game makes up about half of Australia's wine production and contributes significantly to Australia's $20 billion annual alcohol damage bill.

South Australia's premium Clare and Barossa Valleys are also big users of irrigation water from the Murray. 

DRINKSTER has never understood the morality or business sense of how the goonbag  industry can use up to 1200 litres of water to make one litre of wine which is then sold at the price of bottled water while being three times the alcoholic strength of your average beer.

SA Senator Simon Birmingham, Abbott's Murray-Darling Basin spokesman called Labor's reaction a scare campaign but affirmed that buybacks would be a last resort of an Abbott government, which would rather spend money providing infrastructure for the irrigators. 

Before winning his Senate seat, Birmingham (pictured) made his mark as a spindoctor for the pro-gambling Australian Hotels Association, whose members retail vast amounts of bladder pack wine at rock-bottom prices.  He  then worked for years in a similar role at the Winemakers' Federation of Australia at a time when tax-dodge vineyard schemes dependent on endless supplies of impossibly cheap water played a great role in the destruction of the Murray-Darling River system.

Such scammy schemes also contributed enormously to Australia's over-supply of wine grapes which contributed in turn to the quality of our export wine taking a dive which continues to threaten our major export markets.

To this observer, the chicanery and nonsense inherent in Australia's mismanagement of this, its greatest agricultural and environmental resource, invariably brings Roman Polanski's Chinatown to mind.

The Murray is exploited so severely by upstream irrigators that its mouth frequently silts up and the river ceases to flow into the Coorong and the Great Southern Ocean.