“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)





09 January 2014


Absolut Country of Sweden Vodka 
$34/700 mL; 40% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points

It's not that I've been whipping myself to find other excuses to visit Woolworths, but while their liquor stores always seem to offer the best prices on real German beer (Oettinger: $1:20/330 mL stubby; $1:54/500 mL can) and the best and cheapest blended whisky (Bailie Nicol Jarvie Scotch Whisky : $37:00/700 mL), but they also seem to offer the cheapest premium vodka in Absolut ($34:85/700 mL; $50:90 1 L).  This is quite literally the cleanest ethanol I can find at such a price: it beats hands down most trendy scam brands passed off as far posher more expensive spirits. And these are many.  Beware.  Headaches be there.  I've entertained my limp brain over the break making cocktails based on Absolut.  The best of these involve juices from Germany, of all places, marketed by Woolworths in their supermarket fridges under the very British name Cawston Press.  The apple and ginger juice ($4.29 L) makes a delicious long glass refresher with a squeeze and a slice of lemon and/or fresh Buderim ginger root garnish on ice with soda and Absolut.  I'm also quite partial to a heart-starter of Absolut, ice, soda and a little cold expresso coffee, like the leftover from your pot.  But I've had even more perverse fun attempting to mix a drink that best emulates that most expensive of red wines, the salacious and sensual Pinot noir.  To one schlück of Absolut add one or two of Cawston Press Beetroot juice, and a cooled soup spoon of BonVit Roasted Dandelion coffee substitute, then top up with soda and ice.  I'd like to add some cherry cordial, but can't find one good enough.  Your drink'll be more like a proper sparkling Burgundy (made principally with Pinot, not Shiraz), and as it hasn't been fermented, it'll be a tad sweeter than a real one, but see what you think. As for preferring German juice to the works of our troubled desert Riverlands, it's an easy choice.  Just like wine grapes, juices made from cool climate fruits and roots tend to blow the sunbaked versions away.  Especially if you're teasing yourself by attempting to emulate Pinot, which, like the best beetroots, grows where it snows. 

Brian Barry Jud's Hill Clare Valley Riesling  2013
$$162:76/1 dozen 750 mL., 11.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+ points 

In immediate contradiction of my "cooler climates make better flavours theory," here's a princely Riesling from Clare, whose warm weather is nothing at all like the cold stuff of Germany, where Riesling originates. I have never yet heard a good simple explanation of how Riesling works so vibrantly in Clare and Eden Valley.  I mean they're cool for South Australia, but they're not Germany cool.  Once again, Riesling's a drink I play with in Summer.  I love it with a big ice block and a good dash of soda.  This one's from the famous 1977 Jud's Hill Vineyard set up by Brian Barry, and now owned by his nephew Peter of Jim Barry's Wines.  For the true winerds, Brian says its pH, 2.9, is the lowest he's ever seen in a white wine. It has a more gentle, delicate fragrance than the bigger Rieslings I recommended earlier in the summer - its citrus is as much pith as your normal  juice, and its florals more along the line of musky roses "too soft to touch, but too lovely to leave alone," as Tim Hardin sang.  Its palate is similarly gentle, and is almost understated in its delicacy and beauty.  It's a wine befitting the name of the gentleman with the most sensitive nose I have encountered in Australia. I always say "vintage doesn't happen until Brian Barry's had his birthday" which means, I think that'll be his 87th coming on in a few weeks.  You could make a great old man very happy by relieving him of a case of this special treasure: you buy it direct from Brian, cases only, on (08) 8363 6211. That's Brian and son Jud at Park Lok, below.



Michael said...

Hello Philip

I just read your Curtis Stone piece in InDaily and noticed a reference to methanol in your first paragraph on Absolute vodka (which I favour myself thanks to a tip by you in another article many years ago). I was unsure whether you meant because it was so clean it contained less methanol than other vodkas, or whether you thought it was the purest ethanol in a vodka and the editor fucked up. Please clear up this mystery for me.

And thanks for the tip on the BB Riesling. I still have some of a late seventies or eighties BB version that got some botrytis on it and was truly remarkable as a result, an extra dimension of spice, like a kaffir lime.


My mistake, Michael. All fixed now. I dunno, you'd think that by this age a bloke would ....