“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 July 2016


Apart from his drum kit and Triumph motorcycles, Tim Smith is principally obsessed with Mataro. 

More precisely, he's obsessed with the Mataro reds of Bandol on the Côte d'Azur, where they make very smart rosé from it and weepingly glorious full-bodied reds. Which they call Mourvèdre.

By full-bodied, I mean full of colour, flavour and texture, not necessarily big of alcohol, although as that beautiful province on the French Riviera warms up those numbers are rising with the mercury.

It'd be numbskulled to suggest Tim thinks he can make the same thing in the Barossa, but by Bacchus, he's getting close. Maybe he's already passed them in sheer quality and nobody's worked it out yet. We've always misunderstood the variety and seem a bit numbskulled anyway, madly planting every other fad grape that ends in O, while we've had Mataro since the 'fair' first advanced into these Austral parts. Let's face it, we brag about our Mediterranean climate being the best on Earth. We know the stuff blooms here. 

Tim has spent a lifetime searching out the best old Mataro plots in the Barossa. He makes and matures his wine in the big Penfold's winery at Nuriootpa, called Beckwith Park since one of Penfold's mystifying string of owners moved nearly everything from there to the vast Blass refinery at Bilyara. In Barossawein patois hose-draggers call this glittering Blass constellation the Death Star. Huh.

But back to work. Take a wallow in Tim's new duo from 2015. His Tim Smith Wines Barossa Valley Mataro 2015 ($38; 14% alcohol; screw cap) oozes juicy ripe blackberry and mulberry with a dusting of musky confectioner's sugar. It has a perfectly appropriate zephyr of oak to balance those sweet, rich dessert aromas. The flavours slip straight in without wavering: that transition from bouquet to texture, weight and flavour is as smooth, as they say, as. It's never cloying or gloopy,but rather seems to exit the palate pretty much like that aforementioned zephyr: it's delightfully, deliciously  polite. Once it's gone, it leaves another dusting: this time the typically velvety tannins of the variety. 

And then the whispers of those lovely fruits come back to spook about the sensories and you realise properly just what a beauty it is. It makes me want to grab my copy of Richard Olney's Provence The Beautiful Cookbook and make his warm pork and bean stew, which is a sort of baby cassoulet for sunnier seaside days. Slurp. Please bring that book back Reggie. It's been four years.

Then, to prove his point - which there's no need to do, but I'm delighted he did - there's the TSW Mataro 2015 ($85; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap), Tim's first reserve edition of the grape. This wondrous majesty is all the above wound up to eleven with a slow backbeat with brushes and the sort of lush strings Nelson Riddle used to cushion the voices of Nancy Wilson, Linda Ronstadt and, well, Frank Sinatra. The ripe black-and-blue fruits, the confectionary dusting - they're all here a little louder with oak that's a bit more cedary, which is appropriate. It makes me want to talk about the smell of the nape of beautiful film stars' necks: that bit where the hair gives way to the finest downy fluff. Meaning it's gorgeously fleshy and human as well. Well, some humans, anyway. Maybe they're all phantoms. We live in hope.

Now and again I see a whiff of Mataro leather dressing in it, too: she's waxed her black patent ballroom pumps and she's wearing a tux and tucking her cigarillos in her brassiere for ron. Glory be.

That fleeting ethereality of the smaller wine is repeated here, if one can fleet more noticeably. It's not delicate, but lordy it's perfectly formed and it's a rare thing to be invaded so politely and confidently. This time, the palate's longer and the silk's thicker before the velvet takes over.

All I want with this is a slice of truffle and a few slivers of Banon, the Provence goats' milk cheese they wrap in chestnut leaves and preserve in alcohol for the winter. And maybe three tiny black olives. And then another real slow waltz before we go out for one of them cigarillos.

This is the best Australian Mataro I've yet had the pleasure to slide around with: perfect now; better later ...

Which is not to overlook Tim's Bugalugs Barossa Valley Shiraz 2015 ($25; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap), another smoky beauty of finesse and intensity, or his TSW Shiraz 2014 ($85; 14% alcohol; screw cap). This wine is in the forefront of the vast army of Barossa Shiraz wines: it's one for the dungeon. 

Meanwhile, I'm back to ballroom to chase that lass with the cigars.
 photos by Philip White

1 comment:

via collins said...

Good news Whitey. No, great news really. I'd better be getting next to the reserva.

I've been making my way slowly through a half case of the Tim Smith 2012 MSG. And it DOES have the elements of Bandol in it, it does. They're very, very good wines, and improving each time. I best stop for a while methinks.

But well done Tim