“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 August 2014


Forester Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 
$38; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 90+ points 

Forester has long impressed me for its ability to make good honest straightforward reds at a fair price. This is super-expensive, given their pricing history. Today they've knocked $5 off on their own website; I think it could go down a bit further, and not just because James Halliday's given it only 96 points. I've chosen to appraise it to mull over the direction Australia Cabernet's taking, rather than on the very skinny possibility of this wine being a perfect example of the grape. It's more a perfect example of the genre, the zeitgeist of Ocker Cab, than a perfect example of Cabernet sauvignon. In fact, it's a blatant example of well-wooded, modestly-bodied commercial Cab.

I tried it last night with nothing more than some Keith Jarrett piano and Blue Castello (forgive me, great Australian cheesemakers) on a Vita Wheat, and while I felt forgiving of its form, I couldn't stomach the wine's price. I tried it this morning (while the Prime Minister told me some phantom dervish is gonna blow us all up so he's gonna tap my phone), with olive bread and some standard Bega mousetrap cheddar, toasted with an anchovy on the top, and nothing had changed. I try it now with the ICAC and Mike Carlton resigning and everything, with Dr Blanco's fiery minestrone diavolo - Bhut jolokia fire for the pyromaniacs - and it seems to have grown some comforting flesh on its narrow hips, but this is of course delusional. The Ghost Chilli will do that to you. Like, I'd give it 92 with the chillies doing the business, even though you'd expect the capsaicin and methoxypyrazine of the pepper to sail too close to the grassy, leafy nature of the Cabernet to really ring the bells. So what's my point? I think I've lost touch with Margaret River Cabernet, which was that region's pride and joy. I found myself struggling with Moss Wood and Vasse Felix earlier this year, and they're $110 and $85. I'm not being parochial, but gimme Wendouree ($100) any day for depth, fragrance, intensity, poetry, potential, heart and soul, not to mention sheer immediate beauty, even in the awkwardness of its pimpled gangly yoof. And Clare's hardly a cool climate region, like Maggie R. Strange. 

Blue Pyrenees Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 
$20; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 92+++ points

Other side of the country. But. Vested interest here. In the early 'eighties I convinced Francois Henri, Australian boss of Remy Martin, to keep some brilliant Blue Pyrenees Estate Shiraz aside for a separate bottling. In the 'sixties Remy had established Blue Pyrenees, north-east of Ararat, to make cognac-style brandy In Australia. They planted brandy varieties, and then Gough and Malcolm taxed the Australian brandy business into oblivion, so the Trebbiano etc was replaced by Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cabernet, Merlot and whatnot for the standard Coke, Fanta and Pepsi table wines of the day. These were blended into a pretty good Bordeaux-style mixture and sold behind a label Francois pinched from the Rothmans International cigarette packet: an extra-long refined duty-free virginia cigarette of the day in a real long royal blue pack with gold embossing. Our mate Colin Lancely did the moonlight painting. So Francois kept some of the best Shiraz out of the blend, and wrapped it in the browns of the earth. Francois called that Shiraz Australis. It was beautiful cool climate red, radical at that time, and it sold mainly in France. But an international finance thing saw Remy dump its Australian enterprises, leaving Roman Bratasiuk and his Clarendon Hills to grab the name and launch another Astralis unchallenged, decades later, on this side of the border. Roman now buys grapes from my landlord. All clear? That aside, I thought this wine might be a fair eastern side relly of the Forester, because at that moment I hadn't seen the Forester's price; I thought they'd be about the same. This one smells better. It's bright and blue and gunbarrel glinty, and it smells jumpishly of juniper and lightning on the blackberries. The palate's probably even more slender than the Wozzie wine, and yes, it's a year younger, which all stacks up. It's lithe and tight and even a little more snaky than brittle, and while its dusty tannins move in fast, they're only on a 1:8 slope. I want juicy pink lamb chops immediately. Damn. Empty fridge. Keith the killer ram in the paddock outside doesn't realise how close some of these things get. I have a very sharp knife ...

Keith is indeed a murderer. When the vineyard blokes brought in a new ram to add a touch of texture to the genetics of the weed-eating flock, with no horns, but a quick brutal headbutt, Keith sent the new ram (at least 30kgs bigger than him) straight up to be with Jesus ... Oh ram of God, I come, I come ... but I couldn't eat Keith ... photo Philip White

No comments: