“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 May 2014


Cradle of Hills Wild Child Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2013 
$25; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points 

The aroma, and some of the flavours of cinder toffee, called honeycomb by Australians, is a character which Chardonnay can get when it's not trying to come from Chablis. Along with butterscotch and estery dried banana whiffs, this adds a more relaxed tone to this otherwise stony Hills angel. That fine balance of austerity and flesh reminds me of some of the radical Chardonnays Adam Wynn produced at Mountadam twenty years back. Sandstone quarry whiffs, with that twist of cordite, even hemp phosphate sacks at the sharp end; squishy, peachy dessert aromas in the stern. But the whole effect is not like dessert at all because of that sharpness, with its wild yeast and a sliver of oak that brings fresh sliced lemon and ginger root to mind. Don't be confused. It's a real good drink, just more complex and challenging than most of the skinny cheapskate Chablis copies of Oz. As my blogging colleague Jeremy Pringle at Wine Will Eat Itself recently pointed out: Chablis is actually in, er, France. This one came from Basket Range and was made at the Smith Cru's Cradle of Hills winery on the slope below Sellicks in McLaren Vale. They picked 1.5 tonnes of grapes to make 1200 bottles. It'd make a fine mess with sautéed chicken à la niçoise, or something even more chook stewie. Like the butter chicken curry at Aldinga Bay Café. Chill it sharpish, then decant it for the best ride. 

Cradle of Hills Dark Side McLaren Vale Shiraz Mourvèdre 2011
$27; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93++ points

Here's some snakearse red from my favourite McLaren Vale geological group, the Kurrajong Formation. These vines are in it just down the slope north east of The Victory, on the Smith Cru vineyard. It's a messy rubble from a real fruit salad of geologies which has washed down across the Willunga Fault from the ancient ranges which were there, all the way along from Sellicks to Kangarilla. Kurrajong Shiraz and Grenache are often full of bittersweet morello and pigeon's heart cherries; its Mourvèdre similar, but more rustically leathery and rooty, like the radix family: beet; parsnip; turnip, with all their greens, and with the pickling water of the black olive. This wine is rude in the way it thrusts all those assets forward. But it has a weight of 6B carbon in its base, which gives it a grand authority. It's almost, but not quite silky. It gets as close as satin, which any old kisser of the gros grain tux collar or opera shoe bow will tell you is more abrasive than silk. But while it obviously wants to be silky in the middle - it will be in five or six years - it does have a lovely velvety finish, which is a different texture again. Which is not to say the Smiths are drapers. No. They are exemplary grapegrowers and winemakers, if quality and pleasure are any measure. So let's just settle for snakearse. Order a peking duck at Park Lok, and accubate. 

Cradle of Hills Maritime McLaren Vale Cabernet Shiraz 2011 
$27; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93+++ points 

This has one of the best Cabernet aromas little Whitey has encountered recently. It's heady with lavendar, musk, violets and even an aroma approaching elderflower, which is out there, if indeed it is there. It seems to be there. Lilac wine, too. It has a purity and openness which combine to make all the muscles of my mouth swell and my mouth glands dribble like a happy labrador. Mere berries and red fruits seem redundant. The palate's more carbon-fibre and willowy slender than all that nosework promised, and rarely so good, but she comes ashore like a contended tide. And then again, and again, like the Rabindranath Tagore poem about the seashores of endless worlds where children meet with shouts and dances and the lines get longer as the tide recedes. I'd be wanting this with hare or venison with lotsa mushrooms of all sorts in a red wine stew with stoned kalamata, baby beetroots, long pepper and juniper berries. Wines like this make me want to, how they say in the US? 'Reach out' to Cabernet? Not much use reaching out. In spite of leaving you with that tide hallucination, Cabernet never takes a second look at you. For one reason or another, she always storms past. Leaving you there in the waft of perfume, clutching an unsigned autograph book. Only one thing you can do about that: wait, then set a better trap.

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