“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)





29 September 2014


J. Petrucci & Son: Joe and Michael in their barrel house near Wirra Wirra ... all photos Philip White

J. Petrucci & Son puts on weight
Chianti's Colorino moves to Vale
and settles on old Riesling roots
"I put on fourteen kilos in a few weeks in my village," Joe Petruccio says of his recent trip to Castellino, in Molise, near Abbruzzi.

"The food is always there. In Ireland, I lost twelve kilos. They only bring one plate."

Greg Trott introduced me to his neighbour Joe in about 1980. "In the Barossa," Trott sagely explained, "they have Germans. McLaren Vale has Italians."

One got the feeling Trott preferred Italians. He loved the influences they had on his beloved McLaren Vale, and particularly admired their attitude to tucker. He refused to put a fence between his Wirra Wirra Winery and the Petrucci vineyards next door.

Twenty-two years later, when Trott was dying of cancer, and I was editing his book, McLaren Vale - Trott's View, he insisted I included as many photographs as possible of his Italian neighbours. He would scour the rejects box for any image I may have discarded.

"You can't leave this one out," he'd say. "That's Joe Petrucci."

Petrooch had his own waltz with Jimmy Dancer last year, but the treatments, backed up by a touch of familial feeding in the old home town, have put the zizz back in his demeanour. 

Once again, Joe has both fusto and gusto a-plenty.

"I wasn't ready," he murmured of his visit to the departure lounge.

Now, with his winemaking son Michael, he's making some brilliant new wines. J. Petrucci & Son is the bargain brand to seek. These dudes overdeliver.

Colorino is certainly new to McLaren Vale, but it's hardly new in Chianti, where it seems to have run its race. For centuries it was used to add colour and weight to the red blends of that ancient vignoble. In recent years, with modern science and new trellises and whatnot, the Chianti makers have learned to get the colour and character they need from their beloved Sangiovese, so Colorino is not top of the pops.

Many are uprooting it.

So Joe grafted some onto some mature Riesling roots in his sandy slope at McLaren Vale and Michael made a stunning wine.

I first drank it a few weeks back at the Willunga Farmers' Market, where Joe always has a little tasting stall. For a while I thought it would suck all the water out of my eyes; it certainly sucked quite a lot of light outa the sky. It's like a big damp perfumed velvet stage curtain has descended on you.

J. Petrucci & Son McLaren Vale Colorino 2013 reminds me a little of Petit verdot, the very late-ripening grape of Bordeaux, used for tannin and colour in those great French blends. I hear that global warming has seen many French replacing Merlot with Petit verdot, as the early-ripening Merlot gets too ripe and gloopy far too quickly in this new heat. The Colorino also reminds me too of Carmenere, which served a similar role in Bordeaux but survives mainly in Chile, although underground goss says some radical Bordeaux growers are playing with it again.

Mainly, the Petrucci Colorino reminds me of Saperavi, the Caucasian red grape which is distinguished by its red sap and red juice. While nearly all the other red grapes have white juice, leaving the winemaker to extract the colour and flavour from the skins and pips, Saperavi actually has black juice and sap the colour of beetroot juice, so intense levels of flavour and colour can be achieved without pressing too hard, leaving the tannins softer and more welcoming.

Also, surprise, surprise, full character can be gotten without too much alcohol. This wine's a dainty 13.8%.

"I put 14.5% on the label because that seems to be what people still expect," Michael laughs. He's well within the strange law about alcohol labelling: the permitted margin is 1.5% either side of the claimed figure in Australian wine. Most makers bend their label number the other way, so the wine appears lower in alcohol. 

This drink sure feels and tastes like it's stronger than 13.8%! Customer reassurance, see?

It's a deep dark thing, I tell you. It smells of black coffee and tea tin and aniseed. It glowers. It's sinister. But as a young wine, it smells harmonious and tidy. It's slightly syrupy, but the velvet tannins remove any illusion of sweetness and the acid creeps up and draws the whole thing out real long and slow and dry.

That finish is as dry and fine as ground-up bone china.

I've had it straight from the freshly-opened bottle. I've tried it over days. I've had it roughly decanted and smooth; nothing seems to make much difference to it. It's as confident and stoic as the giant stone faces on Easter Island.


Yet it's the damned thing's straightout intensity of character that gets you, not alcohol. I don't want to mention the gooey black Pedro ximénes sauces they cook and fortify in Jerez, but in truth it's almost one of them, lite.

The idea of your actual fruits doesn't seem to arise until well into the aftertaste when the drinker suddenly wonders why. If anything, it leaves flavours of soft-dried figs, dates, quince paste and fresh juniper pulp.

It doesn't quite smell like panforte, but it's so much in that direction that I reckon it'd accompany one perfectly. With thick fresh cream. Otherwise, I keep dreaming of big dark wild mushrooms. Morels. 94++ points.

Before I scare you off, there's an antidote to luxury so intense. In counterpoint, it's luxurious in a wicked cheeky way. Under their bargain-bargain Sabella label, Michael's made a slightly frizzante moscato from Joe's Muscat of Alexandria.

Just as the mystery of the Colorino is its modest alcohol, the mystery here lies in the wine's sweetness number: it's drier than the lollypop fairy-floss ones. And it's only 7% alcohol.

"It makes me laugh," I said, showing unseemly thirst.

"That's why we called it Allegria," Joe shot back, bringing my attention to the bottle in hand.

This baby doesn't have the rubbery aroma that spoils moscatos made from the wrong muscats in places too hot. It's rather just grapy, with the gentlest cordite edge. Slurp the bugger, and you're laughing.

And what do you drink it with? Joe suggests another bottle. "But Philip," he clarified, "I take another from the fridge, and I try to do things ... " At which point he finished with a perfectly Latinate shrug.

If you're safe at home and not driving, pop your skateboard armour on and try it with Absolut vodka on the rocks with a bruised mint leaf.

The Petruccis showed me a Shiraz which is serious Bushing King quality, and exciting wanderings through Mourvèdre, Nero d'Avola and Aglianico which are still on the cooker.

Wait for those, but don't wait for the two I'm pumping: the Sabella of McLaren Vale Allegria Moscato is $18 (85 points); the J. Petrucci & Son reds are a meek $25. Unless you bump into Joe at the Prospect market or the Willunga one, where they are several dollars cheaper.

They are indeed delightful things to be on the end of. Especially considering there's more to come.

It's a long time since Joe's father Michael brought his kids from Melbourne and bought 120 acres of the best vineyard land in the south. Right beside Greg Trott. Then Michael Snr. died falling from the roof when he tried to fix the tv antenna, leaving Joe, John and Vicky 40 acres each. That was 1976.

Michael Snr. and Trott would be delighted to see what hard work, persistence, and acute gastronomic intelligence has done.

And being Italian.

Take note, Jamie Oliver.

28 September 2014


Jericho Adelaide Hills Fiano 2014
$25; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 342 dozen made; 93 points

Stupidly, I chilled this too hard, but it's interesting to watch different waves of the wine wash in as the glass warms. It shows smoky honey when real cold, and gradually picks up grainy burlap/hemp sack aromas. Then that acrid phosphate-like edge forms up. This inevitably makes me hungry and thirsty. It has a lot more sass than many of your oilier versions of Fiano. But it still smells lush enough to be so viscous as to be slightly oily of texture. Better taste it. Uh-huh. After that lead-in, the wine is surprisingly slender and crunchy, making me come over even more famished. Which means the discerning restaurateurs who've quickly gobbled up the allocations have the business smarts, too. This drink will sell drinks. And food. The thing lingers and twists around the mouth with smug deliberation, drying and teasing the salivaries til they gush. A splendid, clever wine!  Take note Jamie Oliver. 

PS: If this is any indicator, and I know it's only one wine, it verifies my suspicion that in parts like these, the best Fianos by far will come from the cooler uplands. I suspect places like McLaren Vale should carefully trial it on various terroirs before everybody plunges in.

Jericho Adelaide Hills Fumé Blanc 2014
$25; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 420 dozen made; 94+ points

In the same vein, but bigger, even more concentrated and sinuous, this is a welcome stranger indeed. Sauvignon blanc would not have the derided name it's got itself amongst the cogniscenti if more makers understood how to do this with it. Old French barrel ferment and a proper time on lees has let a lovely complex cheeky wine emerge. Chilled, this beauty shows the smoky honeyed style of the Jericho Fiano, times two. Plus riper tropical fruits than the standard skinny Kiwi model of Savvy-b. Speaking top Kiwi, it's very much down the line of Kevin Judd's exemplary Greywacke Wild Sauvignon. It also has that old supersack edge of the Fiano, but a little louder. Its palate is green and delicious, long, lithe and bone dry. It reminds me of the flavours of the rare shit-hot vinho verde. Some bright spark behind a counter somewhere told Neil Jericho there was little point in making Sauvignon like this when you can buy Chardonnay, but you can't make frigging Chardonnay like this. On the famishing scale it's the Fiano times 1.5. Like all three new Jerichos, it's in the best Adelaide wine shops. Be quick. 

Jericho Adelaide Hills Tempranillo 2014 
$25; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 160 dozen made; 94+ points

Of these three mega-buzz Jerichos, this one seems to have the biggest mega. It's totally like totally. Shivers. Lush and opulent and cosy, it's the smartest joven-style Tempranillo I can recall from these parts.  It's oozing soft chocolate crême, morello cherry and blackcurrant, with that cheeky hessian edge which seems critical to the Jericho style. It's a suave seductor to drink, with perfect viscosity to do the comforting business before that slurpy acid and very fine-grained tannin bring in the thrilling appetiser action. It's very rare that we see a new brand emerge with the brilliance and focus of the Jericho mob. Former winemaker (Brown Brothers; Taylors etc.) Neil Jericho is out of retirement to do the shoe leather and political ekeing-out stuff, as well as putting in his formidable winemaking history; son Andrew is winemaker; daughter Sally is administrator, and son Kim is the graphic artist behind the very cool labels and website. Glass six: better still. Especially with a real sharp cheddar. I'm a goner. Get in the queue for next year.   

PS I've just had the last glass from this bottle, three days later. The wine seems more Spanish.

27 September 2014


remembering 2014 vintage leaves going back to the 2011 winter's Nissan R33-3 Skyline GTR model Pike ... big things between them two ... and check that pruning by Dan Mullins ... photos Philip White ... to view the old convo twixt Pike and White click here

26 September 2014



"We don’t inherit the world from our parents, we borrow it from our children" ... Dr Irina Santiago-Brown quotes Antoine de Saint Exupery ... photo Philip White, taken at Irina's 24th  February 2014 marriage to Dudley Brown at Inkwell Wines, California Road, McLaren Vale.
24 September 2014

Renowned Sustainability Program 
offered to Australian wine industry

The Sustainable Australia Winegrowing (SAW) program, developed by McLaren Vale’s grape growing community, is being offered to the wider Australian wine industry.

The program has been developed over the past five years with support from the South Australian government and is quickly becoming renowned for its comprehensive nature and long-term vision.

McLaren Vale Grape Wine & Tourism Association (MVGWTA) consultant CEO Marc Allgrove said the move to share the program is about investing in the future of the Australian wine industry.

“Our community has worked hard to develop Australia’s only true sustainability program for wine grapes and now, by opening it up to grape growers around the country, we hope that regions across the country will benefit,” Mr Allgrove said.

“Participating growers receive a comprehensive report on their sustainability status and have access to an on-line spray diary that correlates chemical usage with individual blocks which are located by GPS coordinates.

Some of the many growers who have worked together to create the Sustainable Winegrowing program in McLaren Vale ... now they're offering it to Australia

“The program will provide Australian growers and regions with meaningful benchmarks which will help increase understanding of regional issues and specific vineyard issues, along with providing pathways for continual development and improvement.

“This move to share the program is not about self-promotion or benevolence; rather it is based on a deeply held belief within the McLaren Vale community that sustainability does not work in isolation.”

Mr Allgrove also pointed to ways the program could be extended over time.

“The program is able to be adapted to meet the needs of other agriculture and horticulture industries, so the opportunities for Australian agribusiness are only limited by imagination and commitment,” he said.

“We look forward to supporting growers and regions as they adopt Sustainable Australia Winegrowing to meet their regional needs and, ultimately, to ensure Australia possesses the most comprehensive data set with which to assess and develop its national vineyard.”

Adelaide Hills grower Simon Berry, who supplies two McLaren Vale wineries, has been observing the program and interacting with growers using it.

“I’m attracted to the grower-friendly style of the program and the focus on site specific continuous improvement,” he said. 

 “The benchmarking and regional interaction with other growers creates a positive fraternity for change with measurable results.”

MVGWTA Sustainability Officer and local grower Dr Irina Santiago-Brown (left) recently completed her PhD at the University of Adelaide, reviewing sustainability programmes around the world.

Dr Santiago-Brown said her learnings have been applied in the development of Sustainable Australia Winegrowing.

“The system is about helping people to become better growers and allowing them to determine the path they want to follow to achieve that,” Dr Santiago-Brown said.

“SAW was conceived to promote continuous improvement of its members through a practical approach and peer-reviewed content.

“As Antoine de Saint Exupery wrote, ‘we don’t inherit the world from our parents, we borrow it from our children.’
 “Sustainable Australia Winegrowing is about the future; we must ensure that we hand over that for which we are responsible in a manner that ensures future generations can not only continue to enjoy what we enjoy today, but that they can also continue to make a living from it.”

Sustainable Winegrowing Australia is Entwine accredited and involves a participation fee of between $50 and $100 dollars (depending on state and region).

To become part of the program, visit www.sustainableaustralia.info

NOTE: DRINKSTER prefers to publish really interesting press release texts verbatim without attempting to rewrite them or pad them out. This is a free service for the Really Good.  But remember: they're always better with something like a wedding back there in 'em somewhere.




Adding his clarification to confusion over whether or not the SA Premier's welcome purge of Government advisory boards meant the end of the Phylloxera Board, Agriculture Minister Leon Bignell answered DRINKSTER's query with this snap of him with his shoes in a phylloxera wash.  

Which is what all travellers should do before entering a vineyard.

"Great to hear from you Whitey," he wrote in the spirit of the government's new era of glasnost and perestroika. 

"Phylloxera Board is still in place and we will continue to dip our boots! 

"Tourism commission board and Motorsport board are gone. The Entertainment Centre and Convention Centre will have one board. 

"Sorry it's taken all day to get back to you. It's been a pretty full-on week." 

'Biggles' is also Minister for Tourism, Food, Fisheries, Forests, Tourism, Recreation and Sport, and Racing. His seat of Mawson includes most of McLaren Vale's vineyard area and the string of seaside suburbs along the Gulf St Vincent.

He is fairly easily lobbied most Saturday mornings while he shops at the Willunga Farmers' market. Biggles is, after all, the son of a dairy farmer. That was before he became a gun right-hand-page reporter and sports commentator. At the market you can measure his need for privacy by the austerity of the veggies in his bag. When it's lean on, it means he's too worried about other things to even buy his own food properly. In which case it's polite to wait to allow him to make the introduction.

The Premier's office has said that any new members of the Phylloxera Board will be selected and appointed by the CEO of the Department of Primary Industries and Resources. 

The advisory committee which previously selected these board members has been abolished.

25 September 2014


Vasse Felix Margaret River Filius Chardonnay 2013
$27; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 88 points 

The standard 'entry-level' Vasse has been given a fresh name since the incorporation of new vineyards and the completion of an eight-year program of rejuvenation of the original vines. Hazelnuts, cashew, cinder toffee, butterscotch and buttery Comice pear make up a fairly traditional Australian-style premium Chardonnay bouquet, more after the clunky old Mountadam style than skinny, modern Mildura. The palate is lush and luxurious, with precise acid and a splinter of fancy French oak, somewhere between lemony and gingery. It'd be lovely with scallops grilled on their shells with little shreds of mandarin peel then garnished with fresh spring onions. 

Vasse Felix Margaret River Chardonnay 2013
 $37; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 92++ points

This new inclusion in the range - everybody who's anybody must have at least three Chardonnays in their arsenal these days - is made after what the blurb calls 'the modern Margaret River style.' So what does this mean? I think it's a bit like Penfolds Reserve Bin A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay in spirit: toward medium-bodied Burgundy in style and weight, with finesse rather than force. It smells of the coffee rock of the region, rainwet. It has that flinty/carbide/cordite/gunpowder edge that many call "minerality" or sometimes "reduced" - both terms which confuse me. Its oak is gingery and prickly, its acid like lemon pith. It looks a little brash and awkward in this its juvenile stage: if you can't wait a few years, I'd be decanting it. It has the sharps that could handle mild pork dishes, like well-roast belly cuts, a la The Elbow Room in McLaren Vale. 

Vasse Felix Heytesbury Margaret River Chardonnay 2013
$70; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93+++ points

Even more pointy and pushy, this punk opens with a sharp cordite poke. You'd think a brat with that much cordite would simply shoot you in the guts, but no, it's a nervous jab in the general direction of the kisser. After that, the aggro settles: its fruit is creamy and slightly stewy, like pears and peaches poaching gently together. Your assailant has come down off his toes and does the big grovel here. "Sorry sorry sorry - this hurts me a lot more than it hurts you!" The mid-palate is smooth and well assimilated for a drink of such complexity and so many selected components. It leaves the mouth cleansed - its acidity is forceful - but coated with a layer of that poaching syrup. And then the aggro bits return to dominate: grainy phenolic dryness (bauxite?) works the mouth long long after swallowing, setting the salivaries on full gush and imbuing the guzzler with a desperate sense of thirst and hunger. More please. With the cheese trolley from Les Crayères in Reims. Biffo!