“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)





18 February 2015


Frank Margan at the sink ... drawing of Frank in the later '70s by Philip White 2007

When I was an acid-riddled kid--and probably the better for that--the first reliable book about wine that I encountered was Frank Margan's The Grape and I. It lit me up. 

I found it in 1972. It took some years to sink in. Combined with the influence of Michael Dransfield, it eventually convinced me it was possible to write mainly about wine.

The above is a a reflection sketch of Frank I found today in a notebook from 2007.

In the intermediate years, I was lucky to get to know Frank, who was primarily a journalist who loved gastronomy. I was lucky to dine in two of the lovely restaurants he ran, as an owner and chef; one in Sydney, another in his beloved Hunter Valley, where his son Andrew makes some of the best wines to regularly come from that vignoble, and other parts of New South Wales. 

Here's a bit of Frank's 1969 introduction. It was a radical departure from the popular--and very thin--froth written in those days:

"There are official fictions about the influx of migrants bringing their wine-drinking habits with them and teaching us about food and wine with it, and the other stories about our higher standard of living and more money in our pockets and greater sophistication so we'll blow a quid on a bottle of wine.

"But I don't believe any of that.

"It all happened because 25,000 of us were coming back here every year. After tasting the Médocs and the Graves and the vin ordinaire and catching the magic a little bit, we were quite a bit pretentious and often crashing bores about our trip. We spent our time looking for the cheap joints that had a touch of the European atmosphere and scorning the steak and eggs eaters and the tiled  pubs swilling out beer. We wanted decent food and we wanted to have wine with it and that created a demand that started today's jet climb into the wine consumption charts.

"It wasn't the migrants--if you care to keep your eyes open you'll find they have switched to beer, or flagon red mixed with lemonade or soda. No, it wasn't them. It was us."

Frank Margan, The Grape and I (Paul Hamlyn, 1969)  

Andrew, who's hyper-busy finishing a tricky vintage in the Hunter, tells me Frank's in good hands in a caring home where he still claims of his book "The unsigned ones are worth more than the signed ones."  

Best love to all you Margans. And Barbara!



ronnie radford said...

lovin your maps of Australia. pauines mouf. franks nose

Cheryl Hill said...

Regrettably acknowledging the passing of Frank last week. Fond memories of the Cottage Restaurant, Wollombi road, West Cessnock. Madly looking for a photo I have of Frank and friends in the restaurant with the boys smoking Gitanes (inside!) OMG.The memories will live on so Frank will certainly remain with me.

Cheryl Hill