“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)





02 February 2014


Barr-Eden Eden Valley Riesling 2013
$30; 12% alcohol; screw cap; 93+ points

I write this sitting with Big Bob McLean in his barrel house on top of Mengler Hill on the Barossa Tops.  The dry-grown bush vines he planted with Wilma have been in there in those old rocks for a dozen years, so they reckon it’s about time they started to give ’em some profit, but we’ll see. Such things take their own old time. We’ve been watching brown and black falcons hunt the grape-hungry birds; wedgies way above.  

Now it’s 11.30 at night; the wee berrudies are kippin’; the zephyr is cool; the smell of killer fire that surrounded these parts a week back has blown right away somewhere else, but there are still legions of huge 300-year-old red gums with their guts burning on the flats way below to the east. There are men with burnt feet. People with charred farms.  Some of ’em have no house.  It’s strangely matter-of-fact – there is no anger. We’re listening to Sam Baker and Holly Williams and we’ve been drinking whisky. I even had a couple of cigarettes. Bob and Wilma have given the smokes away, so I feel dirty.

Three hundred (plus) year old Red Gum bulldozed by fireys, so it could be extinguished, near Flaxman's in the High Barossa. This trunk is nearly two metres in diameter. Many great old beauties survived, but some met this fate ... photo Philip White

And here’s their Riesling, looking up out of all that like a cheeky freckled kid. Then, it’s like some kind of old lady’s face cream and powder: something naïve and pure and simple from a long way back. It has limes and acid and all that stuff us experts spout about, but what gets me is its bare-faced honesty.  Open-ness.  You can drink this drink. It’s like mountain brook water, like a nashi pear.  There is no sophistry, no friggin bullshit, no huge austere acidity nor thoughts of waiting for 20 years.  It’s just there. Here. In my glass. You should get some into yours. Have it with the whitest lightest-panned whiting or gar, with a squeeze of lemon and your best black pepper.  Shit it’s good. 

One of the few vineyards to suffer in the Barossa Ranges fire: pre-veraison Riesling near Flaxman's, first affected by black frost, then burnt. This shows new leaf growth one week after the blaze, but the damage is done. It's unlikely there'll be enough leaf to survive the ongoing heat and ripen the berries. The inner rows were not burnt nearly so badly, but they're scorched ... photo Philip White

Pewsey Vale The Contours Riesling Eden Valley 2008
 $25; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 91 points

 I’m lucky and old enough to recall old white wines called Sweetwater from the ’50s and even the ’30s from the Yalumba museum cellar and other amazing tastings in the Hunter way back when I was a ginger punk.  This ol’ beauty reminds me of them.  But it’s nothing like the staunch acid austerities from Eden and Clare that will last for 20 or 30 years.  It’s more like a gentle, slightly weedy and comforting drink you have with a salad of dark lettuce, Spanish onion, grilled capsicum and eggplant, real good oil, balsamic and lemon juice.  Black pepper all over it, slabs of Paris Creek unsalted butter on the crusty bread.  Drinkin’ not thinkin’. It was grown 10 kays south of McLean’s on the high Barossa.  This might open the door to the sorts of long-term Rieslings that are beyond the pale for most; those toughies us experts tend to preach about as heavenly. Give it a burl.  It’ll comfort you.  Promise.

Big Bob took me for a wee snack at Roaring Forties in Angaston. Proprietor Damon de Ruiter seems to have won nearly every pizza award there is - there's no room left on the walls ... photo Philip White

1 comment:


might sound nuts but I'm starting to think that killing four hundred year old trees with an excavator to put them out is a bit like killing sharks to stop them eating people how may bushfires have those old trees burnt in and survived over the centuries and now we pluck em out and kill em