“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)





03 June 2016


In the north-west Mediterranean where the border of France and Spain hits the Sea there's an old beach town called Mataro. Once they realised the similarity of climate, early Australian settlers occasionally pulled in here to collect vine cuttings to bring to their new home at the other end of the earth. One red type they really liked was locally called Mourvèdre on the French side; Monastrell on the Spanish.

This all died during the phylloxera plague of the late 1800s, when the deadly, incurable disease took ten years to kill two thirds of the French vineyards.

Because there's been no Mouvèdre/Monastrell there since, the burghers of Mataro find it hard to understand why Australia has called the fruit of its pre-phylloxera cuttings after their town: Mataro - most there have no idea this variety ever grew on their coast.

We know it did, don't we? Andrew Wood sure does: in an earlier life, he scrambled off that water and up into the Spanish mountains until he found it, way up inland, grafted to phylloxera-resistant American rootstock.

Because of our once-tight anti-phylloxera laws, most Australian Mataro is still on its own old roots. Better flavour, see?

Puerto Mataro, Spain ... photo by Georgina C - Wikipedia

After that ancestral source and the style he chose to make from the hardy thrice-named red, Andrew has called his take on the grape Way Wood McLaren Vale Monastrell 2014 ($45; 14.2 per cent alcohol; screw cap). This is one of our best. Right from the first sniff, the wine seems lighter of alcohol than its number suggests: it's tight and racy and modern without the slightest hint of the porty character the variety will develop if let ripen too far. It's almost crunchy: its tight line of fruit seems brittle; its fine bright tannins as dry and dusty as Terence Hill and Bud Spencer in the old Trinity spaghetti westerns [shot in Spain], where mum serves her wayward lads roast eagle when they ride in off the high sierra. 

So while I can hear that doo-woppa-chinka-chank-diddle-diddle-doo music with the big string section washing in the gaps between the twangy Fender breaks, I find a delightfully frank mouthful of crunch that would probably accompany a hearty paella even better than it would roast raptor. Monastrell obviously loves the Mediterranean climate of McLaren Vale. Pity Andrew bottled only one fat puncheon of it - just fifty dozen.

To extend this Mediterranean fetish east to Italy, the Way Wood McLaren Vale Montepulciano 2013 ($35; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap) has more gentle fleshy perfume and texture, without losing any of the stimulating high dust you see in the Monastrell: this one's just a bit more mum than the lads.

But you can see Woody's house style emerging here: wine as breezy and grainy of sky as both Mediterranean and our own bonnie Gulf St Vincent. Wine that invariably makes you hungry. This one has some prune, some satsuma, some bitter cherry, and then again, that lovely savoir that fine dusty tannins can induce from the best, most intelligently-planned wines. Spaghetti vongole with fresh Goolwa cockles and that broad-leaf Italian parsley (Petroselinum crispum neapolitanum) please, plenty of garlic and a dusting of parmesan ... grazie!

With the same vital statistics and from the same little vineyard on the piedmont at Willunga, the newly-released 2014 vintage of this wine is a little more meaty and pungent; a little more dusty to sniff, and similarly appetising, although this time the tannins are a little less obvious; the acid a little more dominant. Along with John Gilbert's By Jingo Mt Barker Monte, this says the Fleurieu Peninsula from there south loves this grape in the most happily requited manner.

This one's the ideal saltimbocca accompaniment: if he doesn't stock it, ask Duncan at Amalfi if you can take one and pay some corkage. Give him a sniff.

Bugger it, take both years. And have a chink to this bright new McLaren Vale mood.

Waywood has also begun to raid its long-term maturation cellar to release properly aged beauties like the Waywood Years Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($250 per 6-pack; 14.7% alcohol; cork) which is more along the lines of your traditional 'Australian' blend, although the admixture of these varieties was first invented in pre-phylloxera Bordeaux, where wise Bordelaise like Lafite added Syrah from Hermitage to their local blends to give them strength, body and longevity. The first white New Australians simply copied this blend from the earliest days of their colonies here.

This baby's a true beauty, and it is indeed still a baby. It's pure silk with a polished sheen: slick and devilishly easy to schlück, but with the rare type of perfectly-assimilated and homogenised harmony that can only be achieved with dead fussy fruit selection and winemaking, the best oak  and then appropriate cellaring in botlle.

Its bouquet has that pretty musky/marshmallow sugar dusting across a smooth pool of liqueurs of blackberry, blackcurrant and ripe raspberry, with just a drip of piquant bergamot mint. 

The flavours and form follow suit, with maybe a little mulberry whipped in to that lush, luxuriously smooth and creamy mouthful; there's just the tiniest touch of the finest-grained tannins to tease the tail out and dry the finish - an effect that makes me wonder if a lot of  Bordeaux would be better off adding Syrah than Merlot, which is often best served neat if it's much good.

Marbled steak served blue, dribbling lamb cutlets or duck would all do this deliciousness well; I'm loving it right now with a slice of the exquisite waxed Puhoi Valley Aged Cheddar from north of Auckland.  


These are just a sniff of the fine extented suite of Way Wood wines you can buy at their new cellar and tasting room at the old Lavendar Farm near Amery on Kay's Road, McLaren Vale.

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