“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)





14 May 2015


Hahndorf Hill Winery Zsa Zsa Zweigelt Adelaide Hills Rosé 2013 
$25; 12% alcohol; screw cap; 94+ points 

Ewie gooey. Here we go. I can't recall any Australian rosé like this.

Zweigelt, for Bacchus' sake! Fritz Zweigelt crossed Blaufränkisch with St. Laurent in Australia in 1922 to produce this red grape, and now it's in Niagara, British Columbia, Czech Republic and Slovakia as well as being Austria's main red. True to their far-sighted pioneering style Larry Jacobs and Marc Dobson have introduced it to Australia via their remarkable vineyard at Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills.

Ferment started in old barriques with wild yeasts and completed in stainless steel with some lees stirring for a few weeks. Three hours on skins gave it all the colour and skin tannin it needed. It's been made with the utmost sensitivity and gastronomic intelligence, producing just a wee hint of pheasant-eye hue and the faintest whiff of oak.

It also has that nose-tickling reek of dusty countryside in the summer.

But it smells mainly like sabayon or a particularly delicate custard, maybe even junket. It's creamy, and I would guess laden with more natural vanilloids than any wine that comes immediately to mind, short of sauternes. Think jackfruit flesh or ripe pineapple ... just a tiny squeeze. And to confuse you, it has the meekest insinuation of very fine fish stock, reminding me of the amazing white wines Stephen Hickinbotham made at Anakie near Geelong in the early 'eighties. With fastidious cool-climate viticulture and obsessive winemaking, all these aromas come completely naturally, if very rarely.

Flavour follows suit: maybe add a touch of plantain. It's soothingly creamy and long, with a shy ripple of phenolic tannin and some persistent utterly natural acid to draw the tail out in the most tantalising manner.

It's beautiful.

If you like your rosé all sweet and pink and raspberry, forget this wine. If you've had the best bone-dry Provence ones with a fair dinkum bouillabaise overlooking the harbour in Marseilles you can start imagining in this general direction, but this is better: more refined and elegant.

Smoked salmon, capers and chêvre.

As I said: ewie gooey. Just don't chill it too hard. Ten minutes in the ice bucket is ample. 

Hahndorf Hill Winery Blueblood Adelaide Hills Blaufränkisch 2013 
$40; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 94+ points 

Another Austrian variety unique to this remarkable estate until very recently - they've had it for twenty years - Blaufränkisch often reminds me of a Burgundian Pinot crossed with a old-vine Clare Shiraz.

As usual with the annual offerings from HHW, the bouquet starts out with that ozone prickle of blackberry bushes that have just been smacked by lightning. The further in you go, you get cool beetrooty borscht with a swirl of yoghurt and the pickling juice from a jar of black kalamata. And that distinctive Hahndorf Hill prickle of podsolic dirt and grapeshot ironstone in the heat of summer.

Taste it? I can't help gulping great greedy schlücks of it. In the mouth, those savoury aromatics take a fruity turn, like a big bowl of red and black fruits and berries soused in kirsch and lemon juice, sprinkled with caster sugar and served around a chocolate crème brûlée.

It's a ride very few wines will give you.

Food? Forget it. This is a vinous circus. Just sit back and relish.

If you must, try it with borscht, or that dessert I mention above, or maybe a lightly smoked salmon or tuna steak broiled with onion, tarragon and capers and served pink. Which is a dish nearly damned impossible to cook without overcooking.

Hahndorf Hill is now locked in as one of that small handful of Australian wineries which never misses grovelling reviews from this sceptical greedy guts. Both these wines are way out there pioneering excitements that flip the finger to the rote copycat stuff the vast majority of Australian winers ever dream of attempting. The wines these blokes make are not merely adventurous, but fine-tuned, forensically-planned with great patience and investment and brilliant in their success.  Go visit!

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