“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)





09 July 2017


Merlot. Cabernet franc. Perhaps the only excuse for my utterance of these words in unison finally has less to do with them simply not being Cabernet sauvignon but rather that great examples of these two other Bordelaise varieties, in blend or neat, are gradually evolving in these Austral parts. 

Folks like to argue in favour of one or the other but that excludes other powerful conquerors spread through Port of Bordeaux since Europeans colonised everywhere else. 

Petit verdot, Carmenere and Malbec are among the first to tumble from the cornucopia. 

So arguing to decide the better of the two is like the old school bus bitchsesh about whether The Beatles were better than The Monkees. It precluded thought of any other band but was even more  convenient in the sense that whichever side you take the algebra will suddenly go AC/DC on you and if you're bright enough you'll realise it doesn't matter much which side you take on any particular day you can win. 

Frankland Estate's Olmo's Reward, from Great Southern, Western Australia has always led the Cabernet franc charge for me. In recent years Blue Poles (Margaret River) set new bounds of western gastronomic intelligence and now Mérite Single Vineyard Wrattonbully Merlot 2015 ($60; 14% alcohol; screw cap or cork) well and truly secures the dominant Ruckus Estate claim in the dormant volcanoes, eagles and ocean fossil country near where Coonawarra started. 

Colleen Miller and Mike Cloak have trained a hot quartet of Merlot clones they preferred. 

They make them separately and eventually blend them for bottling the best recording mix they can assemble from each whole year's work. When I first opened this wine yesterday my heart slowed right down. I thought they'd gone too Chet Baker with strings in Italy cool and slick, like Merlot as mell-low and banal as you can get on an American airline or exhibition opening. Lounge music. Chaise-in' the dragon. Duh. Throw another bourbon stave on the fire. Whatever was I thinking? Barkin' at the moon? Misunderstanding Chet, more like. 

This morning I give it fresh ears and it's more smoky Monk funk right from the start. Wine got soul but wine got spikes too. All the aromas of the middle of a quartet when it's cookin': drum pedals and skins and brass polish and ancient cedar and ebony and a spark, you know? 

Not to mention the bouquet of humans in full creative display. Their food. Themselves. Their unctions. Their collective and solo miasmas. Booze. What worth, the smell of that smile? This wine has patent leather and polished gros grain satin and pomp spice and cigar box. There is anthracite in the scuttle. It is very posh. 

And then this huge swoony bit is that great silver cocktail bowl in the centre of the table. 

That'll be the music.

Blackberries. Mulberries. Juniper. Bilberries, Blueberries and Redcurrants. Black currants. Cassis. Grape currants. Soused in kirsch. Sprinkled with musky confectioner's sugar. Set fire to the bastard for chrissake. 

Which leads to the soy and sumac and fungi and after a couple I feel as cool as Chet anyway, floating round that great Milan studio on a cloud of strings after the tight quartet stuff was done and the sweat was dusted. Time to shine up the silk and croon. New high bar for Merlot in Australia, folks. Blue Poles, the ball is in your court.

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