“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)





13 November 2014


Eccolo Barossa Valley Garganega 2012
$25; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 91+ points

While Mark Day has worked 25 vintages over the ridge from me in the sand and ironstone of Blewett Springs, he's also a fanatic for the wines of Italy, where he's worked six more. Squeezed 'em in, shall we say. This fruit was grown by former Orlando winemaker Robin Day (no relation) on a very high shoulder of Mt Crawford in the Barossa Ranges. Garganega is the major premium white of the high country around Verona and Lake Garda in north-east Italy, where the wines are called Soave. This one includes a dribble of Chardonnay. It smells very much like a ripe Williams' pear, which is also called Stair's pear, Bon Chrétian, Bartlett and Duchess, depending on where you buy them. It also has a comforting buttery component, making me think of a blazing crêpe suzette. In other words, it smells really bloody ravishing. It feels comforting and fluffy in the mouth, and if you tried it at normal red wine temperature from a black glass, I reckon you'd think it was a lovely soft red. It has a flavour like the sum total of all the above, and would perfectly match fattier weed-eating fish, like carp, chicken cacciatore, or a bowl of steaming spaghetti con le vongole with fresh Italian parsley, which provides the perfect excuse to visit the fabulous Bombora Café on the cockle beach at Goolwa. Vegetarian? replace the cockles with morels or some other particularly aromatic mushroom. So you win in every direction. Praise Bacchus and Pan!

The Bombora Café on the Cockle Beach at Goolwa: my favourite Australian seafood restaurant ... photo Philip White

Eccolo Adelaide Hills Sangiovese 2012
$25; 14% alcogol; screw cap; 92++ points

Grown in the Bottin vineyard above Balhanna, this heady perfumed delight pushes Mark Day's terminal Italian tendencies a lot further. It smells like properly ripe Lambert cherries, or like the pickling juice from a jar of Marellos. It's a really plush and fleshy smell, like a milk-soused baby. I know I'm mexing my mitaphors, but it makes me coo. "Get the baby out of the cherry pot, there's a dear." I don't know any other Australian Sangiovese which approaches this delightful aroma for comfort: as long as the baby's not drowning, I'd leave it in there. Must be having fun. I'd get in there if I was small enough. It's thinner than all that when you drink it: it tapers off quickly to a long gently tannic dryness which brings a proper saltimbocca to the front of the brain. Amalfi, here we come.

Eccolo Adelaide Hills Sagratino 2012
$35; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94 points

This is where Mark Day climbs onto his beautifully scary scarlet Moto Guzzi to push the Italian thing into the nether regions way beyond the speed limits. It's like a two-wheeler Ferarri. This is intense, polished black stuff. It reminds me of the raven-haired beauty who polished the Irish lawyers' shoes in Harry's New York Bar in the Rue Danou. I was there the night she polished her last black Church's brogue: one of the regulars, a banker, had given her a very powerful job in his office. Grown men stood and cried straight into their whiskies. She told me how much she loved R. M. Williams' leather unctions, and how she had to use an acetone to get the terrible modern shoe polishes off good leather, so she could rebuild it and breathe and massage life back into it with that magical cream from Adelaide. I remember the amazing muscles on her forearms. They were like Martina Navratilova's. All that polishing. Anyway, that's Paris and I'll bet she's a millionaire now and the muscles are there from counting money and I'm in Kangarilla with a nine Richter hangover talking about Italy and coveting Mark Day's motorbike, so I'd better get back to it. This is a challenge for the synæsthete: all the colour and smell and music tumble together like a black Mafiosi windscreen shattering and melting down the front of my superfine woollen suit. Miles Davis. Bitches Brew. The shoeshine girl. Val du Rhona cooking chocolate. The leather seats of the Maserati. It's lean but immensly rewarding, with tannin that makes me dribble for veal liver cooked ultra-lightly with morels in cream and black pepper. That'll do for now. Back to my charcoal blue 1000 count Egyptian cotton sheets. Grrrrr.   

Winewheels for an Italy nut: Mark Day's Moto Guzzi takes a rare rest ... photo Philip White

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