“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)





07 November 2013


Months after being smitten with a sudden, deadly Streptococcal infection which shut down his major organs and body functions, Roger Pike rises from his deathbed with a vengeance, and an early release of his 2011 Marius McLaren Vale Shiraz. 

Marius Simpatico Single Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz 2011 
$32; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92+++ points

On first opening, not a week after bottling, this wine smelled big and fluffy like a giant fairy floss made from mysterious soft black tropical fruits which are certain to evolve in the decades to come.  Like, they're not even on Earth yet.  What follows is a seep of gentle balsamic the like of which you'd usually be looking for in a Vega Sicilia or Grange, but I'm getting ahead of myself.  When I first poured these two savage baby Pikelets their aroma did that very rare trick where it floods the table to a depth of about a foot and spills all over the room while your disbelieving hooter raises itself so high and sanctimonious your crippled spine straightens and suddenly you're a tall thirsty person again. Then come the American oak barrel resins and the cooler chocolate custard bits, with the coconut on the top and the thick cream dribbling down, and you could be forgiven for thinking again this is heading in the Penfolds' direction of the, say, early 'nineties.  But this is not that.  This is Roger Pike (no relation to the lovely Clare Pikes) finishing picking as the great rains of 2011 began to fall upon his little vineyard on the Willunga Faultline: the last trailer of grapes trundled out the gate as the downpour commenced.  And then it's Pike making his wine his way, which is something only idiots would doubt, just a few moments before he evaporated them with a glance.  Enhancing their memory are all those grilled mincy onion and garlic wafts and leather, and then bitter pickled cherries; even a hint of the pickled walnut.  That's all well and good.  Drinking it provokes a higher level of tantric zoom.  It turns out to be leaner and tighter than that whoof of a bouquet lets on: it has those Pikely British-racing-green-bellied-black snakes slithering about in a slender snake-shaped palate, with that same sort of long shiny taper.  And then it has, not so much your actual grainy tannin, but more a sort of Teflon matte finish which begins to show about two thirds of the way down your otherwise shiny snake.  By the time it's on its way out, the acid's on its way in.  It's a revolving door.  But while one of the things you can't do to a revolving door is ski through it, I reckon a fair percentage of us would like to ski through this regardless of its spin.  Especially with a dribbling pink steak with plenty of fresh black pepper, caramelised parsnip and carrot, mash and turnip greens or pine nuts in silver beet on the other side.  Otherwise you can jump it with a big Stilton in the dark, in spite of its maker's hatred of cheese.  (When the ambos came to Marius to take the dying Pike away, they asked if he had any allergies.  "Allergies?" he roared, allocating what could have been one of his last few breaths, "No allergies! But I hate fucking cheese!")  Always carry your defribbilator.  If this review sounds nervous, it's because we watched Pike repeatedly (or maybe continuously) die over the last four months.  He caught septicæmia when a piranha bacterium from Hell invaded his being.  Once it got right into him and began eating him from within like he was an ice cream all you could think of doing was cut his perishing heart off and put it in a bell jar for posterity.  Like all his other major organs, it pretty much shut down for what seemed like a delirious eternity in intensive care.  Anyway, with typical Pike belligerence he's back, if still a little tentative in the fused joints division. Miracolo! 

Marius Symphony Single Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz 2011 
$42; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+++ points 

Both these wines are too close to bottling to properly appraise, but as I say, since Pike stayed alive, he's returned with a new urgency in the, er, accounts division, so the wines are out earlier than usual.  The violent ignominy of the bottling line and its pumps and filters usually frightens the bejeezus out of wines for about four months.  If you replaced the Simpatico's American oak with fine French, trebled its fruit, then drove over it many times with a steamroller, you may begin to approach the meanness of spirit of this wine.  It is indeed more of a compression than a drink, dare I say a little after the style of the great but elusive Genders.  It shows no remorse nor regret for its squashing.  So don't be misled by these cordial fruits that have oozed from the edges of Pike's mighty roller, with their simple primary essence of squashed cooking chocolate.  They will all swell right back once the bottle shock subsides and Bacchus and Pan take over. In other words, not bad now, but better in six months and glorious in a decade.  Nothing like your standard McLaren Vale.  Neither is Pike, before or after his visit from the skinny old bloke with the scythe.  Just as unlikely is the fact that these two wines come from the same single 1.8ha vineyard on a unique patch of Kurrajong rubble. They are chalk and, dare I say, cheese.  When you're searching for it in your glass, you'll have to admit that humans are an important part of terroir, no?

Since the Strep chewed away at his tendons and joints, Pike hasn't yet been able to slide back into his favourite dark toy, but the day's not far off ... wine first, brisk movement second ... photo Philip White ... to hear Ted Hughes' perfect paean to the world of Pike, click here.


@RichardFromage7 said...

Terrific stuff. Glad to hear the mad bugger's on the mend!

Bob Colman said...

Great fun spending yesterday picking under Rogers watchful eye and then indulging in some of his fine old wines in the shed with a few fellow devotees