“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)





24 October 2013


Trentham Estate Verdejo 2013 
$16; 12% alcohol; screw cap; 90+ points 
The Murphy Family came from Ireland in 1909 and eventually grew grapes at Merbein, near Mildura.  Their proud Trentham Estate, across the Murray from the King's Billabong Wildlife Reserve, was a more recent venture, having its first vintage in 1984.  Trentham has always been one of the leaders in making a better line of wine from the River, while maintaining prices that should scare few and surprise many. With viticulturer Patrick Murphy, MD/winemaker Tony Murphy is always testing the limitations of warm area winemaking.  Like this: Australia's first Verdejo.  This white grape is from north-west Spain, and if this debut's any indication, the grape seems perfectly suited to that sunbaked limestone and terra rossa Murray country.  First, I was allured by its nice low number of alcohols. Given that, the aroma is nevertheless rich and complex in a smoky/spicy way, somewhere along the lines of a hearty Alsace Gewürztraminer.  But in its texture and weight, the wine brings serious Chenin blanc to mind, in that it has a candle-waxy feel, but around a really steely acid spine.  You want me to name a fruit?  Go Bartlett pear and honeydew melon without their sweetness.  Which all adds up to a drink that makes me hungry for that Provence-style bean and pork belly stew which is served warm, not hot, sometimes with artichoke hearts.  The tannins peculiar to artichoke are very tricky to match with wine, but this one would rock'n'roll.  This is an exciting step for the Murray-Darling wine business: as far as smart moves go, it's on a par with Hahndorf Hill's introduction of Grüner veltliner to the Adelaide Hills.

Schlüter Wines Schadenfreude Shiraz 2011 
$25; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 93++ points 
This fruit grew at the northern end of the Barossa, on the Moppa/Belvidere flats.  As we are gradually learning to admit, 2011 was very, very wet.  Mick Schlüter says some locals reported 180ml by early March.  Unlike the many who sprayed stuff everywhere to avoid mould and ended up picking oversprayed mush, Mick sprayed nothing at all and ended up picking lovely clean fruit in rubber boots and ankle-deep water.  On April Fool's Day.  His wine is rudely in-your-face in a very smooth way.  Reminds me of George Clooney in O Brother Where Art Thou as much as a ripe year Hermitage.  Tea-tin, blackberries, bitter chocolate, the prickle of summer stubble ... it certainly doesn't smell wet.  Musk and lavendar.  Mint. It's one of those Barossa rarities in which everything clicks and wallows and sings in a sort of ragged rural harmony that's separate from the rest.  The wine's all silk until its brusque satin tannins move on through. Its fruit is as dense as to be almost jellied, but along with that tannin its sublime acid spins it out in the most tantalising and appetising manner.  It's a wicked and cheeky delight now, with lots of corners and high notes.  The soprano bits will be contralto in four years, ultra-smooth bass in eight.  How can I tell this?  I have beside it a 2008 which has that same summery dust prickle, and its edgy herbs are still there, but its fruits have hunkered down into the sort of panforte complexity you'll smell in some Greenock Creek wines.  There's even some dried fig there now.  In the savour and swallow section that fruit is jello heading to melted jello, and then there's this slow deliberate rise of acid and satin tannin.  Open three days now, and it's even more alluring.  I doubt that this wine had anything like the belligerent structure of the 2011, but it's under cork, so the odds are it's much more advanced than the screw-capped 2011 will be at five years of age.  There are a few cases of this lovely 2008 left ($39; 14.5% alcohol; cork; 92+), but plenty of 2011. Call Mick on 0437 570 107 for supplies.

Norty Schlüter, left, with Miller Laucke and Mick Schlüter, in the Greenock Creek Tavern, pondering an old Peter Lehmann red after his wake. The Schlüters have had this classic pub in the north-western Barossa since 1870 ... photo David Murdock

And on a happier note, Micha Illic, Adelaide Club food and wine boss stands back while Tim Gregg, Old Lion Hotel boss, manhandles the belligerent author, and Mick Schlüter just sits back laughing like a Schlüter, having a merrie schlück at Greenock Creek Winery ... photo Leo Davis

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