“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)





27 February 2015


Bishop by Ben Glaetzer Barossa Valley Shiraz 2013
$33; 15% alcohol; screw cap; 80++ points

Ben Glaetzer is a big deal in the Barossa. And elsewhere. Winemaking genetics; millions of awards; smart marketing; solid backers and hard-arse back-up. The confidence to charge money. The whole package.

These grapes came from Ebenezer, on the Barossa's sunbaked northern plain. It's a very special little vignoble out there in the sediments. But early frosts limited the crop; dry winter sealed the deal; warm dry summer made everything finally happen really quickly and early.

So whatter we got? Typical Barossa '13 Shiraz is what we've got. This was not a year in the league of the majestic twelves. It smells strong, dense and surly. Maybe even sultry. It smells thick and inky, with aniseed and licorice. It smells of very ripe blackberries and mulberries with a hint of ripe bleeding fig. Delve to an unseemly depth, and you may get the dribbly reek of juicy part-smoked pork. Atop that there's a typical Glaetzer dusting of oak to take the sheen off everything. It's really tight. It takes a couple of hours to even begin to emerge.

After all that stand-off in the nose division, the wine is more lithe and slender than you'd expect. It doesn't seem as alcoholic as the bouquet suggested. I've held the bottle for some months before opening it, knowing its maker and the vintage, and while Ben says he made it to "be approachable early" I can't help thinking it would have been a dense and tricky thing to encounter upon its release: a bit like the titanium/teflon monolith/menhir thingo the apes hurl bones at in 2001 A Space Odyssey.

That's the way Ben does the business. He builds rectalinear teflon menhirs that take years to relax.  Ideally, I'd be giving it a couple more years to let that wood settle, and the ruder meaty bits of the bouquet roll around with the fruits while they swell closer to a conserve stage and the whole dark gadget begins to animate, grows up a bit and lets just a little fleshy pudge hang over the belt at the hips. It needs to lose some corners. Which it will.

In summary, Glaetzer fans will probably think this wine's a bit light on, while others will still find it a touch taut and arrogant in the fragrance, and very direct and linear on the laughing gear. I'm in the latter mob: it doesn't offer me much laughter, but I reckon it'll peel open a beaming smile in about five years. When I'd have it with a stack of field mushrooms cooked in butter, Linke's bacon done crisp and brittle, and parsnip chips properly caramelised. 

Koltz The Pagan McLaren Vale Shiraz 2012 
$50; 15.5% alcohol; Diam cork; 93+++ points 

"The grapes for the 2012 Pagan were picked late February and dried on racks inside the winery for seven weeks and then crushed and fermented for fifteen days before being lightly pressed. The wine was aged in French oak for 22 months before being bottled."

That's winemaker Mark Day's summary of what happened in this soulful glass. It's unfair to compare this to the above 2013 wine, but it serves to make a point. This one grew in the upland shade of Blewett Springs, where it's all sand and ironstone. Its amarone winemaking extends the gap the contrasting vintages and terroirs have provided. The wines are chalk and cheese. And this cheese is the gorgonzola with the worms in it. It's the opposite of teflon.

Fine white pepper gives a topnote, below that it's all panforte, with blanched almond, date, raisin and fig all smug and comfy. It's silky of texture, with all those aromas continuing smoothly through as flavours. It has the quaint autumnal air typical of these dried-grape wines, and given all that deliberately extended manipulated ripening as raisins on racks, its acid is surprisingly firm and harmonious.

If it shares anything at all with the Glaetzer wine, it's the notion of its alcohol not being as aggressive as the number indicates. Other than that, it's hard to believe that both wines are made from the same grape, let alone grown in the same country.

And what would I eat with this? Panforte. And gorgonazola. On the veranda. Real slow.

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