“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)





29 November 2015


Great wine lover Allen Toussaint, left, was the saint whose work taught me horns (The Last Waltz) (etc) and funk (Little Feat) when I was a tripping hillbilly driving a Falcon full of Bibles and shotguns  through the early 'seventies  ... but Allen's work really goes right back through the early 'sixties to hit singles I learned on the school bus radio as a kid, without any idea that the singers/players/producers/Allen were BLACK PEOPLE! Holy shit! 

Milton Wordley took this photograph at one of Dr Bob's monthly New Orleans wine dinners for our book A year in the life of Grange ... then the lucky bastard went back to NOLA with his partner Anne Marie (below right) and this happened:

And then Allen up and died of consecutive heart attacks after a show the other night in Madrid ... how shit is that ... to watch some of Allen's funeral procession check this


Decrepitude in city planning: Adelaide Central Market, Saturday (yesterday) afternoon; the famous ... what was once a bustling outlet for fresh local fuitaveg is becoming a festering nest of coffee bars and sit-up sugar and caffeine snack joints beside a Shoppies incubator called Coles ... now they put this friggin monstrosity Saint Klaus up to get the kids in for a tickling ... I'd just escaped the pub round the corner and this was all I found ... looked round the other way and I got the shit below ... time to begin a bit of a think, Adelaide! Yo fucked ... no rhythm, no respect of graphic heritage, no historical sensibility, no love ... DUH!

photos Philip White

26 November 2015


Like a woodwind section of beautiful antique instruments, these Linfield Road wines are a quartet best listened to all at once. They play perfect harmony, their counterpoint so subtle as to feign pure unison. 

They're the lost Franz Schubert piece never before heard; in the couple of centuries since his death their dark rose and cherry wood tones have lost the edgy squeak of baby instruments and the clicking of their mechanical keys is well past, oiled away by the breath of generations of players.

They have none of that nasal annoyance of the oboe, like you see backlit in romantic movie credits over and over and bloody over as the sunrise hits the splashing droplets when the waterbirds land; rather they start with the bass clarinet, sometimes hinting at the goosehonk of the bassoon, but never reaching that awkward hooter's lack of sensuality. 

These are the motherly, sensuous, moody wines of a revival consort. 

They were made by the Wilson family, which began growing vines on their farm in the cooler uplands of the Barossa's southern reach near Williamstown in 1860. 

Apart from that amazing provenance, they're significant because they show very cleary how even in the cooler bits of the Barossa, grapes can ripen quickly, almost over-delivering warming alcohols, especially when grown and made in the most natural and traditional manner, with wild yeasts and long maturation on lees before bottling without fining or filtration.

The Pruner Grenache 2014 ($30; 14.8% alcohol; 128 dozen made) is pure black cherry to sniff: pickled bitter cherries in rosehip jelly. It also shows the smoky/woody Marveer-and-laquer tones Grenache can display through its own natural lignin - sometimes, ripe like this, it barely needs barrel to seem oaky. It's a paler red: like Pinot, you can see your fingers through the glass. Which is not to say it's a lighter drink. It's syrupy, silky and very rewarding to sit and ponder. If you must have food, make it tea-smoked duck with shiitake. 

The Monarch Merlot 2013 ($24; 14.8% alcohol; 405 dozen) lets no light through: this is where the deep mahogany and rosewood tones begin: tones that seem to mirror the best barely-sweetened cooking chocolate. The fruit is brambly, like the berries of prickly wild hedgerow. Once again, the texture's syrupy, but with a tiny insinuation of billy tea tannin. Brilliant for pork belly cooked in a hotpot with capsicum, black pepper and onion, like you'll find in T-Chow's twin pepper pork. 

The Stubborn Patriarch Shiraz 2013 ($28; 14.9% alcohol; 333 dozen) smells like the sweaty old man's workboots full of blackberries. It is the most Barossan of Barossa Shiraz: dense, dark and acrid, with that shot of gunbarrel cordite and peaty fireplace that tickles the nostrils. Milky chocolate custard seems to ooze over the whole unlikely pile. It's another step up the tannin ladder, but all that gloop covers it til it melds perfectly into a spine of whiprod acidity, drawing the finish out long and slow. I'd want a dribbling haunch of beef here, with all the horseradish, beets, spuds and spinach you could throw at it.

The Black Hammer Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($26; 15.3% alcohol; 433 dozen) seems more mulberry than blackberry, but they're both in here. With, as the name suggests, all those hot iron and glowing coke smells of the smithy's forge. The oily leather apron. There's more gooey chocolate sauce to harmonise with these ancient industrial reeks: probably the most contrasting counterpoint in this entire rustic suite. The smooth way all these unlikely contributions meld effortlessly hides some of those big honest alcohols and while the tannins are the most obvious of the four, they seem mainly to make me hungry for hot roast lamb, as pink and dribbly as sensual carnality can reach.

I haven't attempted to score these wines: picking at them in a such a niggardly way would only distract from their overall harmony, and the dead-simple honesty they show in somehow reflecting the rich and stubborn social culture of their source, as much as this particular slice of Barossa terroir.

To push the musical metaphor as much as their sheer gastronomic fascination, I made a blend of equal parts of all four. It is indeed the most heavenly, transporting, rustic delight: the essence of old Barossa. Strangely, it's tighter, finer and more elegant than any of its components. Try it yourself: line the four bottles up with some friends, and compare each wine to your blend. It's a heavenly delight. Drink them all while uttering the Barossa Barons' toast: "Glory to Barossa." 

It's lovely to know that Barossa music is not all brassy.


For twenty years DRINKSTER has loved the Sauvignon blanc of Paracombe, the Drogemuller family's amazing winery estate above the Torrens Gorge in the Adelaide Hills.

The wine quickly became a favourite in Adelaide's bars and restaurants, and each year stands tall against the onslaught of the New Zealanders.

In their Christmas newsletter, the Droggies have proudly announced their Paracombe 2014 Sauvignon Blanc was selected by the Swedish Royal Family as one of just three wines served at the recent prestigious ‘Sverigemiddag’ – or Sweden Dinner.

"The dinner, hosted at the Royal Palace in Stockholm by Sweden's King Carl Gustaf, Queen Silvia and the Crown Prince Couple of Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia, honoured some 200 members of Swedish society who have made significant contributions to the nation over the past 12 months," Cath Drogemuller reports.

"That's a fantastic acknowledgement of Paracombe, our family, team and local neighbours and growers who all work hard – and with passion and commitment – to produce great wines.

"We're thrilled our son Ben is now making his mark in the industry with the purchase of the property next door here at Paracombe and planting his own vineyard, to Sauvignon blanc and Malbec."

Talk about a cool Yule ...

To read DRINKSTER's review of the 2014, click here

photo by Philip White

25 November 2015


Labor stops making wood but insists fracking can still be safe in SA's famous Limestone Coast 

For a moment Dirty Harry was in my bedroom. That edge of slumber thing where dreams dance in and out of wakefulness. There stood Clint, lightin' up a Lucky and blowin' the smoke off his .44.

In his best 'make my day' voice, he half-whispered:

"We believe that fracking can be safely carried out, provided there are strict environmental safeguards."

It was the South Australian Labor Premier Jay Weatherill (above) coming outa the morning wireless. He was in Mount Gambier, the biggest town in South Australia's famous Limestone Coast wine region, for a Country Cabinet community forum. Turned out that maybe 40 of the 300 citizens who rocked up were outside the hall demonstrating against the petrochem exploration and drilling that's been going down in their countryside. I understand there were more questions along the same lines inside. Many of the Limestone Coast winery people are very worried.

Their district contains the wine regions of Bordertown, Padthaway, Wrattonbully, Robe and Coonawarra.

There are lots of different sorts of subterranean water beneath the Limestone Coast. The caldera of the dormant Mount Gambier volcano contained four lakes until the region's greedy irrigators dried two of them out through their bores, lowering the region's water table over the last 40 years. These two, the Blue Lake and Valley Lake, remain.
The intricacies of soft or shallower rock fracking and deep stratigraphic exploratory drill holes are complex and disparate, but this took me back to the early 'seventies, when as young Department of Mines and Energy missionaries, my boss and I took a display caravan to the south-east - now called Limestone Coast - to explain to the grape farmers that the days of haphazard, relatively shallow water-bore drilling through the Coonawarra aquifers were over: bad water aquifers were leaking into good water aquifers and things were in a mess.

Very tight regulation was the new thing: permits were now required, and rigid guidelines set for drillers.

Penalties were imposed on law-breakers. Extant bores, and their water, would be closely monitored; old broken ones sealed and capped.

Under the enlightened leadership of Premier Don Dunstan and equally astute Mines and Energy Minister Hugh Hudson, South Australia suddenly led the world in underground water conservation.

I'll never forget the haughty disbelief, even disdain those wine blokes showed us. They were 100 per cent blokes then; blazers, moleskins and striped shirt type blokes. Some of them are still there. We were merely pesky gubmint interferists. But the message gradually sank in over the many years, and now some of the winery folks, and others, are experts at the local subterranean realities.

Today, government people are adamant that fracking is not on the cards. Yet.

They correctly point out that not even the energy explorers with approval to drill have applied to frack anything, but it seems that while the cabinet has at some recent time been told such things are more than possibly safe, the folks in the Limestone Coast Protection Alliance have been doing their groundwork. They're certainly not all merely half-informed and feverish. Some appear to know a lot more than many key government figures about the dangers, short-term and long, of drilling holes into the Earth's crust.

Not to mention fracking in naturally saline environments, like the ancient seabed limestones of their region.

Typical Coonawarra soil profile: thin Terra rossa over calcrete and old seabed limestone, which is highly porous ... while the Coonawarra stuff is younger, the limestone of the Mallee and Limestone Coast is up to 35 million years of age and can retain much ancient marine salt, much of it many times more salty than today's ocean  ... photo Milton Wordley
"We only support the safe mining and exploitation of natural resources," the Premier had continued, "so we would never let there be approvals for any processes that would damage our precious natural resources - including our water resources - which are such a crucial part of the South East economy.

"We'd insist on that if ever there were to be an application to do such a thing here.

"But all there is at the moment are propositions. There are no current applications which are live, but when they are they'll be getting the strictest possible evaluation."

The Premier's timing wasn't the best. Only the day before the Australian Greens had confidently announced their Renew Australia policy, their detailed plan to limit Australia's energy use to at least 90 per cent renewables within fifteen years.

If fracking were permitted in the region, fifteen years should be enough time to show clearly the validity of this government's stance.

Strange things happen down in that crust. The Premier's measured optimism brought to mind one of the region's first deep stratigraphic bores, Caroline No. 1, which was drilled in 1966-67 in the hope of finding oil or gas. Alliance Oil had been granted a permit to drill into the promising Otway Basin, on a dead-end road in an out-of-sight spot in the forest 12 kilometres south-east of Mount Gambier.

At 2,500 metres, they hit paydirt. Or gas. There was whoopin' and hollerin' until they discovered the stuff gushing up their hole wouldn't burn. Instead, it extinguished flame, along with the drillers' eureka glee. It was CO2: carbon dioxide. Since then, the well has produced an average of 65 tonnes of CO2 per day. Sometimes she gushes more than 100 tonnes.

While it's all sold profitably by Air Liquide Australia, which is listed on the Paris stock exchange, that's just one hole releasing all that CO2, eventually to the atmosphere, without even having to burn petrochem of any sort. So far, that hole drilled by hopeful oilers has given us 1,000,000 tonnes of CO2.

Lots of surprises can be encountered down there in the crust.

But winemakers, and not just the Limestone Coast crew, have similarly pressing issues to address, and as far as we know, these are much closer to the surface.

Take the government's contentious sale of the pine forests of the Limestone Coast. While Premier Weatherill pointed out that the "forestry and forest products sector is now employing more people than it was four years ago when people were predicting dire consequences as a consquence of the sale," those forests are a major source of the countless millions of trellis posts we see in vineyards all over Australia.

These posts are sometimes treated with creosote, which is downright poisonous, but most often with copper chromated arsenate (CCA), which is worse.

'Minimal' pruning in Coonawarra ... mainly done mechanically, and much cheaper than hand pruning, it leaves all that messy wood in the foliage crown ... this hosts many bugs and moulds, making more fungicides and pesticides necessary ... these vines are trellised on copper chromated arsenate posts from the local forests which Labor recently sold.

In the region in which I live, McLaren Vale, there were about 7,500 hectares of vines last year. At an average of 600 posts per hectare, we have somewhere around 4.5 million posts. These wear out, harvesting machines break them, new ones are required for new plantings, old ones pulled out and stacked.  Apart from a few new vineyards using stinking creosote, like Treasury Wine Estates seems to prefer in some locations, as in their newer Coonawarra and McLaren Vale vineyards, these posts are largely CCA treated.

There are about 140,000 hectares of vineyards in Australia.That makes something like 84 million of these bloody posts. In the ground. Only the Devil knows how many old uprooted ones are stacked to rot, and where.

In its Environment Protection Agency Guidelines (2004), the same government which grew many of these posts in the Limestone Coast forests clearly states "an economically and environmentally sound disposal technology for large quantities of CCA waste timber is not available in South Australia at this time."

Pine forest on the Limestone Coast: a field group examining rehabilitation trials after harvesting ... photo PIRSA

As far as my research reveals this is till the case. You're not permitted to burn them or bury them. You're not supposed to let them get wet. But they're stockpiled in vineyards all over Australia. Piled up out the back somewhere: behind the shed or where the old fridges and washing machines go to die. They're given away for folks to use in their veggie gardens, even used for playground construction. They get chipped and used to stop the growth of plants. They go into landfill.

So there's an important environmental issue that the Limestone Coast, as a prime source of the stuff, must address the same as every other wine region in Australia, as consumers of these things.

So far, it seems to be largely an above-ground problem. Nobody that I know of has properly researched what happens when this poison goes undergound, into the water the concerned citizens of the Limestone Coast are increasingly keen to protect and preserve.

"This is one of the great food and wine districts," Premier Weatherill said in Mount Gambier. "Not only of the nation, but of the world. And of course the traditional strengths of the pastoral industry.  And the forestry and forest products sector ... there's a rosy future for the South East and we want to find ways in whch we can continue to assist this community to grow."

Dirty Harry might have to get a lot damn tougher.

24 November 2015


Had I known that the Adelaide City Council had finally locked the great Howard Twelftree (above) behind bars, I woulda had a bit of a word in the pink shell-like of Adelaide Lord Mayor Martin Haese when we met at his opening of the extension to the Beirut Boulledrome, the west-enders' petanque piste on South Terrace near West Terrace ... as you can see, the plaque in the great Twelftree's memory has been locked away:

This plaque, in the Gouger Street entry to the Adelaide Central Market opposite the stylish lift another Lord Mayor, Jane Lomax-Smith organised, took an eternity to arrange, but the perseverance of Howard's mates, like Timothy John and Karen Foster, finally got it cast and paid for and bolted up and launched by previous Lord Mayor, Stephen Yarwood (below).

For 33 years, Howard wrote Australia's wittiest and most informed and helpful restaurant critiques in The Adelaide Preview and its offspring, The Adelaide Review. He died in June 2013. To perpetuate his memory, the Howard Twelftree Award is presented annually to an individual who has made an outstanding and lasting contribution to the gastronomic life of South Australia. The inaugural award went to the chef and restaurateur, Duncan Welgemoed, below, who has since moved from Bistro Dom to open the sensational Africola in the Botanic Hotel. This is one of those very rare restaurants whose zany decor - in this case South African - is matched by the brilliant surprises that arrive on your plate.

The 2015 award will be announced at the launch of The Adelaide Review Hot 100 wines next Thursday evening. To read of Howard's funeral, go here. Otherwise, be content with this image of the two of us hard at work at a champagne luncheon in Neddy's, away back when:

Too many blokes again ... Duncan's portrait is by Andy Nowell; all the other photographs here are by my dear friend and colleague Milton Wordley. You should check his buzzy blog and growing list of fascinating wine interviews and monochrome portraits here.

20 November 2015


Absolut Vodka 

It's a long time since Andy Warhol wrote to Absolut Vodka and said "I like your bottle," and asked if he might decorate one for special release.

Since there's not really a lot of gastronomic things to think about when drinking vodka, I've been thinking about this on and off while drinking the most recent special arty bottle, which, being 100% chrome, or something like it, and virtually free of trademarking, makes me think of even less stuff. The process goes like this:#1 - It looks very cool. #2 - Chrome is my favourite colour. #3 - Well that'll be enough thinking for now.

I even forget to remind myself that this stuff is forty alcohols per centum. And it's exactly the same vodka as you get in the ordinary clear Absolut bottle.

For the International Day of Men, and to put hayfever grizzles into perspective, here's Andy Warhol by Richard Avedon 20 Aug 69 ... Andy had been under the knife after after being shot by Valerie Solonas, who preached for the elimination of the male sex ... probly a bit short for Holly but I bet Andy woulda loved the chrome bottle ... Absolut still  
flirts with his ghost

The reason for this desertion of wine duties started with the vineyard. Last week the Ironheart Shiraz which surrounds Casa Blanca burst into bloom, cleverly selecting a narrow window between thunderstorm rain, some of it frozen hard, which would have messed up the yields of vintage 2016, and extreme hot wind, which would have blown the pollen away with half of next year's bunches anyhow. So the timing was perfect for next year's wine. And the aroma: the joint smelled like that Ukranian Christmas cake made from honey, orange and cinnamon.

Trouble was, that heavenly wave of pollen came with a bout of eight Richter hayfever which has stayed for ten days. The vineyard flowering's over, safe and sound, but various irritating grasses have maintained the trigger role, leaving me with gurry eyes and no sense of smell. It feels like I'm being sandblasted. I am increasingly allergic to Australia.

So the chrome bottle it's been, served freezing on big ice with soda, the fresh juice of limes and lemons, maybe some real orange.

And oh yes: one key ingredient to replace the horrid steroid and anti-histamine nose sprays and the cursed Ventolin, which mucks up my smell receptors with the same deadly efficiency of the pollen: the old Zingiber officinale: ginger; its root. If you have a very sturdy juicer and procure some fresh, soft ginger root, make a juice and add a dribble to your tincture. If you love the thrill of risk, you may even add a drip of the juice of a very hot chilli.

If, like me, you love the fiery stuff, you can handle quite a schlück of this. While it may not restore the head's organoleptic receptors to formula one nick, it'll certainly knock that catarrh on its head.

And it's quite good at motion sickness and vertigo. 

Keep your ginger up! 

now there's some chrome for you ... Caddy spotted at the Bright Run a couple years back ... this photo and tins at top by Philip White

Japanese Beer 

The only other drink of much efficacy this week is beer in shiny tins. In these moments of inadequacy, I avoid the burgeoning flood of craft suds: the last thing my hooter needs is an invasion of hippy yeast.

At five per cent alcohol, Asahi Dry, the brewed-in-Japan jobby (as opposed to the bottled stuff which is from somewhere else and, well, forget it) is as clean as a whistle and best at that moment seconds before its H2O turns to sleet. This also provides the patient with some essential goodness in the form of food and vitamins.

No chewing necessary.

Then there's the splendid Sapporo, which is brewed under licence to the Japanese in Vietnam, where wages are lower and they still have young people. Originally, the big tin had a lid which came entirely away, leaving the drinkers to face their suds in what was practically a big tin beer glass. Because they once plagued our landscape, our brilliant Beverages Container Legislation did away with removeable metallic ring-pulls and lids, so while one gets only a little standard Adelaide-sized hole through which to suck one's suds, it is possible.

One of the best things about the super-clean and crisp Sapporo is rice. They add a little to the barley malt then brew away, giving a softening saki-like cream to the beer's otherwise steely, tannic frame.



I've not mentioned prices as they vary so widely: shop around on the phone before leaving home.

Until the arrival of Japanese beer, first-class chrome was applied sparingly in Australia ... beautifully chopped '48 Holden ute ... photo Philip White

19 November 2015


Images from McLaren Vale - Trott's View (Trott, Brooks, White, Campbell; Wakefield Press 2007; photographed by Milton Wordley, Christo Reid, Don Brice and Eric Algra) 

Pollster finds Woolies' way:
stranglehold on liquor retail,
peopled up by the Shoppies 

There are 24 million people in Australia. 4.8 million of us buy ethanol each ordinary week, ethanol ideally being the safest sort of alcohol taken in pursuit of refreshment, gastronomic delight and/or intoxication.

Each of that 4.8 million people spend an average of $61 per week buying ethanol in one form or another.

Roy Morgan Research this week confirmed that the Woolworths' chain, Dan Murphy’s, is Australia's leader in market share and total customer numbers in the ethanol-dealing business.

This comes as little surprise to those of us who live with our noses to the winestone. Hungry Dan's is in your face. Some hacks in this racket get to thinking Woolworths IS the bloody winestone. [Note to self: write song for next band: The Ballad Of Hungry Dan and Winestone Woolie.]

But the burgeoning reach of this giant dealer is breathtaking. 1.2 million -- 23.9% of total ethanol-buyers -- attend Dan Murphy’s each week. Add that to the 1.1 million who attend Woolworths' BWS ethanol chain -- the silversleeve second to Dan's silvertail -- and you get 2.3 million. Only 1.8 million Australians make it to church each week, for Christ's sake, and I'm doubting that lot tithes anything like the $48 the average BWS convert puts in the Woolworths plate. The Hungry Dans' congregation tips in $68 per head per week -- $7 more than the national average.

To me, this indicates volume more than quality.

Then there's Woolies' undisclosed share of the direct-order wine clubs sales, which lure only 4.8% of us to make a contribution each week. When we do, mind you, the whole 74,000 of us, it's a whopping $194 weekly spend, average. That's even more godly than the 30,000 or so happy-clapping Penties who get along to Hillsong each week to sweat and holler in the names of Jesus and money.

And oh yes there's Woolworths' Liquor, where 4% of us spend  $56 per week. They must be nice shops. And then of course the 4% of Australia's gaming pubs Woolworths owns through its 75% slice of the ALH Group. Together they own 6% of Australia's poker machines and 294 pubs.

Which is not to say that Woolworths actually want you drink too much. Their website seems almost delighted to be able to anounce that "Alcohol consumption in Australia has fallen by over 20% in the last 40 years. Around 85% of Australians consume alcohol on a regular basis and most do so responsibly. The amount of alcohol consumed in Australia on a per capita basis equates to around two standard drinks per adult person per day."

Those in the propaganda trade love possibilities like this, where the opportunity is set, should a clever retailer reverse this trend, to announce "destructive slump in premium wine slows," rather than "Ockers back on the piss."

This language on Woolworths' website sounds very much like Roy Morgan's finding of 28 August 2015 (No. 6422), which reports a "distinct decline in the proportion of Aussie adults drinking [alcohol] at all ... the total proportion of Australians 18+ who drink any kind of alcohol in an average four weeks has fallen from 72% as of June 2006 to 68% as of June 2015."

Images from McLaren Vale - Trott's View (Trott, Brooks, White, Campbell; Wakefield Press 2007; photographed by Milton Wordley, Christo Reid, Don Brice and Eric Algra)

While this plunge is not linked to the quality of the cheapest wines Woolworths makes for its cheapest liquor hangars, its website also makes clear that as a responsible corporate citizen, it is capable of assisting those susceptible to inappropriate consumption.

"We have a small number of supermarket liquor stores in remote communities," it says, "where the effects of alcohol related harm can be magnified by other issues such as social disadvantage and welfare dependency. We work proactively with local authorities in these areas to address issues of concern – sometimes changing our range, our trading hours and our service policies to meet local needs."

A shareholder looking for returns would probably prefer to know that Woolworths always adjusts its grog prices and hours to meet local needs without any interference from pesky local authorities, but at least the sentiment's there.

An ongoing relationship with Roy Morgan makes very good sense for Woolworths. Especially when Andrew Price, the pollster's general manager of consumer products reports "Along with the corresponding increases in the proportion of us drinking red and fortified wines during the July-September quarter, our findings also reveal that Aussie adults are also much more inclined to drink hot chocolate at this time of year than any other quarter. One has to wonder, therefore, why no liquor brands have yet introduced a pre-prepared alcoholic hot chocolate into the market ..."

Some may find it alarming to think that there's nobody working the vast halls, barns and hangars of Woolworths who've had the smarts to think of the hot Bailey's or steaming Kahlua and cream, but it is possible they need blokes like Mr Price to do it for them.

All that aside, I have a terrible confession to make. Whenever I'm in a Woolworths store and the pimpled register person quacks  "will you be having a receipt for that today at all?" I can't help thinking of Bernard Finnegan, who's just resigned from the South Australian Legislative Council after being found guilty by a court of obtaining child pornography.

All those well-intentioned supermarket and liquor store staff are members of the Shoppies, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, the biggest union in the Australian Labor Party.

There's 28,000 of them in South Australia, Northern Territory and Broken Hill. The Shoppies number around 200,000 members nationally, including the employees of Coles, Bunnings, Hungry Jacks, Pizza Hut and McDonalds.

Images from McLaren Vale - Trott's View (Trott, Brooks, White, Campbell; Wakefield Press 2007; photographed by Milton Wordley, Christo Reid, Don Brice and Eric Algra) 

During Finnegan's five years as assistant secretary of the union, he was a protégé of Don "Godfather" Farrell, who later became a Senator and extremely powerful hard Catholic right ALP powerbroker who helped chop the head of Prime Minister Rudd, then lost his seat and was stopped from an easy parachute drop into the SA upper house by Premier Jay Weatherill.

Weatherill is handing Finnegan's seat to another Farrell protégé, Shoppies secretary Peter Malinauskas, a former Woolworths checkout jock. He won't face an actual election until 2018. Malinouskas famously walked into premier Mike Rann's parliamentary office to tell his days were up, which saw Weatherill take the job.

Farrell, meanwhile has bought himself a full R. M. Williams rigout and moved to the safety of the Jesuits at Sevenhill near Clare where he grows grapes and gets a neighbour to make wine for him.

The language on his website already looks like something from a Hungry Dan's brochure.

"Nestled in the historic town of Sevenhill in the Clare Valley of South Australia, Don Farrell and wife Nimfa bring you their bespoke wines hand crafted from the most sought after grapes in Australia," it starts.

So how will this all finish? I dunno. But next time you're in a Woolworths liquor store paying your tithes, look closely at the jockey riding the register and realise that might just be your next Premier. Be respectful.

Later, if you manage to get your purchase home before cracking it, wonder awhile how politicians like these manage the source of the cheapest, biggest volume, most heavily-irrigated wines in the shop: the Murray Darling Basin, where most growers are consistently making terrible losses and our precious water regularly runs dry.

Peace in the valley?

Images from McLaren Vale - Trott's View (Trott, Brooks, White, Campbell; Wakefield Press 2007; photographed by Milton Wordley, Christo Reid, Don Brice and Eric Algra)

18 November 2015


When he's in the Big Smoke, George Grainger Aldridge spends more time than most pondering life from the front bar of that hallowed emporium of thirst, The Exeter Hotel, at 246 Rundle Street, East End, Adelaide, South Australia. 

Many lost and bewildered Hayseeds and Tumbleweeds from the bush blow through The Ex to chew the jerky, adding to our painterly gentleman's reverie amongst the bohos and hipsters.. 

George yesterday contributed a major artwork to his favourite corner of The Ex, to remind him of his other home in the outback. While he guarantees that the work will soon be moved to more appropriately fit its space, George was happy to show me his preliminary snaps. 

That's The Flinders Granges in situ, above, and at bottom a slice of its detail. In the middle's my snap of George watching me have a smoke out the front. 

DRINKSTER will pay particular attention to any sign of a response from the Penfolds marketing bunker in the Treasury offices in Melbourne. 

That one down under looks like a magnum to me.

On a lighter note, here's his recent sketch that came from a discussion, in that very same bar, of alcohol levels, and how elegant is the new red ... 

I got this shot of the man at work on a new Flinders landscape, with a portrait made by the brilliant street artist and portrait painter, Lee Harnden. Knows his rocks, our George.