“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)





28 May 2015


Yalumba Galway Vintage Barossa Valley Shiraz 2013 
$19; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 80 points 

You could call this very modern, or equally claim it's a bit like the Galway was before the extreme high alcohol boom of the 'nineties: mercifully, it's of modest strength, and sports enough dusty tannin to make me hungry.

It has that rusty old Barossa shed about it, but in a wallow of Shiraz that's neither too deep nor shallow: it's certainly not deep enough to become bogged. Your axles stay well above the surface here. It has all the right blackberries (with the nightshade smell of their tough leafy vine) and maybe just a touch of dried fig, which one of the characters I often associate with the old rock Shiraz in the Barossa's north-western ranges, the Nain Hills.

But they also have pannacotta, which is beyond this. This is like totally racy and taut and fit for the bistros with the bigly spectacled and frequently bearded.

Who looks after those guys? Like the ironing?

I don't know what Hungry Dan will charge for this if he ever gets any, but I notice he has the 2005 on at $13 with no stars and no reviews. Just makes me wonder how long that fair $19 retail price will hold.

As for those points? Mean? Nah. That's 8/10. (I can fill a wheelie bin trying to get a wine over 90.)

In the meantime: cook a big wild chook in a closed container - terra cotta's best - in the oven with 1/3 ordinary sweetish cider and the rest Sauvignon blanc, which usually has the appropriate acid; lots of small white onions, whole bruised cloves of garlic, coarse-ground black pepper, some capers and a fistful of fresh tarragon. At the end, rinse a tin's worth of cannelini beans under the tap and add them for the thirty minutes before serving. You can soak your own if you're posh. Roast spuds, carrots and parsnip; tails properly caramelised.


Tom's Drop Premium Riverland Shiraz 2012 
 $20; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 91+ points 

Michael O'Donohoe is the first Australian of Irish descent who I've heard claim that his ancestors made their money distilling water. Water. Lord only knows what they used the still for in the dark hours, but he's adamant that his great grandfather Tom O'Donohoe and his lads made fresh water from salty borewater in the bright goldfields daylight and sold it to miners.

There's a photo of the whole mob on the label. With the still. In my short experience, not many Irish families pose for photographs beside their still. Unless they have a very good cover. Like water.

Even better cover: the future Queen of England, Princess Elizabeth, hanging out at a poteen still in Ireland ... a touch of the old totemic polemic ... photo obviously not by Snowden

A bird never flew on the one wing.

Anyway, Michael's modernised his label since last time I saw him, which was back in the Cambrian.

This is not water, by the way. Unlike far too much Riverland wine, it's had hardly any water: Tom always keeps his irrigation minimal and crops below the magic two tonnes per acre. In the Murray Mallee, that's a lot lower than modest. Sorry, he's Michael. Michael's Berri vineyard's been certified Level A Organic since 1991.

This one shows all the tenderness he applies to his block. Michael's a bugs and birdies kind of a dude. Like he's been known to pay people to comb through the grass and remove all the sleepy lizards before he'll drive his tractor in the vines. Afterwards, they put the lizards back. It's where they live. Sleepy lizards eat Portuguese millipedes and earwigs. Enemies in the vineyard. No need to spray for them when you don't squash your sleepies.

Guess what? It's beautiful wine. It opens with that red dust reek of the edge of the desert. Tomichael happily claims to being right out there on his labels. Not many Murray-Darling wines ever admit to coming from the edge of the desert. Or can lay claim to wild yeast ferment.

Then, in perfect balance, comes the old bretty harness and the fresh berry pie. Cooked short of jam but close to the conserve stage, where intact berries survive.

The drinking offers quite a lot more vibrant jumping fruit than that bouquet first indicates. It's lush. It swells up and envelopes you and then leaves you with its long, lingering tannins. And eventually, a lick of caramel.

At which point I should reveal that Michael is a vicious underground confectioner. His chocolates are sick.

In that vein, this is the sort of red that would hurl screaming meanies at the producers of the Languedoc and the Midi, in Mediterranean France ... a wilder wine, more reflective of its terroir than, say, the brilliant and radical 1973 Berri Cabernet that won Brian Barry the Jimmy Watson Trophy in 1974. That was a technical, almost forensic parfumier's wine. This is a wine of its brilliant clean desert dirt, made dirty carefully.

Michael says Tom's Drop has been very popular in some posh restaurants in Ireland, but he's thinking of putting a bit more of it into Adelaide. Good thinking. He says it's in the best licensed organic stores or you can e-mail the man at tomsdrop@gmail.com for direct purchases.

Welcome back, O'Donohoes Tom and Mick. Thanks for this joyful lipsmacker. Juicy cutlets puleeeze. Or T-Chow shiitake with chiuk sung, bok choy and heaps of ginger.

Maybe a flounder on the side.
When you're distilling water, if they're half decent the Garda will rinse your stills

1 comment:

www.boylen.com.au said...

Great writing. When I cook my chook with cider and sav blanc in a terra cotta pot, how much sav blanc (roughly)?