“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)





25 May 2015


Château Pierre-Bise Savennières Roches aux Moines 2011
$51; 14.5% alcohol; cork; 93 points

Château Pierre-Bise Savennières Roches aux Moines is hardly the name on everyone's lips. It's a small Chenin blanc vineyard in schisty stones on the north bank of the Loire in Atlantic France. I'm not reviewing this to tease you with such a rarity, but to make a point about Chenin.

In the early 'eighties I fell in love with the astonishing Chenins blanc of Moulin-Touchais, another Loire producer. These were very high acid botrytised wines that were fermented to the point of dryness, but not quite. They'd live for amazing lengths of time, corks willing. As did the Chenins from Marc Bredif.

While this wine is almost dry, I suspect its fruit has had a lick of the noble rot, too.

Then, unusual for the region, this one's had a perfectly natural malo-lactic ferment, when bacteria convert the harsh metallic malic acid of the grape to lactic, the softer acid of milk. This secondary ferment has nothing to do with yeast or alcohol, but it has a profound effect on flavour and texture. Atop the glycerol that botrytis produces, the 'malo' has made this wine softer and much more approachable than the austere Moulin-Touchais, or most Australian Chenin blanc.

I doubt whether it gets much botrytis, but the old Tintookie Chenin blanc vineyard of Drew Dowie and Lulu Lunn in Blewett Springs sometimes goes into a deluxe wood-fermented wild yeast Dowie Doole wine named after the vineyard. It's exquisite wine: the 2008's on the shelves now at $35. If you go to the winery and you're very good, you might get some 2006. I'll review those a week or two.

Meanwhile, the glass in hand: Windfall pears and gilt leaves burnishing in the wet autumn grass. Leatherwood honey. Candied lemons. Cinder toffee. All things ripening and mellow and lush. Lots of the vanilloids of decay. Perfect for this time of the year - don't chill it hard: ten minutes in the ice bucket should do it.

It has a quaint fluffy texture, with a tidying burlap prickle in the tail. It feels like it might be sweeter, but that's delusion. All those aromas meld beautifully into the same flavours, making one imagine a sweet clear jelly made from all the above, with a clove and maybe a juniper berry. The wine has perfect balance, with acidity that appears more gentle than it probably is on paper: all that flesh cuddles it up and hides it. 

But it's not sweet. Well, not very.

It reminds me a little of the Ribbon Series 'spätlese' Rieslings Orlando made in the 'seventies and 'eighties from the vineyards up in the high gully beside Trial Hill Road. These dried off with bottle age and were always perfect with a cup of milk tea and a slab of yeasty apple or apricot streuselkuchen. At eleven sharp.

You can buy this wine at The Edinburgh: East End should stock it too, or get some in. Approach it like a Burgundy and save $100! 

The Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky Aged 12 Years 
$115;  43% alcohol; cork; 96 points 

An unlikely coupling, putting this up against a Chenin from the Loire?


Call me nuts, but these two drinks share a great deal of aroma and flavour. While this one has three times the burnies and more obvious oak and comes from a pure malt scotch recipe as made in Japan, it shares many of those autumnal tones of the Loire wine.

While that softening malo-lactic fermentation took the sharpest edges off the Loire, this prime whisky's alcohol and brisk oak have the opposite effect. But while we have these extremes of edge, the aromas ring many of the same old bells. Like this is sharp and appropriately hot; the wine's the opposite. But the flavours are very close.

Test me: after you've finished the last of a glass of this with a little water, rinse the glass with the Chenin and savour it. The transition is as smooth as.

This is the extreme pointy end of the whisky business. Crisp. Almost digital. Imagine Sony making a malt. It's be as precise and technical as this brilliant tincture, but with all that matter-of-fact Sony helpfulness. They make great cameras. I wish they'd make a car. I reckon I'd get my license back, just to bung on some music and take the Sony for drive. And Sony twelve year old single malt? Bring it on. That's why I don't drive.

Like the best malts of Tasmania (Lark; Hellyer's Road), this is the current pinnacle of whisky.

The pears, the autumnal jelly ... hit it with some rain, and it gets even closer to the Chenin. But forget the streuselkuchen. When you finally tumble outa the royal cot, gird your plaid, toast some dark rye and spread some of last night's cold haggis on it. I'm sure you'll find the odd overlooked scrap somewhere on the table. Check the middle, where the wolfhounds can't reach. You might be lucky.

1 comment:

Jesse said...

The glass or two on your porch were the nicest glasses of that whisky I ever had. The air is so nice around there... I swear it made a difference.