“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)





14 August 2014


I have a vested interest to declare here. Douglas Neal (above) is a Geelong-based winemaking friend who personally presented these wines at my table, helped me through a night of grief over the sudden death in Brisbane of my dear friend, the wine critic Jeremy Pringle, then presented me with my honorary valence, or wine thief, a pipette for taking samples from barrel. Doug sells beautiful Serugue French oak barrels. I don't need barrels, but a valence is a different matter. I've never had my own personal valence before. So consider me on the take. And watch your barrels! 

Beechworth Star Lane Vineyard Quattro Vitigni 2012 
$28; 14.2% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points 

Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Merlot and Shiraz makes the Quattro. It's a moody, midnight sort of a drink in search of the Kinda Blue Miles Davis. It has a very pretty blueberry and blackcurrant waft, like the perfume of a black satin evening dress I once helped a clever person from. It's sufficiently overt for me to recall that crunchy, abrasive sound of grosgrain. So that's a very encouraging start. It's lithe and slick and satiny of texture, too: more satin than silk. And it's black of flavour, not red or purple. It's on that crossover point where sinister mystery becomes satisfying reassurance. The tannins are velvety, not to stretch the fabric metaphor too hard. So it's blended after the "super" Tuscan style, at a fraction of their price. And it'll give many of those arrogant, loftily spendish aristocrats a proper run for their money. It's slender enough to handle veal without overwhelming it, but if, like the writer, you're more along the lines of your aged ox, an osso bucco wouldn't kill it either. In fact, it's athletic enough to kill the ox if proper restraint isn't shown. 

Hildegard Beechworth Shiraz 2012 
$45; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+ points

My goodness. This is the sort of Shiraz that Beechworth can do like no other region. It's plush and heady and swoony to sniff. It smells like a wine with many more alcohols. But it doesn't burn. So you get a hint at the luxurious wallow to come. The best Beechworth Shiraz (think Castagna) seems to have a sweet wave of meadow pasture, with that lush floral rush decorating the sweet buffalo grass aroma below (think the juicy herbal breeze of Żubrówka vodka, without the grain spirit). In a difficult-to-comprehend manner, these sweet country smells are more buttery than green, but this is a colourblind synaesthete talking. Put it inside you, and it's silky and luxurious, without losing a tad of its elegance. It is indeed a sensuous wine which will first tickle, then caress many senses, way out in the nether regions beyond base carnality. While it is of modest strength, it has an overpowering purpose: it satisfies yet sizzles so much at once that the poor drinker just has to have more. And more. I can imagine it with a cool rillette of hare, with crusty bread and butter, and a sprig or six of peppery watercress. 

Paradise IV Chaumont Batesford Geelong 2012 
 $45; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+ points 

Cabernet sauvignon, Shiraz, Cabernet franc and Merlot swim together in this rich pool. Once again, the wine's bouquet is so thick and meaty you'd expect another two or three alcohols. And it's dusty, smelling more ferruginous than its freaky granite-and-limestone ground. The deep ripe fruits below that acrid summery topnote are ripe like a warm year Pomerol Bordeaux. I love the ozone/gunbarrel glint the best Cabernet franc imparts: it's here in perfect proportion. After that full-bore aroma, the wine is supple and modest of frame, with tannins that seem to come from somewhere between pickled walnuts and grilled turnip greens. Which quite wickedly makes me imagine a peppery Fechner's Apex Tanunda Bakery pasty with tomato sauce and both those other ploughman's lunch sort of things. It could even handle a cold hard-boiled egg. At the other end of the scale, a pink steak in pepper sauce would be simply gooey. There is no wine like this made in South Australia. Bliss.


I was invited to dinner by wine merchant David Ridge and Tim Gregg, hotelier at Adelaide's famous and fabulous Lion Hotel, where we dined memorably. It's a very risky thing to order a proper pink steak; mine was perfect. The entry fee was a bottle of something good and unusual. Like many who simply don't have a cellarful of such wonderment, I made a blend of equal proportions of the best wines open on my work table. So, my magnum included Star Lane Beechworth Nebbiolo Sangiovese Merlot Shiraz 2012, Hildegard Beechworth Shiraz 2012, Paradise IV Chaumont Geelong Cabernet Shiraz Cabernet franc Merlot, Yangarra High Sands McLaren Vale Grenache 2013, Yangarra Old Vine McLaren Vale Grenache 2012, and Paradise IV Dardel Geelong Shiraz 2013. It was a delicious, beautifully perfumed complex-yet-elegant drink with the sort of gradual tannin finish that lasted about five minutes per swaller. Ridgey thought it had a lot of Shiraz in it but mentioned something about Super Tuscans, the rest of us thought it was a friggin good drink and the decanter emptied in minutes. Never be scared to blend stuff at home; you'll learn much from it. Not being parfumiers, but instead being crippled by the old 'cellar palate', most winemakers have little idea about the art of blending. That's a pity. What I did, of course, was not art, but a simple exercise in wine dada. It sure worked.

Left-to-right: Anthony Madigan, publishing editor Wine Business Monthly, wine and food critic David Sly, wine merchant David Ridge, professional sceptic Brian Miller, hotelier Tim Gregg and journalist Nigel Hopkins having a top sesh at Tim's Lion Hotel in Melbourne Street, North Adelaide ... all photos by Philip White

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The table blend is a weekend ritual at Chez McKay, simply for the sake of efficiency and a preference for a bit of anarchy. My latest favourite (ie from yesterday) is young cheap italian sangiovese with a aussie shiraz/CS/SM blend, especially one from down your way.