“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 August 2017


Coates La Petite Rouge 2015
($18; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 300 dozen) 

 "We have been asked by customers and the wine trade if we could make a less expensive, everyday drinking wine and we have worked on ways of keeping costs down," writes winemaker Duane Coates. 

"We have started with good vineyard sites, but kept down costs by not using new oak, utilizing less expensive glass for our bottles and maintaining a 12 month barrel maturation regime. The base wine uses 2/3 Langhorne Creek Syrah and the rest Adelaide Hills pressings." 

Nevertheless Duane let natural yeast do a three week ferment before shovelling the pulp into his  "favourite ½ tonne Mori basket press ... that gives a great flavour and soft tannin profile ... [our] traditional approach precludes the use of the additives and fining agents such as tannins, enzymes, egg, fish or milk products. Bottled unfined and unfiltered in February of 2016."  

The result's a sinfully smooth, intense, adult, juniper-and-fig beauty, with the texture and some of the flavour of the heirloom "peach plum" I recall from my childhood, and peppery Dutch licorice without the salt.
Then, yep, soft and fine tannins. Schlurp.

I admit to harbouring a shard of doubt when Duane suggested the wine would still be drinking well in eight years, but here I am finishing this bottle a week after opening, and it still tastes bloody lovely. It'll go a decade easy. 

Which is probly why it's sold out. 

Watch for the '16 model!  

Coates Robe Vineyard The Malbec 2015  
($25; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 240 dozen)  

Malbec, or Cot, is another of the Bordeaux red varieties left in the shade - or the wake - of the big hit Cabernets. It now lives on both sides of the equatorial Andes, and a little in Patagonia. 

It makes muddy soft floodplain red at Langhorne Creek, gunbarrel blue juniper and ozone elegance at Frankland Estate in Great Southern near Albany, and some of the best, most intense and elegant red of all in the formidable arsenal of Wendouree in Clare. 

Because of the climates and proximity to the Great Southern Ocean, I approached this expecting its Limestone Coast fruit to show similarities to the Frankland wine. It's not quite so fine and taut as that: stylistically it's somewhere between that Frankland form and the blues-and-funky soul of the traditional Langhorne jobbies. So atop all those usual black-and-blue fruits, there's that chocolate Mississippi mudcake, but also a most intriguing whiff of the curry tree, Bergera koenigii

Like the Petite Rouge, this more surly natural yeast wonder is still drinking fresh and clean after a whole week of air. It'll live for yonks. Lamb korma, ta. Or kedgeree. 

Coates Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2014  
($30; 14% alcohol; screw cap)  

This mudflat baby is chockers with the minty eucalypt those Langhorne vineyards exude. It smells like your first big inhalation when you alight there from your car. Not to mention the feeling y9u get through the aroma and flavour sensors in your skin. 

There are the usual maritime Cabernet characters, too: blackcurrants, blueberries, juniper and cedar. 

It confirms my forty-year suspicion that if managed carefully and harvested before it turns to gloop, Langhorne Cabernet can get very very close to that other estuarine vignoble, Medoc in Bordeaux. It's almost as austere as an average Medoc, but that extra Oz breeze of red gum in with the forgivable, nay, likeable brash edges of youth: it will tighten and polish up to a shimmering sheen in five years. Masterly wine. Brilliant. 

Pity so few Langhorne winemakers ever get near this. Maybe they're just too busy drinking beer. 

Coates The Iberian McLaren Vale Langhorne Creek 2013 
($30; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 270 dozen) 

Touriga Nacional (44%), Tempranillo (14%), Monastrell (11%), Syrah (9%), Carignan (6%), Garnacha (6%), Cinsault (6%) and Malbec (4%)? Why the hell not? 

How does one little Peninsula, this bonnie Fleurieu, produce wines so akin to Hermitage, Bordeaux, Italy and Spain? Why do so few winemakers understand this amazing potential? And how come so few ever get to squeeze those visions so successfully into bottle? 

Intelligence. Worldly knowledge. Acute epicurean awareness. Patience. Wisdom. Money. Skill. 

Of all this suite, this is the ravishing black-haired beauty that has just grown more sultry and broody over the week I've taken one glass per day. Now on the dregs, I wish I'd missed days two to six, and still had five glasses to go over the next days. 

Maybe it would start to show signs of fatigue during that remarkable excursion. This is indeed very Iberian. Black ham; warm black olives; chorizos ... yum. Then it tends to yearn its way east toward the more perfumed Bandol and I think of Helmut Newton photographing Charlotte Rampling naked on the table in the bullfighting committee's meeting room in the Hotel Norde Pinus in Arles ... 

"The use of selected French cooperages (Seguin-Moreau, Nadalie, Marsannay, Dargaud & Jaegle)," Duane writes, "in a mix of puncheons, hogsheads and barriques provides complexity, integration and harmony with our intended style." 

Very few winemakers can say that. Very few have dreamed or attempted a wine like this. 

And $30? You gotta be jokin.

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