“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)





13 May 2015


Wirra Wirra Biodynamic Vineyards Amator McLaren Vale Shiraz 2013 
$30; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92++ points 

The Wirra crew have been quietly pushing some of their best vineyards toward full-bore biodynamic management and now have these two wines available at their cellars. Both come from NASAA certified biodynamic vineyards on McMurtrie Road. If you rock up at their tasting room you can try them - it's a good opportunity to see whether you can detect any stylistic difference between these first issues and more conventionally-farmed examples of the same varieties.

When I first encountered them last month, these wines reminded me of modern Tuscan reds: something about the brightness of their form and the crisp nature of their tannins. They are both precise, slender and yet very intense. A few days later I was sitting with my friends Alison Hodder and Claudio Berlingieri, who'd come to show me their new de Vinosalvo Vignaioli Tuscan reds, one of which was a Shiraz which was very much like this in style. The comparison fascinated me, especially considering how scarce Shiraz is in that part of the world.

This Amator is bright with licorice and aniseed, adding a slight prickle to the top note; below looms a deep dark shipment of carbon and currants and very rich fruitcake, a little like a particularly dark panforte. I smell dried figs and dates as much as all those black berries. And yes, maybe a dusting of confectioner's sugar.

The palate follows that template perfectly, being completely focussed and elegant, yet highly intense - not at all like your typically soulful McLaren Vale Shiraz. Rather than coddling and comforting the sensories, they tease and tantalise, triggering instant hunger. Papardella alla lepre - ribbon pasta with hare sauce - or the classic bistecca alla fiorentino would swim in this. 

Wirra Wirra Biodynamic Vineyards Amator McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 
$30; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+++ points 

Partly because it's a whole per cent lower in alcohol, this Cabernet's even more precise and crisp. It has all the aromas of the Shiraz, but with the meaty hint of blueberry, and that decorative dusting of icing sugar brings a pretty touch of musk and violets with it. If I ever need to pop the old dinner jacket on again, I'd happily wear a dab of this behind my ears.

Once again, the wine's deep and intense below those lovely decorative fragrances. It seems to have a basement of carbon and iron: blacksmith smells which are almost too big for its  athletic frame.

The palate is tight and almost brittle with such crisp, vibrant tannins. Its taut elegance is even more Tuscan than the Shiraz, and a good airing sees its perfect muscly flesh swell a little, adding just the right amount of comfort to those lean sprinter's bones.

I have had tight Montepulcianos that were much like this wine. And three or four times the price.

The finish is amazing in its reluctance to leave: long after the swallow, it sorta squirms around the sensories like a vamp in a big leather armchair.

Makes me dream of spit-roasted pork liver with bay leaves: fegatelli di maiale.  Swoon. 

Yangarra Estate Vineyards PF McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015 
$25; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points

PF means preservative free. This wine is made from a custom-managed certified biodynamic and organic vineyard a short walk from my place. It has no additives: no oak, no acid, no industrial yeast, no sulphur and no fining agents. Right from the dirt up, the whole business is designed to make a red wine which is ready to drink before the leaves blow off the vineyard. Forget Beaujolais and joven Tempranillo - PF's more like the radical early-drinking Cab Mac reds Stephen Hickinbotham made in Victoria in the 'eighties.

It's rudely grapey and right in your face; audacious yet complex and tight ... and totally adult. Okay then, it's also sluttishly loose. Blackstrap and Dutch licorice aromas abound, yet there's a heady, syrupy black grape jelly about it, with subliminal suggestions of crème de cassis, framboise and maybe even Bickford's Essence of Coffee and Chicory - without really being anything like them.

Drink. The flavours are so immediately overwhelming brash they souse your sense of smell: swallow some and take another sniff of your glass and you can't seem to smell anything. Your organoleptics are so thoroughly invaded that the wine has become your normal background chroma key.

And then the tannins swarm in: extremely fine yet persistent, like the chalk or slate ones you get in the best young Clare Rieslings. Which makes you dive straight back in.

It's tricky writing descriptors for wine like this. Not only because it's such an unusual brute made by my landlord, but it's been so long since Stephen Hickinbotham's early death by misadventure that I've forgotten that you can do this with Shiraz if you're smart and adventurous.

As it stands, try it with a red pork curry or lamb korma: its viscosity can handle overt spice. It's very cool with a platter of dark charcuterie, olives and sheep or goat cheese.

PF sells out soon after vintage, but if you stack some away you'll find it goes alarmingly well with a big ice block, a splash of soda and a smacked mint or basil leaf when the summer comes back.

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