“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)





21 November 2013


Best value Oz winery of the year
Torzi and Co. trounce the rest
Bloody houses march right on

Longhop Mt Lofty Ranges Pinot Gris 2013 
$17; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93+ points 

Longhop is old Gawler High School mates Tim Freeland and Dominic Torzi.  They bought this fruit from the premium uplands of Lenswood. They pressed it with some whole bunches in the basket, and refrigerated the juice for fourteen days to settle it.  After they racked it off its gross lees, the solids left in suspension assisted the natural yeast fermentation, which they managed cool for eight weeks.  They then left it on its yeast lees for another eight weeks. They've made a wine of serious character.  It smells like quinces and pears, especially the Passe-Crassane pear, which is a cross of the two fruits.  It has a persistent acrid topnote that tickles my nostrils and reminds me of Lenswood on a dusty summer day.  Its texture is chubby and the confidence and authority it shows when settling into the mouth is invasive.  However its oily viscosity is soon matched by a stern rise of natural acidity to balance, and the sorts of grainy tannins that set your salivaries dribbling with delight and the anticipation of more of it.  It's the opposite of Kiwi Sauvignon blanc.  It's like a white, how you say, GSM? It's great with choucroute, the Alsace version of steaming hot sauerkraut, where the pork is usually salted, smoked, or both, and the mustard is dolloped on. Which makes sense, because in Alsace, the Pinot which is grey (grigio; gris) is often served with exactly that.  I can recall no other Pinot gris as fulfilling and real from these parts.  And it's $17.  You can easily pay $35 for a half-decent Alsace version.  Knockout.

Longhop Mount Lofty Ranges Old Vine Grenache 2012
 $17; 15% alcohol; screw cap; 92+++ points 

In the Grenache fashion parade, this is a muscular model of vague gender, stomping somewhere along the catwalk between McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley floor.  Because of its proximity to the Gulf named St Vincent (the patron of viticulturers), I think the higher relative humidity of McLaren Vale makes softer, more soulful cherry-flavoured Grenache than the more macho tar-blood-leather-roses of the drier Barossa. This baby's looking like it started near the Barossa and is heading, chin up, straight toward McLaren Vale.  Like most of the wines from this admirable outfit, it has that acrid summer day in the country edge.  It's enough to make your nostrils flare until that swoon of bright marello cherry and plum, and maybe a little fresh juniper berry, begins to well up. At first, I imagined this fleshy bit would continue to swell, but I've had it open three days, and it's barely moved, so maybe it's not going anywhere in the short term.  It certainly has the attitude and chassis for the longer haul.  Combining the Torzi-Matthews-Freeland mob's admirable obsession with gnarly old bush vine vineyards (see below) with the news that this one's a fifty year old vineyard begins to explain its tight, ungiving structure and determination. So, whatter we gonna do? Slop it around a ship's decanter for a while and chew it with rabbit or pigeon in red wine with baby beetroot, some pork belly fat, juniper berries and onions, or wait five years and have it tea-smoked duck at Wah Hing?  If we're lucky!  It's another fine example of the really good stuff happening in this rennaissance of interest winemakers are devoting to Grenache, all the way down the South Mount Lofty Ranges from Clare to the ocean. 

Torzi Matthews Schist Rock Eden Valley Shiraz 2012 
$20; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 92+++ points

Here's another from the same Dominic Torzi, this time in partnership with his partner Tracy Matthews.  It's from their Shiraz vineyard in the Kanmantoo Group Schist of Mt McKenzie in the high Barossa.  It smells more like it came from the staff entrance of the Mustang Ranch.  It's rude and rich and voluptuous in the fruit department, with a great mush of ripe red berries and plums wallowing about.  Maybe even baby beetroot.  Then it blasts off a topnote of musk and confectioner's sugar, and yes, the faintest whiff of the Kanmantoo pit after a blast.  Like a good explosion spreads in said mine, this bit quickly grows to the point of dominance, but, like a master tease, stops just short.  After all that, the palate is sublimely elegant, as lissom and athletic as it is brittle - it's one of those wines that's like a tantalising see-saw of what you want now and what you want next.  At the moment, it's raspy satin and grosgrain; in five years you'll have more lush silk and fur.  So now, I'd have it to contrast food, and set it in counterpoint to, say, dribbling pig off the spit.  In 2020, I'd be using its mature slickness to make harmony with more seriously slow-cooked pork belly in a cassoulet, where the meat slices are more like jelly.  And, without even being ripped off, flogged and butchered by Hungry Dan's, it's only TWENTY BLOODY DOLLARS!  It is wine like this, which Dominic Torzi consistently releases, which makes him, unquestionably, my bargain Australian winemaker of the year.  He puts thousands of more pretentious couldabeens, more narcissistic wannabees, even much more famous fadmakers well and truly in the shade. If they saw this and had a deep think, they'd soon be queuing up for their Imposter Syndrome Pills. 

One of the favourite Adelaide Plains vineyards of Domic Torzi and Tim Freeland is Frank Gagliardi's last stand Grenache garden at Munno Para.  Until those houses stomp the fence down, this fruit goes into the exquisite Torzi/Freeland Old Plains Grenache. 

Villa rash still devours old vineyards

Dominic Torzi, Tracy Matthews and Tim Freeland are specialists at finding old dry-grown vineyards and making wines of such quality that they put most more presumptuous and/or famous wine wankers to shame.  

Then you consider the price, and shame's too good a word for the rest.

They were mates at high school at Gawler, the historic township which links the Adelaide Plains to the Barossa, and have both kept an avid interest in the great old vineyards of the Plains.

Their Old Plains brand is devoted to precious remnant vineyards on these Adelaide Plains.
These five acres of 50 year old dry-grown Adelaide Plains Shiraz and Grenache have been eaten by Tupperware Tuscany.  For years these ancient strugglers produced around five tonnes of beautiful fruit each vintage for the Torzi/Freeland Old Plains wines, although the drought and heatwave of 2007-8 saw the Shiraz plunge to only 680 kilograms total, and there wasn't sufficient Grenache to pick ... Below is a jolly picnic had to celebrate the brilliant Grenache and Shiraz of Anglesey Estate in the early eighties. Owners Leah and Jack Minnett (left), entertained Thellie and Max Schubert (centre), wine merchant David Porter (satnding), winemaker Lindsay Stanley, and the author.  Max loved the Adelaide Plains fruit, and spoke with great admiration of the parcels he'd buy for Grange and other premium Penfolds products.  He was consultant to the Minnetts.  All these vineyards are now under houses ... photo Philip White

Patritti winemaker James Hongell (below) is picking Grenache  from the last of the southern suburbs remnant vineyards at Marion.  This was destined to become a Golden Arches/Colonel Sadness drive-in  slobout until we saved it during the Adelaide Vines project in the late eighties.


While we have a government in South Australia which now regards the retention of precious farmland, local food, and the promotion of the wine business as vital aspects of this dry state's economy, we continue to see sites like these threatened or destroyed.   

The priceless farmland at Seaford Heights (below), right in McLaren Vale, is being rendered to droll dormitoria as I write. 

Government workers removing native vegetation on Seaford heights ... photo James Hook
The 650+ million year old water-bearing Umberatana Group siltstones beneath these fields reappear around Morphett Vale, north across the Onkaparinga, but there they are all covered in housing, in spite of the excellence of the fruit their vineyards produced.  

Max Schubert, for example, chose dry-grown bush vine Shiraz from the siltstones of Morphett Vale to blend with Magill fruit for his early Grange vintages. These now fetch around $15,000 per bottle at auction.

The last of this scarce, priceless geology left unplanted to vines or housing is at Seaford Heights and Glenthorne Farm.

Respected McLaren Vale vigneron David Paxton (pictured) attempted to  purchase the Seaford Heights site years ago to extend this Gateway Vineyard, which grows very highly sought-after fruit selling in wines up to $150 per bottle.  The unplanted slope behind him is where Labor is planting its lovely new housing ... photo Kate Elmes ... Photo below shows grain harvest on the same site.  This land always produced record-quality barley - the best in the state - which was contracted to eager brewers like Guinness.

Government seems to regard this destruction as the downpayment the McLaren Vale vignoble must make in order to gain a development ban over the rest of its land, regardless of the importance or scarcity of its geology or its suitability for viticulture - we've lost priceless geology in exchange for the protection of some utter crap.

This is part of the Glenthorne Farm research land, given by a Conservative government to the Adelaide University for a song for agricultural and viticulture science, native vegetation and community gardens.  Against the conditions of the deed it signed, the University is constantly scheming to subdivide and sell this irreplaceable stretch of land in the southern suburbs ... photo Leo Davis

Tractor Action: McLaren Vale farmers and vignerons blocked the local roads for hours to demonstrate against the Seaford Heights housing ... while their anger brought about the eventual planning freezes in McLaren Vale and the Barossa, the Labor government insists on continuing the development with the Pickard family, which owns the nearby building stone quarry ... there's a state election in March ... photos James Hook; Leo Davis


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