“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)





05 February 2015


Forester Estate Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2014
 $24; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 90 points 

Here's a blend we overlook. 

While it makes good sense, and we copied it from Bordeaux and everything, Australia seems a bit shy about it. That's really silly. It suits our summers.

In this country, Margaret River usually does the best job of the clever admixture, but even those producers seem to have backed off in its promotion. This one's a beauty. It does the loveliest job of mingling the slightly buttery Semillon with the grassier cut of Sauvignon blanc. Smooth and crunchy all at once. It reminds me of munching watercress straight out of the Moondah Brook in another vineyard in the sand near Gin Gin in Western Australia, with a fistful of baguette and lumps of butter. You know that black pepper edge some watercress has, like some strains of basil? Add the white bread with its yeast and the butter, and you more or less have the shape of this wine. It's calmly exciting.

The winemaking is pretty much the opposite of the current ripple of murky hippy stuff: the grapes are destemmed and crushed; the resultant mush of skins and juice chilled and pressed; the resultant juice tanked and cold-settled before it goes in a clarified state to fermentation with selected yeasts, all under fastidious temperature control.  In stainless steel. There's a tiny touch of oak from parcels of both varieties kept in barrel for while; only after fermentation are the bits blended to make this.

Don't serve it too cold; around 15⁰C will do it; no colder. It appears to have been blended as perfume as much as a drinkable gastronomic delight, and you don't chill your perfume.

Well, not when you're wearing it.

Have this wine with chicken and a big handful of fresh green herbs [like taragon] stewed in dry cider with white onions and garlic. If you think of the current orange/brown/natural wine fad presenting the fruit of the vine in natural decay, this is the same source stuff kept in pristine freshness right through the show. Just as we chomped on that wet watercress with the brook running down our arms, this wine is like chomping on bunches of grapes you've just pulled from their vines at two o'clock in the morning of a cool summer night. 

Beneath a naked moon. 

Moonrise over Point Sturt, Lake Alexandrina, Murray-Darling estuary, with Raukkan lights on the horizon on the right ... smudgy drunk snap by  Philip White 

Forester Estate Margaret River Shiraz 2012 
$24; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points 

Awe. Goo. This is a heady perfumed beauty. It's rockin' value. If nowhere else in Australia, you might be able to make Shiraz like this in McLaren Vale, but you don't see much of it. Maritime humidity has a lot to do with it. But Mornington Peninsula's too cold, like the Bellarine.

It's all marshmallow and lollyshop with a stacked fruiterer's barrow coming out of control through the window in slow motion. 

Raspberries and redcurrants and mulberries everywhere: they're all over the musk sticks. 

And some suave French wood for pious adults who can't afford to enjoy that initial collision in the way us kids enjoy cartoons.

It's slick and silky and syrupy of texture, without being gloopy or jammy. It was made the old Penfolds Magill way, in open fermenters, with the juice drained and pumped over the skins each day under rigourous temperature control. Its tannins are so fine you barely notice, and its acid makes your tongue spasm like a live oyster does when you hit it with the lemon juice. I'd love to get Cheong to cook a snapper and serve it with Mexican chocolate sauce and some chilli and swim around in this with it. The lies we could tell! 

Cheong Liew with Milton Wordley at Wah Hing in January. I watched Cheong invent what the international pundits eventually named 'fusion cuisine' in Neddy's in the seventies. I suspect that through his influence on our attitude to food, this fine humble genius - a word I never use lightly -  has played a bigger role in the life of Australia than any politician ... or any other chef, for that matter, including the current abrasion of arrogant chefwits on television ... photo Philip White
Forester Estate Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 
$38; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 93+ points 

Sitting where I sit, with all this wierd wine stuff from the wine refineries and ivy-hung mud huts flying past, yin and yang, it's easy lately to forget that wines like this exist. This is really clean crisp Cabernet from one of the places on Earth it grows best. It's all coffee and cocoa and mocha, cedary oak and blueberries, musk and faint lavendar and violets, clean as a whistle and ready to swell and turn and glower with a decade in a good cellar.

Once again made after the old (1950s) Penfolds open fermenters/temperature control/pumpover method, it delivers a similar result at just a bit of the price of their best. 

As it plays around in your mouth, its slender and sinuous form does that magical transformation from silky and elegant viscosity to velvet, with the right level of acid and drying fine-grained tannins sorting all the slick stuff out, letting them all trickle through the organoleptic division in the right order at the right pace.

Right now I'm loving it with crumbly sheep's cheese, lemon juice, basil and black pepper on dark rye. I could drive myself nuts dreaming of having it with simply grilled lamb cutlets, pink and dribbling, and mash.  It makes your cheeks leak; opens the salvaries til they gush. 

Maybe too clinically bright for the dirty-arse funkster fanatics, it's a damn good reflection of the noble Cabernet at its arrogant, aromatic best. Regardless of the politics, I can't imagine anybody refusing a glass.

Grange being pumped over skins at Penfolds Magill ... photo by Milton Wordley, from our internationally award-bedecked book, A year in the life of Grange

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