“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)





19 September 2015


Black Stump Clare Valley Viognier 2010 
$26; 14.8% alcohol; screw cap; 89 points 

I'd not seen Tim Mortimer since the days when Nicholas Binns was publican at The Exeter, and the eight-ball table was still there by the fire. I was drinking a rustic Bulgarian red from the list when the bloke I'd been chatting to said he'd made it. The wine. Next thing, what? Twenty years later, same bloke rocks up with a selection of wines so truly eccentric that they made that Bulgari oddball look mainstream.

Like this beefy Viognier from Clare. It's one of those wines that floods the table with aroma as you pour it: all those pear and peach and apricot aromas spill across the room, but with the mellowing,  burnishing turn of a big white wine at five years of age: it has an alluring autumnal reek.

Looking at those alcohols, and that heady perfume, I expected a much thicker wine than I got: after all that fanfare, the palate's much tighter and more focused than you'd think. It's still big, but it's a slick, steely, polished spear of a wine, very much like some of the more mature Viogniers of Condrieu, but perhaps lacking some of their distinctive phenolic tannins, which makes it a little more like an ageing white Burgundy, and perhaps more approachable than a typically feral Condrieu.

It makes me dribble in the general direction of a hearty chowder (a la Bombora Café, Goolwa) or a seriously complex bouillabaisse (Marseilles). 

Exeter publican Nicholas Binns with Gabriella Bertocci, 1996 ... photo Victoria Straub

Black Stump Nebbius 
$26; 9.8% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points 

A non-vintaged blend of Clare Nebbiolo and Moscato bianco, this slightly fizzy, sweet rosé is a serious peg closer to proper hearty country wine than most of the raspberry-simple Grenache pinks Australian winemakers seem to think we deserve.

It smells a little of raspberry, but I suspect that's a subliminal insinuation induced by that outrageous rosy hue. After a proper sniff, I find lemon pith, pomegranate juice and blood orange: grown-up aromas. There's also that husky, dusty smell of burlap sacks stacked in the barn. Together, this rustic ensemble makes me hungry.

The wine's so chubby and viscous it's almost fluffy. While all those flavours indicated by the fragrance simmer along in order, the tiny pixillations of the fizz tidy the tongue up, leaving it shampooed to best appreciate the see-saw of acid and sugar the two varieties then provide in perfect proportion. It leaves a fleeting insinuation of marmalade.

This is the Piedmont/Po Valley pink you have at eleven, with a thin slice of panforte or an almond biscotti, before the shortablack and the rollie with the grappa di moscato.

It's also wicked on big clunky ice with a slice of orange, a mint leaf and a splash of soda. 

Black Stump Nebbius Forte 
$26 - 375ml; 16.5% alcohol; Diam compound cork; 90 points 

Clare Riesling fortified with brandy spirit and flavoured with a squeeze of Riverland mandarin concentrate? Why not? Given the volumes of wasted fruit this wine business grows, you'd think more winemakers would be trying their hand at pleasing aperitifo tinctures like this.

The bouquet's close to that rosé, with mandarin replacing the blood orange, and that raw whiff of spirit widening the nostrils.

It's sweet, citrussy and nutty, like grilled cashews - a character which probably comes from a year on yeast lees - and it's just fine to have short, chilled; not so short, warmer, or by the standard glass at room temperature with a chunk of ice and soda.

Bravo Black Stump! It's very cool to see somebody nudging the boundaries without making a turgid hippy mess of everything.

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