“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)





02 October 2014


photo: thanks to @bsarwary: 'Freelance Journalist. Worked with the BBC (2002-2014) Thinking about ALL AFGHANS who get up each morning and DONT have the OPTION of just walking away from it ALL'

I'm not popular in McLaren Vale for my dogged belief that the Kurrajong Formation, which follows the Willunga Faultline from Kangarilla to The Victory pub, will eventually prove to be best geology for viticulture. Most of it is used for grazing! People who aren't on it want me to prefer their geology, of course. Since the 2010 publication of the official government Geological Survey map,  Geology of the McLaren Vale Wine Region the geologies that are poor viticulturally are becoming more obvious.

Watch those vineyard prices! Even the banks are waking up.

Here (above) you can see what the Willunga Escarpment must have looked like a few million years back, when the Kurrajong was coming down. I'm talking about those scree slopes. 

It's annoying that some McLaren Vale winemakers are keen to draw lines over the top of the geology map, attempting to delineate sub-regions which mean something. Led by Chester Osborn, that master of nomenclature, they've spent buckets of growers' money on lawyers, registering names for these confusing appellations. 

The idea behind the geology map was that people would learn the names and science of their geology, not impose another skein of confusion over it. Like Scarce Earths? You can see from these photographs that these 'earths' are not scarce at all.  They're all over the world. Scarce Earths is a marketing device set up to sell Shiraz, which McLaren Vale has too much of, planted in the wrong places for all the wrong reasons by precisely the wrong people.

I still keep the initial e-mail from the chairman of the McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism Association, suggesting all the local winemakers should have a $100 Shiraz. They've used the geology map, a scientific document, as their excuse to move in this direction. Which, as far as marketing exercises go, is blurry in all senses other than money.

If sub-regions are discernible, surely they will be dependent on micro-climate, background humidity, altitude and aspect as much as rock types. 

The idea of paying wine writers from afar to come here and suggest that these wines are good reflections of their geology is silly.

Burgundy has two basic geologies and three basic grape varieties. It took them two thousand years to work it out. It took 1500 years until Philippe The Good came along and suggested Gamay was not the best red thing for his hood. Which left him, and us, happy with Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Aligote, and Beaujolais much the stronger.  

McLaren Vale has the most complex mess of geology that I know of in the viticulture world, and it seems they're trying to organise it to suit them, not learn it and understand it, which will take a lot longer than four or five years with a map on the lap and the bank manager on the phone.

The picture below is young Kurrajong, yet to fall down the fault, but you can see it's already come down from somewhere above which is no longer there. That's on top of Toop's Hill, east of the faultline. 

Below that is old, well-weathered Kurrajong at Roger Pike's Marius Vineyard at Willunga at the bottom of the fault's western side ... both photos Philip White

... the same sort of thing in its early stages, from Kurdistan ... I suspect the Willunga Fault once looked a bit like this perfect example ... but in the epochs before the Mount Lofty Ranges wore away, they were more like the Himalaya: ten kilometres tall. 

Here's something along the same lines from the Bay of Shoals on Kangaroo Island

... and an itty bitty sort of a one on the Harbison property east of Spalding in the South Flinders Ranges ... just an old riverbed, but of similar age ... there's a mountain on top of it ... those near-vertical striations in the bedrock below were once horizontal and sea floor ... you get my drift ... we're talking real old shit... every rock has a different flavour

No comments: