“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 November 2017


Home on the range: significant Pinots from the southern forests

Bellvale Gippsland Pinot Noir 2016 
($25; 13% alcohol; screw cap) 

In retrospect, there must have been something familial going down the way these two South Gippsland Pinots just seemed to evaporate from the bottles when I snapped their caps. Like right under my nose. From this very dashboard. Er, desk. Voom! Evaporato. 

Then I check the precise location of John Ellis' vineyard and it's just over the range from where my old man Pastor Jimmy used to preach the Hot Gospel at Thorpdale and Childers. 

Like those sweaty summer sermons in the pine-board church in the 100+ metres of Eucalyptus regnans forest, I stand here to declare these wines just entered straight into me like holy spurruts. Nothing temperate about it. Praised be his precious and healing name. 

First up, this one reminds me aromatically of a fortified cherry wine we used to buy by the half-gallon from a bootlegger in Corkscrew Gully in the Adelaide Hills after one of the wars. 

In turn that reminded me of the syrup of the teetotal cherries Mum and Nan preserved in the Fowler's Vacola at our joint on the Leongatha Road in the Strzelecki Ranges in the fifties. Like just one twisty strand of spaghetti drive over the hills from where Bellvale just gradually grew these last decades. This wine's not nearly so alcoholic nor syrupy as either of those nostalgias, of course, and has just one sinister glimmer of juniper or a gloomy nightshade in there with some seasoned oak roast. 

And yep, there's framboise raspberries, too. 

I love it. It's just drop-dead gorgeously viscous, gently, persistently balanced with the older oak and fine natural acidity, and in the end, really long and silky in a clean and polished way. It's got a pointy tail. 

Bellvale Quercus Vineyard Gippsland Pinot Noir 2014 
($35; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap) 

Brrr ... this is the grown-ups-only director's cut of the above, with the dark tone balance wound right up in the nose division, and acrid black pepper grindings in there with woody cordite and atmospheric carbide. 

That prickly hint of violet ozone on the ferns after the lightning struck. 

Spooky Ry Cooder bottleneck. 

Then there's all that dark-hearted fruit welling around the chaise like Anjelica Huston's Morticia with some proscuitto on a toothpick. 

You never saw anything like this up at the Thorpdale Presbyterians. Like the way it squirms around that sheath dress thing without moving more than one eyelash. No lipstick on them teeth. 

Burgundy perves think Morey-St-Denis-The-Menace in brash attitude within, but totally Anjelica's exquisite, outrageous reserve in presentation. Praise Bacchus and Pan and all the Sylphs and angels! 

Hardy's HRB Yarra Valley/Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2016 
($35; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap) 

Pepper and flesh; verbena and strawberry; musk and blancmange; marshmallow and aniseed ... this is a very modern 'entry-level' Australian Pinot convertible with its top down to 'premiumise' it. Thus sprach the holy mantra ling of the marketing sickos. All that new stitched leather screaming for flesh. Piquancy and pulchritude. Tickly and tantalising. But it's not the vehicle for those who believe the convertible was invented so the driver could better hear her barking exhausts. This one makes no more noise than a sewing machine. 

Bay of Fires Tasmania Pinot Noir 2016 
($48; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap) 

Also made by Accolade, the owners of that same Hardy's, this is a sublime sextract of the best of Tasmania's east coast, blended. It is a perfume waiting for a parfumier. 

In the meantime, drink the bastard. 

It has pepper and flesh in perfect counterpoise. It is overtly blushing pink to sniff, with just about the right amount of prickly half-time sweat. While it could make younger people, like thirties of forties, pant, or simply resemble them, it makes a single old bloke like me with no kids and a name like Whitey look very very suss no matter the heartbeat.

Really thickly-sliced cold-smoked salmon with fat ripe capers and chèvre, or much better, gravlax with cream-poached kipflers would set me swooning. 

But you know what? Right now I want to go back and suggest to that Pressy belle from Thorpdale she should take a second dainty guzzle of the Bellvale Quercus and have another go at the mambo while the Mountain Ash grows hungrily through the floorboards and the starch keeps them rope petticoats stiff.

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