“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)





28 July 2017


Blue Poles Margaret River Reserve Cabernet Franc 2015
 ($40; 13.1% alcohol; screw cap) 

Aha! At last! Cabernet franc! Man it smells good! To this colourblind synæsthete it smells blue. Blue as juniper; blue as in blues joint; blue as the sinister gunmetal in a John Lee Hooker slide; blue as an Em7 on rusty Black Diamond strings; blue as serge de Nîmes; blue as the Indigofera tinctoria they use to colour those tough trousers from Gênes; blue as Jimmy's Indigo Children; blue nearing the violet edging of a lightning strike; Blue as Joni singing 'songs are like tattoos;' blue as that last shred of Earthly atmosphere you whiff as you leave for Alpha Centauri ... the acrid reek of black space in the transfer pod ... okay, okay: blueberries if you need a food thing. 

And I'm singing only of the top note. 

Below that there's the meat most can't see in blueberry, like that charred blue steak.

Blueberries are not like blackcurrants. 

There are tweaks of aniseed balls, Choo Choo Bars and salty Dutch licorice and the smell of fresh-ploughed mushroomy Strezlecki potato dirt at Childers or Thorpdale. And their muddy burlap sacks. That pretty much deals with the bouquet. 

Tip a bit on the singing glands. Velvet and dust. Hints of Carmenere. The shiny topness seems to dissolve in matte ground: the texture is as happy, healthy and satisfying as your first mouthful of lovely mud. 

Australia has never done much good with the Bordelaise Cabernet franc. For a couple of years Tim Knappstein made one in Clare called Perfectly Franc, which I seem to recall being wrapped too tight in American Quercus alba. Decades back Packo overgrew it in McLaren Vale for Seppelt's Great Western where they'd bleach it to make something they called "Sparkling Brut" - I think Australia's biggest-selling "champagne" at that point. 

At about the same time, inspired after working a few vintages in Bordeaux, the Cullam-Smiths got into it at their amazing Frankland Estate at Great Southern on Australia's south-westernmost corner. That's where I saw the first electric blue one in Oz, in barrel before it went into the brilliant Olmo's Reward. Sparks. Ozone. 

And now the rock-doctoring Bluepers - seriously: they're both geologists - have this one at Margaret River. It'll go a decade before it hits the major lift, but I'd risk wishing this bottle were that much older if I didn't also have to be: tricky territory given my bearings. I could well be en route to Alpha Centauri by then. Gravity-free. 

Whatever happens, I'll send you a post card with some snaps, looking back. In the meantime, drink it with blue steak dribbling with creamy black peppercorn sauce, field mushrooms and sliced spuds in cheese while you listen to Boz Scaggs and Duane the Skydog peel Loan Me A Dime. Over and over. 

This is one considerable glorious elegant bastard of a wine. Get its ink under your skin. Back to Blue.  

Blue Poles Margaret River Reserve Merlot 2015  
($40; 13.3% alcohol; screw cap) 

It's great fun to drink up the binary stars of austral Merlot while they work on each other's gravity: this and the Ruckus Wrattonbully Mérite groove in a deep waltz. I like to watch as much as guzzle. I'd love to drink a row of both. 

Maybe tango's the better dance. But nah, this is less dramatic and more easily understood as a real slow Girl From Ipanema bossa nova. Creamy, slick and syrupy to sniff, the first thought here is about how this variety dances so well blended with Cabernet franc. This is the camembert cream to franc's dry chalk. 

While its mouth form is silky-slick, it still has some grainy, dusty velvet in its tannin, but the similarity finishes there. This is a more fine, slim, tender wine. It's willowy and lithe. Solo, it's a different dance again. 

The mystery of Merlot lies in its deep earthy mossiness, which seems an unlikely key to such supple elegance. It's something about the fungi of healthy soils, and how the shroomish protein structure is much closer to the animal world than to any plants. That flesh. Like that little hollow of soft scented neck ideally placed for nuzzling right below the human ear. Mmmmmm. Lick. Dribble. Whisper.

But there is always tannin to match the shimmer in the best of the Merlots. Nothing like the big franc's funkier, croaky blues holler, but more that Astrid Gilberto silk with the appropriate hesitance to hit the beat or the note precisely, which is what these brilliant dances revolve around. 

I'd love to drink this with the big fish Cheong once cooked when we were guest chefs at World's End. I made dessert: a disgusting bread-and-butter pudding spread with extravagance and drowned in holy spurruts, while he presented his fish covered in a Mexican chocolate-and-chilli sauce. Damn we had fun! 

Still drooooooling. 

Another thing. Considering the decades of research, drilling holes, planning and effort that's gone into this duo, and then their sublime quality, $40 is piffle.

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