“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)





02 June 2015


A warmer time of the year: Patricia Sprague, good 'sixties New Jersey dairyfarmer Baptist backslider runaway with her daughter Annika Berlingieri, Pomodora wood oven maestro at Parri, sharing the lap of Jólnir, sometimes known in this dumb southern ocean as Father Christmas, Austral Yule, summer 2014 ... photo Philip White

The goods on Ingoldby Road
(quiet lane on McLaren Flat):
with host of spirits hot and cold

The cabin fever reached an unbearable pitch on Sunday, so your correspondent siphoned himself to Ingoldby Road, McLaren Flat for a Pomodora pizza from the Parri Estate wood oven and a few stubbies of Goodieson's Pilsener, made at the bold little brewery over the dune on Sand Road. It was one of those grand blustery days that should by all accounts be expected to arrive at the end of autumn: a perfect excuse to go settle confident of finding friends old and new.

Seasoned travellers sometimes claim a person is not really a person unless they know their way around at least five of the world's great cities. I sat there on the Flat thinking the true wino can't really claim such an appellation unless they can sit in five of the world's significant wine streets and reflect with confidence on two or three generations of activity in each of them.

Like Parri proprietor John Phillips introducing me to the unsuspecting couple who've bought Pat and Wayne Thomas's old place behind Thommo's original Fernhill Winery next door. They're reacting to the unfolding yarns of trangressions that transpired there as if they'd moved unwittingly into the Addams Family joint.

But they were keen to hear another legend, so I let them have the one about Pat's reaction to me offering her a glass of Riesling.

"White wine, Whitey?" she retorted. "It's like foreplay. Not necessary."

Thommo with the Martin sisters: gamblers

For safety's sake, the Thomas swimming pool, the scene of many misadventurous midnight collisions, has been filled in, as has Jim Ingoldby's old tasting room beneath the current Parri. The great Jim had made this structure in a typically unusual way. He took a back hoe and dug four deep trenches where he wanted the walls to be. These he filled with concrete. When that had dried and cured, he dug all the dirt out from the middle and poured a floor at the bottom of the hole, before dropping in the staircase and adding a roof. The walls showed the original digger marks, so it looked like Jim had dug his tasting cellar in solid concrete.

That detail was highly satisfying to Jim. Nobody else ever seemed to give a fig.

He was a stern, if rather mischievous man, that Jim. He didn't suffer fools at all. Like the poor idiot who asked for a taste of port and sniggered at the measure Jim proffered. He wanted his glass full. So Jim fixed him with that evaporating stare while his mighty arm poured the entire bottle into that little snifter 'til there was port everywhere: all over the bench; puddling on the floor. Jim fired up his pipe, ignored the dripping rube and puffed away as if nothing was awry.

The Ingoldbys were still living in the Rycroft homestead across the road at that stage. At his  old winery on that eastern side, Jim had pioneered the idea of releasing his reds according to their source vineyards, all labelled accordingly, with credit given each grower. That was nearly fifty years before such radical innovations as Scarce Earths, where local Shiraz wines are accredited for being truly reflective of their growers' sites.

Walter and Kerry Clappis eventually bought Jim out when he retired with Mary up the river to his houseboat built on a planing hull and driven through Hamilton jets by two 351 Cleveland V8s. Like GT Falcon donks. It could pull skiers, that houseboat. You'd tie them on to the back verandah and let her rip. Under proper acceleration, all the wine glasses would slide to the ends of their shelves and shatter.

The Rycroft house took on a different shade of music under the Clappis regime. We burned whole nights there with Leonard Cohen booming priestlike through Walter's huge speakers, Walter singing along about as musically as Leonard, who was old even then.

Along with the new winery (the one which is now Parri) Walter bought the priceless old Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet vineyards there from Jim, and began building his business, which now sits proudly on the Kurrajong piedmont of the Willunga Escarpment a few kilometres away.

Jim made a Cabernet from those vines in 1979 and sold it to the the self-promoting wunderkinder of the day, the young Burge & Wilson. They licked up their new Krondorf Barossa label, stuck 'em on, won the 1980 Jimmy Watson Trophy with it, and bought a pair of matching V8 Porsches to go with the new leather pants.

"Burge & Wilson," the new thing called FM radio purred for the whole summer: "the youngest winemakers ever to win the Jimmy Watson Trophy..."

After one of those Cohen nights, Walter Clappis took me across the road to taste some tanks. He showed angst at the tincture that squirted from the first tap, took another sniff, uttered "nah that's not my wine," and went back to the safety of bottles. Neighbourly mate Digger Hackett had availed himself of the tank without actually advising Walter, put his own wine in it, and Walter's wine somewhere else.

They were those kind of days; it was still that kind of a business.

Now I look down the lane to see the new(ish) winery of Graham Stevens. Graham's celebrating his sixth vintage there. But like the rest of the street, his career's not nearly that simple. We used to rely on his hearty, stylish Cambrai reds in the early 'seventies. He'd established that business with money he'd earned on the oil rigs off Shetland, but eventually retired from winemaking and sold up.

As far as I know, Graham planted the first Zinfandel in South Australia. We loved it.

But that old Cambrai is now the O'Brien Family's Kangarilla Road Winery, which doggedly holds its name long after the authorities changed the name of the actual Kangarilla Road to McLaren Flat Road. Graham Steven's retirement didn't last long: here he is making wine in the road that was called Sand Hill Road until the Ingoldbys got their end of it changed to Ingoldby.

Phil Christiansen pulls twisty moves in the Currant Shed: Not The Bushing Lunch Lunch Wine Show, Ingoldby Road 2013 ... photos Philip White

Beyond the site of Graham's second coming lies the Currant Shed, a fine old joint housing another of those restaurants designed for wiling away murky Sundays with a red or six. This is the site of the annual splinter group event that was for local political reasons called Not The Bushing Lunch but for other local political reasons got changed to Spring Carnivalé  in spite of being held in summer.

Ingoldby would love that. 

But I'll guarantee he'd hate with the bitterest disdain the hulk of his old Ingoldby Ryecroft winery, which, under the hand of Southcorp/Fosters/Treasury, burst into a great malignant refinery of stainless steel and concrete, its walkways emblazoned in their flourescent occ health & safety Stalinism, but empty. It's a latter-day ghost town now, appropriately called Rosemount. Not one hi-res weskit, safety helmet or steel-capped boot in sight. It's all tumbleweeds and birdshit.

Like Jim's 1979 Cabernet, all those thousands of tonnes of grapes now go north to Barossa. Steel and concrete aside, that leaves Ingoldby Road pretty much the same as it was for most of the post-war years. How long before the currants and chooksheds return?

Best little wine show on earth? ... photo Philip White 

Or, more insidiously, how long before the appropriate Flash Harry pulls up in his black Merc and decides to build a poxy hi-rise hipster ghetto on that Rosemount slab? The amenity argument is already over: our Harry will argue that even the ugliest extrusion of stacked-up units would look better than that bloody refinery.

If it made real oil instead of the good stuff, that abomination would never be permitted in such lovely rural landscape. But I must tread carefully: the burgeoning villa rash that was once the village of McLaren Flat must deserve a giant Coles Guantanamo like the planning disaster the current government unloaded just down the creek, in the main street of McLaren Vale.

McLaren Flat vineyards ... and here's another couple peerie bairns on Santa's knees ... photos Philip White

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