“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 March 2015


Pauletts Polish Hill River Clare Valley Cabernet Merlot 2010 
$24; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 88+ points

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are both varieties that came from the estuarine humidity of Bordeaux right there on the Atlantic Ocean. It seems strange to grow them in the hard old rocks and worn out alluvia of the Polish Valley, where there's no ocean and rarely a whisper of humidity.

But here's a sweet ol' soulful thing with a pretty musk and lavendar topnote; even mint. Below that, it's welling with deep stewy prunes, figs, mulberries, raisins, currants and dates like my grandmother's Christmas pudding. Suet, even. I can smell the thick cotton she wrapped it in to hold it together for the boiling. I got a smack once for sucking that heavenly rag after the pudding came out and there were missionaries in the house. I thought that if you were a missionary in the Andes you would have given anything for a suck of such a delicious steaming morsel up there in the snow and everything, but the sanctimonious bastards never stuck up for me. I remember wishing them into  a simmering cannibal's pot up to their waists, wearing their pith helmets and clutching Bibles while the unsaved danced hungrily around the fire.

Time for a swaller. It's the sort of sauce I would have loved to see that pudding soaked or boiled in. Or them missionaries. Rich and velvet-thick and wholesome, and in a strange way, really old-fashioned. It has a hot alcohol finish. But it has a tight acid sabre up its middle, making the lips pucker and gush. Like a good entry-level Bordeaux from a warmer year, come to think of it. For $24. Sheesh. 

Pauletts Polish River Clare Valley Shiraz 2010 
$24; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 90+ points

Now we're talking. In the alcohol division I mean. After a glimpse of the front label, that alcohol's always the first number I look at, and Pauletts have made the typeface big and black enough to read that delightful 13.5. So I'm happy before I even snap the screw. Anticipating.

Smells good. Deep and dense and tarry as soft fresh blackstrap licorice. Currants. Baked raisins. The glazed Banbury tarts which used to glow like burnished brass in the window of Roger's pastry shop in Burnley Street Richmond. All of which indicates the lower alcohol didn't need to be any bigger.

Slurp. Oh lawdy. It's nowhere near as thick as the blend above, and you can appreciate its acid, lying like a whipsnake in the velvet. It doesn't need to be any bigger. It's savoury. I apply this much abused word in its proper sense, “in contradistinction to sweet, as the epithet of articles of food having a stimulating taste or flavour.” Sapor, saporis,  saporare are “delicacy, taste, refinement” in the old Latin.  Sapa is new wine. Sapiens is wise, discrete. That's enough. Unless you meant savory, the herb, Satureja hortensis, which is a deliciously green as taragon.

Now I've gone on too long, but I'm not paid by the word and all that adds up to making me dribble with hunger. Juicy pink lamb comes to mind. Or those long thin-ribbed chops you get from kid goat. Don't overcook 'em. Sheep's cheese for the vegos. Sorry, but I can't help vegans ...

It's a long, elegant, purposeful drink, like you might find, if you're very lucky or you know where to go, on the delta of the Rhône. In a cooler year. Like head to Violès, pause to sniff the violets and turn east to Gigondas. Buy a Syrah and you've got it. Perfect.

So there you have two of the great contrasting regions of France in one family winery in the Polish Valley, North Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia. 24 bucks a pop. How lucky are we? Shout it! Friggin' oui! Oui! Oui! Aussie Aussie Aussie!

(Wipes his mouth on the back of his hand and flushes, waiting for another smack.)

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