“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)





11 July 2017


Old Plains Terreno Old Vine Adelaide Plains Grenache 2016 ($30; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap) is another of the new rush of sweet little 'sixteens, this one made by old Gawler schoolmates Tim Freeland and Dominic Torzi from remnants of what was a vast and important vignoble, stretching from Virginia to Angle Vale and Smithfield. 

These old Grenache vines have oozed out an essence, a jujube, a gel of sweet black-earth-scented fruit. Like black plains dirt under the plow after rain. Chocolate and manure. Soft licorice. The blacksmith's forge, ticking as it cools. Her greasy leather apron. The dried wormwood spilling through the ceiling hessian. 

Then comes the palate, the sort of smooth velvet unction that seduced great old winemakers like Doug Collett and Max Schubert. This is nothing like the distinctive Grenache of McLaren Vale, or the Barossa. But maybe, with that black cherry essence and vanilla bean, and those leathery coaldust hints of the smithy, it's the bridge. 

That would make sense. Writer Richard Peck claimed "The only way you can write is by the light of the bridges burning behind you." I'm firmly of the belief that if the bridge is any good, it's better drunk. Use the crook ones for lighting. They are many. 

Orders of the British Empire to these men for preserving a flavour otherwise lost forever to malignant tupperware tuscany and the developers' greed.

Frank Gagliardi's Grenache with his glass houses at Munno Para. Note the magnificent presumption of the developers and planners, designing streets and drainage as if Frank's gonna simply give up and go for the money. Rather, he'd deliver his Grenache to the winery until his son Pat takes over. Like this:

And laurel wreaths too for Old Plains Power of One Old Vine Adelaide Plains Shiraz 2015 ($30; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap) which is a four-wheel-drive version of the Terreno. This seems a touch more sinister, this one. Droll 'fifteen vs. cheeky 'sixteen, sure, but this Shiraz is something genuinely uniquely deep. Maybe the blacksmith has gone home, bathed by the fire, melted some marshmallows and eats them dribbling now with a mixed box of Haigh's liqueur chocolates, like the nude Maja on her very best, utterly private, highly-polished personal chesterfield. So whatter you lookin at? 

I could talk on about the blackberries and the unction and all that stuff but let's face it, I've had a glass from this bottle for each of the last five days and apart from its bare-faced deliciousness, it offers a fragile flicker of a gone past: a vast garden eaten by houses and mindlessness. 

C'mon she says, sit back here with me. Drink from my glass. 

Which brings me to another wine and another world of opulence and style, where the polished sheen of the drink hides the great aristocratic engine whirring within; where the complex panforte aromas of currants, figs, dates, prunes, nutmeg, mace, citrus rind and whatever are presented in such a finely-homogenised and harmonious syrup you simply cannot win ... you name any luxurious item from the table of a renaissance monarch in Verona and it's here with bells on. 

In fact, here's a wine of incredible strength and depth that doesn't seem gloopy. 

Instead, it's savoury. It makes me hungry.

So how did it get like this? Prof Brian Freeman's daughter Xanthe came home from vintage in Valpolicella and raided her dad's maturing Corvina vineyard in the cool 560 metres of upness in the Hilltops region near Young, on the western side of the Blue Mountains. They picked selected parcels from April through May, three months after everything else. They put these grapes in their neighbours' prune dehydrator for ten days, then gave them two months to ferment. Two years in old oak; three years in the bottle and here is the first Freeman Robusta Corvina 2012 ($70; 16.6% alcohol; screw cap)

"Not for the faint-hearted" warns the back label. Which is being a bit sizeist really: I reckon this'll make a faint heart great. To me this surly royal Robusta could do to the lily-livered what sherry did to Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff (below), whose fulsome appreciation of a fine-brewed pottle of good sherris-sack did, in his own words, this: 

"It ascends me into the brain; dries me there all the foolish and dull and curdy vapours which environ it; makes it apprehensive, quick, forgetive, full of nimble fiery and delectable shapes, which, delivered o'er to the voice, the tongue, which is the birth, becomes excellent wit.  The second property of your excellent sherris is, the warming of the blood; which, before cold and settled, left the liver white and pale, which is the badge of pusillanimity and cowardice; but the sherris warms it and makes it course from the inwards to the parts extreme: it illumineth the face, which as a beacon gives warning to all the rest of this little kingdom, man, to arm; and then the vital commoners and inland petty spirits muster me all to their captain, the heart, who, great and puffed up with this retinue, doth any deed of courage; and this valour comes of sherris.  So that skill in the weapon is nothing without sack, for that sets it a-work; and learning a mere hoard of gold kept by a devil, till sack commences it and sets it in act and use ...  If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I would teach them should be, to forswear thin potations and to addict themselves to sack." 

So there. That'll be your health warning. Dunno what Xanthe would have to say about that. 

And food? Go pre-renaissance and then some. See that missionary pot with the woolly mammoth haunch and the beets? Throw a bale of spinach in there just before you serve ... oh all right, you can have it on polenta ... yes, leave the missionaries in there ... spread the table good and thick ... give each guest a trowel for their wine, there's a dear ... 

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