“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)





29 May 2017




on account of my mouth being blind

for nineteen paper years
when they said look
i turned my mouth to the sunsets and the gums and the views

and on account of my mouth being blind I didn’t see

of course there were the fresh green
rich days of farming growing up in me
drinking straight from the cow’s tit

and of course there were the fresh green early girls
honestly knowing no further than a kiss
i loved it

and there grew the knowledge of loneliness
grown into with hay and hill pines
not resulting from being the only
sometimes i loved that too

and i came to feel the real of people
the beast in them
the self in their deeds and their minds and their souls
and in me
and in me

but anyway
when you think of it
i’ve really only crumpled nineteen paper years from a bloody huge book
i’ve taken them shyly and torn them loose
and there’s many left
and they’re blowing away
and they’re falling in the fire
and they’re falling in the streams
and o god how am i
o god I’m the litterbug of the universe

o god my dreams

philip white
september 1971

That's the DRINKSTER above on the Cassie Street veranda with legendary neo-Mennonite millennial shamans of the age, Nick Lainas and John Kingsmill ... photographer and landlord please raise hands

Having run away from home, the little Whitey soon enjoyed bohemia and poverty and beneficiaries like Rob Brookman and Vee Laughton, who let me squat awhile in their front room in Cassie Street beside the graveyard with the Wirth's Circus people in it. And the cypress I climbed and fell from whilst drunk and crazy.

Hellie Sangster lived there, too. She let me ride her pushbike to my work at Brierly's bottle yard, where I learned recycling part one, which led in its poetic way to the revolutionary South Australian Beverages Containers Legislation, thanks to Ken Kesey.  

This is still the best recycling legislation In Australia, if not the world.

Because of a few major unscheduled pit stops to sort design problems in various mechanical and electrical systems, like personally, internally, I've had a few weeks off the deadlines and the reportage, so do please forgive me for hoisting a few old shreds of poetry from the dungeon to keep the eyelid cinema flickering.

I'll be back. My sump oil is warming on the stove.

I reckon that pic above was the year I got into this lucrative poetry business when these blokes came to town for awhile (from my diary Old Soup):

Lorenzo, who Ginsberg said was Lawrence's son, is a person I've never been able to track. However Lawrence did a signature, Lorenzo would mirror-image it on the opposite page. After a week in town, whew, the three of of them disappeared into Arnhem Land. In the best Adelaide poetry - always underground - things changed after that. But the gap between the poetry written by rich kids and the scavenging poor widened, and the poor who wrote the poetry were not encouraged beyond being a cute thing at the bottom. 

In other words, good published poetry disappeared.

While dear Allen howled and groaned, young poets shout and preach now, which is a pity. 

It means we still don't listen. 

And fair dinkum, I'm sick of fucking preaching. Been there. Done that.

The cover of Old Soup is the letters page from Rolling Stone, May 17th, 1969. That precious sea-mail fortnightly was my lifeline to reality before I got to the local version of it in the gilded palace of sin, only to find it wanting. Reality, I mean, not the Rolling Stone. Reality in the little city between the desert and the sea. Where there was little real-world reality.

Hunter came next.

26 May 2017

25 May 2017


Some shots around the shack in the last light of this Thor's Daeg ... photos by Philip White


Terroir #00Aiii(7) This is Pang├Ža, the big island of Earth, about 335 million years ago. Like the floating lumps on a  big iron pot of brontosaurus stew, it started to break up about 175 million years back. Keith Slee and Assoc., Besp0ke Wallmongers, recommends no new border walls or fences should be built until we improve their elasticity. Our people can put your people in touch. [Usual connectors.] In the meantime, keep stirring.

24 May 2017



I had a soul

I had a soul.
I took it through milkshed and byre,
tussock and thistle, ragwort and bog
with a burlap sack on my head for the drizzle.
With me it watched the blackwood hewn
and the underground tank surrender its muck
to bucket and shovel,
till all was strewn on grass so green
it really needed to be seen.

I had a soul.
With me it watched the poddy-calves drop
from the neat blow of the axe-back
and the steam rise from their opened flesh
as their gizzards writhed alive, still digesting.
It crawled with me in their soft stacked hides
and the fleas in the hay of the barn,
with brothers playing in the beams:
everything was what it seemed.

I had a soul.
They flayed it over communion wine
and tortured it with hymns exhaled through trembling wattles;
pious old throats filled with the holy spit
and sanctimonious halitosis.
I fucked that soul off across the gaping graves:
kinfolk and kindred who did no harm,
young whose souls some other bastard claimed.
We carry their husks home in the rain.

Philip White

23 May 2017


nother sketch from the Very Old notebooks ... image©Philip White ... Bass Phillip Pinot reviews coming soon... Milton Wordley took this photograph of Bass Phillip winemaker Phillip Jones and the author last time we sat down for a proper chat in The Exeter:

20 May 2017


"Hey Daphne, don't go over there! Let's hang here in the shade at Unca Philip's ... " 

Just a few of the ewes now eating the vineyard weeds and grasses in the vineyard outside my back door. Sure beats Roundup! 

This was a few days back; the peerie lambies are since beginning to pop; the ravens are mobbing to feast on placentas or any poor soul that arrives imperfect and weak. They're brutal reminders of the brevity of real life. 

I love having the sheep around. They are not stupid. They watch me through my windows. 

They think I'm stupid.

This lass matter-of-factly dropped her twins on the lawn while I made coffee this morning. She cleaned them up, ensured they could walk, seemed to advise them to take a wee snooze after their ordeal, and got straight back to eating grass and making milk ... Mr Ears, bigger one, left, has a black nose and knees ... cute as fuck ... photos©Philip White

18 May 2017


Grow your bottles and eat 'em too

Sip by tender sip, a boxed bottle of St Agnes Very Old Seven Star Brandy gradually crossed my consideration this past fortnight: a generous gift from a spiritous friend who understood its worth. Rare and precious gastronomic worth, not monetary, of course. 

Angove's deserted this old bottle shape to favour a posh crystal decanter, and changed the brand to Angove's XO in 1996, so my Seven Star had been in bottle at least two decades. In retrospect, having devoured the last of it, I think a lot longer. 

Some of its beautiful heart may have been sixty years old ... it was glorious burnished spiritual fuel from the distant past, full of the hues and aromas of autumn. It reminded me of a lovely day on the Murray with Tom Angove and his "Missus" on his old wooden boat when I was but a babe in this game. He cooked us river fish and we drank Angove's Marko Fino Dry Sherry which I reckon would have been made by Mike Farmilo, now making great contributions in McLaren Vale. 

The Seven Star cork was on its last crumble, so the prime condition of the brandy was a miracle. We saved the old girl in the nick of time. 

Which led to me to ponder the static state of wine containers and seals. Nothing much has changed since Tom Angove, who died at 92 years of age in 2010, first sold wine in plastic bag containers in 1965. 

The great wine scientist Ian Hickinbotham, who survives in Melbourne, has always claimed the bag had been used for vinegar in Italy for decades before Tom's Australian introduction of the bold, modern cork-free technology for wine. 

Hick had planned back in the 'fifties to use huge bladder packs to line the 31,000  litre fermenters at Kaiser Stuhl. He knew he could so control oxidation during vintage but his plan was never tested. When Hick accepted Max Schubert's invitation to manage Penfolds Victoria in the mid-'sixties, the two even considered putting Grange in bladders so the consumer could enjoy the odd glass without the bottle going off.

But the Penfolds board couldn't get its head around that, which left the brilliant rival David Wynn to name it the Wynn's Wine Cask, change its components to much better food-grade plastic and perfect it with a non-drip tap. Off it went. 

To this day about half Australia's wine is drunk from bladders; Bacchus only knows what percentage of our exports are sent off in shipping containers holding one enormous bladder of wine each. 

And the rest is in glass. 

The premium wine bottle's carbon footprint ain't too dainty. Take the current fad for ultra-heavy Italian wine bottles aimed at the luxury market, the presumption being that weight means quality. The Australian exporter imports the bottles from Italy, fills them with wine then sends them back off to the Old World and North American markets. Energy, right? They're as heavy as their contents. And it's likely some of that glass sand started off as a beach or river in Australia. And then they melt them down and recast fresh bottles for the next fill. Energy, see?

I won't mention that they insist finally on bashing lumps of cork bark into the tops of them. Only up this premium end, like.

So. Apart from the Australian wine industry's revolutionary abandonment of the dreaded cork and adoption of the screw cap, not much has happened in containers. 

Until the edible global bottle came about. It's another bladder, actually, made from plants and seaweed. It's called the Ooho, and its inventors, the sharp gang at Skipping Rocks Lab in the UK, have just doubled their target in a phenomenal online fundraising effort. Like they wanted ₤400,000 and look like they currently have ₤850,000. 

The Ooho is designed to be served fresh like fruit. If you don't eat it, it biodegrades anyway in fewer than six weeks and it's cheaper than plastic. 

The current prototype would probably dissolve in alcohol, but they sure have it working with water, plain or flavoured. Their nascent technology's brilliantly simple. You freeze a sphere of water and dip your ice ball in the Ooho liquid made from plant cellulose. This sets, forming a dry, flavourless, harmless, edible waterproof seal. Let it thaw, pop the whole damn thing in your mouth, or nip it and suck and there's no waste. No waste. You eat the skin. Roughage. 

Given the market's eager attitude to funding this development, research on finding the ethanol-proof skin should surely be not too far off. It'll then be up to the winemakers and alcohol manufacturers to develop products that can be frozen without protein clouding or any deterioration of subtle ethereal wafts of flavour and aroma. 

As Mike Wehner wrote of Ooho's promotion to date on BGR - the Boy Genius Report - on April 13, "Rocks Lab’s current mission to make Ooho a staple of festivals, marathons, and other outdoor events is a great start, since those are situations in which single-serving beverages without waste are well suited, but the wider goal of becoming 'the global solution to water and drinks on-the-go' is really an impossible task." 

Wehner asks the obvious: like a ball of any fresh perishable food, many people will expect it wrapped or packaged if it's not presented like a breast implant, jiggling on a sterile tray or plate ... maybe peeled rambutan or litchi is more digestible in the imagery stakes ... not to mention flavour ... the mind wobbles. 

But it's not an impossible task.

Detractors are many, of course, as they were on that Penfolds board in the 'sixties. The makers, and the market, are still certainly nowhere near putting Grange quality in bladder packs, but bladders are everywhere else. And there'll be Angoves and Hickinbothams and Wynns spread along the development of this truly brilliant Ooho as the bright sparks at Skipping Rocks get on with it. 

Their first task is to put the squeeze on the cursed water bottle. Like for once and for all. 

Imagine if instead of using petrochems and poisons to make all the water bottles to date, we'd grown them. Rather than chucking all that plastic in the Pacific we could have eaten it safely with our drinks in the first place, and turned it into top-grade compost. 

I'll give the compost that had the fifty-year-old brandy in it straight to my Carolina Reaper chillies, I reckon. They'll make me reach for a small bubble of Krug.


"Here's to freedom and a new beginning," was Chelsea Manning's third tweet upon her emergence from prison just hours ago. The brisk triptych went 1) New sneakers, 2) first slice of pizza,  then straight on to 3): pop a Dom. That must feel a lot better ... then came a couple of a person chillin after years and years in the can for sticking up for humanity, morality and reason ... love them stripes! Support and follow

16 May 2017


Edvard Munch: Still Life With Bottles 1938

13 May 2017


My favourite image of a terrible scourge: Frost In The Brancott Valley, by master winemaker/photographer Kevin Judd ... used with his kind permission

Climate and market changes boost Phylloxera pressure

Who'd be a farmer? Just as the last grapes from Australia's very strange 2017 harvest are finally eaten by yeast to make wine, France, whose enormous vignobles were sprouting beautifully, was last week hit by killer frosts. 

In Bordeaux alone, losses have been put as high as two billion euros. 

While some vines may resprout, the dead shoots vary in intensity from vineyard-to-vineyard, with damage as low as 15 percent in some spots, but complete in others. Across-the-board, experts are initially suggesting a 50 percent loss with a reduction in volume of around 350 million bottles of Bordeaux. That's a lot of wine. 

More bad news is emerging from other regions, like the Loire and Burgundy. 

This loss comes when the wine world was already reporting a shortage of premium fruit, a trend which has grown internationally over the last few years. This was not helped by the previous year's inclement weather in France, which reduced the nation's 2016 crop by at least 20 percent. 

The wine business is totally confused by the changing climate, and knowing the agonising extended time-scales of its cycles and propensity to make bad errors of judgement when times are tough, this writer worries about its capacity to respond in a scientific way which is best for all. 

Take Cabernet, just for example. The major grape of Bordeaux, beloved in Australia for its tough nature and ease of growing. Of all the profitable premiums, Cabernet is perhaps the most accommodating to grow. Like Chardonnay, it grows like a weed. 

2017 has been fairly cool in many places around Australia, and Coonawarra and much of the Limestone Coast aside, the Cabernets are really very good in the best spots; perhaps the most fragrant in years. Scary thing is such a market movement, minor though it may be in the bigger picture, may well result in desperate new Cabernet plantings by those desperate to be the first at the best new hit, despite the fact that increasingly warm or wild seasons may render the grape inappropriate for much of Australia within a few more years. 

A few centuries back, when Bordeaux grew cooler, it was forced to make adjustments to its varietal composition. The focus moved to early-ripening varieties, like Merlot, the grape the merle, or blackbird - eats first. 

first flight: just fallen tumbling from the the nest, a baby blackbird: Turdus merula ... pity they dont sctratch around and eat the friggin Phylloxera ... photos Philip White
Later-ripening varieties like Petit verdot and Carmenere fell from favour and disappeared from vineyards. Cabernet sauvignon not only survived, but became much more leaned upon as a staple. Now temperatures are climbing, Merlot's getting too ripe and jammy and there's fast interest being shown those forgotten late-ripening higher-acid varieties. 

While Australia buys the tiny volumes of Carmenere it drinks from Chile I know of nobody trialing the variety here should our temperature inch up a couple more notches to be a touch too hot for the old CabSav. I understand Carmenere's more tricky to grow than Cabernet - it's not alone there - but the Carmenere offerings I find on the Chile shelf at Vintage Cellars, for example, are most alluring drinks at their modest prices. Frequently, I already find myself preferring their quality over Australian Cabernets of the same price - around $20. 

Working out how to work his way round and into and through Petit verdot: working thinking winemaker Tim Geddes ... photos Philip White

As for that other Cabernet alternative for warmer climes, Petit verdot? Not many take that seriously, either. Tim Geddes makes beauties in McLaren Vale - he made a Bushing King winner from it for Wayne Thomas in 2003 - and at Basket Range, Phil Broderick (below) is learning it quickly without descending to the murky alchemic techniques made infamous by his hippy neighbours up in them thar smoky gullies.

Instead, perhaps sensibly given the climates, Australian winemakers are currently obsessed with the varieties of the Mediterranean, of Spain, Provence, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and Italy. Even Greece, and further east. 

As you may have noticed, many of these varieties end in O, which is not much help when you're trying to learn their typical attributes while the local attempts at them have been grown by farmers who know little about them, and turned to wine by winemakers who know not much more. 

There's dangerous endogenous pressure on winemakers to find, not just the next flavour, but one which will stay alive here in the world's driest continent. 

Then there's still a dangerous lingering interest in supplying the discount buckets of the Brexiteers, who seem keen to drink anything ending in anything if it ends in costing something less than O.

Which leads me to Phylloxera, the dreaded root louse which a century back wrought more damage to the vineyards of France than the weather has ever done. 

As the pressure-cooker of climate winds tighter, I hear more and more winemakers of all ages and reputations voicing new frustration at Australia's finicky quarantine regulations for vine importation and vine material transportation. 

The number of growers and winemakers who are aware of the Phylloxera scourge and are concerned that the industry has deliberately moved to loosen the restrictions in place to control it seems to have shrunk: I hear hardly a bleat from that side, where there's audible frustration from the other mob, which seems increasingly to want the latest Old World flavour of the month and they want it now, especially if it ends in O. 

None of this waiting for years to see whether your imported cuttings bear any scary viruses or really nasty stuff like Phylloxera. That's just an unfair impediment to business, they say. It's holding us back. 

Maybe it's time to tread much more carefully. Phylloxera is on the march in the Yarra Valley. To accomodate the disease's spread, the Phylloxera Infested Zone boundary there has just been extended north to the Healesville-Kinglake Road. 

"Phylloxera doesn’t respect vineyard boundaries or state borders," said Inca Pearce, Vinehealth Australia's chief executive officer. 

"Vinehealth Australia recognises the need to act with urgency to respond to a constantly evolving biosecurity environment, with trends in trade, tourism, climate change and business ownership increasing the extent and nature of biosecurity risks. These new detections underscore the urgency. 

"Vineyard owners, wineries, contractors and carriers must understand the regulations and documentation required for the movement of grapes and grape materials, machinery and equipment, diagnostic samples, soil, cuttings, rootlings and potted vines, within and between states. And ensure all people who visit your property clean and disinfest their footwear on entry and exit, in accordance with the Footwear and Small Hand Tool Disinfestation Protocol." 

Anybody seen anything like this behavior going down recently?

Phylloxera in the Goulburn Valley ... sorry for these fuzzy old snaps, but with all the science we got, there are alarmingly few proper illos available to teach people what this stuff actually looks like and does.


Vintage at Wendouree: Milton Wordley has let me loot his file of Wendouree photographs to promote his remarkable interview with winemaker Tony Brady. We went up there recently with Dr Bob de Bellevue and some other winelovin friends from New Orleans. This is Dr Bob on the Brady vineyard tour - 70+ year-olds out in the midday sun:

An image I've never before seen captured: a photograph of the Wendouree equilateral triangle of winemaking: Stephen George, Lita Liberman and Tony Brady. As Tony told Milton: "I'’m the arms and legs … Stephen’s the palate and Lita’s the brains" ... I can promise you the boundaries are not quite so sharp ... all  photos©Milton Wordley ...  And there we were having sandwiches and tea:

On this same veranda: Max Liberman  had purchased Wendouree by the writing of this unattributed review in Winemakers of the Clare Valley (Decathalon, Melbourne 1978), but Tony and Lita had yet to claim or gain any credit:

When people ask me which is my favourite winery on Earth, a frequent query, my response has always been thus: "If you're gonna buy me one, may I please have Wendouree?" 

Trusting all the gods, not to mention the fierce Brady,  forgive such hubris!

photos©Milton Wordley ... click here for my report of the death of Max Liberman and Mick Knappstein's speech at the Wendouree 100th Vintage celebration; thanks to Tim White.

I made the photo below when Tony had completed the new toilet block beside the winery. He built a retreat chamber within it, adjacent to the cubicles. It has a meditation and study bench, a firm cot and a system of simply adjustable eaves vents to make possible a precise management of the eucalypt-heavy zephyrs. He made these doors from old wine vats. Brady has a fine eye for design and purpose, and he's a craftsman of a rare degree. He also does fine needlepoint embroidery. I bow.