“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)





06 February 2014


Long Line Wines Albright McLaren Vale Grenache 2012 
$26; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 60 cases made; 94++ points 

Paul 'Carps' Carpenter makes Long Line in his spare time - he's a winemaker at Wirra Wirra otherwise. He squeezed this beautiful fruit from two ancient dry-grown vineyards in the old rocks of the Onkaparinga Gorge. Some of it's from Bernard Smart's legendary hilltop vineyard south of Clarendon, just across the River. Bernard planted the High Sands Vineyard in 1946, on Yangarra, where he still lives. But these old Clarendon vines up the hill seem to crawl along the ground like giant grubs, as if it's simply too much effort to reach for the sky. Famous winemakers queue up for a bucket or two of Bernard's precious fruit. This wine is freakishly pure and smooth. It has the silky sheen that only the very best old Grenache vines seem capable of delivering. Carps's obsessive winemaking seems to have polished an extra layer of the fruit clean away, leaving the lustre of the wine's holy soul to glower there in the glass with its rudely exposed, pumping heart. It smells like black roses; like Valrhona cooking chocolate; like blood. It has the most alluring silky texture - its tannin is so fine it's barely there.  Rather than confront the drinker with velvet, satin, or furry tannins, its snaky sinuousity seems to slide across the palate like a very shiny black snake.  Rather than the Pinot-like cherries of many of the Vales' best Grenache wines, this one's more inky and dense, perhaps after the style of the slicker Barossa versions, like, say, Greenock Creek. It makes me wonder where I could get me a fire-blackened haunch of venison. Like right now. With big dark field mushrooms and beetroot cooked in red wine with juniper berries and bay leaf. Dammit, I'd even go some coarse mashed potato.

Swoon. Dribble. Surrender. 

Long Line Blood Knot McLaren Vale/Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2012 
$26; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 380 cases made; 94+++ points 

The nickname Carps has a certain wry irony: the winemaker's Dad was a professional fisherman at the Murray Mouth. While Albright is a knot connecting two lines of differing thickness, the Blood Knot is best for tying two lengths of equal line without losing strength. There's no strength missing here. The two vineyards are in the hills east of Willunga at Hope Forest and at Blewett Springs, which is just over the ridge from me. [It's stupid that Hope Valley's officially in the Adelaide Hills according to the wine industry's official appellation gestapo; it's actually in the South Mount Lofty Ranges.] Once again, the wine reflects the intensely studious attitude of its maker: it's like a compressed lozenge made from its dense, silky components, then somehow skinned once again, so only its visceral innards remain. It has a little more tannin than the Grenache, leaving a few dusty grains of ink powder on the tongue after all that blackness takes its plunge into you. Maybe the Blood Knot here connects the micro surgeon part of Carps to his blacksmith side: rarely will you find a Shiraz forged so compressed and dense, but forensically exposed. It's tied so tight it will take decades to unfold, and swell back to its full mature corpulence. Bang it in the cellar, there's a dear, lest it bang you, and you blame me.

These wines are ridiculously cheap for their extreme quality. Had a bigger mob managed to procure such fruit, they'd be charging four or five times this price. Lap 'em up from carps@longlinewines.com.au or his website before any shooshed-up middlemen get in there between you and start jacking those prices up. The bastards will be queuing up. 

Carps prepares to spit a dud at yesterday's annual McLaren Vale tasting of one-year old Shiraz barrel samples, sorted according to geology ... I'll report that tasting here soon ... it followed neatly on the heels of last week's similar event in the Barossa ... photo Philip White

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