“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)





26 July 2015


Oakridge Barkala Ridge Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2013 
$36; 13.6% alcohol; screw cap; 94+ points 

You know the smell of the canteloupe? Like intact, before you cut it? That smell of the skin? Part burlap, part green melon? This smells like that but it's got a lot more blue in it. Miles Davis' Flamenco Sketches: his trumpet under raspy, raw mute. Check it out. As the great man said, it's the attitude of the dude, not the note.

So here once again we have an EP of Chardonnays from the playing of David Bicknell and it doesn't take long in this one to hear the honey tenor sax of John Coltrane adding squishy comfort to Bill Evans' delicate gossamer piano and I dunno just listen to the music or drink or both. We're not here to talk.

But I gotta. In the swallowing sector, this is a firm wine, perhaps a little brittle, a little raspy. The more you sit thinking the more it directly mirrors its kind of blue bouquet. It's as louche as all those wandery contemplative solos but as tight as Miles' determination that the recording is the honest total of what happened in the room. This is David's rakish solo on what happened in the Chardonnay up Barkala Ridge two years ago.

I's a beautiful, riveting thing. Put it on and listen. 

Oakridge Willow Lake Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2013 
$36; 12.7% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points 

Same album; different track. All that prickly dry burlap/hemp/hessian, but with a different crop of fruits in it. In place of the melon flesh, this has pineapple and jackfruit vanillins oozing around the bottom of the cool Trane solo. The aroma gets close to golden syrup or honey on the dumplings as they're pulled dribbling from the stewing pot in their coarse linen sack. Jam melon, cubed and lightly stewed.

But it's no good simply smelling your music - you've got to swallow it. Once again, the flavours and the feelings are precise, logical extensions of all that was in the fragrance.

The biggest change is the syrup knob has been wound up past six, and this has little of the tail-end-tannin of the Barkala. By the end the dominant tone is redeeming acid rising staunchly to resolve the piece.

It's one for the runny-in-the-middle pudding folks. Those with a remaining appreciation of anything vaguely svelte may well award it another point or two through sheer jealousy.

No need for a fade-out. It just tapers away all dreamish by itself. Go follow. 

Oakridge Guerin Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2013 
$36; 13.4% alcohol; screw cap; 94++ points 

Like some unimagined crescendo the band trusted was coming to close the sesh, this mutha rolls in right on queue, combining all the loveliness of the above tracks, all their components, but a tad louder and fuller and close to harmony but still with the right amount of ragged - not much, mind you - and quite a few bits of other music in there, like quince and pear and Chinese gooseberry and probably sapodilla.

Shit it's good.

It really is Trane's train in the station and it's ticking and hissing and seething with miles yet to travel.

Somewhere out there with the chorizos and the warm green olives and the sheep's cheese is where I'd take it. Elevenses. With a cigarillo under the veranda before the daylight gets too bright a thing and a person has to snooze. Otherwise it'd be back east along the coast to Marseilles for a full-bore bouillabaisse, the local equivalent of garfish or snook on the chargrill for some crunch.

I would have the Barkala with small crayfish cooked simply on coals and served with crunchy bread and rich salty butter, fresh basil and lemon juice.

The Willow Lake needs something to contrast: lemony scallopini or saltimbocca would rock it. White anchovies.

The annual release of Oakridge's Local Vineyard Series Chardonnays is something that is now etched in the stone of my vinous gig guide: you should arrange to have the same thing cut permanently into yours.

Nobody does the ensemble business better.

Well, some Burgundian outfits may, but at twice this price.

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