“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)





26 March 2014


Véronique Old Vine Barossa Valley Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2012 
$22; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 93+++ points 

Vicki and Peter Manning moved to the High Barossa a dozen years ago to grow and make wine. When it became obvious the ground they chose wouldn't spare them a drip of underground water they chose to buy grapes from elsewhere around the Valley, and with the help of the friendly and most enthusiastic neighbour, Dominic Torzi, make the sorts of wines they loved the most. This fruit came from the young alluvial ground called The Moppa, which stretches east from the ancient rocks of Greenock across nearly to Nuriootpa. The Grenache and Mataro were co-fermented and finished in old French oak; the Shiraz deserved a little new French as much as old stuff, so was handled separately until blending. So whatter we got? It's a bit stand-offish for the first few hours, but then we've got something that smells about $40 more as far as your consideration goes. It's tight with black tea tin and bitter cooking chocolate reeks, and gives no hint that it could be up around fourteen alcohols. If you need fruits you could think along the lines of semi dried date and fig as much as the old mulberry tree, and that bit's as much bark and leaf as your actual berries. In the laughing gear division it takes the silly grin away and sets you marvelling and pondering until you once again remember that price. I'm about to share it with some osso bucco, and yes, I've sacrilegiously put some kalamatas in my sauce, with a great handful of fresh basil leaves from the garden. Yum, as they say, o!  As the day turns into night, it becomes more visceral, viscous and fleshy. Even more perfumed. The exhalation becomes musky. 420 cases made.

Véronique Barossa Foundation Shiraz 2012 
$22; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 90+++ points 

Immediately as dark and salty-smelling as Linke's blood pudding and a leg of black Iberian ham with some hair still round its hoof, this moody brute seems to deconstruct from that point and clomps backwards out the butcher's smokehouse door to reassemble itself into a real live snorting wild boar. Like it's got tusks. It's bristly and meaty and sweaty, and not at all happy about what the butcher just did to it. Its breath leaves quite a lot to be desired: It smells like it's been eating oily old railway sleepers, tussocks and potato peels, and its byre ain't all that sanitary. I wouldn't ever suggest the greatest Stone rolling has swine-like manners, but like Keef, this bugger's one that could drink nails and piss rust. It offers a brief illusion of sweetness when you chew it, like really ripe Juniper berries mashed up with the lolly bowl from the Star Wars Bar. And it is salty in a swampish manner, which merely serves to make you thirsty, and against all the above-learned knowledge and the smell of your own rank fear et cetera, you greedily reach out for more snoutwork. Which is exactly what I'd drink it with: the whole steaming head of the re-deconstructed boar, cooked in red wine barrel lees with nettles, juniper and beetroots, delivered intact to the table with the cold blue butcher's hand poked backwards down his throat, so the fingers hang out like garnish with a wedding ring. By Bacchus I can already taste the tongue, and the cheeks, and that lovely gristly little bit at the top of his nose ... the ears! Awwww, Lordy! Where's Dr Max Lake when you need him? Crusty bread and butter would be good, too. 580 cases made. We're in trouble! Next day: The boar just got ten years younger. Cleaner, softer, maybe even prettier. After this opportunity to reconsider, I'd stuff him with boned ducks and chooks, whole bunches of garlic and ginger roots, stitch him up, and have him dribbling on a spit. The butcher's hand tastes like chicken feet now. 92+ 

Véronique Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
 $22; 14.7% alcohol; screw cap; 91++ points

Pure Eden Valley Cabernet, this reminds me of a vivacious indigenous friend who when commenting on the Garden of Eden yarn, sniggered about Adam and Eve having navels, then cackled brilliantly when she said "Apple?  Bloody apple? Us mob woulda et the snake!" Here we have a glass containing quite a lot more snake than apple. Although it does have a little of the forbidden fruit, after the mealier ancient cider-specific types, like perhaps a Kingston Black. And that dusty dry smell of goanna. It's more bones than flesh, and triggers recollections of the sort of Cabernet Hamiltons made in that rocky spookhouse out east of Eden in the 'seventies. Being a colourblind synaesthete, snakes to me imply the flavours of British Racing Green and much darker aromas, right through the greens I cannot see and the dark mysterious Tawny Frogmouth bark of Pinus radiata to black snake and the sort of slide Ry Cooder added to movies like Southern Comfort (moist) and Paris Texas (dry). Now you've got your head around that, let me add the bitter, very dark green flavours of the nightshades, from tabac through Deadly to Lycopersicon lycopersicum, the spellbinding Black Russian tomato, and I mean its leaves as much as its fruit. This is a tight, lean wine, which may grow a little flesh, but it'll never be fat. That bloke in Rocky Horror. Was he Brad or Brett? Have it with dribbling pink lamb. 220 cases made. Next day: velvet, and waxy pink flesh growing on those sinews and bones. A bit urky. Pretty good in the cup John Ullinger made from the dirt under the Roussanne vineyard outside my back door and across the flat where the machines are harvesting beautiful Shiraz tonight. Give it three years, then take it to the sacrificial lamb with your pepper grinder and a lemon in every pocket. Or just tip it in a jug and waste it now with pecorino Romana, grana. Grazie.


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