“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)





28 July 2014


Beautiful Isle Tamar Valley Pinot Gris 2013
 $300 per dozen; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 91 points

 As usual, I must begin this with a confession of vested interest. I'm friends with these winemakers. I'm mates with David Feldheim, whom some Addled Adders may remember from his days as co-proprietor of the groovy East End nightclub, Sugar. In fact, I think I'm his godfather in a vague Jewish way. Winemakers may remember him working for years for Warren Randall and Stephen Pannell at Tatachilla when that was still in the main street of McLaren Vale, before Randall covered the site with yuppie ghetto or retirement village or whatever it is. I also loved David's crazy dad, Syd. We used to scat sing together when we were drunk. I think that led to the godfather promise or whatever it was. Of course I know his mum, Jenny. I chased Dave's wife Cyn around the Grand Hotel one night before she left her winemaking job at Hardys and ran off with David to live near her parents' wig wam and vineyard in Tassie. Cyn and Dave's little sons, Solomon and Aristotle, call me Uncle Philip. I feel like I'm their godfather too.

Just thought I'd make that clear.

Next, I want you to think about grapes like Riesling and Sauvignon blanc, and "the new Sauvignon blanc, Pinot gris" - like hell - and how they can be harsh and sharp and humourless, and if they come from cold Tasmania, they're even more cutting and crunchy. 

Just for now, you can forget all that.

These wines from David and Cyn's joint are soft and wholesome. Even if you overchill them, they have more warmth and soul about them than what you're used to. You might expect that of a Pinot gris, but you wouldn't expect the comforting stewed pear and quince, and even a little honey, like you get in this oozy baby. To go with those stewed fruits, it even comes with what I reckon looks like fine-ground nutmeg, and maybe a clove or two. And it's a touch smoky, in comforting way. It's just syrupy enough, without getting oily. And helped by its wild yeast ferment, you'll get just a little phenolic tannin drying off the edges of your tongue. Damn thing makes me yearn for a duck or rabbit rillette, crunchy-crust white bread, lashings of Paris Creek butter and a big sprinkle of cracked pepper. 

Beautiful Isle Tamar Valley Riesling 2013 
$300 per dozen; 12% alcohol; screw cap; 93++ points 

Even this Rizza has a squeeze of honey. It reminds me of the paramount Rieslings Michel Dietrich's dad used to make at Kaiserburg in Alsace. Perhaps it's in the dry spætlese style, as in late-picked; fermented dry. Once you accept that honey in the bouquet, you realise the rest of it is pure Riesling, but complex and welcoming and ripe, even with these scant alcohols. It both cleanses the mouth and fills it, lolling round the laughing gear like it lives there. Tip some in there like properly and you'll begin to feel the chalky tannins Cyn has teased through the ferment. I've had this bottle open for a few days now and it gets better with air, so I'd even recommend a spot of decanter if you're in a hurry. I can't think of anything better suited to a hearty chicken casserole stacked with whole garlic cloves, black peppercorns and bunches of herbs fresh from the garden. And that bread-and-butter treatment as mentioned above.

Beautiful Isle Tamar Valley Pinot Noir 2012
$300 per dozen, 13.2% alcohol, screw cap, 92+ points

Once again, the Beautiful Islanders have made a wine that seems much more generous of flavour and riper than its modest alcohols would indicate. Upon opening, it's a touch sullen and short, but soon you'll get a headful of morello cherries, with the darker tone of black tea tin and a layer of Valrhona Guanaja cooking chocolate. After half an hour of air it swells to become a neatly-balanced mouthful with all those aromatics smoothly followed by their appropriate flavours, with modest natural acidity - bittersweet like those wild cherries - and comforting velvet tannins. Lightly pan-fried veal liver, sliced thin, and served with morel sauce comes immediately to mind. After tooling around with it, I did the old double-decant, and the wine seemed to become more whipsnake slender and savoury, even doubling in length as its acid unwound through that tannin, making me dangerously hungry and dreaming of less pretentious food, like a mild Burgundian cassoulet. Meaning one from the beginning of winter, not the end. They tend to get a tad rich after three months on the stove. Give it a year in the dungeon or follow the instructions above. A bargain at the price! Schlurp.

These labels come from a 1920's fruit box, which makes them look very very cool. They remind me of the brilliant fruit crate art of the Californian wizard, Ben Sakoguchi. I'm sure if you get in touch with these Tassie Tigers through their Beautiful Isle website they'll help you with a mixed dozen; there are other strange beauties in their arsenal.

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