“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)





31 December 2016


Lucifer starring in The Skeletons, an etching by Agostino 'Veneziano' Musi (1490-1536)  

You probly had the feeling all along. It certainly got worse as that evil shit of a year wound itself up, but if only to stop us giving up at midnight those twelve dreadful months ago, they didn't dare tell us til now that 2016 had the mark of The Beast all over it.

Or we were simply too stupid to work it out. 

I'm neither superstitious nor a follower of foolishness like numerology, but these patterns are fascinating. Big thanks to inventor and author Cliff Pickover and formidable mathematician Inder Jeet Taneja for doing these numbers.

For those who came in late, this all started in the Book Of Revelations, where in chapter 13 crazy John plucks from his astonishing hallucinations the following:

"And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six."
Beastly business: Dante, Divina Comedia, Hs. Norditalien, Genua(?); 3. Viertel 14. Jhd., Bodleian Library, Oxford: Inferno, Canto XXXIV, Dante und Vergil vor Luzifer.

Saturn Devouring His Son, Francesco de Goya (1819-1823) Museo del Padro, Madrid.

2016 also used a lot of third powers, into which I'm sure you'll read what you wish.

2017, meanwhile, is another number again. It's a prime prime.

In fact, one can safely say it's the only number ever, anywhere, that does this:

So in 2017, let's hope everybody can get a turn at being THE ONE. 

That'll be the very one that gets us out of 2016. Never leave that spot vacant. 

Step right up folks! 

Thankyou for following the DRINKSTER through a very tricky time. I'll tell you about it some day. 

People who can read proper sentences with commas and punctuation and stuff are becoming very scarce, so I value every one of you.

Happy new year! Have a wee whaanious dram or ten. Ka-chink!

photo by Satanika (Sister St Annika) Berlingieri

29 December 2016


It wasn't a white Exmess, but it threw everything else at us: the vile, treacherous weather that whipped again through the wine lands of South Australia in the last week sure made a mess of the festive season. This is a mid-afternoon view of the vineyards from my bedroom window. A lot of those big boughs are down now. It was simply too dangerous to step outside. Even the tables at The Exeter emptied. It was hot wild and wet. King-hell thunder, lightning and the odd volley of hail. Singapore weather with free ice hurtling from the heavens. Widespread flash-flooding then blackouts as thousands of trees came down, many across power lines; phone services and internet were out for days for entire districts.

By last evening (Wednesday) things looked a little better on my (western) side of the South Mount Lofty Ranges in McLaren Vale. The second hook of the huge tropical storm instead made its way down the eastern side and moved on through the South Australian Riverland, the  Limestone Coast and Coonawarra to Victoria, which is taking a vicious thrashing as I write. Such tropical weirdness is a very rare thing in these sunny southern climes. 

Then today (Thursday), contrary to a forecast which warned of rain every day through to to next Tuesday, the skies cleared and a steady breeze of much lower humidity blessed the vignoble, easing the very real threat of rampant mildews and moulds for some.

After a very very wet winter and early summer, many vineyards carry an unseemly head of foliage and a huge crop. Too big, methinks. Hedging, bunch and shoot-thinning required!

So the DRINKSTER took the afternoon off from clearing up the storm's mess, and settled in under a brolly at Shottesbrooke to watch the formidable Kelly Menhennett play a few relaxed sets as part of McLaren Vale's Twilight Tastings festival, which fills the afternoons and evenings at participating wineries between Boxing Day and New Year.

After Kelly closed with an impromptu duet with Taasha Coates of The Audreys, we all siphoned ourselves home safely to face what appears to be a much better forecast than the previous, with cooler days of lower humidity and solid sunshine next week. 

Fingers crossed. No, touch wood. Go hug your best Vosges puncheon.  

Bacchus only knows the amounts of food that's had to be discarded as deep-freezers and refrigerators failed in the tropical heat through the blackout. I threw a risky stir-fry out on the headland for the magpies, but one of my landlord's work dogs got to it first and ended up at the vet's having its stomach pumped. Dogs, I learned, are allergic to onions. The Trinidad scorpions wouldna helped the poor critter.

This shot of Taash and Kelly by Milton Wordley; all others by Philip White

23 December 2016


at which point I must thank my beloved cobber George Grainger Aldridge for his incredible artwork through another weird year ... we're bottom feeders ... nil budget poets, publishers, painters and pisspots on range country ... hardly afford the ink ... but on country us whiteys simply stole from the original Australians in the last coupla very brief and brutal centuries ... you get this blog stuff for free in exchange for us being wild independent respectful inherently invading zonkoes ... we both thank those friends who keep an eye on us, those who forgive us, and those who bring us eggs and fish ... as far as we can get it we go soft and gentle and always learning ... George paints outside in the Flinders or lives itinerant in his tiny Sugziorgzki van ... best warm from all of us, dear brother, with full-bore reconstructive blessings from this edge to yourn. Do call by!!!

photo Philip White


for the life of me that there looks like old Hellyer's taking a piss on his own sweet road ... that's a first methinks for whisky marketing ... that neat little 3-pack of selected tinctures was a taster from the excellent East End Cellars ... photo Philip White

This'll be quick: more a reminder than a review. It concerns malt whisky, and the fact that some of the very finest, cleanest whisky made on Earth right now comes from Japan and Tasmania. Of the latter lot, my clear favourite is the Hellyers Road Distillery Original Single Malt Whisky Aged 10 Years ($90; 46.2% alcohol; screw cap).

This lean lovely has spent that decade in fresh Missouri oak charred near as dammit to what the Bourbon makers of the USA call "gatorback".

All that brilliant  Tassie air, grain and rain have married seamlessly over those years, giving a racy malt whose style fits somewhere between Campbelltown (think Springbank on the Mull of Kintyre) and Yamazuki (well guess where?).

The oak has added just a wee teaspoon of its roasted caramel, along with the sweetish citrus and fresh ginger of its phloem, to that essence of compressed grain. It's alert enough of spurrut, and slightly prickly to sniff, making the nostrils flare as if there were prey on the zephyr while the little red lane gets all gushy and damp with anticipation.

It's too late in the year to begin arguments about how much extra rain one should add.

Personally, I'm quite content with about 10cc of it in frozen form, one block, just to get the temperature back somewhere near a Campbelltown seaside chais, or the breezes of Burnie for that matter. 

That leaves me with one task: drink the tincture before much dilution gets hold.

Oat cakes with butter or Petticoat Tail Shortbreads go perfectly.

Or you could squash some pilticks into your porridge with the back of your spoon and have it for breakfast. 

See you in a couple of weeks. Stay off the road. Otherwise, don't be too careful. Ka-chink!

if you're in more of a gin-and-tonic mood on account of the heat, I'd recommend this recipe


Professor Marcia Langton ... photo National Portrait Gallery

Dreams to end a total bastard of a year with a glimmer of some vital ethical intellectual revival

Having woken to the news that Marcia Langton and Dave Graney were the new chairholder and managing director installed to save and restore what had degraded to become The Australian's Bogan Commission and that all the refugees tortured in our Gulags were coming to live here, with love, pronto, I would bung on some Thomas Bloch playing Benjamin Franklin's glass armonica: music as magical and ice-pure as the snow in the Exmess myth. 

Dave Graney, from his blog

I'd start with Bloch, or even better, William Zeitler playing his arrangement of Tchaikowsky's Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy on the glasses with a bass clarinet and a harp massaging the silences: it eases its dainty calm into the mind like a real slow sunrise. 

In the fridge would be the big bowl of ripe clingstone peaches I'd peeled and sliced the night before and left to soak in a whole bottle of Oakridge Blanc de Blanc 2012 fizz with half a cup of kirsch. I would take from the freezer the sorbet I'd made from Jansz methode Tasmanoise Rosé and put a goodly scoop of that atop a serve of said peaches and deliver them back to Sheba still a-slumber in the royal cot with a bloody great tumbler of Krug Clos Du Mesnil Blanc de Blancs 2003.

this bed or that; doesn't really matter ... you waste a lot less space in this one on the veranda at George's seven star in the Flinders ... late correction: make that seventy skrillion stars

All the caffeine required would be an espresso castrato - smaller and even more concentrated than a ristretto: all you get is the squeak. 

Then I'd nuzzle in there and have another wee snooze until that soupçon of coffee kicked in.

You know that precious piece of downy neck just below the ear? I'd put my greedy hooter in that blessed scented hollow and breath myself to heaven.

About elevenish it'd be one thin slice of rye toast with a fold of smoked salmon and some tiny capers in sour cream and a sprig of fennel. 

Before we moved to some Vivaldi Glorias in the sonic division I'd  bang on a dash of news on the new ABC to hear that the Abturn Bullbott mob has resigned and Pat Dodson is the Governor-general of the new republic. 

To hear Senator Pat Dodson's maiden speech in the Australian parliament click here

They will have dumped the dumb old bully-boy two party adversarial system in favour of a place where there's no goddam fence to keep us out and people actually discuss and debate the tricky issues at hand.

Just like grown-ups.

The Langton-Graney regime by then will have adapted the new ABC factchecker division to monitor every word our representatives utter in search of your actual, well, truth, the results of which anybody will get on their cobweb devices, like as immediate as can be.

Tractor drivers growing and harvesting the nation's food would hear this live on the renewed Radio National AM and shortwave wireless show without downloading fucking podcast nonsense or carrying a great TV screen around on their shoulders on the harvester to hear the digital ones and zeroes.

The parliament will have been moved to Alice Springs, the fresh national capital.

We'd have a new flag: deep blue sky with the Seven Sisters replacing the Crux Australis in the top half; red Uluru smack-bang in the middle and a bottom half of a colour somebody who can see colour chooses, maybe with some speckles to reflect the lively desert. I'd leave that to the Papunya ladies. The graphics on the new nanofibre flag will change according to one's location, mood or direction.

A cherry or two would fit nicely in there before the godchildren and nephews and nieces and all their kids arrive to fill the joint with chaotic glee and laughter.

Speaking of joints, I'd roll a racehorse special and share it with Her Maj somewhere out the back. Then lunch would be cool crudites and some cold smoked leveret and a glass of my landlord's Yangarra Roussanne, after which the kids would peel open their gifts: a ukelele with a Snark tuner, a Lee Oskar blues harp and a good book for each of em.

You'd turn the other music off about now while they learn how the Snark works. Don't let em unwrap the harmonicas til they all get home.

As the arvo creeps across it'd be thin slices of pink steak and horseradish with a '71 St Henri from a magnum so there's enough for all the peerie bairns to have a wee educative sip and a nice lie down.

Auntie Tilly would then produce her proper Exmess cake and I'd use that as the best possible excuse to open that '27 Warre's vintage port that's been winking at me for 45 years and put it up with a ripe Stilton or Blue Wensleydale and a spoon.

By then it'd be time to pull out the old Gibson and set back on the randa with Kelly Menhenett, Mick Wordley, Joe Manning and The Yearlings and work our way through stuff we'd all written: take it in turns; one song at a time while we finish that magnum. If it's done, it'd be the perfect opportunity to pop the cap on that last bottle of the Wendouree Cabernet 2013, the most mind-blowing Australian red of recent years. Which I daren't review, on account of presenting Lita and Tony Brady a gift on the occasion of their Wendouree temple's 100th vintage nearly seventeen years ago.

photo Doug Govan

The gift? I promised never ever to mention Wendouree again in the newspaper. Their response was perhaps the most gratifying I've ever had in exchange for giving something away. No other winemakers short of abject criminals have shown such savour at a guarantee of privacy and a future of no grovelling nonsense in the press.

Years later, when the dying newspapers were bearing their dry ribs to the final desert sun, I asked Brady if it were appropriate to mention his business on the new gadget called The Internet.

He drew a breath, cast his keen gaze at an horizon only he could see, and said "Well Philip, you would be the best man to make that decision."

Tony Brady at the door of the meditation/retreat/slumber chamber in the new toilet block he built at Wendouree ... photo Philip White 

A snooze would then be appropriate while the guests and rug rabbits wended  their way through the roos and koalas back down the old dirt track to what they call civilisation.

That next calm slumber would fall heavy but soft and velvet, like a musk and lavendar-scented proscenium curtain.

Ooooh. Eeeew.

A lazy olive might be the thing to savour if wakefulness intrudes: a bowl of those tiny Koroneiki jobs that Coriole grows. You'd hardly be hungry for more substantial solids.

Proby nothing else would be needed then but a little more cot. Lie back and hear that the powers that were had banned forever the manufacture and sale of all war machinery and equipment, weapons and whatnot. All that lucrative evil.

Anybody in a uniform or a business suit with a haircut goes to settle Mars. Leaving the rest of us to fix this vile mess they left us.

I'm sure we can do it. We must do it. 

Mars will deal with them in his own sweet way.

from our book Evidence of Vineyards on Mars 

So have a very merry thing youse lovelies. You are my brethren. Folks who can read your actual language are a precious and increasingly scarce treasure. 

Thankyou for the gift of your attention for another troubled twelvemonth.

What an utter bastard it's been.

A year of exceptionally lucky encounters and friendships, standing in sharp and awful contrast to what's happening everywhere else.

On the condition that you never ever drive with a gutful I promise to continue writing sentences long enough to require a comma or two, especially if you also guarantee you'll read something bright to a littley every day of your life.

And I'll dream forever of a paycheck with least one comma in it.

Which leaves me to get outa here and go looking for the Sheba. There must be one out there somewhere. I can hear her breathing.

this page is from a real old notepad but it seems a fair summary of that year this old Earth just endured ... photo Philip White 

21 December 2016


Dr Robert de Bellevue is one of the most fastidious and knowing collectors of Penfolds Grange in the USA. He loves coming to Adelaide to find new wineries and buy wine. He chose Sunday to celebrate his 70th birthday here in the Old Lion hotel with some of his mates.

All these photos©Milton Wordley

Bob lives like a proud mother fish guarding a sea of musicians ... he knows em all ... He'd met the Riverland winemaker Kelly Menhennett in his beloved hometown New Orleans, where he works as a dermatologist and lives on music, crawfish and guinea fowl.

Kelly had just recorded a delicious album in Nashville when they met. 

She sang two neat little sets at our happy table and breezed through something real tricky: singing Allen Toussaint songs to solo guitar. They're piano songs. She made me cry. It was very cool.

Dr Bob was a real close mate of Allen, who's favourite wine was Grange. He died just over a year ago after performing in Spain.

With unquestioning Louisiana generosity, Dr Bob bought everybody dinner and gave us all a copy of Kelly's real lovely grunty-sweet Nashville CD, Small Dreams. Like the dude comes here from there and then introduces us to a stunning local performer few of us knew. 

Bob had some very heavy winemaker mates there too. Just as Kelly ripped and teased our musical emotions, these alchemists helped ease us through the liquid division, bless them. 

Between them, Peter Gago, John Duval and Peter Fraser can put some very impressive bottles on a table. I bow.

George Grainger Aldridge had delivered a guitar-playing emu portrait for Bob, who's a keen ornithologist. He's been to Australia many times to observe rare birds in remote places. He loves it. He's off in the edges of Kangaroo Island today. 

He also makes a habit of visiting the magpie that sits warbling on the chairs on the patio at the house of of Ann Marie Shin and Milton Worldley on the edge of the Aldinga Scrub.

At which point I should perhaps insert one of my Kangaroo Island snaps as a cheerio card from Down Under, in thanks:

It's one of deepest pleasures in life to find friends like Dr Bob, who's a constant enthusiast for the astonishing music of his hometown. Bob knows everybody.

The de Bellevues moved to New Orleans from the heat of revolutionary France in 1789, well before the scientific French expedition of Baudin set off to eventually share a cognac with the staunch British navyman Captain Matthew Flinders here on Encounter Bay in 1802.

They were supposed to be at war. Other than that cognac, no shots were fired.

all photos©Milton Wordley ... read his interview with Dr Bob here. Go to Jazzfest here.

16 December 2016


O'Leary-Walker Hurtle Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2011 
($28; 12% alcohol; cork) 

A hallmark of the types of fizz that generally delight me most is a smell much like the waft of a field of ripening wheat about five minutes after a light sunshower. 

I know it's verboten to mention rain while a record grain crop is still in the ground, but that gentle country bouquet sure is a pretty and memorable thing, especially if you're not a wheat farmer. 

To add to that sweet fragrance, the 75% Pinot noir in this cuvée reeks of fresh-sliced strawberries, and I don't mean tasteless supermarket shit. I mean the ones my grandfather got down on his ancient knees and grew in compost that contained his own shit. 

It's almost as if there are some of those ripe fifties modestly-sized, flavour-packed strawberries in the glass. There's also a hint of fresh lemon, and the whiff of crunchy almond biscotti from Mrs Bagnara over the Leongatha Road.

Which all stacks up to a bouquet as close as dammit to the $100 sparkling wines from that part of France they call Champagne.

That C-word, banned from our use by international law, pretty much means broad open country; paddock: in Italy they call it Campania: a good place for a successful military campaign when it was all horse, hand and footwork. I note the Champenoise have not threatened the six million people that live in Campania, Italy, with a suit in the international courts. Or invasion, for that matter.

The calcereous champagne/campania/champs/fields of Watervale from the O'Leary Walker winery veranda in the Clare part of the North Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia: this precious slope makes no fizz, but grows some of the best dry Riesling on Earth ... photo by Philip White

As far as Champagne/Campania goes, I like to remind the French that the Nullarbor plain is 200,000 square kilometres of flat open country and could arguably deserve the same name. To which they retort, "Ah but Champagne is priceless and unique because of its calcereous Kimmeridgian limestone; all fossilised marine skeletons." 

It's always worth noting that the Nullarbor is the biggest piece of limestone on the planet, is composed of marine fossils, and that when Baudin's offsider Freycinet took his first look at the Spencer Gulf end of it in 1802 he named the slopes where Boston Bay Wines now stands the Côtes de Champagne. They named that water we now know as Spencer Gulf the Golfe Bonaparte.

Boston Bay vineyard on the slope the revolutionary French scientific explorers named the Côtes de Champagne ... looking north into the Golfe Bonaparte ...this fruit is picked into refrigerated trucks to be moved overnight to O'Leary Walker in Clare for vinification ... photo by Jesus

I know. It's on their map. Fordy's got a copy on the wall at Boston Bay; last I heard the original was in the Bibliothèque just across the Rue des Petits Champs from Willy's Wine Bar in Paris. It bears the signature and approval of Napoleon himself.

So it was a close thing, that naming. 

This lovely wine, of course, was not grown on the Nullarbor. It's from vineyards David O'Leary and his sister Sue Cherry planted on a champs at Oakbank in 1990. Calcereous ground, naturally, and a lot damn cooler than the Nullarbor.

Edmund Mazure (right) with Edward Emile Bernier in the maturation cellars at Romalo

Add Nick Walker's pedigree as a third generation fizz maker and we're rockin. Nick's grandfather Hurtle was trained in the crafty art by the great French pioneer winemaker, Edmund Mazure, at Sam Wynn's Romalo, opposite Penfolds Grange. Hurtle picked his first vintage there at Auldana as a ten-year-old in 1900. He died in 1975.

Nick's dad, the giant, gentle Norm, with whom I was pleasured to lunch recently, took over and made Wynn's sparklers for Sam's son David from 1951 to 1985. Apart from the Wynns' own brands, Norm made fizz for 57 other Australian companies there at Romalo, Magill.

David Wynn (left) in the Romalo cellars with Hurtle Walker and his son Norm

Amongst other achievements, Nick Walker really began to make his mark at Yellowglen, back when that was a highly-reputed brand, before he and O'Leary joined forces in Clare, both smarting from being burned by the types of giant corporate raiders that sentenced the once top line Yellowglen to the discount bins forever and began turning David's beloved Chateau Reynella into a yuppie ghetto.

This Hurtle incorporates a portion of oaked base wine, a luxury most Champenoise do not afford. After all those years riddling on yeast lees in bottle, it was disgorged freshly for summer.

So it's a gentle, slightly toasty champers to drink, in its extremes both fuller and finer than most. Its acid is gentle but persistent, its bead more of a delightful tongue massager than a sharp tartaric shard that files throats so effectively your guests are all grabbing for their antacid.

If you must eat, crudités and hors d'ouvres like paté will be very cool with it, although I can't wait to take a tumbler of it to the veranda with a bowl of fresh strawberries sliced and soused in lemon juice and kirsch; a plate of almond biscotti on the side.

Add all those years, all that fine and tricky work, all the ingenuity, vision and investment, and consider this wine is released one year older than even the new Grange, and at this remarkable price, and this part of the world feels a lot damn better than any of Old Yurp's champagnes and campanias.


Always playing the odd couple:Nick Walker (left) and David O'Leary in the Pinot and Chardonnay vineyard in the calcereous champs at Oakbank in the Adelaide Hills portion of the South Mount Lofty Ranges ... photo by Philip White 

Off the track, but as well as employing great wine visionaries like the Walkers, David Wynn was a vital mentor to me: a very wise teacher. This early 'nineties picture below is my last photograph with him. He died in his veggie patch at Mountadam, after lunch with some friends, a year or so later ... we are with Howard Twelftree, the great gastronomy critic and cryptic wit, but typically, David's checking to see where that camera's pointing ... he was always scouring the field, forensically. 

The O'Leary Walker endeavour reminds me of his far vision, persistence and patience. But then, patience was a virtue he used sparingly.