“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)





07 April 2016


Philip the Bold slumbers in a Pinot haze in the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy at Dijon 

The divorce of Gamay and Pinot noir: fixed by Philips, queried by David; reported by more Philips

In the summer of 1395, Philip the Bold finally forbad the growing of Gamay in Burgundy.

In spite of the peasants' love of it - it was easy to grow and yielded well - Philip didn't like it. He preferred Pinot noir.

Which was much more tricky to make.

Philip (above) was a warrior, earning his Bold appellation at the age of 14 at the battle of Poitiers, when he fought like a tiger against the Black Prince until he was captured with his father, King Jean II of France. They were lucky to surrender to Dennis of Morbeke, an honorable knight errant who turned out to be a Frenchman fighting for the Black Prince's Englishmen after being thrown out of France by some prick who stole his estate.

It was all hand-to-hand, very close and rather bitchy and familial, Jean being cousin to Edward III, the Black Prince's dad, but Dennis did the right thing and Jean and young Philip survived after handing their gauntlets to him for passage to Edward. 

Some years later, for his gallantry, Jean gave Philip the Duchy of Burgundy.

When the Bold's grandson, Philip the Good, took over the Duchy he backed his grandad's banishment of Gamay with the reinforcement "The Dukes of Burgundy are known as the lords of the best wines in Christendom. We will maintain our reputation".

Philip the Good. Good? Good palate, maybe; he was certainly good at grovelling to the English to secure his power. He did a good thorough job of capturing the savage nationalist Joan of Arc and handing her to the English to be burned. 

While it's cool to maintain the modern Burgundian mantra about the region growing only Pinot noir and Chardonnay, its worth realising that today, there's plenty of Gamay back in there, and the white Aligote is common as well.

They're just not allowed into the famous appellations. They're limited to the vin ordinaire, some of which is brilliant. Put simply, Burgundy still preaches the marketing dogma of the Philips.

It's when you head south to Beaujolais that you really land in Gamay country. There, it's everywhere.

There's not much Gamay in Australia - it doesn't like our tired alkaline soils, through which its roots won't penetrate, leaving it gasping for water. But it loves the slighty acid volcanic loam of Mornington Peninsula.

David Lloyd beheading Pinot at Eldridge Estate ... photo from his website

How do I know? I'm drinking David Lloyd's Eldridge Estate Mornington Peninsula Gamay 2014 ($40; 13% alcohol; screw cap) which is out of stock at the winery. I'm not taking any blame for that: it's easy to see why. It's bloody brilliant. It's easily the best one I've guzzled outside of Beaujolais.

And better than about 90% of the ones I've guzzled inside it. Beaujolais, I mean. Like, drink, say, Joseph Drouin's  Cru Beaujolais Fleurie, which is appearing on a few Mennonite wine lists about our shores, and that's like Coke. The Eldridge shits all over it.

And guzzled is the word. While it's tempting to sniff its alluring, cheeky, peppery cherries-and-red currants bouquet, with its dark black tea and cloves base, it's so keen to get into your mouth that its momentum just steers it straight down the little red lane. Whooshka! 

Once it's gone, if you can bung the brakes on long enough to think about it, you will relish its unctuous and rosy crème de groseille red currant liqueur nature, all wrapped with that tea tin tannin round an acid spine that's halfway between stainless steel whiprod rapier and crunchy shattered windscreen brittle.

In spite of having been headfirst through a windscreen and on another occasion endured a whipping by a skinhead with a car ærial, I love the whole adventure of this wine. It creams my PTSD. I reckon if those old Burgundian Philips could be passed a glass they'd have second thoughts immediately. It would have helped Philip the Good, just for example, to add to his official recorded fold of 24 mistresses and eighteen illegitimate kids. 

It's in that carnal realm.

Get in early for the 2015!

In the meantime you might tide yourself under with a bottle or two of the Eldridge Estate Mornington Peninsula PTG 2015 ($30; 13% alcohol; screw cap), which, tellingly, is still readily available. The acronym - Bacchus only knows my visceral disdain for acronyms - is a truncated version of Passe-Tout-Grains, which is the Burgundian term for its blend of Pinot noir and Gamay, the only rosé in the region.

While it's easy to see your fingers through this wine, it's much darker than the classic pheasant-eye/onion skin colour of the best south-of-France rosés, and even my colourblind eyes were delighted to spot a threatening glint of gunblue when I poured myself a bucket in the sun.

A 50-50 blend of the varieties, it's a delicious, bone dry, gently tannic red, but no introduction to either the brilliant Gamay above or the accomplished Pinots below. Rather, it's a frivolous, over-priced, slightly meaty peccadillo of a drink, not quite in the realm of peckerheads and dills, but not far above, either. It smells and tastes of bitter cherries, like a shot of Cherry Heering diluted 5:1 with soda. It has that dry Heering sort of tannin. In fact, it's a bit like that Fleurie mentioned above.

Don't tell the experts, but it's exactly the sort of thing I could mindlessly guzzle for hours on end while jammin' on the veranda in this perfect Indian Summer post-vintage weather. 

If someone else was paying.

It's when we venture into the eight clones of Pinot noir grown there that Eldridge begins to dance. Elvishly. The name, after all, comes from elf, and has connotations that range from a place rich in mischievous elvish activity to ruler of elves. Lookyousure: There be elves in these Pinots. 

Pan, by Syd Long, the sensualist who rebelled against Melbourne's Heidelburg 'Australian Impressionism' School and dared to see art nouveau patterns in our eucalypts ... this beauty's in the Art Gallery of New South Wales

Eldridge Estate Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2014 ($60; 14% alcohol; screw cap) has that tea tin aroma - and I think what Lloyd calls cloves - that confounds and confuses those who think that this variety should be strawberries all the way to the bank, and they are still many. The best Pinots are tannic, serious, confounding wines, where that aromatic signal that I call black tea or tea tin reappears in these tannins and the infinitely complex array of terpenes in the finish. Where there should also be quite a spine of acidity.

Which this wine has. 

It also has flesh, in a scant, elusive, elvish form. I nearly said a wriggle of flesh, but it's not moving. It's a solid, almost sinister lozenge of morello, maraschino, chocolate cream and pomegranate hammered by some elvish blacksmith into a token that will take only the years to break. Then, that hammering will unfold to let blood run. 

This is not a wine for Shiraz fetishists.

Which leads me to a pair of wines that best illustrate the felicitous, tantalising, majestic wierdness of Pinot and makes me wonder in awe at the table conversations of those mysterious Philips who preceded me, who will never be King of Burgundy.


Lloyd calls them Clonal North and South Pairs and sold prevous vintages for $150 the brace but now offers the 2014s individually at a bigger spend.

From top to bottom of its aroma, Eldridge Estate Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir N 2014 ($68; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap) has dark cherries, kalamata, bay leaf, taragon, cooking chocolate, sawn cedar, freshly-tanned and painted leather and yep, black tea tin dregs. That's in the aroma. According only to me. I can't see a goddam strawberry or raspberry for the life of me. 

[But then I can't see anything on these friggin' labels: all the text is smaller than the finest stuff on the Aussie tenner, even the cute but infinitismal N (for North) stamp. This work desk of mine is very well lit. I can't abide restaurant lighting. Maybe that tinyness is deliberate, to confuse us so we drink more to solve our confusion. Bad thoughts, Philip the Shit. But, seriously, at this spend, I expect to leave the table without asking garçon for a magnifying glass. That's why we have labels, non?] 

I can smell really good forestry in the stave selection of the barriques, but to the newcomer, that won't even smell like oak.

Have a drink of it, and it's the bottomless black swamp Pan will eventually sit beside when he gets his flute out and the sylphs and fawns, sprites and nymphs will dance deadly and wicked all about and over you.

In its middle is an innocent puddle of strawberry conserve, maraschino cherries, redcurrant pectin and jelly.

If you swim in there far enough you'll never emerge. Specially once its chocolate cream begins to emerge.

Ten metres away, uphill to the south, where the loam is deeper and has less clay, roughly the same blend of clones gives us the Eldridge Estate Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir S 2014 ($68; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap). This was fermented and matured in the same selection of oaks with the same local airborne yeasts.

This wine smells of dried ground ginger. Of fresh mace peel. Of dried Curaçao orange peel and bergamot. Of hot summer dust. Of the best granulated cacao. Of Arabica coffee beans grown way up a mountain somewhere, eaten, not by monkeys or whatever they famously are in baristaworld, but by ballet dancers and then removed from their pretty stools by elves, who had to come in here somewhere, and whom then went on to wash said jewels in that Cherry Heering I recall from about twenty glasses back before poaching them in new vintage Château d'Yquem and dissolving them in quangdong juice just for the glaze.

Near the bottom of the bottle, It's time I admitted I smell really cleverly chosen wood.

It tastes, pure and simple, of carnal sin in a carpentry. Joseph is teaching Jesus how to make a solid table and what can then happen upon it. All the fleshiest, most sinuous, impossibly pink meat fruits are hidden here in the tannins. The smoky woods.  Smoked salmon; barely-cooked spatchcock. Take, eat, this is my body I break for you. My blood. Ka-chink!

By which point, I'm with the other Philips. If we let this danger outa the house, it'll cause more shit than that savage petit pucelle Joan from up Domrémy way.

But them Philips are sleepin' safe and sound in the vaults of the palais des ducs et des États de Bourgogne and I'm sittin' here very much alive on the veranda near  Kangarilla, awaiting carriage.

Beware the cloven hoof.

While you're persevering with Philips and the way we view sensuality, and the way its illusion and elusive wannabees and what ifs and if onlies are sometimes reflected best in Pinot noir, check one of my favourite Pinot accompanisements by one of my favourite living Philips. Hint: I think this is more about the impish felicity of Pinot than about its flesh.

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