“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 December 2014


George Grainger Aldridge wanted a poem about white for his friend Cathy White on the occasion of her completion of fifty laps of the sun  ... here they are on the veranda of the Spalding pub, which has one of the  world's best collections of types of barbed wire...

... and here's my poem:


most places I’ve been on Earth
there are people called White 
regardless of skin
every language has its own bright version

but unless somebody brings a prism
white hangs invisibly in blue sky
the perfect mixture of all other colours
morphing when it likes
through phantom shapes of aerial water and ice 
which may or may not choose to fall
to fill Lake Eyre with fish and pelicans or salt 
surge spume along a reach
make the friggin sand for chrissake 
the Ninety Mile Beach
deposit the limestone Mallee 
or smother Antarctica with ice

white concentrates in clays too
so clean it’s good enough for paint
and in the precise intensity of barite marble and talc
and the zillions of microscopic oysters
that make the cliffs of Dover
and the moist bright chalk of Chablis

somehow the oyster sucks the whiteness from water
and hardens it for a home
one dark old town in Japan knows this
the householders hurl their empty shells
onto the grey midden in the square
fifty feet of oysters towering over a waist-high fence
post and rail
they scratch the cured ones from beneath
hundreds of years they’ve been there
grind them up with boiled pig glue
and make exquisite faces for dolls
beyond pearlescent
pure white

in Australia you’d get a bag of fresh ones
take them up to Ashton Hills
guts them on the veranda with a Riesling
and hurl the spent shells into the vineyard for calcium
so your white from the sun via the sea
enters you through a glass of crisp austerity
leaves the teeth and attitude a-sparkle
and heads off through the black gizzards
and the porcelain to the deep
to eventually worm its way back into the blue
dance the whole crazy move again

it’s called pissing on

this is where the colour thing comes in
my black mates giggle when they call me Whitey
like a brother from Yothu Yindi mob
siphoning great reds into his silver pillow
in the Victorian Italianate apartment I could not afford
watched by a spellbound wine critic from London
on whose behalf
I put it all down to morbid anthropological fascination
and got on with the business
passing the guitar
having a schluck

my girlfriend had a fluffball maltese terrier called Oscar
he called it Ggurrrrnnnnakkk then said
White Cockatoo
he liked the contrast when he wore their feathers
them Yolgnu blokes could tell you a thing or two about middens

with love 
philip white

My beloved brother and teacher Jardine Kiwat at George Grainger Aldridge's joint at Glen Oak on the Druid Range, Flinders Ranges, South Australia ... photos Philip White

24 December 2014


all my own ginger work ... fragment from Old Soup, 1971


The Proclamation of South Australia, 1836 

Painted in 1856 by Charles Hill, this work is in the Art Gallery of South Australia. 

Note the black dog. Kelpie? The only original owners are standing well back to the right, with their dog. Whatever were they thinking of this?

As you will read in the old newspaper report below, these settlers were very quick to get on with viticulture!

I have displayed the text here as it was in the original paper, without spacings. 

The Register, Adelaide, Friday 9 April, 1858


"For the last two or three years there has been gradually rising into importance a staple product of the colony which bids fair, at no very distant date, to equal, if not to exceed, any other of our chief sources of wealth. We refer to the article of wine, to the manufacture of which a large portion of the attention of our horticulturists is now directed. Believing, from the most irrefragable evidences, that the soil and climate of this country is eminently adapted to the culture of the grape, we have omitted no opportunity of urging the importance of carrying out that culture to the utmost possible extent and in the most profitable way. We now give prominence again to the subject by calling special attention to the returns connected with vineyards embraced in the very elaborate statistical tables got up by the Government, and published in our issue of yesterday. From these tables, it would appear that the land planted with vines in the colony at the end of 1857 amounted to 1,056 acres, and that the number of vines was 1,500,085. The wine manufactured amounted to 100,624 gallons. The details are given as follows : Aldinga, 2¼ acres, 4,000 vines, no wine; Alexandrine, 8 acres, 4,700 vines, no wine; Angaston, 65½ acres, 143,700 vines, wine 4,606 gallons; Barossa East, 7 acres, 21,180 vines, wine 1,768 gallons; Barossa West 15 acres, 22,250 vines, no wine; Bremer, particulars not given; Brighton, 18½ acres, 27,600 vines, wine 4,000 gallons; Burnside, 25¾ acres, 60,680 vines, wine 1,125 gallons; Clare, 15 acres, 20,750 vines, wine 1,000 gallons; Clarendon, 24½ acres, 30,000 vines, no wine; Echunga, 13 acres, 25,000 vines, wine 5,960 gallons; Encounter Bay, 2½ acres, 7204 vines, no wine; Highercombe, 100¾ acres, 171,710 vines, wine 15,260 gallons; Hindmarsh, 19 acres, 4,713 vines, no wine; Kondoparinga, IO¾ acres, 11,400 vines, wine 1,716 gallons; Macclesfield, 2 acres, 6,657 vines, wine 100 gallons; Mitcham, 107½ acres, 137,995 vines, wine 7,994 gallons; Morphett Vale, 44½ acres, 87,300 vines, wine 6,000 gallons; Mount Barker, 6½ acres, 10,925 vines, wine 779 gallons; Mount Crawford, 33½ acres, 27,900 vines, wine 958 gallons; Mudla Wirra 14¾ acres, 20,600 vines, wine 400 gallons; Munno Para East, 14¾ acres, 13,905 vines, wine 1,000 gallons; Munno Para West, 34½ acres, 71,520 vines, wine 54 gallons; Myponga 2¼ acres, 200 vines, no wine; Nairne, 6½ acres, 9,678 vines, wine 600 gallons ; Noarlunga, 11½ acres, 6,700 vines, wine 600 gallons; Onkaparinga, 25¾ acres, 30,000 vines, no wine; Para Wirra, 30¼ acres, 35,000 vines, wine 3,475 gallons; Payneham, 148¼ acres, 197,130 vines, wine 11,613 gallons; Port Elliot and Goolwa, 10½ acres, 4,000 vines, no wine; Rapid Bay, 7¼ acres, 18,050 vines, no wine; Strathalbyn, 7 acres, 14,414 vines, wine 128 gallons; Talunga, 12 acres, 15,000 vines, wine 914 gallons; Tanunda, 43¾ acres, 81,410 vines, wine 15,313 gallons; East Torrens, 7 acres, 10,000 vines, wine 2,500 gallons; West Torrens, 37¾ acres, 39,850 vines, wine 3,376 gallons; Tungkillo, 1 acre, 200 vines, no wine; Upper Wakefield, 6¾ acres, 6,500 vines, no wine; Walkerville, 7¼ acres, 7,730 vines, wine 650 gallons; Yankalilla, 4½ acres, 9,420 vines, no wine; Yatala, 25½ acres, 17,400 vines, wine 1,346 gallons; Hundreds of Saddleworth, I¾ acres, 900 vines, no wine; Belvidere, acres not given, 4,814 vines, no wine; Waterloo, acres not given, 50 vines, no wine; North Rhine, 16 acres, 17,890 vines, wine 5,400 gallons; Nuriootpa, 34¾ acres, 46,190 vines, wine 1,289 gallons; Kapunda, acres not given, 1,150 vines, no wine; Light, acres not given, 200 vines, no wine; Port Adelaide, 1½ acres, 1,100 vines, no wine; Port Lincoln, 4¾  acres, 1,694 vines, no wine; Louth I¼ acres, 380 vines, no wine; Stanley, 4½  acres, 150 vines, no wine; part of County of Gawler (South of Wakefield), acres not given, 1,500 vines, no wine; County Frome and adjacent country. 6 acres, 3,450 vines, no wine; County of Burra &c., 1 acre, 926 vines, no wine; County of Robe, 1 acre, 90 vines, no wine; County Grey, 1½ acres, 230 vines, no wine. It appears that correct returns could not in every instance be obtained, so that some of the foregoing numbers and quantities had to be estimated, but the statistics are, in all probability, sufficiently accurate for the purposes of calculation and comparison, whilst they present a very interesting and encouraging epitome of operations pregnant with importance to the future progress of the colony.  It will at once be apparent, from a consideration of the returns, that a great many of the vineyards are not yet in a condition to produce wine, or that the grapes have been sold for domestic consumption, as there is a great disproportion, in many cases, between the number of vines planted and the quantity of wine produced. We wish to show that the manufacture of saleable wine is the most profitable operation in which the vine-grower can be engaged. The value of the 100,624 gallons of wine made last year, at an average of 5s. per gallon, would be £25,156. This, divided by the number of acres of vineyard (1,056), would give an average of about £24 per acre. But, as we have said, a very small proportion of the grapes must have been converted into wine, supposing all the vineyards to have been  in full bearing. In the District of Tanunda we perceive that 15,313 gallons of wine were produced from 44 acres of vineyards, the average of which, at 5s. per gallon, would be £87 per acre. Had all the other vineyards been producing wine in the same ratio, the result of the vintage of 1857 would have been 367,512 gallons, valued at £91,878. But satisfactory as this result may seem, it is far below that which may be attained by skilful vine cultivation. We are supposing that our wine would not average more than 5s. per gallon. That, however, is a price that is easily obtainable for them in a new and imperfect condition. When by experience, age, and the use of improved scientific appliances we shall have brought them to a higher standard in quality and flavour we may expect they will realize considerably more than 5s. per gallon, although we are rather desirous of seeing our wines brought into general use for domestic and foreign consumption than of seeing them reserved at a high price as a luxury only to be indulged in by the wealthy and the great. We stated a short time ago that Mr. Henry Evans, of Evandale, near Angaston, had sold eighty-five hogsheads of wine, the produce of seven acres of vineyard, at a price which averaged him £230 per acre, at 6s. per gallon. This is a much higher yield than that of the Tanunda vineyards, even taking the difference in price into account, and it is, doubtless, considerably less than will be realized hereafter by a proper attention to vine-growing. Our wines, indifferently as they are managed in the manufacture, are nevertheless steadily acquiring celebrity, not only in the colonies, but in the markets of Europe. All the wines that can be manufactured by certain vine-growers here are eagerly bought up for exportation to England. When others come up to their standard the export trade will immensely increase. And when a thousandth part of the soil of the colony, suitable for the growth of the vine, is covered with flourishing vineyards, and the present incipient efforts at wine-making have been matured by information and experience, we shall have a staple article of colonial produce second in value to none that is exported from the colony. Already something like organization is beginning to be foreshadowed in relation to the wine trade. Efforts are being made to get up a Wine Company on a large scale, and merchants are establishing an export connection for our manufacture.  In a few years we may expect to see the business conducted with as much regularity and success as that of Lisbon or Xeres."

North Terrace Adelaide 1839 ... that'd be the Pilgrim Church, now beside the Morphett Street Bridge ... I'm still tracking down the details of this

22 December 2014


You better get into this queue quick: Artisans of the Barossa, Hills Underground and Vale Cru pour their wines in Cap'n Hahn's ol' dorf.  Bands, DJs, food vans and the wild front ears of three wine regions promise you a day of wondrous bewilderment ... DRINKSTER will award a special bling slash for the top fashion of the day. Go, wilder! More! Deeper!


No ... no, no, no ... doesn't remind me of yes it does ... image by Francesco Sambo

Murky wine, wormwood, gall -
what I gotta drink to love nature 
and get on dancing much better

While making prophecies is a loser's act more often than not, most contemporary pundits and pollies know little of the bitterness of the draught of contrition which should follow when they're wrong. 

Beyond that prediction that goes rancid even before it leaves the mouth, the current lot misses the sensory opportunity of tasting the bitter sourness of failure: they're more likely to wipe the lies from their lips with the back of their hand and get on with spitting all over you.

Mouth breathers. Silver sleevers. Losers.

Contrarily, there's a naive Yoko sweetness in declaring something's over if you dislike it and wish it was. Something about the VMat2 gene and the titillation of the risk receptors: that sparky frisson triggered by the likelihood of failure.

At the risk of getting a contrite mouthful of traditional wormwood and gall a bit later on, I'm gonna go for some short-term sweetness by suggesting the current fad of allegedly 'natural' wine is not much more than a predictable hippy reaction to the vino-industrial complex. And it's doomed to fail if its goal is to break the back of that vast and powerful ethanol-peddling machine.

How vast? Take Diageo, the world's biggest liquor manufacturer. In May last year this outfit had a market capitalisation of £48.9 billion (AUD $94 billion), making it the 8th-largest company on the London Stock Exchange. Ethanol, see?

You might find two or three people drinking illegal biodynamic goat's milk at times like this when transport and refrigeration is good. But most people drink Coke, with or without Diageo, and will go straight on doing so.

On the fashionable matter of reactionary protest, it wasn't hippies who stopped the Vietnam war. It was sharp thinkers and brittle rationalists and persistent, hardened radicals who risked repeated arrest, criminal conviction and the ASIO car parked out the front of their hovel. While our victory saw the US and Australian troops return from Indo-China, the overall war picture doesn't appear to have changed much other than its location. The military-industrial complex has never looked fatter.

I'd nearly forgotten about all this natural wine nonsense. Put it out of my mind. But the other day, when The Drinks Business made the droll revelation that one quarter of all Californian Chardonnay had, one way or another, undergone the removal of some of its alcohol there was the great Oxford University wine author, Jancis Robinson on Twitter, s'marmily declaring "T'ain't natural."

I could feel the buzz of the ethanol mob's complaint channels rushing my triple-X traitor status straight through to wine-ASIO when I responded "That'll knock out goodness-knows-how-much of Australia if you push it, Jancis. Some of your favourites, I'd think."

The great lady responded with the obvious "eg?"


The most vulnerable part of the hippy wine movement is its claim to the exclusive right to the word 'natural.' There is a certain tight-lipped sanctimony inherent in this: it's equivalent to the superior feelings their piety alone instils in the likes of the Exclusive Brethren.

Sydney Long, Pan, 1898, Art Gallery of New South Wales ... scarce example of Australian art nouveau ... below their cloven hooves and little pink tootsies, it looks like mega-natural wine all the way down ... it seems clear to me ... the murky bit's obviously down the bottom

The whole point of winemaking is the vigneron interrupting the natural workings of nature to avoid naturally rotting grape juice from naturally turning to a natural vinegary bacterial soup by encouraging the creation of clean ethanol so you instead end up with potable wine.

Natural? If, like me, you know that plutonium is natural, you must concede that the hippy wine movement needs to come up with a more fitting word for its retro appellation. Since its commencement in Caucasian Georgia about 8000 years ago, the act of deliberate winemaking has become a long and rather complex procedure which has incorporated quite a lot of activity this murky wine movement should call unnatural.

The first unnatural interruptions in the ancient natural rotting of juice came about when humans moved the wild vines to growing sites which better suited them. Then they learned to unnaturally re-route water to keep the plants alive.

You can see where this is going: we wire the vines up with steel from the dreaded mining industry, dig with steel shovels, prune with snips, carry with tractors and buckets to a tankfarm made of steel and oak cut with steel on a slab of concrete which once again comes from the mining business. The walls, the insulation, the roof. Everywhere we use plastic from the petrochemical industry. Even if you use a horse it will have shoes of rubber or iron; if you use clay amphoræ you will need to dig that out, too, using shovels and machinery and a carefully-constructed kiln fired by fuel you have found somewhere else and unnaturally transported. 

The author as thoroughbred hillbilly preacher's kid radical anti-war hardrock miner, visiting his brilliant computer-programmer girlfriend Maire at the Mines Department, ca. 73-74 ... Chris Langman used  Stewart Young's Nikkormat, Snowden finished her off

Without entering the obvious discussions about petrochemical vineyard management, yeast cell manipulation, enzyme addition, filtering, or all the other modern sophistry of the biochemistry of wine, it's obvious that some folks will always grow and make wine in a more pure and simple manner than, say, your transnational ethanol peddler with his vast monoculture grapeyards and shiny refineries. That's always been the way.

The more time we waste arguing about whether or not such caring practitioners can properly use the word 'natural,' the less likelihood there is of actually getting things moving in the general direction of improvement, with better quality, safer, more gastronomically enjoyable product, and a better public health and environment outcome. 

Speaking at his 100th birthday lunch at Kalimna homestead, Ray Beckwith and Thellie Schubert, Max's widow ... photo Richard Humphries
Having known such great wine scientists as Ray Beckwith, who in the 1930s discovered that the manipulation of pH in wine would make a safe, more stable and less wasteful product, I reckon he'd be giggling in his grave if he could see this current 'hipster' fad. (When I was an angry long-haired anti-war hillbilly at the birth of the 'seventies, a hipster was a sort of a cross between a hippy and a beat, so perhaps a little politicised, but nowhere near as radically cool as, say, the Panthers or the Weathermen. Or a proper thoroughbred hillbilly driving round in a Falcon full of Bibles and shotguns, as I did.)

While this discussion is still, shall we say, primitive, it'd be really silly to bring on an edict of law to regulate the word 'natural.'

If I were King I'd ban the use of it now, mind you. Until the likes of Brian Croser and Bananaby Joyce, bosses of the biggest wine police, the Australian Wine and Grape Authority, actually interfere in all this, l make one suggestion.

If there's something you don't want in or near your wine, like high science or a simple sieve to strain the greeblies from it, and you think your achievement is significant, why don't you simply say so on your label? This may be a challenge to those who increasingly sell 'natural' wine without that horrid capitalist intrusion, the label, but they must know somebody who can write.

As we learn to accommodate the new heat blistering our vineyards and sending sugars through the roof, we can also learn to accommodate the fact that to make a better drink, some winemakers dare to use reverse osmosis or brilliantly-conceived centrifuge technology to remove bits of the wine that we don't want, like too much alcohol.

It's like taking the pips and stalks out. Even Bacchus and Pan know the value in this.

I'm sure the hundreds of responsible Australian winemakers who lower their alcohols with an unnatural dribble of water at ferment would love to see the law changed so they can continue this ancient practice with impunity. They're all obliged to list their final alcohol on the bottle, within a point or two. Surely that's the vital bit.

In the meantime, it was a delight to see Inkwell Wines proprietor Dudley Brown respond to Jancis's "Tain't natural" claim by suggesting "there's plenty of natural taint."

There will always be unstable murky wines and great wines and a lot of stuff in between. But if this retro/natural/hippy wine movement is to get close to winning any wars, I reckon it should abandon the sanctimony and adopt the appellation name Jancis invented.

If your wine's murky and you're proud of the fact, simply state "Taint Natural" on your label.

If you feel an obligation to respect those Old World folks from whom we stole winemaking in the first place, you could make it "Taint Naturelle."

Sounds as good as Methode Champenoise.

Now, for being wrong, I'll get back to the penitence of drinking my bitter wormwood in this here 68% alcohol Pernod Absinthe. With water, so it goes murky, and I don't explode and mess up the snow.

Cheers, and good luck with the thing!


Early hipster jeans pocket: BASKET WITH GRAPES Fourth century, Pushkin Museum, Moscow; inventory No 5818 [Coptic Textiles : Kybalova] purchased in Egypt by V. S. Golenishchev ... do note that both these bunches of grapes have been twisted from the vine, naturally, by hand, rather than by pruning hook or snips ... from the author's natural digital collection privately stored on the internet

20 December 2014



Matthew 6:7 ... when you pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking

me at the Callington Boot Hill looking at the coffin with my old man, Pastor Jimmy White, in it ... Jim preached so much agin heathen repetition I reckon he choked to death repeating himself in the name of God ... who obviously hadn't helped much at this stage ... the only god evident as Jimmy died was a smoothing coat of morphine ... Mick Wordley took this photo when I thought everybody had left so I went back for a last long look at the man whose jizz made half of me. For the  other half, click here.


Some strange digifractals going down in this image ... it came from the Yangarra Estate/Country Fire Service bushfire drill practice and emergency protocols workshop at the winery before last summer hit. Be very careful visiting wineries this summer: there's a lot of bone dry vegetable  fuel about, and yes, vineyards DO burn! ... snaps below from the Currency Creek fire last summer ... the undervine mulch burned, and once the power was down and the water ceased flowing, the dripper lines acted like cordite fuses in some places ... this vineyard died, and was later uprooted ... all photos by Philip White



19 December 2014


Regular readers will know of DRINKSTER's ongoing fascination with the Museum of Economic Botany in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Curator Tony Kanellos won a new crew of admirers when he gave a full tour to the winners of McLaren Vale's admirable Sustainable Kids competition ... all photos Philip White

Sustainable Kids is an ongoing initiative of Dr Irina Santiago-Brown, designer of the McLaren Vale Sustainable Viticulture program. Local schoolkids were encouraged to keep diaries, recording an observation of some aspect of the natural world outside for 100 consecutive days. The winning books are all remarkable examples of how acutely observative young brains can be if unplugged from the digi ether and pointed in a richer more earthy direction. But once inside these remarkable buildings, which are full of outside, really, the Mums and Dads were just as overwhelmed as the kids ... big kids; little kids ... 

Tony Kanellos, centre, is the author of the award-winning book, Imitation of Life. His beautiful new work, Out of Past, presents an incredible collection of post cards featuring images of the Gardens in the 1800s and early 1900s. The messages on the backs of these inform us that post cards were the SMS messages and e-mails of the day: there's nothing new about fast abbreviated texting - they just did it with nib pens, ink, and stamps!

18 December 2014


Fox Gordon Charlotte's Web Adelaide Hills Pinot Grigio 2014 
$23;  13.2% alcohol; screw cap; 94 points

I've probably given too much shit to varieties that end in O over the last few years, but you know, like every other flash in the pan, there are examples that are take your pants off brilliant and the rest are like pizza dribbling down the front of the telly.

Remember Keith Richards' 1988 comment on music: "The ratio of good stuff to bad stuff doesn't change.  Ninety-seven bad; three good."

Tash Mooney

This wine is another of Natasha Mooney's cooly-considered and perfectly-placed wines from Caj Amadio's vineyard by the lake and the pines between Williamstown and Kersbrook. This is where a fad can last for centuries. Tash is a person of unusual gastronomic nous. Wines like this can become permanent building blocks of a gastronomic culture if they can funnel their fractals into Keef's Three Good category. 

Which this wine fits.

Then I could grozzle on about it being pointless planting Pinot grigio anywhere you can't grow really good Pinot noir on account of them being fruit of the same cot, but it'll take too long.

This is a whip-slick racy wine but solid.

Feints of plantains and lotus petals spook around the hall like angels before you hit the juicy-fruit tropicals. A faint whiff of cool wet mud between the toes. Long slick Dobro steely acid that sits there as a solid hoverin note. Just that exactly perfect amount of carnal flesh. It's wine that makes you feel like somebody. How cool is that? 

Fox Gordon Adelaide Hills Princess Fiano 2014
 $23; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 93++ points

Same vineyard. 

Calm. Rich. Smouldering. As full of quiet exotic spices as Guerlain's Jicky, which is still made to the 1889 recipe. So they reckon, anyway. Send me a bottle for Exmess.  But that swoony bit's almost devoured by really heady jungle fruits tropical like you find where the tigers till growl in tiny bits of Malaysia. Carmen Miranda after her third set. Somebody dropped some plates.

The spice is there settling into your gums when you consider this long after it's swallowed. Take some more and you begin to love its oil. The wine has delicious unction.

It's one of those rarities in the Keef's Three Good appellation, and like the Pinot grigio, it sits well up the pointy end of examples of the current Oz obsession with varieties with O at the end.

This can stay. Dance yourself a smart Charleston. Go jiggle that bob.

Like the Pinot grigio, it's as good a job as this country has yet done of this variety. It's a helluva lot cheaper than a bottle of Jicky, which the local dullard specialists refuse to stock. You'll just have to trust me.

And you know what? I don't give shit about food when I drink a wine like this.