“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)





27 April 2017


photo©Philip White

Duane Coates is probly gonna kill me for reviewing these beautiful new benchmark wines right now. I just wanted to shout about them from the start. They're reassuring and exciting. I reckon he planned to release them with all due honour and his typical methodical process once he'd tucked vintage 17 to bed, but that's hardly over so if you can't find them just yet and you press him, don't press him too hard. He might put the prices up. Given the quality, these pre-release estimates are graciously modest.

Coates Adelaide Hills Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2015 
($25; 13% alcohol; screw cap) 

If only more Sauvignon blanc was used in intelligently-built lovelies like this blend! 

When given some of the gentle lemon-butter of Semillon, the grassy/gooseberry Sauvignon makes a lot more sense gastronomically: the result is not only much better than the sum of its parts, but in a sense, most unlike either of them. 

Add a wild yeast ferment then nine months of brand new tight-grained French barrels and you're at another table again: the sharpest sappy part of the oak seems to disappear, leaving mainly a hint of wood caramel seasoning. Handle it like a red at table (cool not chill; even a dash of decanter) and you're in another restaurant. 

It's tempting to say wines like this exemplar provide a sort of grown-ups' bridge from Savvy-B to Chardonnay, but in all honesty most folks won't ever need Chardonnay if they find this first. This knocks nearly all the Chardonnay clean outa Australia. 

Food? If one must, think of pale flesh: chicken, champignons, flathead, creamy sauce, pasta, cockles, fresh-ground parmigiana ... it's about comfort, not crunch. Brilliant!  

Coates Adelaide Hills The Reserve Chardonnay 2015 
($35; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap) 

This is the Chardonnay that the above blend won't knock out of Australia. 

Like the Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc, this fruit is from the Willunga escarpment hills near Kuitpo: a region which has become a sort of upland edge of McLaren Vale much as Eden Valley gives a cool top to the Barossa. From where I sit on the other side of the escarpment, them thar Kuitpo hills are no more Adelaide Hills than Angaston. But somebody wanted them in the Adelaide Hills, so that's  where that line was drawn. How Clarendon can be in McLaren Vale and not the Adelaide Hills whilst the Willunga Escarpment country toward Kuitpo is deemed Adelaide Hills really beats me. Well done those men. 

Bloodlines aside, this is full-bore brash young Burgundy in stature: its posh oak is spicy and still a bit prickly. The fruit is shy and merely lurking. Rather than provoke the usual Chardonnay thoughts of peach and melon it hangs my brain over a plate of fresh-sliced woody fruits, exotica like tamarillo, cherimoya and sapodilla. It's very smart. 

Brash suddenly goes all businesslike in the drinking division: add really juicy dribbly honeydew to all the above. Add pears: Rocha, Anjou, Comice ... it becomes a sort of luxurious whipped confection of all that, with wood and staunch highland acid adding pleats that will give you a paper cut if you make one dodgy move ... then that first rush slowly subsides and it didn't hurt at all and you're back in luxury land. 

Pop the fountain pen away, there's a dear.

This will all smooth out and mellow and meld with four or five more years in a good dungeon. It is a very serious wine. It will show you. 

Drink that blend while you wait. 

Coates Adelaide Hills La Petite Rosé 2016 
($18; 13% alcohol; screw cap) 

Or drink this. Kuitpo again; pale pinkish Pinot noir this time. This is probably the whitest-smelling of the trio. Apart from some totally disarming strawberry, it's all prickly summery dust. And it's dry as a crow's caaaaark. And oh yes there's that rosey rise of turkish delight. And the nuts and maraschino of fresh soft nougat. Lime pith. Opium den. Smoked salmon, fennel, sour cream, capers. Swoon city. See, it doesn't really smell white. It smells pink. Plush silky pink. My courtier advises me men are hot into pink right now. I'm a goner.

The author on an astonishing three hour walk through some of the fungi of the Kuitpo forest last year. Beware the Fly agaric ... photo by Leo Davis

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