“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)





12 November 2015


Deviation Road Loftia Adelaide Hills Vintage Brut 2013 
$45; 12.5% alcohol; cork; 70% Chardonnay 30% Pinot noir; two years on lees; 94 points 

While Kate Laurie may have made this beautiful wine, indeed she most obviously did -- it has her determined stamp upon it -- it makes me think of another Kate -- the youthful actress: Hepburn -- coming through a field of ripening wheat after a sprinkle of rain, tucking her starched blue and white gingham shirt into her jodhpurs, the juice of a white peach dribbling down her freckled chin.

"How can I help you?" she says, wiping her mouth with the back of her free hand.

What's she been doing there? Is she alone? Not your business. There's just enough mystery here to give depth to one's pondering, but this fragrant, pretty, transporting wine is entertainment enough if one puts the curiosity away and simply simply sticks to marvelling at that remarkable aroma.

The sternness of Hepburn -- and the determination of Laurie -- is even more prominent when you take a good draught. It's creamy and again peachy, but built upon a footing of staunch, brittle acidity and just the right dash of chalky tannin.

It is at once stimulating and perfectly satisfying, a to-and-fro balance which teases you to take an even bigger gulp second time round. If you're a true fizz perve, think of the flavours of the Chardonnay from the slopes around Mesnil.

I've never been much of a one for sipping, I should admit, but it takes a very fine sparkler indeed to make me wish I'd poured myself a tumbler, which is how I'll be finishing this bottle once I abandon this keyboard and this prissy damn tulip.

This is an accomplished, lovely wine, and a much finer drink than many of the discount French they'll be tempting you with this summer.

Would one of you Kates please pass the strawberries? 

Deviation Road Altair Adelaide Hills Brut Rosé NV 
$32; 12.5% alcohol; cork; 90 points 

Okay, here come the strawberries. Indeed this is a bit along the lines of the Loftia with strawberries, the higher dose of Pinot replacing some of that sweet-smelling wheatfield with a husky waft of hessian.

This hempy/burlap character continues straight through the palate, making a bone dry, lipsmacking sensation with little of the deeper mystery of the Loftia.

Oh, sorry: this is slightly sweeter, but mainly to add flesh, not  a sensation of sugar or dessert.

Now you have the strawberries, you'll be reaching for the chèvre and an olive.

The secret here? If you have a roomful of guests, standing around shooting the breeze before something bigger happens, pour this. They'll be perfectly happy.

When you're seated, pour the Loftia.

Or keep that all for yourself: half a bottle once they've gone; the other half for breakfast. 

O'Leary Walker Winemakers Hurtle Pinot Noir Chardonnay Adelaide Hills 2010 
$28; 12% alcohol; cork; 94++ points 

Having started life Pinot-dominant, and therefore more complex, five years on yeast lees has seen this wine build even more complexity and prescence to a point of austere authority.

Which is not to say it's anything like a police officer, or a judge. Rather, this masterful sparkler simply has little more to prove. It just sits there. Take it or leave it.

But we're in the business of taking, so let's get in here. This is that wheatfield in the rain, but about six weeks earlier: it has less of that huskiness, and a touch more lush pasture. If you must go fruits, think the flesh of the cherimoya and the carambola star fruit, wrapped in the dry skin of the canteloupe.

But it's the drinking business that hikes the authority here. Without losing its celebratory spangle, this is a solid, big fizz that tends to quieten the drinker, setting one pondering, nudging the snifter in a more withdrawing way. It's perfect for listening to great music.

You don't need a tumbler here.

The wine begs food: complex chowders, even bouillabaisse, but a stack of buttery prawns, scallops and octopus with wild black rice, plenty of lemon juice, black pepper and some chilli would seriously  rock it.

I never quite believed we'd ever produce sparklers of the quality of this lovely trio. It's taken a long time to get here, but very seriously: if it's sheer quality you desire, drink these. If you're showing off, go buy your discount French and pour it with the label prominent. The odds are against that being as good as these.

And pricing? I'm never gonna argue about $28! Ka-chink! 

Third generation sparkling winemaker Nick Walker, left, with David O'Leary in the O'Leary family's fizz vineyards at Oakbank in the Adelaide Hills ... photos Philip White

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