“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)





11 May 2016


Haybales, vineyards, olives. almonds  and across the Willunga Faultline, the Front Hills ... photo by Christo Reid for McLaren Vale - Trott's View (Wakefield Press, 2007)

Slow stroll round Aldinga in a gritty sea breeze to a mob of cool lovelies, all on a fruitful pursuit

Aldinga has its shiny new petrol-and-sugar shop in the fields on the road to the end of the Fleurieu. Behind it, like a block in, before you hit the serious villa rash, you'll find the remnants of the old village: a church, the wonderful bakery and one of Australia's best fish'n'chipperies.

I took a real slow stroll around there on Saturday, whilst attending the Tasting Australia fixture called The Fruitful Pursuit at Fall From Grace.

It was dusty Oz rural there round that crossroads with its bleak roundabout where Old Coach Road meets Port Road and it seemed every human had brought two cars. There were a few drinking coffee on the veranda of Rosey's Cafe, and crowds at the other eateries. Most of them clutched snacks or drinks while their phones rested. Everybody seemed oblivious to the storm warning. The fruitaveg stall was fresh and colourful there in all that drizzly roadside grey.

Each dinery seemed to have enough customers but the pub looked quiet, so I went across to buy myself a beer. Stood there at the bar by the gambling den cashier's. Nobody there. Plenty of ding ding in the gloom room next door but nobody at the taps. Eventually a little lass as ernest as Shelley Duvall's Olive Oyl in Bob Altman's Popeye came through behind the bar and stood there about four metres off staring at me like I was a giant cockroach. I stayed quiet with my fifty in my mit.

"Is anybody looking after you?" she blurted.


There was a real long pause and then she said can she help me and I said yes please I'd really like a schooner of West End Draught which she poured and I asked her if there was a beer garden where I could have a smoke and she said go round there through that door so I did.

Man, that's a bleak old beer garden at the back of the Dinga Sip'n'Save. Neat, clean concrete with the furniture all cemented in and tins with sand at every corner for the butts.

Somebody was vomiting loudly in the Men's by the exit and a lady in a check flannel stood by the drinks window hollering about how hard it was to get a drink until she went away.

My beer was good.

I went out the side lane and stood there looking.

photo from McLaren Vale - Trott's View (Trott, White, Reid, Wordley, Campbell, Algra, Brice, Brooks, Viergever; Wakefield Press 2007)
Aldinga is next to Port Willunga, that weekend hive of developers and their hangers-on; for well-to-do winemakers and those who aspire; for the types I watched gentrify the East End of Adelaide 'til the last locals, like those desperados gambling in the pub, could no longer afford to remain.

While the crossroads there are a bit Tailem Bendy it's still a perfect slice of old Australia hiding behind a bloody great shiny petrol-and-sugar shop. I know of few such opportunities for a great piece of ultra-sensitive civic design to recycle and protect what's left. Given the look of other streets in the district and the Onkaparinga Council's heritage record, good luck with that.

Other than the fuel prices, nothing's changed much ... up the track at Seaford ... photo taken in 1999 for McLaren Vale - Trott's View (Wakefield Press 2007)
But the status quo has its advantages. It's real.

Gill Gordon-Smith's Fall From Grace is now in its third quirky location in six years, and probably the one which feels most homely. There's some cool outdoor space there in the back yard, sheltered by a good old-fashioned veranda, a patio, trees, succulents and a bloody good woodfire pizza oven.

Entrance to the courtyard, between the kitchen and the stables at Fall From Grace on Old Coach Road ... note the sign from Barossa's the only one there ... photo Philip White

Over two days, 24 tiny wineries plied their wares. There were wines from Clare right down the range through the Barossa and Adelaide Hills to the Vales.

Thinking of regions and image, I pondered on the differences between the Barossa and McLaren Vale.

Much to the chagrin and envy of the Valers, the young Barossa nailed itself an identity with its Nick Cave ad. With a good stylist, it can mount this, or a sort of film set of it, with all those images of food, wine, human flesh and good clean dirt, nearly anywhere it likes.

Gill Gordon Smith in Fall From Grace Mk I ... photo Kate Elmes
Aldinga's still a bit more pre- than post-gentrification Tortilla Flats, but I couldn't help thinking that there in the Fall from Grace courtyard, sheltered from the gritty sea breeze, was a shit hot example of what the Barossa ad's art directors aimed at: about a hundred mainly young folks, eating, drinking, chatting away and excitedly comparing the photographs they just took of each other. Phone snappers aside, I reckon I counted five working photographers feeding the social media.

Some of the tasters and vinyl freaks in the stables at Fall From Grace ... the lack of signage made the whole deal more human, and folks had to actually concentrate on the wines, not the sales graphics ... photo Philip White

"Meet South Australia’s next generation of renegade winemakers, who are gaining attention and acclaim for their expressive styles and ‘hands-off’ methods," the Tasting Australia blurb declared.

"The Fruitful Pursuit brings this new crop of artisans together for a tasting event like no other—a two-day ‘wine playground’ staged at Fall From Grace. Experience small-batch, organic, biodynamic, natural and minimal intervention wines, and speak to the makers responsible for crafting these exciting directions in Australian winemaking."

photo Philip White

Nobody actually rolled in the dirt or hung in trees like they do in the Cave thing, and nobody set fire to anything much, but you'd be hard-pressed to pick which of these renegade hands-off expressive stylists and crafters of exciting minimal intervention directions there in the wine playground were Barossa folks looking the way they do or simply everyday millennials down for the small batch experience. When they made the Barossa ad three years back, the Mennonite beard thing was still bumfluff. Now the beard is manly and full and there's a bun on top.

The wines tended to be tad murky for me with a blocked hooter and a ratty brain, but the stylists and crafters I spoke to said that while the tasting customers were brisk and seriously interested and actual sales, well, not too bad: there were key folks from the restaurant and entertainment world who are usually a lot more difficult to reach. Orders would be forthcoming.

photo Philip White

The flooding rains forecast all morning did not rain or flood. The gale warning produced not much more than that sea breeze. All the tickets had been sold in advance; the throng was steady and exceptionally well-behaved: nobody fell from grace. There was laughter and the craic was good,  without one mournful Nick Cave groan.

Peace in the valley.

 photo by Philip White

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love it Whitey!