“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)





24 November 2016


Hahndorf Hill Zsa Zsa Zweigelt Nouveau 2016 
($33; 11.5% alcohol; screw cap)

Now we're talking. The bridge between rosé and more conventional red wine is not attempted by many Australian winemakers: bad experience with dodgy Beaujolais Nouveau in the early 1980s seemed to deter most for life.

And their children.

Only Stephen Hickinbotham had it nailed with his delicious, easy-drinking Cab Mac, which he invented out of irritation at the rubbish Nouveaus the French stacked into Australia in those years when the currency exchange rates made that sort of business possible. But Stephen was killed in a plane crash before that decade ended, and while his Cab Mac brand still hangs about, nobody's really captured the idea as deftly as he did.. 

Zweitgelt is an Austrian variety grown now by Larry Jacobs and Marc Dobson at Hahndorf Hill. To make this lovely flirt of a schlück Larry waits till the stalks have lost their greenness, picks by hand, puts the whole bunches in a tank, covers them with CO2 and lets the whole bunches ferment within their intact skins. Once the ferment was slowing the must was pressed and the wine finished its job during fourteen weeks in old French barrels. 

The wine is cheeky, but it never smells pink and whilst translucent, is not typically rosey in hue. Even its bouquet has plentry of dark tones: it smells a little like black tea leaves and tomato leaf: maybe an entire blackberry bush. It has that lovely nutty, cherry pit flavour typical of wines made by this carbonic maceration technique, and is almost free of tannin: it's that nuttiness that tangles with the acid in the tail that tantalises - if there's fruit apart from cherry, think along the lines of tamarillo, feijoa and pomegranate, but it's never too plump or gushy, dollink. 

You could have this wine in an ice bucket if you wanted. I can imagine it doing heavenly business with spaghetti vongole. Very cool.

Hahndorf Hill Winery Adelaide Hills Blueblood Blaufrankisch 2015 
 ($46; 14% alcohol; screw cap) 

Blaufrankisch, another Austrian red, has grown at Hahndorf Hill for 25 years! (Where'd they go???) While a few other makers are beginning to play with it, the HHW blokes are the grand masters. Their take on it often reminds me of a particularly fruity borscht. 
This bouquet is more complex than earlier ones I recall: it has more dark leaf - laurel/black tea/tomato leaves atop the plums and borscht - giving its aroma a velvety feel. It's not shiny. It's deep and sultry. The more I sniff it, the more I detect faint hints of curry, like turmeric, cumin and maybe even the curry tree. It's a tantalising, highly individual wine to inhale.

But it's a drink. And yes, like the bouquet, the drinking is distinctive and individual, and I think, without showing any more weight, it's a little more complex than most other vintages. Call it complex and lithe. Those dark leaves frolic here in the background of the flavour and the fruit: a bacchanale that reminds me of Syd Long's Pan, that early rare Australian art nouveau work in the ArtGallery of New South Wales, which shows the old boy's cloven hairy gang dancing to his pipes with the sylphs: before them is a deep pond of violets and purples and the earthy, swampy, simmering hues of decay.
This Blau's a bewdy right now, but it'll really swing in two or three more years. If you're not careful, it'll swing you right into that dark pool, as deep and alluring as beautiful badness itself.

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