“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 January 2016


photo©Philip White

It's nuts that a place like Clare grows some of the world's greatest Riesling. Those North Mount Lofty Ranges, where the greener south peters out into Australia's dry red centre, seems galaxies away from the snows of the Rhine and Mosel, even the Pfalz. But Clare is higher in altitude, with a greater diurnal temperature range, giving quite chill evenings to temper its typical Australian summer and while some of its base geology is three times the age of the winelands of Germany, many of its vineyards grow in ferruginous, calcified or slaty grounds similar to those of Germany.

The Sevenhill Inigo Clare Valley Riesling 2015 ($22; 13% alcohol; screw cap) is a blend of wines made from the four distinct Sevenhill Riesling sites. The opulent, more honeyed wines from the richer ferruginous loams give the wine viscosity and a pleasing, comforting gentility, towards the sort of softness you can find in, dare I say, Chardonnay.

On the other hand, the much older, slaty grounds give the same grape a bony austerity which can deter all but the hardcore, triple-X Rizza fiends. Here we get stiffer, more brittle acidity, and those drier phenolic tannins that leave the tongue feeling like it just licked a bowl of ground-up bone china.

This wine gives plenty of both of these extremes in a clever, harmonious composition. It has the classic softer Riesling lime, but with other more austere citrus, toward blood orange, pink grapefruit and pithy lemon.

Given their lack of solid promotional dollars in a tricky market, there's a temptation for Clare Riesling makers to avoid these latter, leaner styles. In this Inigo, winemaker Liz Heidenreich has made an unapologising, skilfully-blended admixture of the extremes: a beauty which provides the curious Riesling newcomer with a solid introduction to the best of Clare Riesling.

Speaking of which, her Sevenhill Clare Valley St Francis Xavier Single Vineyard Riesling 2015 ($35; 13% alcohol; screw cap) is paramount. It comes from the richer ferruginous loam, from a 1978 planting of a Geisenheim clone, leading me to expect a softer, more lush Riesling than the austere, slaty models I tend to prefer.

While it certainly does provide this softness in the first part of its palate - even a comforting whiff of bacon fat - its finishes with extremely fine drying tannin, nowhere near as bony and brittle as the slaty grounds provide, but sufficient to give that genteel opening a brilliantly-focussed, bone dry, appetising finish.

So. What to eat with these? The Inigo makes me dream of the fattier seafoods; the St Frank the bigger flavours you'll find in dishes like the Twin Pepper Pork Hotpot at T-Chow.

To risk blaspheming, these hotter days bring the opportunity, or excuse, to drop a big ice block in either of these wines; even a splash of soda with a squashed cumquat. There's fun in risk. Having grown up in a militant non-conformist Protestant family, I find naughty pleasure in the fact that while she runs this most Jesuit of Australia's old (1851) wine estates, winemaker Liz comes from a tribe of Barossa Anglicans. Now there's a minority group, if ever there was one. Ka-chink!

25 January 2016


photo © Milton Wordley

Invasion Day, First Fleet Day, White  Australia Day - call it what you will - Dr. Irina Santiago-Brown of Inkwell Wines wins the DRINKSTER's 2016 Australia Day Winemaker Award ... It'd be pointless attempting to write any more about this clever and tireless person than the fascinating story she told photographer Milton Wordley for his blog People of Wine: Ten Questions, which you can read here.
Irina has had a huge influence on the viticulture of the region in which I live, McLaren Vale: she's given the entire district a bold new ecological awareness. 

Here's my photo of Irina's famous Blunnies and yellow socks wedding dance at her marriage to Dudley Brown in the middle of vintage 2014 ... for more wedding snaps, click here ... to read of my 2015 winner, click here.

23 January 2016


Peter Gago, Penfolds' chief winemaker, presents Australia's best at his tasting at Wine Spectator's New World Wine Experience at the J. W. Marriot, Los Angeles, October 20th 2012 ... the $200+ per litre (FOB) segment of Australian wine exports increased by 23 per cent in 2015, much of which is the work of the tireless Gago ... photo ©Milton Wordley from our multi award winning book, A year in the life of Grange

Astonishing export boom for Australian premium wine: top end goes nuts; bottom flounders

On the feast day of St Vincent, patron of vintners, it's worth contemplating  the sobering export numbers just released by Wine Australia 

Today, 22nd January, being the Feast Day of the patron saint of vintners, Vincent of Saragossa, it's a nice* thing to contemplate the Wine Australia export numbers just released.

Wine Australia CEO Andreas Clark triumphantly announced "Pleasingly, our latest Export Report shows that the value of Australian wine exports grew in each of the top 15 export markets in the year ended 31 December 2015."

The report shows that the value of Australian wine exports jumped 14 percent to $2.1 billion in 2015, reaching its highest value since October 2007.

This is the second consecutive report to show such an increase.

Clark continued: "This export growth should be warmly welcomed by the Australian grapegrowing and winemaking community as it is largely a result of their hard work."

Wrong. The majority of the grapegrowing and winemaking community has not suddenly discovered how to do anything better. Nor how to work harder. Most of them still make McDonalds quality. The reason for this growth is largely because of the tumbling Aussie dollar, which Clark coyly avoids mentioning. It was similarly low in October 2007.

Call me an economic conservative, but I reckon any business plan that depends upon its native currency being undervalued is not quite the full quid.

Sure, with a dollar that's taken a forty per cent plunge people stay in Australia and drink local because they can no longer afford to traipse around Old Yurp or Amurkha, and our wine looks better to those offshore buyers because it's suddenly cheap again so they buy more.

But that little issue aside, the makers who have added the most significance to the export hike, through hard work and reacting sensibly to world demands for finer wines of lower alcohol, are those tiny minority who make serious premium wine of provenance and unflinching quality and charge sensibly for it.

The biggest increase in value, percentage wise, was in the smallest volume sector: expensive bottled wine: those with a 'free on board' (FOB) value over $10 per litre. The report shows these increasing by 35 per cent to a record $480 million. They now make up 23 per cent of the value of Australia’s wine exports.

The value of exported wine with an FOB of between $10.00 and 14.99 grew 24 per cent. $15.00 to 19.99 grew 55 per cent. $20.00 to 29.99 grew 22 per cent. $30.00 to 49.99 grew 16 per cent.

The single biggest increase was in the $50.00–99.99 bracket, which surged 59 per cent; this boom slows down over $100.00 to 199.99, a bracket which grew 40 per cent; the elite $200.00+ bracket swelled by just 23 per cent.

"Bottled wine has been the key driver of the export success. Bottled exports increased by 17 per cent to $1.6 billion and the average value increased by seven per cent to $5.20 per litre. This is the highest value since 2003 on a calendar year basis," Clark said.

Similarly telling is where all this wine actually went. Buoyed by China's easing of its clampdown on extravagant expenditure along with a new optimism around the recent trade agreements, the value of exports to China increased by 66 per cent to $370 million while the Hong Kong number increased 22 per cent to $132 million.

The USA, still burnt by Australia's tendency to tip supercharged alcoholic gloop into its discount bins showed a small revival of 4 per cent to $443 million.

Australia's biggest market by volume, however, increased by only 0.2 per cent to $376 million.

This just happens to be where our cheapest plonk goes in bulk at the tiniest margins: shipping containers, each one stuffed with a huge bladder pack full of highly-irrigated booze for packaging at a pinch in the United Kingdom, the heart of the dead British Empire.

If they were serious, Wine Australia would present a breakdown of which of the smart, hard-working, premium wine producers are responsible for the boom in such top-quality wine. This writer, just for example, would like to know how much of that is the work of Penfolds, and more significantly, its chief winemaker Peter Gago, who works harder than anybody I know wearing out passports as much as shoe leather.

And who, not co-incidentally, happens to supervise the making of a great deal of wine of extremely high quality.

The boom in this lofty sector also vindicates Premier Weatherill's determined drive, with Agriculture Minister Leon Bignell, to concentrate on top-quality, top-profit food and wine exports.

But it leaves them with the source of that giant goonbag business to address:  the Murray-Darling. Speaking broadly, the only wine folks in that huge, water-guzzling Basin who make any money are the smartest, toughest refinery owners with good mates in the UK.

The further one goes upstream along that irrigated extravagance, the less likely are its growers to make one cent of profit.

Last year's report from the Winemakers' Federation of Australia revealed that if you start at the bottom of the Murray, at Langhorne Creek, 77% of the fruit grown is sold at a loss, and the average yield per hectare since 2006 is 9.2 tonnes. As the tonnage grown reflects the amount of water pumped, the Riverland saw a 92% loss at 20 t/ha.

At Murray-Darling-Swan Hill it's 88% loss at 19.4 t/ha. The Riverina, home of that adored and touted export miracle, Yellowtail, scores a 97% loss at 14.9 t/ha.

Which leads me back to St Vincent, and this being his feast day.

Captain Matthew Flinders named our Gulf St Vincent after his admiralty sponsor, the Rt Hon John Jervis, 1st Earl St Vincent, who'd won the title for his good work with Lord Nelson, butchering the Spanish at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797.

While I sit here munching these challenging numbers, wondering like grapegrowers everywhere about today's moist humidity, lack of drying breezes, and the possibility of mildew and botrytis, I think of Vince also being the patron of vinegar-makers. And his little homily: 

If St. Vincent's Day be fine,
'Twill be a perfect year for wine.



Faaaarkin look at em!  The great Fino at Willunga served its last meal yesterday

It was the feast day of St Vincent, the patron of viticulturers and winemakers.

For ten determined  years, Fino forged itself into the dining intellect of South Australia, showing the lot of us what a proper regional restaurant can be.

I managed to drink too much, get a few snaps, indulge in a meal that will die on my lips with me, and leave without paying my bill, after finishing Shazza's last bottle of grappa. 

Above is master chef David Swain and the brilliant Sharon Romeo and their lovely lovely crew after they'd polished that tiny kitchen for the last time. I cried for about three hours. 

I tried to explain to David how important it was that the night we couldn't get a cab to take us to the Victory he wiped his hands on a towel and drove us there safely and how one afternoon he took me into his kitchen and showed me all the pigs' heads he'd got curing in brine for sausages instead of wasting them and how everything he'd ever cooked for me was delightful and stimulating and bright and light and memorable.

My black gizzards loved David Swain's food. I always woke feeling better. 

And now I'm blubbering again.

Not pushing the head thing too hard, I ate all the sardine heads that were left on my table, and managed to get this shot of Shaz and her loving Mum, who warned me "She's got a girlfriend you know!" 

I left, like the big boofheaded bloke I am, promising to guard them with my life, trying to explain how this restaurant, along with those various great eateries of Cheong Liew and Tony Bilson, had forever changed the way I appreciate food. 

Grazie, Shazza and David and wondrous crew. 

Sadness and delight. 

McLaren Vale never deserved you. Go kick some sense into the Barossa.

My delicious memories will outlive me.

JUST IN: Who's a lucky boy then? (That's Howard Twelftree's white shirt with me in it ... Shazz is the very popular winner of the Howard Twelftree Award 2015)

Silly to end all sad and wistful, though: the new owners, Tarik and Sandrine Maltret, the south-of-France couple who have run the popular La Terre around the corner and up the street say they should have their  rebranded acquisition open in a week or so, after they've made it theirs. Because the local breezes remind them of home they'll going to call it Le Mistral, after the drying wind which blows down the Rhône across the delta to the Mediterranean. The Willunga wind, of course, blows across the vine-filled embayment into the Gulf St Vincent ... DRINKSTER will report on their new business once they've settled in.

The Fino crew will continue with their big bold new restaurant at Seppeltsfield in the Barossa. DRINKSTER wishes both teams the very best in their new enterprises!

Tarik and Sandrine Maltret

20 January 2016


camera by Martin Senn


John Gilbert in his Mount Barker vineyard ... all photos Philip White

"I don't know how John Gilbert expects to sell this!" Adelaide Hills ... no country for old men

John Gilbert makes By Jingo wines from selected vineyards in the South Mount Lofty Ranges, the Murray-Darling Basin and his beautiful little home patch in the hills south of Mount Barker. While his tinctures are always a personal favourite of this writer, I'd never really sat down and had a proper listen to the man. Like discuss work. His zany labels. His wild selection of varieties, most of which he learned about whilst winemaking in the islands of the Mediterranean. So yesterday I called in, sat there amongst his sculptures and artworks and turned the recorder on. Here's the unexpurgated transcript of our chat, which took one bottle of his lovely Grüner Veltliner:

DRINKSTER: How would you describe life as a winemaker in the Adelaide Hills? 

JOHN GILBERT: I think the Adelaide Hills sucks. I think the Mount Lofty Ranges is awesome. We could have the definitive geographic location with Mount Lofty Ranges. Like North Mount Lofty Ranges: Barossa. Mid Mount Lofty Ranges: Adelaide Hills. South Mount Lofty Ranges: McLaren Vale. It makes a lot of sense. I don't know who made up Adelaide Hills. I mean where's Adelaide from here? I can't see it.

Adelaide Hills means elbow patches. Too many elbow patches. 

What are the major challenges here? 

I'm depressed today. From climate change. I mean it was hot yesterday and cold last night and hot again today. That's the climate change that's affecting me. And wild life. I got about sixty kangaroos that come in there and munch all the young stuff. They love it. I'm happy with them. Thompson gazelles. And we got springbok. And the little Rhodesian ones. Smaller ones. Not too bad. And sheep. Dorsets. Polls. News polls. North poles and south poles. Bit of both I think they mix them up. It's like the red gum and the blue gum. I don't know how you tell the difference sometimes. I mean is one red and the other one blue? As a juvenile it's easy. 

How's the 2016 vintage looking? 

2016's awesome because it's been so dry. It's the driest. Last year, building up - leading into Christmas - hottest twelve months on record. We haven't had a lot of soil moisture since 2011. To replenish that's gonna take a year of good rains at least to build up that surface moisture.  Fortunately I've got a little bit of irrigation that I'm bloody happy with. Otherwise it would have died. It's so bloody hot and dry. It's not just the dry but the heat. You know: not a lot of rainfall this year. Or last year. 

Given the potential of it to get worse, do you reckon you've planted the right varieties? 

Yes. And no. I've got varieties that are surprisingly able to ripen. Like Monty. Montepulciano. That's the variety that performs best in the Adelaide Hills for me. It's a good site. It's got good aspect. Good drainage of air. I've never had a frost out there. Good variety, Monty. Negro amaro's okay. Grillo's a goer. I'll sing you a little rap if you like. 

Do you see a future in export? 

Export? No. I think the local market's the one. I mean I love China because I love Chinese and it tastes good. I woulda liked it if they'd stuck to the old school before Mao Tse. Like the old empire. I think Montepulciano's gonna be huge in China. They'll plant it. It's gonna take off big time. Dial up a site and ... no. I don't think so Whitey. I don't think they're gonna make great wine unless it's small batch stuff. So I suppose you could export to them if you wanted to. 

Who's your favourite winemaker? 

Very good question. Mmmm. There's a couple. But for solid winemaking from a good base I'm gonna say Mark Lloyd. He's the guy that holds the reins. Coriole. He's such a giving person. Awesome. Always thinking of something. Knows how to dance. He can tango. Not many winemakers can do the tango. You can tell they're serious if they can tango.  Like how many Yarra Valley winemakers can tango? De Bortoli? Am I allowed to say that? 

How do you go with your brand, By Jingo, and all these varieties that nobody's ever heard of? 

Well if you asked, what's that fellow that writes about wine? The other fellow. If you asked him, he'd say 'awesome booze. Very good vintage port style.' He'd say 'ridiculous lable. Equally ridiculous bottle. I don't know how John Gilbert expects to sell this.' So I think with that support, I think go for it. It works for me. People collect the bottles. The package itself. Just to have their olive oil in it. In the kitchen. Candles. You get a lot of depth in your marketing. People that want empty bottles.

By Jingo? I don't think that comes into the equation. I don't think anybody knows what it means. I should have a little story on there, like why I call it By Jingo.

My great grand-dad, when he was about 97, one cigarette a day. Have a cup of tea at three o'clock in the afternoon. Read a bit of poetry or whatever. He was a left-handed boxer. Very tricky southpaw. Bit of a hard nut I reckon. He used to say 'By jingo that was a beauty that one. I remember that time. She was a beauty. By jingo she was a beauty.' He'd never say 'christ' or 'goddam' or anything like that. Like today she's be just FC. Expletive deleted. F triple A.

But my labels? That Gruner label's not the right colour. It's a bit more khaki. When we go to the printer, I say 'can I have a look in the bin?' They put more labels in the bin than their actual print job. So I go to the bin and get a roll of labels and I get enough to put them on the boxes as well. And for bags and promo and stuff. Always lucky to have some extras on a roll.

We have our posters. We do special days here. Three or four times a year. We're thinking of having one in March. First weekend of March. And then a post-vintage lunch in May. Sit-down job. 

How do you see the future? 

I'm not much of a one for predicting the future. If I did I wouldn't be sitting here right now. I'm surprised at the fact that I'm still alive. Future? Something will happen. Change. There'll be a lot of change. Change is the only constant as far as I'm concerned. To stay the same takes as much energy as it does to change. 

Do you think Chardonnay's ever going to catch on? 

I hope so. Wouldn't that be nice? If it was as big as Riesling, that'd be awesome. One day maybe. One day. I'd plant it in the shade, when there's afternoon shade. Flinders Ranges. In the Gammons. Nice shade; nice and dry. Nah. Best place is right on the coast where you get the sea breezes all day and all night. Day time temperature's 24; night time temperature's 22. 

How do you feel we're going with this interview? 

Real good. Oh it's tidy. Tidy as, man. But in closing I should say what I aim for in my wine. I want Funky. Good length and balance. Concentration. Lower alcohols. Funkier. Cheesier. Personality. Less up-front; more refreshing. More varietal. Thanks for coming on the show.


By Jingo Single Vineyard Adelaide Hills Grüner Veltliner 2014 (13% alcohol; screw cap; $30): 

Unlike those who make brilliant Grüner after the Riesling style, using only cool stainless steel vessels, John has given this one a year's rest in old French oak and then a year in bottle. Guess what? It's brilliant, too - the opposite end of the spectrum to the beauties made at Hahndorf Hill, the pioneer of this variety in Australia. The maturation has seen the fruit unfold and get fractal, with a concentration of certain fairly precise flavours I can't recall seeing in any other white variety. 

Its topnote is acrid enough to tickle the nostrils like the aroma of an old hemp superphosphate sack, but that appetising confrontation soon subsides into a wave of dried citrus rind, or zest. To drink, it's like an adults-only super-dry lime and ginger marmalade, long and teasing ... with a granular tannic finish that brings back the memory of that hemp you smelled at the other end of this long green line. 

Then after another goodly schlück, it reminds me of Nimbu Ka Achaar, the hot'n'spicy Indian lime pickle. All that citric savour, and trimming natural acid makes it clean and zippy enough to handle the fattier seafoods, like scallops and prawns, especially served with Nimbu Ka Achaar.  

It's adventurous, inspiring and pure, By Jingo! 

19 January 2016


PATTERN, the current edition of a series of annual exhibitions curated by Annabelle Collett at the Signal Point Gallery, was launched swimmingly on the weekend.

It's a big bold show, generally full of colour and joy.

'Twas a jolly old time over those few days on the Lake. Twas grand to catch up with many artist friends that I'd not seen for yonks. Like Ian de Gruchy, below (photo Philip White):

Ryan Sims, of the Art Gallery of South Australia, entertained us with a witty reading of the patterns of life as an artist, Annabelle delivered a typically concise welcoming speech and the whole thing went off in a bedazzling explosion of trippy colour and rhythm.

Leah Grace, Ryan and Annabelle do the formalities ... these photos by Leo Davis

The author, exhibiting artist Ann Newmarch, Anne-Marie Shin and Milton Wordley:

... and here are some other snaps of the various repasts (patterns make thirst) and shenanigans I conveniently found in my camera:

 ... a great time well-had by experts ... the curator all patterned out ... PATTERN will hang until 6th March ... Signal Point is on the wharf at the Murray River Port of Goolwa

14 January 2016


by George at the Wheatsheaf Gawler from a '97 A5 tasting pad


In spite of the wet 2011 year being very very tricky, Paracombe Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2011 ($23; 14.8% alcohol; screw cap) is typical of the gentle, dead-reliable reds released year-in-year out by the Drogemuller family in their beautiful vineyard and winery complex above the Torrens Gorge at Paracombe. 

This is exquisite Shiraz, warm and polished to a silky sheen. As usual with this brand, the wine doesn't seem quite as strong as that alcohol number infers: its acidity and splinter of spicy French oak balance its plummy opulence nicely. 

To get premium high country fruit like this on the market at $23 is remarkably generous: across the river at Balhanna Shaw & Smith are selling their 2013 Shiraz at $44. Some would argue that that extra $21 is justified in that S&S won the best wine of the show in the Adelaide Hills wine races late last year. But. But. But. I think the Paracombe wine has better form and balance.

That's always been the Droggie manner: look after your customers.

There's another Paracombe Shiraz - same vintage; same alcohol; same price - with a free sploosh of Viognier which seems to have brought the tannins into a more crisp focus. Rather than adding ripe apricot jam to what is usually quite ripe jammy Shiraz in most Australian makers' attempts, Paracombe has got it right: this is what Viognier should be used for. If picked fresh enough, it has quite bright phenolic tannins which will work the Shiraz phenolics over beautifully. If anything, this clever blend could use another year two of cellar to be drunk at its optimum. 

Paracombe Adelaide Hills Somerville Shiraz 2010 ($69; 16% alcohol; cork) comes from the 1903 vineyard of Jas Somerville, the first bloke to plant vines on the Paracombe plateau. 

Seventy years back when John Davouren was perfecting his St Henri Claret recipe opposite Penfolds Grange at Auldana, he loved using the gentle, rich fruit of these vines. Fifty years later, when Paul Drogemuller attempted to buy the last (barely) surviving patch of the vineyard the owner refused to part with the ground, so Paul purchased the 500 vines as individual plants, took them back to his vineyard up the hill, and replanted them around his house in 1997. 

While Paul and son Ben let this fruit fully ripen to alcohols higher than many nowadays prefer,or more likely admit to, it's easy to see how such gentle flavour went so well in the blend of Davouren's St Henri - it would have provided what Max Schubert purringly called called 'a mother wine.' 

Here you can purr over the mother wine, unblended. While 16 is a fair few alcohols, this vintage in particular seems so silky and luxuriously balanced you'd never know. Yum. Steak please.

photos Philip White


page from a 1997 A5 tasting pad ... ink illo by Philip white


Dawe's Bridge is at the back of Dawesley, between Nairne and Kanmantoo, in the rain shadow country on the east side of the South Mount Lofty Ranges, which are colloquially called the Adelaide Hills, a name never gazetted.

This multi-tiered affair was a huge undertaking in its day, bridging the Brukunga Creek, which flowed east into Lake Alexandrina and the Murray-Darling estuary at what eventually became known as Langhorne Creek, long before that area had vineyards. 

This creek is now dangerously toxic and unfit for stock or gardens, since being polluted by the tailings from the Brukunga mine..

All the road traffic from Adelaide to Melbourne, then still known as Port Phillip, crossed this bridge. Note the hand-rounded stones in the ends of the pillars.

World famous winemakers Charles Burney Young, Harry Dove Young and Edmund Mazure would cross this bridge on their journey to and from Adelaide with celebrated Ngarrindjeri cellarhand and inventor. the genius David Unaipon.

Wine critic Ernest Whitington crossed it en route to review their Kanmantoo Vineyard St George Claret, the winner of the top award at the Paris World's Fair of 1889, staged to coincide with the opening of the Eiffel Tower ... and these are just a few of the structure's vinous implications.

Frank Potts, founder of the Langhornes Creek wine district, would likely have transported his famous racing yacht across here in the 1880s, after he'd built her from red gum on Lake Alexandrina and then dragged her by bullock dray over the South Mount Lofty Ranges to Port Adelaide to 'give some what-for' to the silvertails of the Yacht Squadron there.

It is a sickening indictment of the local Mount Barker Council and the South Australian state government that this precious relic is in such decay. A beautiful piece of pioneer stonemasonry, it must be of some sixty  metres in length - I shall investigate further, measure it and photograph it thoroughly next time I can find a driver with the time.

Dawe's Bridge is on the State Heritage Register, but it's being destroyed by criminal fuckheads who steal its stone, as much as by the authorities and the community that lives blindly around it while it disappears.

That means all of us. Let's get this fixed and protected.

Time to rise up. Sharpen up them pitchforks.

photos Philip White

13 January 2016



photo Philip White

This is not premix kiddylikker:
the long road to the thinking drinker's breakfast arterialiser

One of the scarce advantages of these bloody heatwaves is the excuse they bloody well provide to construct the perfect Bloody Mary for bloody breakfast.

This vital arterialiser should always come before the egg; certainly before the leftover chicken.

The Bloody Mary is a tricky and controversial affair, but exquisite in its capacity to bridge the wide gaps between medicine, intoxication, and sustenance. This writer spent fifteen long years studying its myriad possibilities and artful ingestion before finally nudging the rubbing strakes of the New York Bar at 'Sank Rue Da Noe,' Paris, where Fernand Petiot invented it in 1921 - two years before his fellow barman Harry MacElhone bought the joint and renamed it after himself.

Harry's New York Bar is significant in being the first pre-packaged, transported Irish kit bar. It's still the best of them. Ever. In the sense that it fled from oppressive America, across the Atlantic Ocean in a boat, it is in fact a refugee pub.

photo courtesy of Harry's New York Bar
Pissed off with prohibition, a Manhattan tap jockey called Clancy went into business with a star hayburner jockey called Tod Sloane, dismantled the timber-panelled interior of his bar in New York, with all the frathouse pennants its jock clientele had brought in for hanging over the years - even its red-and-white enamel hot dog warmer - and put it back together in that little room in L'Opera. It fits nicely. Amongst all the twitchy American spooks and wide-eyed toureristes you can meet tweedy Irish lawyers who since their graduation from the Sorbonne have never managed to get back across the sea to Ireland.

Downstairs, in the tiny jazz cellar, stands the tattered piano on which George Gershwin spent a boozy winter working on American In Paris. I've written of this before: the clientele including Janet Flanner, Sartre and de Beauvoir, the Gertrude Steins, Waverly Root, Joe Liebling, Sylvia Beach and the James Joyces.

F. Scott and Zelda were regulars whose drunken antics the others frowned upon. They were infamous for putting vodka and orange in their baby's bottle to stop the poor mite's bellowing.

Harry himself took time off to be ringside towel-flapper for a silly young pugilist who was trying to learn to write. Name of Ernest Hemingway.

In his book, The Paris Edition, Waverly Root, who went on to be a revered food writer after his stint as Paris stringer for the Chicago Tribune wickedly named his second chapter 'I never met Hemingway' while Flanner wrote for New Yorker that Ernest was "of outsized masculinity, even in small matters."

Janet Flanner and Ernest Hemingway in Paris

My most memorable day, one of them, at least, in that hallowed thirst emporium coincided with the farewell of the joint's exquisitely-mannered shoe-shine girl. Appreciating that the coy but necessarily firm lass had numerical skills more polished than required for counting brogues, one of the regulars, a merchant banker, had given her an important job in his money factory. His colleagues at the bar both hated and admired him for this noblesse obligement. Weakened men and beautiful women too sensible to polish the shoes of spouses too proud, fat or lazy to do it themselves, together shed tears that blended with very strong drink and dribbled out the door by the end of that sodden, smoky night.

Our merchant banking shoeshiner astonished me by recognising and naming the style of my R. M. Williams Craftsmans which were a rarity those days in Paris. She rued the advent of synthetic polishes and delivered a curt lecture on her hatred of the acetone she needed to remove this moderne evil from her clients' clobber. And then pretty well sang an aria to RM's boot dressings, which, short of Lancombe face cream, she considered the best on Earth.

At which I wept, too.

Recollections of my internments in Harry's moist hall are always a tad smudged, and it's not the sort of place in which one takes notes but I'm pretty sure it was that visit which landed me in the company of a Texan fighter pilot who'd somehow been stranded there after the Paris Air Show. I offered my condolences at the death of Texas Governor John Bowden Connelly, the man who survived the passage of the infamous bendy bullet which took out Jack Kennedy years earier in Dallas, at which said jock sobbed and poured me a shipment of malt whisky. It was the first he'd of heard of that news. In return, he shocked me by advising me of the passing of his greatest hero, the Australian Colonel Sir Ernest Edward "Weary" Dunlop AC, CMG, OBE whom I was lucky to have met. But I've never met another American who's even heard of Weary.

Final free shoeshines aside, that alone was reason for further impassioned imbibition.

But the Bloody Mary: While Harry's lab-coated staff still concoct it pretty much according to Ferdie's original prescription, I'll admit to having played with it in view of Australia's New Heat. My theories reform with each summer, even from day-to-day, but they basically orbit the following framework.

A few of the ingredients are tricky to acquire in this austral City of Light, but while they're essential to my 2016 vintage, I'm sure the thinking shaker will work around their absence.

Hardest to procure are C&B's Old Fashioned Quinine Original Tonic Syrup, a San Francisco blend of agave nectar, citrus, lemongrass, cinchona bark and spices, and Charles & Charlie's Sweetened Kalamansi Puree, which my geologist friend Mark Gifford brings home from his prospective visits to the Philippines. This is made from Fortunella japonica, a hybrid of mandarin and cumquat. 

We could argue till hellfire's lick about which Worcestershire or chilli sauces are best for this application, but Tabasco and Lea & Perrins do the trick.

Capsaicin addicts are best perusing the shelves at Chili Mojo on Magill Road, and I'm sure many will prefer more exotic types to the mellow 'bird's eye' recommended here. The chopped flesh of the nuclear bhut, or bih jolokia, with its remarkable vanilloids is my personal favourite in this application, but I'll be sued for such recommendation so unless you regularly do, just don't.

In Assam, its home, bih means poison; jolokia is capsicum.

I always use iodised salt, having attempted to grow up in Kanmantoo, whose most prolific breeder was Kate Neil, an illiterate old lady whose goitre was as big as her head. This swelling of the thyroid glands is caused by iodine deficiency. Uh-huh.

My tablespoon is about 15ml. This recipe makes two or three big tumblers, depending on the size of your ice and your tumbler. I prefer stem balloon glasses and big ice blocks which do the killer chill without dilution of all that good effort.

In a cup, thoroughly mix your finely-chopped chilli and the juice of one or two lemons with teaspoons of Tabasco, C&B's Quinine Tonic, Angostura and salt with a table spoon of Worcestershire and two tablespoons each of Kalamansi and Bickfords Honey Ginger and Lemon Cordial.

Tip this in a chilled jug with two tablespoons (or more) of beef stock, a cup of passata, half a cup of pomegranate juice, half a cup of blood orange juice and two cups of freezing Absolut Vodka. All these ingredients should be cold. You may prefer more passata: for this purpose it's better than any commercial tomato juice. Stir well.

If you don't like your tincture so gluggy, add a sploosh of soda later on.

Pour this over big ice in your preferred glass. Float a leaf of fresh basil on its back on the top and grind fresh black pepper over it.

Those who eat celery can have it afterwards if they remember. And a bloody egg or toast or bloody porridge or whatever. None of these things belong in or near such an easily-devoured all-round nourishment.

If you can find a bar called Moderation, drink it there. 

Geologist/winemaker Mark Gifford in his exemplary Blue Poles vineyard in Margaret River, Western Australia: source of great red blends after the Pomerol/St Emilion style
FOOTNOTE: Dr Ruth Starke is Editor, Creative Writing, for Transnational Literature [!] at South Australia's Flinders University. When the above yarn was published in InDaily, to which I contribute twice a week, she filed this response:

"How can Gifford bring home anything from the Philippines if his visits are only 'prospective'? Either he goes there or he doesn't. Other than that, this seems an incredibly complicated procedure to produce a drink that is just as fabulous when poured from those Bloody Mary American pre-mix cans one gets on international airlines and pours on top of Absolut vodka. Sorry, Philip!"

While I respect the good Doctor's sorrow and her preference for premix, I feel it's fair to point out that my friend Mark Gifford is a geologist, a prospector, who visits the Philippines to prospect, prospectively, as the Shorter Oxford Dictionary On Historical Principles explains: "operative with regard to the future."

Challenged by another reader, Starke claimed to "care passionately about language." 

Risking presumption, even given her preference for going on the big aeroplanes to get a drink, I imagine that Dr Starke would also find 'incredibly complicated' and unnecessary my recipe for the perfect gin and tonic, which won DRINKSTER international acclaim.