“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 July 2015


Langmeil's Old Vine Garden Series reds: 2012 vintage; 2015 release ... photo Philip White

Langmeil's longmile never ends:
another release from Auricht's 
1843 Freedom Barossa Shiraz

It's now four years since Richard and Shirley Lindner, and their sons Paul and James, took total ownership of the old Langmeil winery at Tanunda.

One of the many Barossa wineries that had fallen into disrepair by 1980, it was saved by cousins Karl and Richard Lindner and the Bitter family. While its ramble of old ironstone sheds looked certain to last another century or two, it was the vineyard that provided the greatest challenge: a few yellowing scraps of documentation indicate this was planted in 1843 ... could they harness and retrain founder Christian Auricht's old Shiraz block?

The Freedom Shiraz; ready to prune ... photo Philip White

The vines were an unattended scramble, with canes spreading across multiple rows, the old trunks reminding me of tattered warriors returning broken but stubborn from some great siege or another.

Not only did those vines, perhaps the world's oldest viable Shiraz, respond well to some viticultural TLC, but with a few years they were joined on the riverbank by a garden of 300 Shiraz vines transplanted, one by one, from a 140 year old vineyard whose nearby site was developed for housing by Karl Lindner.

 The Freedom Shiraz ... photo Doug Coates

Add these troopers to the ancient Grenache and Cabernet vines at the family's Lyndock vineyard, and you have an arsenal of traditional Barossa reds, whose annual release is something many aficionados observe with the anxious reverence otherwise reserved for the end of Lent.

Such ancient vines do not necessarily produce greater flavours. Unless it's  exceptionally healthy and fit, balanced and fruiting, and in the hands of an exceptional gardener, a century-old vine is no more likely to provide outstanding flavour than you'd expect to get in the steak of a hundred-year-old cow.

What is significant about healthy oldies is their stock, their DNA: since phylloxera destroyed the source vineyards of Europe after these cuttings were originally imported and propagated in Australia, these veritable clones no longer survive in the Old World.

In drinking these wines we keep the vines alive. Such overwhelming responsibility! So much left to do! 

Barossa coopers luncheon at Langmeil, May 2013 ... photo DRAGAN 

Langmeil Barossa The Fifth Wave Grenache 2012 
($40; vines older than seventy years; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points) 

I thought this was all lolly at first: a runny chocolate crème brûlée with just enough American oak to give it that lamington coconut aroma.

Those primaries aside, like many of the greatest old-style Barossa reds, this wine evokes ancient farm kitchen smells, all centered on the the woodfire stove. Poured quite cold - cellar temperature - this Grenache showed the acrid peat lug reek of the stone chimney at first, but the iron of the stove and its pots grew dominant as the whole business warmed.

Somebody's stewing black cherries. Take a draught: syrupy Marello cherry and silky heaven like sweet black gold heavy in the mouth. Do it again: eeew, it's so very shiny and polished, its matte tannin replaced by solid acid.

Transports of delight: For some reason this all reminds me of an old motorcycle. Hot engine, oil, leather ... get my deadly drift? 

Langmeil Barossa Jackaman's Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 
 ($50; vines older than 35 years; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+++ points) 

This Cabernet's as Barossa as you can get: the blackberry conserve with the reek of those tough briary leaves, the smell of the iron of the stove and the heavy cast pot ... split redgum ... just a little marshmallow and caster sugar ... these are aromas I would commonly encounter until the mid-eighties ... I haven't seen them lately other than at home or in the odd old-style Barossa kitchen.

But the wine gets much more modern when you drink it: the silky polished  sheen of the Grenache is here like black chrome plating your pipes from the inside ... it's all very firm and shiny enough to make it seem faster and lighter than it really is and I'm back in motorbike dreaming, as if the blackberries have been flamed in Cognac and fed into the carburettors to do their magic explosion before activating that really neat little matte flange of black tea and juniper tannins on the way out.

I stole this photo: Jeff Bekkers' '52 Vincent Black Lightning custom

It's Modesty Blaise sliding across the apron on her '52 Vincent Black Lightning, all her leathers freshly dressed ... I wonder if she still likes being called Princess?

It's only wine, Philip, I remind myself while I build up an unseemly dribble for juicy pink lamb. 

The Freedom Shiraz ... photo Philip White

Langmeil Barossa Orphan Bank Shiraz 2012 
($50; vines older than 70 years; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+ points) 

When Karl Lindner evicted these old vines to plant houses, he got a tractor and dug some of the rows up, one vine at a time, and replanted them in a spare patch of ground down the other end of that long mile beside the creek. This took eighteen months. You can see this transplant operation on the Langmeil website.

The vines are learning to love their new spot. You can feel their toes wriggling in the sand.

Musk, lavendar, Turkish delight, Persian fairy floss, sandalwood and frankincense, are the pretties this year ... real old-fashioned great-grandma scents.

The wine makes me think of something very harsh and modern crashing into something equally fine, old, royal and elegant.

There's lissom but intense prune and morello cherry liqueur flavour action and the finest threadbare carpet of tannin ... my suspicion is these tannins will grow more intense and complex as the roots of these orphans learn their way into the ferruginous alluvium which is new to them. I can't wait until they show signs of finally sucking rock, way down beneath all that easy, convenient loam. 

The Freedom Shiraz ... photo Doug Coates

Langmeil Barossa The Freedom 1843 Shiraz 2012
($125; vines older than 125 years; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 95 points) 

Trippy. Having been blessed to drink from the vintages of this vineyard for so many years I can tell you that the more of them there are marching off into the horizon far behind me the more I see them as a sort of inflammatory essence of the sex glands of nocturnal cactus flowers from Joshua Tree or Radium Hill or Earthquake Springs or somewhere, keeping me fed with life from the vast past dark. Then feeding me to the future. They must be pollinated by the mysterious Night Parrot. I reckon instead of just licking it up in the night if you could save any of the juice and have a bit of a look at it in the morning, it'd be a sort of gunbarrel blue-black slime with a trippy paisley slick on it like transmission oil or squid ink. But that's not fair. This bastard will assuage grief. It's the best truth drug I know, on account of the delirious welter of feelings it releases, all fantasy and fabulous bullshit as you suspect, but lover I tell you this sure beats television. And it might surprise you to discover that this is unabashedly a bed wine that has not one whiff of starchy old Lutheran linen about it. This is slippery black silk from the witches already. That's the sort of transmission I'm talking of. Get around here quick. We already lost 172 years.

DRAGAN photographs the Barossa coopers at Langmeil ... coopers are generally the toughest, most visceral folks in the wine business, and they know many secrets ... they deal with 120 - 150 year old oak as their basic currency ... I could think of no better gang to dine with in an old ironstone winery 100 metres from what seems to be the world's oldest fruiting Shiraz vineyard ... well yes I could ... where are the women, you boyos? ... photo Philip White, who managed to get in DRAGAN'S shot below anyway ... not his  hands, but!

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