“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)





06 October 2017


Tasting the landlord's new wine

While it seemed time to let somebody else have a go at it, I laid off reviewing my landlord's wines for awhile. But Peter Fraser's new release Grenache babies have shivered me timbers and rattled the sensory roofbeams sufficiently to set my knuckles cracking for the word piano. 

It seems like only yesterday I sat on the deck with Milton Wordley and some other very famous photographers he'd brought, toying with the new Yangarra Rosé 2011. 

As a colourblind person, I find the hues of rosé both challenging and delightful: rather than use the usual names, like pink, orange or red, it's safer for me to take a stab at metaphor and simile, so I've usually said they're the colour of raspberry, strawberry, onion skin, pheasant eye or whatnot, leaving the Pantone details to the more reliably sighted. 

On that day of the great snappers it was cool to hear eight much more competent and highly-trained eyes than mine discuss the glints in those glasses.

Yangarra Grenache 2011 ... photo by David Burnett ... other snaps by Philip White

Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre from baby bush vines were picked together at just under 11 Beaumé and the full bunches left intact in sealed cabmac bags for a week to make that wine, so the ferment was well underway within each berry and the juice had extracted quite some colour during that initial stage of ferment even before pressing. David Burnett's photograph makes me take a stab at that wine being raspberry red, but please make your own decision. It smelled vibrantly of stuff like Turkish delight, rose petals, maraschino cherries and pink grapefruit right from the press: you could smell it outside the winery. 

The new one, the Yangarra McLaren Vale Grenache Rosé 2017 ($25; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap) takes the colour thing way off into much more pale territory. It took me ages to photograph its tantalising hue. 

It seems Peter's been chasing texture and perfume more than pink, although it smells pink. He allocated baby bush vines that were picked early, specifically to make this. He pressed whole bunches, as if making a white wine, and let the wild yeasts take over and kept the wine on lees for a couple of months, stirring it weekly to magnify the comforting texture. 

It smells like babies: soft and musky, with faint hints of magnolia and jasmine. It has lovely subtle spices, a hint of banana and a summery dry topnote of lucerne hay and coconut husk. 

Taste-wise, it has the uncanny ability to be many things to many people. It has the pith, rind and juice of lemon, and to a greater extent, the less edgy lime, but with reflections of all those fleshy, alluring aromas. Nectarine and white peach. 

It's very slippery drinking: dangerously easy to quaff if all you need is succour, but there's plenty of complexity lying in there to feed those who like to think and talk about their drinks. That hay and husk in the bouquet returns as tannins in the long, dry tail. 

This wine levers Grenache, Fraser's cornerstone, into a new realm. And it shows how even rosé can be a much more serious and accomplished thing than the old raspberry cordial types that are always lying about the shelves and lists, sweet, dim and simple, giving the entire genre a bad name. This ain't that. 

Yangarra Old Vine McLaren Vale Grenache 2015 ($35; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap) is another benchmark. It seems that the fastidious biodynamic vineyard husbandry, the 1946 bush vines and  the established winery mentality have all arrived together to give a more complex and accomplished Grenache than before. Which is saying something. 

The vines were hand-picked and the bunches destemmed; then the grapes were sorted mechanically to remove all the raisins and squishy bits, leaving berries that look like caviar. Half of these were crushed, then their must wild fermented with the intact berries after a week of cold soaking. Thence into barrel for 8 months on lees, before blending and bottling without filtration or fining. 

The result has more spice than its predecessors. Mace and nutmeg brood away in there, sultry and moody with the fig, date and charcuterie aromas. Forget the polished silky sheen too many of us once expected of fine Grenache: here the firm natural acidity and the rich, velvety tannins all sit with easy poise, giving us nerds plenty to talk and write about, while offering the thirsty a wonderful, wholesome, adult slurp. Try it with crumbly cheese, complementary dates and figs and charcuterie meats.

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