“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)





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.


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