“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)





09 March 2015


Roux Beauté Roussanne, Ironheart Shiraz and High Sands Grenache after the first gentle rain of the autumn. Or the first rain in six months, for that matter. At the risk of losing the label detail, I photographed the bottles here to illustrate the massive slab ironstone the first two wines were grown on. That's the Ironheart vineyard in the background. Scroll down to see the contrasting High Sands ... photo Philip White

DISCLAIMER: You have no idea how cool it is to have a landlord who knocks on the door and proudly presents wines he's made from the vineyards that quite literally surround your house. That's what happened last week. I live here to watch and learn all this stuff. Having digested that, you can proceed into the following appraisals with as much suspicion as you care to apply. 

Yangarra Estate Roux Beauté Roussanne 2013 
$65; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93+++ points

Apart from its faint insinuation of fresh brazil nuts and hazelnuts, I can't recall a wine which smelled so purely of pears poached lightly in white wine with thin slices of fresh ginger root. Served chilled, that's quite honestly what it smells like. As it warms, the ginger recedes and it reminds me more of a savoury dessert I once made from tiny Paradise pears the size of eggs, ripe cherry tomatoes, garlic and slivers of fresh Bhut jolokia chillies all poached lightly in sauternes and lemon juice with a dash of Pinot. If I could get my hands on some Paradise pears right now I'd make that again and have it with this wine. It's not at all sweet, and of course it's not stacked with fiery capsaicin, but the marriage would be so goddam cool ... 

Sorry about the blurry phone snap! 

The wine has a beautiful viscous texture, even at the cruelly cold temperature I started at. And then tannins, very much along the lines of the Chinese bitter melon, Momordica charantica, picked green, before its bitterness becomes extreme and it still retains some of its lovely cooling cucumber/Issey Miyake characters. It is this texture and these tannins which make me think many would imagine it to be a red wine if it was served in a black glass. I suspect they'd be so convinced by the unctuous texture and dry tannins that they'd not even miss the blackberries and mulberries and whatnot.

As it warms to a more appropriate temperature, the wine smells for a while like that melon, fresh and sliced. And then the wrinkled peel of the canteloupe, or muskmelon, Cucumus melo reticulatus. As it warms and we pass through this part of the aromatic spectrum, I find myself twitching for that melon served with prosciutto. Then, when it hits ordinary white wine cellar temperature around 12⁰C and edges toward 15⁰, it throws the beautiful fragrance of fresh fruity nougat with its poached almonds and maraschino chunks.

Let it warm closer to red temperature, and it goes through yet another phase, smelling all the world like gently-smoked pork fat.

I don't know of any white wine like it. It's lush and calming and gentle, and then long and slow, with those dusty tannins drawing the wine to an extreme and drooly length. The flavours don't change as much as the fragrances, but they certainly change. When the wine reaches around 15-17⁰ it tastes for a while like fennel bulb, which made me want a salad of that with black olives, raw red onion, cubes of fetta, crisp bacon bits and mayo.

The fruit was picked from the original Yangarra Roussanne block, where the rubble and sandy loam of the Kurrajong Formation meets the ironstone. Half was foot-trodden and placed on skins where it fermented and lay for 120 days in a 675 litre ceramic egg. The other half was conventionally pressed into an identical egg and fermented without skin contact. The final blend is 60% skins wine, and 40% conventional.

It all went very quiet in the winery as the 12 Roussanne got its gentle massage before going into the ceramic eggs ... photo Philip White 

I suspect the Roux Beauté will chug along like Good King Tut in the appropriate tomb. It deserves its own pyramid.  Have it with any of the foods mentioned above. Or a good dry goat or sheep cheese.

Because this wine has not been filtered, it'll show a light haze unless you stand it to settle, or even better, stand it overnight in the fridge, and then carefully decant it before serving. As the good folk at Coopers say, "Cloudy but fine."

We all need a lock like this on our cellars ... this is the rope seal on the tomb of King Tutankhamun, photographed in 1922, after 3,245 years intact. 

Yangarra High Sands Grenache 2012 
$125; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 95++ points 

This vineyard was planted by my neighbour, Bernard Smart, in 1946. 

Bernard and Mary Smart with winemaker Peter Fraser after a bloody good nosh at Fino ... photo Philip White 

The vines grow in deep nutrient-free wind-blown sand, not marine, with ferruginous clay at the bottom, where the roots drink. It's never been watered, and it's years since any conventional petrochem vinicides have been squirted at it. Like all Yangarra, it's a certified biodynamic and organic site.

2012 was a very good year.

Sour cherries have crawled all over my sensories these past weeks: the best Grenache from the majestic 2012 seems stacked with this pickled Morello/Montmorency cherry thing, whether the wine's from the Barossa or down this southern way. It's sour cherries big time, and they ain't goin' away. This wine has more of it than any other I can recall: characters so strong and edgy they even overwhelm the lovely florals, pashmak and musk of the wine's decorative top note.

There's just the faintest whiff of old harness to add some past to all this bright future.

But it's the flavours and textures of this Grenache that really scratch me out.

The wine is austere and dry and velvety. It has great intensity in a supple, slender manner, and relentless dusty--no, it's sandy--tannin. So all at once it manages to tease and tantalise and give you a good solid whacking like you've never before had from a Grenache. It's the Gretel Penninger/Madame Lash of Grenache. Bit more please, Gret. Oooh, that's better. A bit further down.

I understand Mr Croser was on Mornington recently, wisely lecturing the Pinotphile assembly that Australia needs more tannin in its Pinot if it wants to get serious about that felicitous grape. With Grenache like this, why bother? I'll get shit for this, but I'm gonna say it anyway: this is La Tâche territory.
High Sands Grenache, nearly ready to pick ... this sand is aeolian, meaning it's wind-blown - it's not marine ... photo Philip White 

From the highest part of the High Sands vineyard, where the sand is deepest, this fruit was hand-picked and then mechanically sorted to remove inferior berries and protein. The fruit was macerated in open fermenters, cold-soaked to entrap all those pretty water soluble topnotes, and then left to the yeasts of the vineyard and the air to ferment. It spent a year in old French oak on its lees. 

Yangarra Estate Ironheart Shiraz 2012 
 $100; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+++ points 

This wine reminds me immediately of the mysterious, deep reds Jim Ingoldby made from Blewett Springs Shiraz in the 'seventies. And the old ones from the 'sixties that I was very lucky to encounter. In its reluctance to let itself go, it's also a little like the intense long-living Shiraz Diana Genders still makes on McLaren Flat. On opening, it lets loose an array of powdered flesh pretties, but then settles into a sullen slumber, daring you to look again for cheap thrills. Now it's been open for three days, it's finally getting ready to converse.

It's a surly, soulful, essence of Shiraz, dusty like the summer winds, irony like that smell of a rusted galvo shed in a sprinkle of rain, and all plum pudding below, oozing suety dough, partially-dried fruits, like glazed cherries, figs and molasses. It's not nutty, like the panforte of the best Barossa Shiraz from the irony bits of Greenock, which it's a bit like nevertheless, but more moist and stewed to inhale. And I believe I get a whiff of Jim's pipe smouldering away across the table.

All that aromatic complexity aside, the wine is dense yet elegant to drink. Which is where even more of the Jingoldby/Genders recollections arise.  It is never gloopy or jammy, but velvety and lingering. It is dry. It is devoid of silk and gloss. It is not at all shiny. It makes me hungry. It really does remind me of Jim's piercing, questioning stare. Like when I first encountered him on his twin Cleveland 351ci  V8 Hamilton jet-driven houseboat with the planing hull that would get up and pull two skiers roped to its back veranda rail.

"Do you understand finance?" was his opening shot. Like I'd known him for years, but this time I was visiting with his fair but fierce daughter on my arm. Correction. I was on her arm. 

"No," I said.

"Good," was his response. "Now we can talk."

So it's good to talk again to dear Jim, who's been dead for years, through a glass of Shiraz that quite literally grew in nutrient-free sand on solid slab ironstone a few feet from my front veranda. That'll be my planing hull as I limit myself to another glass per day til the bottle's done. The wine will still be rubbing the sleep from its eyes even then. As it draws my drinking arms from their sockets.

This wine was hand-picked. 25% of the bunches were left intact, the rest de-stemmed and mechanically sorted to remove the oddballs and any protein, like the bugs we normally drank in the days before these amazing berry-sorting machines. It was fermented by wild yeast with the whole bunches in open fermenters, plunged regularly and aged for fifteen months on lees in 40% new French barrels, the rest older. Then a precise barrel selection was made for this final blend. Selah.


@Keira_McIntosh said...

Pretty cool disclaimer Whitey. Good to see Bernard up close, he hides his age well. Has the visage and posture of a younger man.

Bob Colman said...

It's only just past breakfast time but put a glass of that Roussanne in front of me and I'd be tempted to quietly sip away.