“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)





19 March 2015


To launch their 125th year of winemaking, Kay Brothers have released two traditional Vales reds, one wildcat surprise and another very dark horse still in the stalls ...

Kay Brothers Basket Pressed McLaren Vale Grenache 2014 
$25; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 88+ points

This is a gnarly old-style Grenache, a little leathery, but mainly rich with the whiffs of fruitcake and Christmas pudding. And it has plenty of the sour cherry aroma I expect of the best Vales Grenache, all of which adds up to a seductive velvety mellowness. Add some salty dark chocolate sauce, and you're there. The flavours twist around before they settle, with snaky appetising acid entwined about those grainy tannins. It's a drink for the paler meats: lamb, turkey or if you're lucky enough to find some, the delicious guinea fowl, with stewed beets and roast parsnip. Decant it to let its lungs open, or stack it away for a few years if you want more silk than velvet. 

Kay Brothers Basket Pressed McLaren Vale Nero d'Avola 2014 
$25; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points

A year after I drank it, Tash Mooney's Fox Gordon 2013 AdelaideHills model of this savage Sicilian grape is still skulking round my head like a wolverine, a gluttonous jarfr coming off a meth nightmare. I've not seen another example so memorable. Until this one, which is a little less savage but only because it's not on drugs and not so snarly. Where Tash's brute smelled like it was slinking singed from its lair in the blackberry bushes after a lightning strike this one's not in sight but its bearish spoor leads into a hedgerow of all sorts of prickles and brambles and berries, including the black ones. It smells sometimes of carbon pencil and Dutch licorice often comes to mind but it's almost always like the dark sappy heart of fresh-hewn blackwood. It's slightly sinister. It doesn't smell like grapes. Considering this is only the second crop from a 2010 planting, it must love its terroir between Kay's worshipful Block 6 Shiraz and the creek. It has a feral/furry/varmint type of a flavour and shape, too: it slinks. I love it. It rollicks with my first real cassoulet of the year: a forester's mess of sheep neck and sausages smoked over old French red wine oak, with lupini in amongst the haricot beans, tomatoes, garlic, black peppercorns and a pinch of ghost chilli. 

Kay Brothers Basket Pressed McLaren Vale Shiraz 2013 
$25; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 91++ points 

There's no better way of celebrating Kay Brothers' 125th anniversary than snapping the cap of this new inexpensive line of their stalwart grape, the mighty Shiraz. Below its tantalising prickle of peppery nettles and cress, this one's all stewed satsuma, prune and mulberry to sniff, simmering, but still showing plenty of slippery fresh fruit. You can sniff away happily for yonks, but when you pour it into yourself the gears change and you're off on a pleasant slide of pleasure, with the overt flavour of Shiraz replacing those other fruits the bouquet advertised. It has perfect acidity and that classic Kay Brothers tannin, tapering off into a naughty lingering tease. For 125 years, the Kays have  bred and trained their Shiraz to slurp with the family roast, so I can't go beyond that with harmonious food suggestions.

Another tease: after the commencement of the birthday celebrations at Easter, Kay's will release their 125 Years Of Wine Heritage Sparkling NV Shiraz, a mix of vintages blended to age for six years in big old oak before lying a year in bottle, finally liqueured with a drop of their gorgeous old tawny and sealed with a stainless steel crown cap, so it'll live for nearly ever in your cellar. Be prepared!      

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