“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)





30 October 2014


Paracombe Adelaide Hills Holland Creek Riesling 2014 
$20; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 92++ points 

It was red that introduced me to Paracombe. It was the first Adelaide Hills Affair about two dozen years back. In a crowded room in Hahndorf I sat tasting a long line of glasses when a great fist thrust through over my shoulder, offering me another. It was Paul Drogemuller. I took a sniff and suggested ironstone must be in the vineyard and we've been mates ever since. The vineyard's peppered with shotgun ironstone. And  that was a beautiful Shiraz. 

Conversely, on my first visit to Paracombe soon after, it was obvious Paul's nose was enticed by elegant fizz. We kicked barrels in the tractor shed and he showed me some lovely reds, especially a stunning Cabernet franc, but when the fizz experiments came out of the bins and he did a quick frothy disgorge of 'em I was a goner.

Para means beside. A combe is a steep gully or gorge. There were great Shiraz vineyards up there in that freak basin/plateau above the Torrens Gorge early in the white colony. Such fruit was the basis of John Davouren's first Penfolds St Henri experiments in the 'fifties. He'd basically pinched the recipe developed at Kanmantoo St George's cellars in the late 1800s by the great French winemaker, Edmund Mazure. I like to think the ancient Shiraz vines Paul bought from a disinterested neighbor, dug up one by one and transplanted beside his house once contributed to St Henri. It's that style, but Paul picks it real ripe now to make the majestic Paracombe Somerville.

Big Droggie has gone on with his wife Kath and two splendid offspring, Sarah and Ben, to build an impressive and highly-respected winemaking business in that same upland basin above the Onkaparinga Gorge.

While the reds are always good and frequently really delicious, they've often been much bigger and more alcoholic than I'd expect of an upland vineyard. That's Droggy giving his customers the stuff they like. Not that he doesn't make more elegant reds: his beautifully-balanced 2009 Ruben blend was the highest-pointing wine in an entire Royal Melbourne Wine Show.

The whites are always delicate beauties.

This Riesling comes from a friend's vineyard deep in a nearby gully. It's all gentle musk and lime in the fragrance division, with just a touch of red dust sprinkled on top, reflecting the mudstone of the vineyard: it's like the water-retentive Reynella siltstone which provided half the contents of the mighty early Granges, beautiful McLaren Vale ground now covered with friggin houses. The only bit of this precious geology left in the Vales is at Seaford Heights, which the Labor government is still determinedly covering with dormitoria and tupperware villa rash.

Sorry. Off the track. Take a schlück, and the palate is more fleshy and comforting than most of the tough slide-rule austerities of Clare and Eden, which need years unless you have a slide-rule palate like mine. This  texture is limy and comforting and creamy and fleshy, after the German Mosel style, where there's similar geology, although the mudstone there is slightly more compressed and slatey. Oops, I did it again.

The wine winds off into a tight lemony finish, but each time you think it's gone, it's back, leaving a feeling like a lick of slate in he middle of all that fine custardy cream. This is what makes you very hungry, and yearn for the sort of wok-cooked seafood that Big Droggy simply can't stop cooking. Drool. 

Paracombe Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2014 
$21; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points 

Droggy's was the first Adelaide Hills Sauvignon blanc that really slew me. It's always better than most of its local rivals, and more delicate and rosy than the savagely grassy buggers from Niew Zillun and the rest of the Adelaide Hills. This one's exemplary: musk and roses and lime pith ooze up with comforting confection and unscented cosmetic cream aromas. The texture's not at all sharp or cutting like your average Kiwi model, but very slightly buttery and satisfying. It's a calmative as much as a stimulant. I reckon that without being servile, it swerves to suit your mood. It appears to be low in methoxypyrazine, which supplies the tomato leaf greenness which we have come to expect from Marlborough Savvy-b. Like a gentle balm this one sits in the mouth, eventually giving rise to extremely fine, gentle, dusty tannins that go on and on within its smooth comforting unction. Bring me a slice of fresh star fruit with a dollop of young goat's curd on a thin slice of rye please Philip. Okay. Yes. Immediately, the writer tells himself, thoughtfully.

The Droggies a few years back

Paracombe Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris 2014 
$20; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 90 points 

These Paracombe whites are like three pastels lying side-by-side in the middle of the big collection. As a colourblind synæsthete, I'm hardly reliable about which section of the pastel box, but if you find the bit where they look a bit like the colour of flushed English cheeks I reckon you're close. Maybe some freckles are in order. I know! It's Kath! I don't mean to intrude in a marriage I respect, but suddenly, after all these years, I suspect Paul makes white wines which reflect on his eternal addiction to his beloved. Who is, of course, of German descent like Droggy, although she comes from Lobethal, all the way across on the other side of the Torrens Gorge.

Damn. I can't help myself with this habitual anthropomorphisation. The act is as boring as that ugly damn word. So forget that bit.

This wine's the most viscous of the three, and is immediately more melony and fleshy, like nashi pear and honeydew melon. Its delicious texture is what makes it: if drunken chicken came with it, I'd knock off now and accubate.

It's a long, viscous, drooly wine. Perhaps more north Italy grigio in style than the more austere Alsace gris. Dudden madder. Best bit is that like its beautiful siblings, it's rudely modest in the price division. Don't think. Go, buy, drink. It's spring! 

DISCLAIMER: This might be indulgent, but it's Droggie and me having fun and it might help you realise what a big bastard he is, lovely boy ... his fist is nearly as big as my head: just right for holding the footy

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