“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)





27 April 2016


Looks like nice clean pants, a bit of a giggle and a bullshit pose for the propaganda camera to me ... bayonet straight through the guts ... Diggers skiting at Gallipoli

Craft, cronuts, kale and caramel (salted); foraging, farm-to-fork and mainstream fermentedness

Shhh, just a quiet one: as Australian eaters and drinkers, between you and me, does any of that stuff above sound familiar?  That's how the Australian government describes our gastronomy on the current Tourism Australia website.

While ANZAC Day's vainglorious fluff and bluster continued to hide from many Australians the complex horrors we send our military kids to face in the Cradle of Civilisation, I spent some time wondering what refugees from, say, Turkey or Damascus would imagine Australia to be.

Like before they set out with their families, to escape the types of horror we officially recognised with Monday's national holiday.

How would refugees decide, if they have a chance to consider? Imagine the type our immigration Ministers tell us are always jumping the queue. They tell us these "illegals" are rich middle class people who want to get away from all that bother and come to Australia to make some money. Say these folks naïvely check the Australian government websites.

Let's say they think one of the things they might do if they can get through is open a restaurant. Good track record for reffos in Aussie, restaurants. The hopeful immigrants check our state-of-the-art for potential customer profiles and restaurant trends.

Refugee from Malaysia: Cheong Liew, who changed the way we eat ... without our post-war ingress of peoples on the run, we would have missed incredible cuisines like that introduced by Mr. Good Evening of the Pantz family, below ... 

... or the cuisine of our amazing Italian friends, like Damiano, swapping a yarn with the author here above at the magnificent Enzo's ... photographed by Milton Wordley

They find the Tourism Australia site. It's fascinating to see what this faceless gubmnt mob thinks we have to offer in the sustenance and satiation sector.

Beneath a crooked photo of a bottle of Harkam Wines Aziza's Preservative free Semillon 2014, yep, none other, the Fed tells us what to expect of what it calls  'the Future'.

"Australia loves a good taste trend," they tell us. "In 2015, our food and drink obsessions included everything from craft beer and cronuts to kale and salted caramel. While we will remain infatuated with all of the above into 2016, we also have our eyes fixed on the future.

"Business futurist Morris Miselowski says although the fashion for foams has dissipated in Australia, food 'trends' such as foraging, farm-to-fork eating and fermenting are now mainstream."

wine forager by George

Appreciating their omission of any of the various sorts of dust intrinsic to the foams fad, this is nevertheless Tourism Australia's official website, under the heading Food and Wine Trends 2016.

Imagine the surreal accidents of translation into, say, Chinese.

Miselowski's speaking specialty and "business-orientation" is what he calls "future-vision".

I think this means "what happens next."

What happens next? It'll be more wild rabbits from the creeks at about 3/4 adult size, stuffed with garlic, ginger and fresh herbs then grilled and smoked over old French oak red wine staves up my joint ... wrap in linen, carry in shoulder bag, eat with pocket knife over 3-4 days ... photo©Philip White

And I can't help thinking that they want us to believe that the likes of the deep-fried beer-battered chicken-salted Mars Bar hangs in while foams have dissipated and we're back to foraging like pigs or like those who eat pigs or simply like those of us who live muddy lives. Musta bin to help with our mainstream fermenting, this touch of dissipation in the old foam racket. They cleared the head off our mud.

I hope I've got this wrong. It's strange.

I'm sure people all over the world will be delighted to learn that here in GodzoneOz the parilla (Argentinian) and robata (Japanese) methods of cooking meat are "particularly popular" because "barbecuing is being recognised as part of the national identity no matter where you're from".

Some secret Australian underground groups still prefer to cook and smoke their meat over pre-Cambrian flame, which long precedes the Japanese and Latinate carnivory

So where we up to? Our gubmnt thinks we are, or wishes we were becoming foragers and mainstream fermenters who have adopted Japanese and Argentinian methods of cooking meat. Either that, or they simply want everybody else in the world to think that's what we're like, us Australians. 

Like us crooked boat mob that spent a coupla centuries pinching the country from the original owners who'd been here fifty or something thousand years, slaughtered them, and now expects to get away with selling it to the Chinese without anybody actually paying the original owners for it.

Colonial Australia has a history of brutal, unabashed racism and slaughter ... to a milder or more perverse degree this continues under rote electoral (parliamentary-governmental) and bureaucratic societal cadres

Ooops. That just slipped out, that bit.

But for real, this thing doesn't even mention supermarkets.

I don't need to go on too long about it but I must at least relate the drinks thing.

" The industry guru [Miselowski] predicts that, in 2016, we will be drinking more naked wines ... " our gubmnt informs us.

It could edify somebody in this chain if this mention of nudity were a ploy to deter the more zealous followers of any of the Abrahamic faiths, but no.

Naked Wines happens to be a giant award-winning online wine retailer founded in Britain in 2008 by Rowan Gormley. It advances funds to struggling winemakers who supply the eventual wine at a minimal wholesale rate. It works across the UK, USA and Australia, and is spreading since it sold last year to Majestic Wine, the biggest specialist wine retailer in the UK. Gormley is still at the wheel.

A thinker would probably by now be wondering what a terrible accident all this must be when the same idiocracy has a bit of a go at clarification.

"Naked wines … it's only natural" is the later headline. It then proffers one Byron Woolfrey, who runs a mobile bar, to say he's noticed "an upward spike in demand for wines made with minimal intervention" and our government goes back to recommending Harkham Wines - at Momofuku Seiobo and Chiswick -  and Lucy Margaux, from the Adelaide Hills, at Billy Kwong in Sydney.

Syd Long may have seen some upward spikes when he painted Pan in New South Wales in 1898, but I don't reckon he had too much minimal intervention in mind. 

Anton Kloppers and his naturally naked minimal intervention team at Lucy Margaux will probably be delighted that the 7 or 8 million tourists expected to visit Australia this year have been advised by the federal government to duck straight into Billy Kwong's for a bottle of the wine.

This will discourage these visitors from coming to South Australia to check out Anton's actual Château, with that unique brand name which must intrigue the winemakers of Bordeaux, not to menton Corinne Mentzelopoulos, the, er, the owner of, er, Château Margaux.

Corinne's current Margaux, the 2014, sells for AU$450-$520 per bottle.

As the day wore on and I made an attempt to discover who chooses these gurus for us, I bumped into a killer from the USA. Google executive Ray Kurzweil's a serious visionary, the genius inventor of text-to-speech technology, amongst many other brilliant things.

Since he worked on radical digital musical instruments with Stevie Wonder in the early '80s, I pay attention when Kurzweil has a blurt. He just told a heavyweight gathering in New York that he's convinced computers will "possess emotions and personality" and therefore "match and possibly beat" human intelligence by 2029. 

Skull by Jeremy Maher

"I'm not talking about logical intelligence," Kurzweil said, having just put a date on it. "It is being funny, and expressing a loving sentiment ... That is the cutting edge of human intelligence."

As logic and truth and the discernment of it seems to have jumped the datapack for now, maybe Prime Minister Turnbull could urge Kurzweil and Google to hurry up with an advance package for the skunkworks propaganda mob out the back of Tourism Australia.

At the risk of cutting some of Miselowski's foragement and farm-to-fork foment, a drizzle of wit might save somebody's day.

Give a Digger a bit of a chuckle, Cobber.

In the precious Adnyamathanha country, called the Flinders Ranges by us northern invaders for the last, well, nearly 200 whole years (!), the author, of Northman background, talks with Arkaba Station owner Dean Rasheed, a man of Afghan background, about geology and how the fuck he manages to run sheep on it all, joking about  fantasy vineyard sites ... those rocks are all back around 600-750 million years ... photo Dennis Vice


Big Moustache Wine Crumpetry Nastachio Gris 2096 

This hirsute hairshirt outfit has impressed the writer with the success it’s had marketing the Big Moustache at the cricket. Everytime there’s nothing much happening the cameras zoom on its mighty bristle and you can hear the lips smacking round the ground like a Mexican Wave of anticipatory goozie.  In its wake they all spit lemon. Back that up with the sort of badland behaviour you never ever showed post the feminist revolution and you’ve got flavour all the way to the bank.  Deck it with meaningless bling about a showgirl or a showpony or something that came by so long ago it could have actually come by. wind up the mariachi octet and you’re rockin’.  It’s not so much a drink as an effort, really, and none of it was exerted by its connections.  Have it with a pillar of salt, and, as somebody else remarked, be envious of the people of Gomorrah.  It was a lot worse in Sodom. Anyway, cricket?  See, I toldja. This can't be Juarez. This is Valladolid. I'm with Mr. Burgess.

Brilliantry Jesus Box Sefriken Blancmon Noir Captain’s Reserve 2240 

At first I thought this had a crank handle, but it’s merely the opening device, which should stay folded behind the label until you’re thirsty or need it to whack some peanut.    Otherwise, it’s pretty much straight down the line for Blancmon, even a piebald.  It’d go with pie, too, come to think of it, but when you get it in your eyes you’ll find yourself yearning for something more muscle-bound and less Rounded Up.  I don’t how long it is since the Brilliantries made one with so much mustard-ammonia seepage, but you can overlook that and revel in the audacity of the maker’s neckline while the staff peel you an antelope.  Try it with alkaline batteries.  If you must use pearls, stick with the wild ones.  Cultured is common and shows little culture in comparison. Keep your diamonds on ice. 

Steelojex Taxi Spackasity Gonas Glosav Blanco 2099 

You know the lick of a clean urinal?  Clean, I mean, with the big lollies down the trough at the bottom.  That lovely reassuring whiff of clean?  Take your taxi cab.  Before the hyper-normal-smelling Punjabis took over the cabs and made them clean, most taxis smelt like a dirty public toilet, even though we don’t smoke ’em up anymore on account of the law replacing the lure and the lore.  Then you got one that smelt like a clean toilet, usually because of that little blotting paper Christmas tree swinging by its neck from the rear view mirror, exuding the overwhelming stink of clean.  Whatter you gonna do?  Which taxi are you gonna drink?  I’ll never forget the floral bouquet of the cab the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis MP drove for Bill Gonas’s brand new Adelaide Independent when he’d shuttle me between the Exeter Thirst Emporium and the square named after the first bloke in South Australia to get a knighthood, where I sometimes slept.  Like before he became a member of parliament. Tom sweated a lot in his neat poly uniform in the heat of the summer, and in the winter, too, for that matter, (heating), but you could depend on him getting you there quick.  He was a man on the make. Very very busy. When he became the Minister for Road Safety a bit later on, and somebody advised the electorate of some 58 traffic offences and over $10,000 of unpaid fines, they fired him from Road Safety and put him in charge of everything radioactive, like the world’s biggest uranium mine, and then made him Treasurer as well. So bugger this wine. Tom’s got a clean ticket now, and I wanna drink the uranium mine in his honour. I was in that business.  It’ll have a longer finish.

this illo from a 1973 notebook: party at Birksgate by me ... pearl illo and photo above also both by me ... engraving at top: Don Quixote goes mad from his reading of books of chivalry by Gustave Doré.

22 April 2016



If there grew a saguaro cactus tree with a black flower, I reckon its nectar would be like this sublime Castagna Shiraz. Makes me jealous of the lesser long-nosed bats that pollinate the real cactus flowers there in the dark of the night in the Sonoran Desert. The notion whacked in fast and high, from the far north-east. But there's no black flower there. The saguaro flowers are full of colour. The black flower is in Julian Castagna's wine. 

 Full moon in Castagna Shiraz ... photos by Philip White

Enough fantasy. It's important for a time to think of the granitic upland shoulder of country where these Shiraz vines actually grow near Beechworth on the north side of the Victorian Alps in south-eastern Australia. There are no big cactus or cactus bats but the vines thrust their chests out in their burgeoning sward of meadow herbs and mountain air. It's one of the most fragrant vineyards I know. You can smell it through your skin.

The Castagna Beechworth Genesis Syrah 2013 ($75; 13.5% alcohol; DIAM cork) struts as if it works only at night, when darkness is upon the face of the deep. This is gonna be intimate. It's more of a sashay than a Moses march, a dancer in the dark, cavortin with the black hole or the pillar of light or whatever it was behind the big curtain.

By Bacchus and Pan this wine's a sweet and delicious thing rhythmically, like prunes and peat and liquorice and figs and fennel and aniseed and black fruits that haven't evolved yet but already ooze the nectar of some midnight bloom that teases bats.

And that's only the beginning of the juices and vibrant florals.

Maybe it's a pitcher plant? One of the carnivorous Nepenthes?

After the slippery bit there's a gradual upwelling of velvet tannin. From that tiny splash of Viognier? Then Bootsy Collins. Clean-edged funk. 

Sensual jumping acid.

Like when did you drink something like this?

Nobody else makes wine like this. Nobody else grows grapes like these.

Film-maker, writer, researcher and pre-eminent vineyard whisperer Carolann Castagna
No sooner does one get a grasp of this batjerk flight cross the Alpine sky than you slip into the Castagna Beechworth Un Segreto 2013 ($75; 13.5% alcohol; DIAM cork) which brings glimmering Sangiovese ultra-violet to the edges of this Syrah/Shiraz night vision: the corners of the aromatic screen flicker and prickle now like aurora. 

Saint Elmo's Fire.

At the same time, that Sangiovese also wafts an earthy base tone beneath the felicitous Shiraz. There are dark beets and plums downstairs.

Running out of curses of praise I fall in backwards. The organist has her foot pedals working.

This blend is more it than the sum of its parts. It is an individual alive and happy unto itself: a ravishing, drop-dead challenging and enticing wine of a new style. Previous vintages have already given it authority.

One dance should be enough thankyou Señor.

Maybe another one tomorrow.

Okay we do one more now. 

Flinders Street Station: Julian at work conjuring gastronomic wonders in the Castagna Family's brilliantly-designed haybale home ... it starts like this after breakfast and by midday the bench is busy with Castagnas making various dishes and then it's take to that table and imbibe ... the winery is just through that wall ... this family lives in it
Castagna Beechworth La Chiave 2013 ($75; 13% alcohol; DIAM cork) is Sangiovese. Like Sangiovese. I don't recall a better one from anywhere.

I wrote of that threatened timber, rosewood the other day. Here it is with all the other vibrant terpene fragrances my nose begins to snuffle towards in winter. It's as if this disparate vinous plant from Italy via Beechworth is doing a conservation ad for its big tropical cousin.

And that delightful spicy timber - it's fine French oak of course - simply adds to its Sangiovese-ness.

It takes you away from where you were going. Absorbing these wines together is like moving to another room. It is one of the best rooms in Australia. Drinking a glass from each bottle each day til it's done is like attending a magnificent exhibition. The changes of colour, sometimes faceted and crystalline, sometimes more nuanced and smudged, are continuous and hypnotic. Neon phasing through the ivy window.

La Chiave is as much blood as berry. But it sure beats church. It has a kind of cool musky throb about it. Like combing somebody's real long dark wavy hair.

And this juicy silk-and-velvet glory draws you on and on. One foot left, one foot right. Blackcurrant blood and juniper blues. Rock and roll.

Bugger the black flower nectar bats. These are pure vampire food these reds. Bare some flesh.

cheese serve at Castagna ... notice the tiny seagull cheesebat ... photos by Philip White

20 April 2016



photo©Philip White

With pruning comes a change in one's flavour yearnings and I'll bet it's mainly about terpenes

Secret confessions: Whitey thinks his preferred flavours are changing with the season and it's all to do with the spinning terpene wheel:

Winter's hauling further in beneath, dragging its chill into the rocks. Not much rain, and none forecast, but ants and wood ducks seem to be expecting it. A kestrel watched me from a vineyard post yesterday and the ravens seem to anticipate the placentas that come with lambing.

March, from The Grandes Heures of Ann de Bretagne ... pruning time

With the autumn rides winter and her cohorts. They change one's flavour and aroma obsessions. They come and go like the tides, these seasonal cycles of preferred flavours and bouquets. New pennants and tags. I think it becomes more precise - or at least more entertaining - the higher one's mileage if not sheer plumage. Which is never to say that the old cycle won't surprise you with sudden new yearnings and the stuff you'll crash into in their pursuit.

Sometimes it's like Mardis Gras.

In recent weeks I've lost my hot weather dependence on the crunch of cool fresh salad greens.

Never much of a Savvy-B gal, I can imagine losing one's addiction to its bracing greenness as the autumn performs her pretty slaughterhouse job in putting an end to the season of growth and opening the door to those damned crows feet of winter.

I lose some of my lust for fresh Riesling about now, and find myself combing the cosmos for flavours with more fat on their breezy edge. Chardonnays with just the right amount of butter in their teeth.

This comes when polite bacteria, in a non-alcoholic, secondary, 'malo-lactic'  fermentation, turn the grapes' natural acid from stainless malic to the chubbier, fleshier, fatty lactic acid of milk. Like the first thing many of us tasted after birth. Not merely to push onomatopæa, they're umami flavours.

As far as flavour and aroma goes round here about now, Picasso knocks off to chase the sun t'wards Africa; Rubens moves in sideways for winter.

The crumbly dry cheeses of the heat give way now for precious slices from creamier more mature wheels of Parmigiano and Pecorino Romano. Just before they harden and the walls grow cold.

At this point I should reveal that this column is being driven by the beautiful Romney Park Gloria Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2012 which is rockin with the Bertinelli M30 Millesimato Grand Cru Parmigianno Reggiano I find in Marino's.

Next thing you know you're drinking Pinot noir, and then more mature Pinot noir from greater years not far south of Dijon while you're trying to work out how to explain something along the lines of where all the money went.

With respect to the great John Prine, "There's a hole in Daddy's throat where all the money goes" ... photo©Philip White 

And why the more you spend, the older and fresher they get.

Blazed by your own mission creep. When you eventually hit the Shiraz, you pretend that's the antidote, like whew that's better and you're all better now.

And the matter of really good Barolo and the grainy wince of light that brings from some other age is yet to be addressed.

"Did the season change?"


"That must be where the house went."


photo©Philip White 

This all seems quite logical to me. The yearnings for more comfort as the season chills. To the point of total dwuggled delusion. Not waving, taking a selfie.

So it's interesting to feel a severe list to things bitter and contrasting at the same change of time as the silk wave. Like beyond even the hops of the lagers through the ales threshold into the extreme bitterness of the Kuding-cha 'tea' made from the holly leaf Ilex kaushue into the nether regions of wormwood in the form of Artemis absinthium. You'll see a word you know in there.

An infusion of either of these is a challenge for anybody with a normal tolerance of bitterness, but even when I add leatherwood honey to my handful of fresh wormwood tips subsiding in a pot of fresh-boiled sky water, I don't much alter or filter my yearning for the refreshing, almost antiseptic, antibacterial nature of that powerful absinthium herb.

I suspect this vicious bastard of a plant even makes life hard for viruses.

It'll hound gout.

So a simple yearning for sweet also brings a counterbalancing taste for things more complex in their bitterness than say the simple grassy methoxypyrazine edge of Kiwi Savvy-B.

In the autumn.

I keep thinking of Cherry Heering, the bitter black cherry aperitif liqueuer of the Danes. Squash black cherries into big oak vats, commence ferment, drown in strong white spirit, keep five years with herbs and spices in smaller oak, bottle, wait, drink.

I've not had a bottle of this for years, but lately its memory is fresh in my sensories. Its infusion of herbs always make me suspect juniper and wormwood.

Which leads me to terpenes. These natural volatile oils and compounds give to many fruits, berries and leaves their most impressive and helpful ingredients. They all bounce happily through the plant books together, giggling across that short cut from hemp to red wine.

I read in my tides a seasonal mood swing away from the stimulating limonene of summery citrus rinds, juniper and mint toward three other turpenes: humulene, linalool and myrcene, which are still sort of citrussy but in a more complex and woody way. More spicy. A wider range of woody lignins.

Citrus by the fire.  Cedar in the pot belly; citrus and ginger marmalade in the pot. Wearing a peat lug tweed.

The earthy humuline is an appetite suppressant found in hops and coriander, a bitterness pathway I suspect may lead to wormwood eventually. Wurmud, vermuth, wormwood: it's in my bones.

Linalool, my USA guide suggests, is easy found in lavendar, laurel, birch and rosewood. It's a step beyond the juice of citrus into the juice of citrussy timber. Sedative chill out. I could rub some rosewood oil into the waist of my old guitar and we'd flavour out together.

Myrcene's in mango, citrus, lemongrass, thyme and bayleaves and is more chill out dragon's milk nowness if you must.

photo©Philip White

Stack all this up and it looks to me like I'll be tolerating more burnished woody spice in my reds this winter. And my fruits. It'll be interesting to see where that takes us but I'll bet I can never afford it and it's from either the French or Italian side of the Alps.

Silly thing is the list of terpenes I've quoted comes from the USA marijuana business journal Leafly, from their terpene flavour wheel explaining which strands of pot are rich in what. Terpenes  are the building blocks of wine flavour.

Still awaiting a terpene wheel from the wine biz. Gimme science please.

In the meantime I'm doing a comforting seasonal shift of gastronomic produce, wondering which last waves of fruit may come through before it's time for the juicy cutlets of spring.

Oh yes. As the season changes I find myself eating meat much less frequently. It's not squeamish, sanctimonious or religious. I just seem to be losing another addiction.

But also true to season, I gluttonised on Marino Hot Cacciatora last night. A retreat from meat does not bar this most exquisitely complex smoked pickle of it. Not even when the weather takes a turn like this.

Or have I dreamt up a phantom freeze to justify the pig-out? Contrary to their local human, my magpies act like this might already be spring.

Okay then. Yes, I'd love a ten-year-old Clare Riesling, with its touch of the autumn burnish. Thankyou. Thankyou.