“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)





19 December 2013


O'Leary Walker Hurtle Sparkling Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2010 
$28; 11.6% alcohol; cork; 93 points

Nick Walker has a rare pedigree in sparkling winemaking.  His Dad, Norm, was a fizzmaster for Wynns all his life, and Norm's Dad, Hurtle, did it too, having been trained by the great Frenchman Edmund Mazure, at Sam Wynn's Romalo, opposite Penfold's Grange at Magill Estate.  Enter the O'Leary Family via Nick's winemaking partner David, and their long-standing vineyard on a very cool slope at Oakbank. Making fine white sparkling from the red Pinot is tricky, and the vineyard flavours didn't hit the acid/fruit complexity Nick wanted till late in the 2010 harvest.  Add a total malolactic or secondary ferment, where all the harsh malic acid converts to the softer, more comforting lactic acid of mother's milk, then 18 months on yeast lees, and we have a gentler, fuller, rounder wine, much after the old house style of Bollinger. In other words, a drink you can attack with certain festive confidence without having to reach for the Quick-Eze.  Which is not to say the wine is broad or blowsy - it delivers its motherly cuddle with great poise and finesse. So it suits perfectly the milder white meats like chicken, fish and pork.  It's tickety-boo with the drunken chicken served at both Wah Hing and Park Lok.

Now for some subterfuge: Castagna, Joseph and Charles Melton aside, good sparkling reds are about as rare as exemplary South Australian sparkling whites.  Like, rare.  So if you're of the old school which insists on splurgundy with your Exmess turkey, try something naughty.  Find a good low-oak Grenache - I can't help using the Yangarra which is made right beside Casa Blanco - and tip it onto your Hurtle to the tune of about 20-30%.  Grenache made like this, after the Burgundian Pinot noir manner, is best.  It's a splendid cocktail: one which will address a roast turkey quicker than look at you. Fair dinkum. 

O'Leary Walker Watervale Riesling 2013
 $20; 12% alcohol; screw cap; 94+++ points

One of the finest white wines I've seen from South Australia this vintage, this classic Watervale provides a beautifully austere and authoritative counterpoint to the muddy, prematurely sunk Titanic of varieties that end in O, along with their terrible orange, bearded and browned variations so beloved by the hipster sommeliers who have completely hi-jacked a vast number of important wine lists.  (They've stacked 'em with wines which proudly display all the faults that giants like my deceased friend Dr Ray Beckwith solved, through hard science and genius, before World War II.) Anyway, wipe all that bile off the back of your hand, and set yourself down with a bottle of this impeccable Riesling.  Chalk.  Lemon pith.  Crushed lemon leaves.  Lemon juice, with a little lime, and a garnish of soft fresh Buderim ginger root shaved off with a potato peeler pretty much covers the basic organoleptic experience of this adults-only triumph.  In the technical sense.  Amongst the more sensual responses is the feeling of travelling extremely quickly in a race-stripped Lambo with the shockers wound tight. Like your arsebone's strapped straight onto the carbon fibre but the G forces and the noise and the view of what's happening out the front at a blinding dazzle is so friggin exciting that you can't feel the lack of the cushion on that piledriver suspension. Once he'd invented the Shelby Cobra, Carroll Shelby was so confident of its acceleration that he'd put a $100 bill in the glovebox.  If the passenger could reach it under the full application of Shelby's right foot on the fast pedal, the money was theirs.  This cracking wonder reminds me of these things.

Food? Pork belly.  Mild, coolish cassoulet.  Yellow curry made with European carp.  Juicy roast spatchcock with the skin crunchy under a dusting of caster sugar and cinnamon.  Or, going back to my favourite Chinese dining temples, an oyster omelette, or radish, both al la Park Lok, or the stunning whitebait and chives omelette at Wah  Hing.  Don't be scared to bung on the chilli oil.

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