“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 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.

No comments: