“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)





08 January 2016


One Western Australian Fiano,
plus two Tuscan Shirazes and a Sangiovese by Alison Hodder

Regular readers may recall my love of the St Emilion-Pomerol style red blends of the clever Blue Poles outfit in Margaret River: the owners, geologists Tim Markwell and Mark Gifford, came to lunch at the brilliant Elbow Room last October, bringing their multi-vintage arsenal of elegant reds. They also teased me with a pre-release Fiano 2015, which is now on the market. Just as they have resisted depending on the Cabernet which keeps their region alive, persisting instead with Merlot and Cabernet franc, they have avoided the same region's white staple, Chardonnay, and instead pursued the suddenly-fashionable Italian Fiano. 

Which, given this exquisity, makes perfect sense.

This Blue Poles Margaret River Fiano  2015 ($25; 12.9% alcohol; screw cap) is outstanding: I think the most impressive Australian version thus far. A few more months behind glass has seen it flesh up and blossom. Rather than the face-creamy unction which marks many, this wine has more open-hearted primary fruits, like the buttery Anjou pear and honeydew melon (even wrapped with prosciutto). Its texture is finer than most, and its acid is persistent and crisp to add balance and focus to that disarmingly comforting flesh. It is a delicious refreshment, perfect for simply sittin', sippin', but more ideally served with aforesaid prosciutto and perhaps a chunk of parmigiano reggiano. The thought of an accompanying puttanesca or marinara also makes me dribble: saltimbocca would be be jim dandy.

Given McLaren Vale's proximity to the ocean, which can make it feel a little like Margaret River, and its newfound obsession with this variety, I hope more of those experimenting makers can somehow grow closer to this refined, almost crunchy style.

Another duo of memorable visitors came from your actual Tuscany last April. Alison Hodder, the third female winemaker to graduate from Roseworthy, came with her partner, the retired mining engineer, Claudio Berlingieri. Alison has for many years worked out of Rome, where she has a senior management role in a hugely significant Food and Agriculture branch of the United Nations, assisting over forty developing countries establish appropriate fruit, viticulture and mushroom businesses on both urban and larger commercial scales.

Similarly, Claudio has worked in an astonishing range of countries, learning much about the geology of our planet. They are a truly fascinating and very clever pair. I first met Alison when I edited Winestate 35 years ago. Her knowledge of the food gardens of the world is phenomenal; I can talk mining and rocks and Etruscan folklore with Claudio 'til the Anthropocene is dead and buried.

Typical of such restive folks, they have established vineyards and now a tidy little winery in Claudio's homeland, Tuscany, a project which they laughingly call retirement. As well as the standard local Sangiovese, they have planted Shiraz. 

Their first release of any volume is now available (exclusively for Australia) at Adelaide's Parade Cellars.

Their de Vinosalvo Santàrio Maremma Toscana D.O.C. Shiraz 2014 ($30;  14% alcohol; cork) is nothing like Australian Shiraz. It has more elegance, more ancient carbon edge, and barely a whiff of wood. It is a moody, raven-ish, black-hearted delight to sniff, with only insinuations of primary fruit: all its mulberries and blackberries have become much more vinous than the raw-to-conserve-to-jam berry fruits and sawn oak styles of Shiraz common to Australia. I don't know how to explain it, but it smells Italian. Maybe a hint of hot Ducati ... a beautiful Firenze leather jacket, freshly-dressed ... Sophia Loren's hair after a day or two in the customs lounge in La Mortadella ... it's highly evocative of many exoticas, but is, praise Bacchus, all wine. And all heart. It's slightly granular in the mouth - a texture approaching poached quince - but mainly slender and savoury in its unique authority. It gives no hint of its considerable alcohol, being such a beautifully harmonious yet distinctive drink. And it makes me very hungry. Bistecca alla fiorentina or fegatelli di maiale would do it swimmingly. Now it's made a retail foothold in Norwood, where it's selling well, I'd love to see it appearing on lists like Chianti, Amalfi and Enzo's. It would rock with their perfect tucker. In the meantime, go get, take home, devour.

Alison and Claudio also make a spunky Sangiovese without oak, de Vinosalvo Montecucco Rosso Auspicium 2014, which costs less, and a sublime premium Shiraz, made in big old oak something after the style of Penfolds St Henri: de Vinosalvo Selezioni del Saggio Maremma Toscana D.O.C. Galfridius 2013. I trust both these lovelies will soon be available here as well. Watch this space.   

Alison Hodder and Claudio Berlingieri at Casa Blanca, April 2015 ... you can visit them and taste their lovely wines at VinItaly in Verona in April 10-13 ... both photos Philip White

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