“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)





23 June 2018


It's been a big week for barrels. 

First, Christo completed the construction of his floating monument, The London Mastaba on the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park. That used 7,506 steel barrels, which will be recycled when the mastaba, or bench, is removed in a couple of months. 

To match the green grass and grey-blue sky, Christo chose red, mauve and blue for his 600 tonne stack. 

With Jeanne-Claude, his partner (since deceased), Christo confounded Australia with Wrapped Coast in 1968 when they prophetically covered a million square feet of Sydney's Little Bay Pacific cliffs in plastic. 

The Barton 1792 Bourbon Distillery near Bardstown in Kentucky could have used some of Christo's stacking and packing skills later in the week when about half the 20,000 oak barrels in one of its chaise stacks fell during the repair of a wall. 

While much whiskey spilled, the distillery says it wasn't enough to reach the creek, hoping some barrels remained intact and full.

You can see here how much money the mash whiskey men save stacking barrels up in the southern humidity like this, rather than digging proper cool cellars.

This photo by Bardstown Fire Chief Billy Mattingly, Christo at top by Simon Dawson

22 June 2018



kill two stones with one bevvy ... photo Caribbean National Weekly

Psychoactivation beyond mere ethanol and caffeine: a Pinot for your PTSD?

Some readers may be old enough to remember the introduction of Red Bull and the sweet fizzy caffeine drinks which followed in a flood, changing the fridgescape in every roadhouse, liquor barn and supermarket. I believe that until caffeine was understood, this boom coincided with a change of attention span in schoolrooms and a certain anxiety emergent in traffic patterns. 

There was a fair dinkum state of crisis in the wowser camp when it became evident that some folks were mixing these devil drinks with alcohol. The hissing was mainly directed at the young, but it wasn't just kids doing the dastardly deed. I can vouch for this, recalling mobs of grown men coming back to The Exeter after a day drinking beer in the sun at the cricket, to order rounds of double vodkas with Red Bull on the rocks. A few pick-me-ups. Not many dead; move on to the red. 

Of course the coffee revolution was brewing too. Since barista joined sommelier as glamour purveyors of cool potions most aspiring young boulevardiers now have a background caffeine number like a rat on speed well before they even nudge the booze bar. 

I'm guilty. 

People mix intoxicants. Some intoxicants work together better than others. 

Like, tragically, you can now find entire towns whose populations seem to believe that ice is what you have before, during and after your Bundy'n'Diet coke, but never in it. You have ice instead of sleep and sanity. Those poor broke-down towns are scary. With a drought coming down the River. 

On a less destructive note, it's going to be fascinating watching the cannabis drinks business unfold in North America, and how the Australian booze and beverage industries prepare to compete with it, join it, or be damaged as it eats into their market. 

There's a wartime joke that Aussies are defrosted Canadians but right now there would be quite a few Aussies thinking that Canada's a lot hotter since it just voted to legalise pot. 

you've seen it now; you'll never unsee it ... to many, Canada has replaced its sugar syrup emblem with that of a far more efficacious plant

Like legalise it. Not just medicinal, not just fibre, or oil or seed, not all the business and busybody bullshit involved in fanatically defining and delineating all that. That'll happen to an extent, sure. The backrooms are very busy - the States have until September to prepare for it going on sale. But no more tests or reports. 

They did it. Just like that.  You can grow some in your yard. 

This coincided, not accidentally, with an ascendant San Francisco-New York-London bulk-and-wholesale oriented outfit called the Beverage Trade Network (BTN) announcing the CannabisDrinks Expo

This will stage at the South San Francisco Conference Center "centrally located at the heart of the Bay Area biotech region" in July 2019. 

"Particularly relevant in light of the new wave of cannabis-focused alcohol brands," BTN says the event will be "a unique chance for the industry to determine what strategies it needs to put in place now to capitalise on the huge opportunities for legalised cannabis drinks-related products over the next five to 10 years." 

ABV is alcohol by volume. Obviously thoroughly convinced this bracket they call "psychoactive, non-ABV drinks" will boom, psychoABV products are not far below the surface. 

BTN cites Arcview Market Research predictions that the legal cannabis market, already sitting at $7 billion, will grow to reach $23 billion by 2021. They also quote Rabobank figures showing that of the demographic "most likely to consume wine" 34% of women, 56% of baby boomers and 67% of those who earn over US$50,000 said their marijuana consumption would increase with legalisation; they would spend less on alcohol. 

Constellation Brands, a previous owner of BRL-Hardy, was the first big liquor mob to invest in Canadian marijuana. Corona was in quick, too. Other booze giants, like Miller and Pernod-Ricard watch very closely. 

Many of the early legal cannabis drinks, like the THC-infused 'beer' from Ceria, created by former Molson Coors director Keith Villa after he sold his regular Blue Moon beer business to Miller, are non-alcoholic. 

The psychoactive component of the pot can be isolated and infused or the pot plant can be used in place of, or in conjunction with hops, the usual preserving bittering agent. 

Like the early white settlers who couldn't get hops to grow in the Aussie bush instead used heads of wormwood, Artemesia absinthium, as the bittering agent in their ales. 

But like the early legit pot 'wines' these early US brews contained no ethanol. 

Suds aside, to me wine by definition means alcohol, ethanol, however modest. 

Out of all the bits and pieces of cannabis physiology and biochemistry, only two of its cannabinoids get much attention, and this pair have already transfixed the beverage industry. These are Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). 

While both are muscle-relaxing painkillers, the newly-popular CBD works well to relieve anxiety and psychosis. It can be good for PTSD. It is anti-convulsive. For many, it tempers, even stops seizures. For some reason, it has become known as the "non-psychoactive" cannabinoid, and is so far the preferred infusion for those vendors who add a little pot to their ethanol. 

THC, on the other hand, is getting a bad rap for its trippy-or-tanked extremes. To give more dumb bang for the buck, modern outlaw hydro croppers have isolated pot strains rich with THC and low on CBD. This is what makes people eat all the Tim Tams and Nutella and chips and then chew on the empty fridge or turn into blocked Easter Island stoneheads on the couch. 

More usefully, it's the one you want a wee puff of for the art gallery or a good concert or movie. Or just a touch to kick the broken appetite up if you're on chemo. So far, legit beverage manufacturers have avoided using this one much with ethanol. 

But damn, all the customer's gotta do, which they will do, already do, is make cocktails from whatever they like. If they want Green Bull and vodka, that's what they'll have. A mate who's lived awhile in Portland Oregon, who doesn't smoke pot, said sure, she had a favourite THC soda a bit like lemonade there but always poured it on Tito's vodka. 

And of course you can tie your little fluffball to the leg of the table and sit there and let the sommelier or barista mix something up just for you, depending on the way you feel. 

If I were an exporting winemaker not totally preoccupied with pleasing China, I'd be watching this segment closely. I can smell very big changes in the market. 

I trust there's a red maker out there with an eye to the future, reading about terpenes to discover which ones from the Leafly Terpene Wheel  are common in red grape skins. Thinking of smells and flavours and feelings. How to select and meld them. 

By the time you have your head around that, done the science, and recipes and trials begin to shimmer in the back of the brain, I'm sure the THC vs CBD battle will have relaxed somewhat. 

A better balance will emerge. 

But whether they take their newly-legalised pot in place of ethanol, or infused in some of it, it seems likely that many people will drink less ethanol. They will modify their intoxicant intake. 

It might pay for some of our exporters to be prepared for this trend. 

What time is it? Who's the Minister for Agriculture?

... and all this in a week which started with Mexico's former president Vicente Fox joining the board of the 45 year old bastion of the literate stoner, High Times.

20 June 2018


After four decades, the Brodericks present five unardorned beauties

Once when researching the origins and earliest uses of the propagandist term "spin", as in "spindoctor", I found a 46BC recommendation of Caesar's histories in Cicero's Brutus

"They are like nude figures, upright and beautiful, stripped of all ornament of style as if they had removed a garment," Cicero wrote of his adversary Caesar's writings. 

"His aim was to provide source material for others who might wish to write history, and perhaps he has gratified the insensitive, who may wish to use their curling-tongs on his work; but men of good sense he has deterred from writing." 

In this Basket Range Wine quintet of various presentations of three prime Bordelaise red varieties, I have found wine which is good enough to deter others from trying, surely. There is no spin on these wines. No ornament. They are upright and beautiful. Unburnished. 

But I'm gonna try and write about 'em anyway. Undeterred, see? Easy trap for young players, this spin thing.

Phillip and Mary Broderick, and now their sons Sholto and Louis are the pioneering vignerons of Basket Range. Phillip planted the first vines in 1980; those below in 2001. 

Many people buy their fruit.

We start with their earliest-ripening Bordeaux variety, the Merlot, slide through some blends, and end up with the last one in, the Petit verdot. 

this photo Milton Wordley

Basket Range Wine Adelaide Hills Merlot 2016 
($36; 13.5% alcohol; cork) 

The early-ripening Merlot starts the red influx in the Bordeaux vintage. Here it is at its most open-hearted. It's fresh-faced and dead honest, a luxurious creamy framboise, a shoosh of whipped cream on the tiny forest strawberries and then some fine fresh pepper ... sip its jujube lozenge and its vapour seems to flash: blithe, lithe and ethereal. I'd love to say Chanel No. 5 but then you'd probably think I meant aldehyde and I don't. 

After all that pink and white beaded naugahyde in the T-Byrd seat behind Marilyn you hit some nice grainy tannin and yep there's a pack of Luckies rolled in her tee sleeve. It's toasted! 

This is not mellow Merlot; this is real cheeky juicy red wine with punchy toasted tobacco tannin. 

Basket Range Wine Adelaide Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2016 
($45; 13.8% alcohol, cork) 

Take the above brilliant flash and add some to that austere slide rule of Bordeaux, the gunmetal glinty Cabernet, and everything changes very quickly. Suddenly it's a sultry tango. As the blackberry leaf and briary thorn of the Cabernet twines through the Merlot flesh, they lace it with musk and confectioner's sugar. 

It reminds me of the shaved ice jungle drink of fresh-squashed sugarcane juice somewhere in tiger country with a heavenly sticky dark kachang syrup like a voodoo Cottees Topping all over it. 

Philip and Mary Broderick ... photos Philip White

It's fascinating how these extremes play together. Somehow the very major Cabernet turns the Merlot minor. It's a bluesy cool shiny shiny bottleneck Am7 in the moonlight. Elegant; sublimely fine; poised and balanced; it dances and shimmers on the water with authority and finesse, casting a real bone dry china dust tannin about ... or is that fiddle resin? 

Basket Range Wine Adelaide Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Petit Verdot 2017 
($34; 13% alcohol; cork) 

I dunno if you can remember Eleanor Bron playing Ottoline Morrell in Women In Love but this wine shares the sort of overbearing sensuality those two women, one then living, one dead, focused in the memorable screen character. 

In this drink, that bit's the influence of the Petit verdot, the last Bordelaise red grape to ripen. It's the tightener. The persistent one. The persinuator. 

So the wine seems even more railroad narrow, more steely, almost numbing. I mean look at those scarce alcohols, and then agree the wine is nevertheless heady and swoony like another flapper perfume, all black lacquer and patent polish; the distilled bark of the blackberry; prickly saltpetre, and then to ensure your forgiveness for whatever comes next, a puff of musky talc on the jitterbugged sinews. It's gorgeous. Just watch she don't clock you with that big glass paperweight. 

Basket Range Wine Adelaide Hills Merlot Petit Verdot 2017 
($35; 13% alcohol; cork) 

Remove the schoolmasterly Cabernet from the middle and we should be tighter, more wiry, eh? This starts tight and granular as coffee grounds in the sun more than wiry, but then the black Merlot syrup wells up around the shiny bergamot blade of Petit verdot and the thing takes form. 

In this its infancy I found myself feeling like I was spreading mulberry jam with a commando knife so watch your tongue. 

There are subliminal hints of peppermint and wintergreen amongst the musk and fine sugars but it's deep and black and overall, it's lush and fast and it don't look back. While you shocked try to remember whether it was gloss or matte it flicks you the butt as it eventually recedes, leaving you there in the dust and rubber and clutch smoke and the echoes of a fast-slow, hard-soft, silk-velvet motorcycle throb. 

But it never says "potater-potater-potater" like a fluffy old Harley. This killer's more along the lines of your tight hi-tweak Ducati. Bbbbrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. The agitated panther purr. 

Basket Range Wine Adelaide Hills Petit Verdot 2016 
($40; 13.8% alcohol; cork) 

So we started out soft and cuddly, according to common red wine lore, and here we are on the other side of the range in the leanest territory. The little green, neat. Partly expecting the obvious: a tapering tail. But Darling, tapering? This one's martial. It's wily and tight and shiny as ravens and spitpolished boots. Like really abruptly so. 

Nutmeg oil. Lignum vitae, smoking acrid on the steel lathe. Officer material. This is the prickly hot bit, the real risky unfinish of the whole damn perfect adventure thing. 

But tapering? Uh-huh. This wine's the polished vinous equivalent of that monolith the apes hurl bones at in 2001 A Space Oddyssey. Yeah yeah I know that menhir was titanium matte, not shiny. Forgive me for putting some spin on it. And okay, this here monument's also got lovely fragrance and flesh. It's posh as. But it's not tapering. It's got crisp 90-degree edges, see. This is a very special wine. These are very special wines. 

So you gonna throw your bones or what?

17 June 2018


Richard Casley-Smith (below) and Megan O'Hara grow this at their Bull Creek Garlic farm. I know of none better in these southern parts on the Fleurieu. Check their menu here

15 June 2018


Rock'n'roll in wild west China:  
Ka-linking the Kweichow fairy

Kweichow Moutai 
($330 for 500ml., 53% alcohol; screw cap) 

Moutai is a smallish city in Mao country, way out in Guìzhōu Shěng in south-west China: a generally impoverished upland plateau province of both humidity and drought. 

The hills of Moutai had developed a thriving network of specialist baiju distilleries over 2000 years. It must have been like the absinthe business in rural France, until the threat of a wowser revolution replaced thousands of village distillers with the absinthium-free anise/pastis products of the Pernod and Ricard families. 

Run by triads after the Opium Wars, Guìzhōu had its doors opened when the Burma Railway arrived during World War II. Soon after, local Communists hoiked Mao into power, and nationalised these artisan employers by amalgamation into one factory which now trades as Kweichow Moutai Co. Ltd. 

Forget Pernod-Ricard: they're small fry. This rural China outfit recently nudged even the humungous Diageo aside to become the world's most valuable liquor company, estimated by Fortune in January to have a market value of more than AU$190 billion. Billion. For reference, Australia exports about AU$1 billion worth of wine into China, which figure includes Hong Kong. 

Moutai - the dragon, the Flying Fairy - is made from sticky sorghum syrup and wheat, both grown locally. Maybe some rice. A confounding series of wild yeast ferments and nine distillations over two years produces a powerful spirit which then matures and cold-settles in big ceramic pots for three years. 

Every step of the harvest and manufacture is done according to local organic procedures and the cycles of the Moon. 

Moutai maturing ... Jenny Cho Lee

I have smelled bits of this complex bouquet over vats of fermenting cheese, and yoghurts, and in breweries. Fermenting tofu. Fermenting rice. It's heady and estery, with tropicals like plantain and carambola and slices of fresh Comice, Bosc and Rocha pear soaking in kirsch. Bilberry and the rhizomes, ginger and turmeric. It is confronting to the raw ocker nostril; to my bottle-scarred hooter it's as clean as a whistle yet as complex and fascinating as old China itself. 

When the official website advises "there are over 2000 types of microorganisms in the air in the town of Moutai" you better believe them, and include a major margin for traditional Chinese modesty. Keep a bag of zeroes handy. 

The region's boundaries limit the annual production to around 60,000 tonnes. Like a Premier Grand Cru, the appellation is rigourously guarded. More than any recent millennial revisiting of the amphorae of the past and the modernist western fad of so-called "natural" ethanol manufacture, this product proves you can be both natural and perfectly reliably clean at huge volumes. Sanitary, see! 

Moutai is China's official toasting fluid, and comes very much in handy as a government door-opener. 95% of is it consumed in China. Quickly. It sells out. I love it. 

So aromatically braced, then seduced, try your drink in the kisser. The texture is slightly winy-viscous, like a grappa di Fiano; the flavours ethereal, a little nutty like the distinctive benzaldehyde of good amaretto, but fleeting. It quickly dances away, leaving the vaulted olfactory halls vibrating with choral harmonics and a naughty miasma which tells you it's due full respect in the voltage division but as the best things do, also dares you to do it again. 

It's like that sparky alerting click! when you first plug a Telecaster into a cranked Twin Reverb: it's threatening, and tingly, but re-entry becomes increasingly blithe. Once you realise that, it's too late: you're done for. The mayor knows he's got your investment, and goodness me, look at that: you still have eight officials queued up with their shot glasses loaded for toasts. 

Just hum the Billie Joe Shaver couplet "The devil made me do it the first time, second time I done it on my own" and get on with it. Rock'n'roll. 

Food? Well Chinese food, of course.

Recalling memorable Moutai moments with the master chef, Cheong Liew ... this photo Milton Wordley, others Philip White ... I'm not apologising for transposing the Telly/Twin Reverb with a Maton MS-T-Byrd from Melbourne and my ancient 15w Vox ... even better 

13 June 2018


Big opening here: making wine to suit the room ... hotshot spooks required

"An inspiring blend of fresh juniper and iced red currant, brushed with hints of coriander. As it evolves, the mix of frozen ginger, fresh bamboo leaves and geranium emerge taking center stage, while a masculine combination of rich vetiver, tonka bean, birchwood and musk create a powerful presence throughout ... " 

Best Sauvignon blanc on the block? 


While the President of the United States of America owns a winery in Charlottesville, Virginia, he reckons he's a tetotaller. He drinks twelve cans of Diet Coke per day, but he don't drink Sauvignon blanc. 

The 92 hectare Trump vineyard is on his 526 ha wedding farm, close to the homesteads of Presidents James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson. Really. The President's son Eric is the president there, so his Dad can get away from his golf to talk business with the Korea bloke. He's the one with the lovely teeth, Eric. We can't get teeth like them out this neck of the woods. You can get married there in their joint. Fair dinkum. Just give Eric the money. Thousands of people get married there.

The winemaker is Jonathon Wheeler, who is content to suggest his 2017 Sauvignon "has aromas of tropical fruits, citrus, green bell pepper and lemongrass," with "an exciting palate with a refreshing crisp and clean acidity." 

A good courtier would advise Kim Jong-un much such could be grown in his country. Low yields, intense high flavour. But since what Fox TV called "the two dictators" boarded their flights, one's sucked down the general drain of what in the name of the bowels of our Lord and Saviour will it smell like when Kim and Trump enter that room in Singapore? That smell! That smell? What sort of a song would Randy Newman write of it? 

You'd forgive me if I dreamt that Kim's cologne reflects the diet of his court. Salty seaweed beachy things, with leeks, radix greens and beans, like many fine Sauvignons. Bracing. Dimethyl sulphide, the whiff of windriff spume. 

Add cinnamon and pepper for piquancy, enoki fungi and quail egg jelly for flesh. I had to say quail egg jelly. You'll need them wide pants, quailing. Then kimchi made from everything that's not jelly or fat. Gunpowder and rocket exhaust. Distill essence of all the above, package imperially, have staff squirt. 

Guerlain could have made it. Turn left at Jicky

If I were the boss sniff courtier to the Supreme Leader Eternal General Secretary, I'd always have this intelligence in the basement as I grovelled impeccably to his fashionmista sista Kim Yo-jong for approvals. 

Who's gonna start selling them suits?!?

"Fine tuning, mister White." 

This is the kind of little sister who can send the face-washers out to surprise you in the strangest places, like just as you walk through the terminal at Kuala Lumpur.

Fine? How could one know? I'd be quietly wiped if I were spotted fining up my knowledge by surviving the poison fugu blowfish with the mysterious Japanese spy Kenji Fujimoto who cooked for their dad. He'd know all the smells. He reported the old man having a hearty gluttony and a full cellar. We could drink. But they'd erase me. 

Then there's the matter of the President of the United States of America who eats Big Macs and drinks Diet Coke. You can get an official limited release Raspberry Coke now with extra raspberry flavouring but I reckon there's always been a bit of it with the cherry emulators and the phosphoryic acid in the old model Diet Coke he loves.. 

Some of the things in raspberry flavouring are - I can rap this at your funeral if you're bad enough - amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl acetate, ethyl amyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, g-undecalactone, vanillin, solvent, caffeine, glucose, sucrose and fructose. 

Of course Diet Coke drops some of those overt sugars down the bottom to be in the diet appellation but you wonder what else is in the lovely stuff with the industrial raspberry and cherry and whatnot. Dozens of such essential wonders be there! 

And aspartame? Nope. They replaced that with acesulfame potassium and sucralose. Can't go wrong.

And the Presidential smell? 

The President of the United States of America sells two. Smells. 

That back label text I quoted at the top has nothing to do with wine or Sauvignon blanc. Second glimpse I gave to the Trump Viognier, but nah, it's not that, either. It's actually the official note on his Trump Success perfume, which "captures the spirit of the driven man." 

To trump that the President then pokes Empire by Trump. 

I reckon he'd walk this in. I mean on top of the fragrance of the dry cleaning, the wig dust and sprays, the anti-perspirants and shoe polish and the friggin pore putty and collar starch and toothpaste and the canker of petrochem poison cleaners and aromatics from a clammy life in his own endless airless hotels and shit knows, he'd, as he told GQ,  "just spray my neck and behind the ears". 

Empire's tasting sheet says it's "the perfect accessory for the confident man determined to make his mark with passion, perseverance and drive. For those who aspire to create their own empire through personal achievement, this dynamic scent is both compelling and leaves a lasting impression." 

So what does it actually friggin smell of, Nostril Damus? 

"Bold notes of peppermint, spicy chai and a hint of apple demand attention." 

I have little idea of the current fashion template for ambient aromatics in impossibly expensive rooms, but I suspect if there was a country which could deliver your majesty a secure chamber with no particular aroma other than neutral expensive comfort Singapore will be doing it perfectly. 

Australia is terrible. Last time I attended the Federal Parliament House to address issues of booze on behalf of the proho FARE mob, I could map the borderlines of the dozens of individual cleaners right from my Kangarilla cab through the big flying cigar full of scented conservatives and the torrid disenfectants of Canberra airport through another cab to the parliament. 

From its front doors to innermost sanctums, I could tell in the parliament house where different shifts, moppers or monitors had agreed to draw or smudge the borders of their territories by their personal aromatic changes. You know, floor wax, wall scrub, bleach ... the many ways the same droll issue could be painted on: some of it was pure Euclid; other bits more Macchiavellian pointillism, where the best ensure nothing is what it is. I felt like some kind of cyborg sniffer mandog. Couldn't help it. 

Round at the National Gallery one hit the aromatics of somebody trying to bleach out the smell of a ten-foot slab of dribbling meat on a hook by Francis Bacon mixed up with all the lovely ridiculous fractals of Blue Poles until director Ronnie Radford swooped up like the president in a haircut and a double-breaster and I'll never know what combo he bore but Jesus. 

"What a surprise!" he said. 

Anyway there's lot to be said about aroma as public amenity and I gotta say one of things that makes it very easy for me to avoid the cities is the insult of the stinks. In his 2012 GQ interview with Andrew Richdale, Trump said "there are things you don't want to mention. In terms of fragrance, sometimes I smell things on people that are just terrible - things that make you not like them ... I have fired people that, and maybe it wasn't the main reason, didn't exactly smell good." 

Which is why it was very important that the best scientists we can entice shoulda been testing and sampling that room where the President and the Supreme Leader Eternal General Secretary sit down to chew the fat. Measure, sample and archive that air, and science the fuck out of it before during and after. Off to the skunkworks for intense data breakdown. Gimme the list of stinks, I'll do the backlabels and we'll award a tender to winemakers who can make wine to best match the texts at our price. 

I always wanted to give air currency. This one would have been the easiest and the first one off, never to be repeated. 

Depending on how the dudes react to the chemborg pheromania Singapore and whoever have pumped into that room tonight, I would dearly hope to soon announce my partner and backer in this new aromatic venture would be mainly Kim Yo-jong. Yo-jong has access to quite a lot of upland, right up to white pointy bits. All going well, we'd have a lovely Trump skwillion floor wedding factory swaying right up the middle of it. Wait til you see the labels. 

Chinese investors should call Yo-jong direct. She knows the ropes.

12 June 2018


These cross-sections of the recent geology of the Adelaide Plains might be handy to those struggling to understand the layer cake of sands and clays, marine and riverine, in the recent geology of McLaren Vale. The Vale is much more complex than this, but you may begin to get the drift of how it worked. 

Quite sensibly, nobody has yet published an attempt at accurate transepts of McLaren Vale.  

This is one of the illuminating illustrations in this essential 1984 book, Geology and the Adelaide Environment:


The large corvid, Strepera versicolour, or Grey Currawong, is not populous in these parts but are usually not far away. They are also closer to black than grey and a bit larger than the magpies. I have a pair with a fedgeling their size in my backyard lilly-pilly tree.

Many viniculturers think Currawongs eat grapes. I've never seen that here, but in one studious morning, the mother harried all this bark from my bedroom eucalypt, feeding on the beasties which had lived safely beneath. 

She takes about twenty minutes to remove every earwig from the bark of an old metre-tall Shiraz trunk.

They are very furtive birds who chink and clink rather than sing. Do they spread eutypa?

10 June 2018


Campari by Billie Justice Thomson ... artist's proof ... Billie does great cocktails


Lambing time: When winter weeds tease too many Australian grapegrowers to spray Monsanto-Bayer's glyphosate-based Roundup everywhere, the Yangarra High Sands 1946 Grenache Vineyard out my back door needs no rounding-up until the leaves have gone, the vines are pruned and the first shoots of 2019 emerge, when it'll be time to herd the sheep and their babies back to ordinary pasture. 

No glyphosate required here! That's one brand new arrival with its mum, above.

Like last year, there are lots of twins. Here's a very fresh pair bothering their mum, while another poor ewe staggers about with a busting udder, ready to drop her bundle. 

While the autumn broke the dry records in much of South Australia, and we desperately need rain for the stock and the dams, there's still good green pasture in the sands. 

One fascinating aspect of this year is the time gap between harvest and leaf fall: many vines have held their leaf much longer than I've seen before, indicating that in spite of the big dry, they're in strapping health and balance, which bodes well for 2019. In the meantime, it's worth noting that the dry-grown bush vines have held leaf weeks longer than the trellised vines on drip, regardless of the sparsity of the watering the latter were afforded ... Yangarra is 100% certified biodynamic and organic ... photos Philip White

08 June 2018


Sulphur, the base of the SO2, the most common wine preservative and stabiliser, is natural, see? This man gets $5 a day digging it out of the effluvia of a volcano in Indonesia. Thankyou to The Smithsonian and photographer Esteban Mazzoncini.


"How many Whites does it take to change a change a light globe?" George 
Grainger  Aldridge asked when I told him I'd miss lunch with him, Valmai
Hankel and Philip Satchell on account of braining myself and falling off the 
friggin steps ... "Stick to my patented light red, Whitey!" was his good advice.


The most convivial, honest and transparent Sino-Austral wine dealings I know have happened during 30 years of Saturday lunches in Adelaide's T-Chow ... he we are a decade back at the retirement of co-founder So Hon Huang (Chef So, left, with the author and culinary genius Cheong Liew) ... photo Milton Wordley

US-Oz-China tiff: Trump-triggered trade war or dirty water skirmish?

Bacchus only knows how much to-and-fro business has gone on between Australian wine leaders and politicians and the authorities and wine buyers of China in the last fortnight. 

Since I first wrote of this, the in tray has fizzed with triumphant PR nonsense from the winemakers who went to Hong Kong for Vinexpo. But trade wars and rumours of trade wars have been rife on the home front, where such things tend to be given a different level of public reportage. 

Which didn't stop the tellingly-named China mouthpiece, the Global Times adopting a stern Murdoch tone on 23 May when its editorial warned "When it comes to wine and beef, China can easily import those items from the US, replacing Australia." 

Within hours of sending a billion-dollar quiver through Australia's politicians and wine operatives, this specific threat was removed. It was replaced by a softer tone, still loaded with condescension, but calling us "Aussies" instead of "Australia". 

Underlined by a wharf slowdown, still to be accurately measured or reported in litres or money, the message had done its job. 

Even the ousted Australian Border Force boss, Roman Quaedvlieg, a self-professing "geo-political dilettante" who has "fought crime a lot" and knows "a little about border security, national security and trade issues" entered the fray. 

Quaedvlieg, left, with Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott ... photo Glenn Hunt

"In the age of free trade architecture, Single Window trade processing, blockchain, cognitive AI computing, high-speed barcode scanning and automation, the old school non-tariff (NTB) barrier of 'go slow' works a treat to put instant, precise and painful pressure on trade flows," he tweeted. 

While reluctantly mentioning the Opium Wars, which some Chinese regard as happening just a few months back, I suggest Quaedvlieg knows a lot more than most of us about the drug trade. Policing it has been his business. 

The opium ships in Lintin, China, 1824, by William John Huggins 

These current political realities, whether actual or dreamed, seem slightly less sinister than fair dinkum hot wars wars with dead people. There are fewer horrid photographs to start with. But of course the two are entangled increasingly as tariff and blockade threats and counter-blockade threats twist and turn. 

It's mainly virtual trench warfare so far, pushed along by Australia's right-wing government's delight at such a grand opportunity to scare its electorate into a 'fifties-era reds-under-the-beds panic. 

There's an election coming soon.

As a convivial mayor in a major China province once advised me, "We are a mercantile people, Mr. White. For five thousand years." 

It was revealing to see Trade and Tourism Minister Steven Ciobo sagely advise the National Press Club yesterday that only one - count 'em: one - winery had met with him for assistance in clearing the backlog of Aussie booze building up on Chinese wharves. 

It remains to be seen whether this was to get the Grange and Bin 707 flowing  or wine more along the lines of Murray-Darling stuff. 

That short fortnight ago, China began putting long-range nuclear bombers and missiles onto the islands it's built in the South China Sea. Sixty per cent of Australia's exports ship through there, most of it to China. This deployment triggered and/or coincided with much tone-deaf trumpeting and missile-rattling from the White House. Not to mention India joining our western allies' war games in those oceans to our north. 

Which in turn followed a gradual stewing of Australian discontent about the Communist Party of China attempting to unduly influence our way of life, beginning in our hallowed halls of academe: the brain farms our government has defunded to the point that they exist largely on selling retail education to Chinese folks. 

So new we have the Feds of both parties co-operating to tighten the Espionage and Foreign Interference Transparency legislation to focus more tightly on foreign government operatives. 

For fear of appearing soft-cocked, to look as tough as the hard-right Liberal-National Party coalition, the opposition Labor Party blindly supports most of their scare tactics.

All this while the Australian wine councils began to learn what it means to offend important Chinese, like those morally and politically miffed by Senator Ruston's statement  - on April Fool's Day - that Wine Australia would now decide who was a right and proper person to export Australian wine. 

Right and proper people inspiring the world  ... South Australian Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone, former Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Senator Ruston ... photo from Wine Australia

"There will always be unscrupulous people seeking to make easy money from reputations carefully established and built by legitimate Australian wine producers and exporters," she said, avoiding mention of any particular nation. Or Penfolds. China knew who she meant. 

"Wine Australia can now ensure the bona fides of potential and existing exporters before issuing export approvals." 

This was intended to put a stop to the sort of counterfeiting I'd blogged about in March: exporters like Willunga Estate Wines, Lot 21, Main Road, Willunga (a storage shed since vacated), who put BinFu Thriving VIP407 on Chinese shelves, wearing livery that even some Australians could mistake for Penfolds. 

That was obviously a McLaren Vale wine address. The shed's still there. 

While it seems to me that direct Chinese investment in Australian wineries and vineyards is concentrated in our most famous and profitable vignobles, Murray-Darling operatives have been excited to report that their troubled region is seeing vineyards sell for three or four times the amount they were getting just a few years ago. 

The A$50 million last year given by the Feds for grants to encourage winery tourism facilities, especially in the Murray-Darling, are aimed directly at Chinese investors as much as drinkers. Riverlanders simply see their land values increasing as China drinks more. 

Which is about as short-sighted and unreal as talking of drought in the past tense, which the rivers water authorities currently do as they reallocate environmental flows to irrigation. The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources forecasts and reports show that the current drought covering much of the Murray-Darling will only worsen and temperatures are increasing. 

Given the confounding chaos of the administration of water flows and irrigation permits already extant in the Murray-Darling Basin, can we be so naive as to imagine we can continue planning the export of big irrigation wine at about the cost of bottled water? 

While the Coorong and the estuary dies? 

The Murray Mouth, back in the days when when it flowed into the sea without dredging

As South Australia's own Senator Ruston, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, is a dyed-in-the-wool Riverlander, maybe we should begin to expect her or her boss, Minister David Littleproud, to finally relate their highly-contentious Basin management plans to the drought forecasts their Department dutifully releases. Maybe then they could have a bit of a chat to Trade Minister Ciobo and let us know whether all this fuss is largely to do with Australia selling vast amounts of inland water we don't have to China, with 14.5 per cent ethanol in it as a free novelty? 

At a minimum ratio of 1200 litres of water to make each litre of wine, what does this really cost, or earn for Australia? And China, for that matter ... is that vast nation's water shortage the main handicap on the expansion of its own giant wine industry?

The author talking wine in an early Australian trade delegation in Yangzhou ...  and below, in a less formal mood with the beloved Yiu Lai Shuk, my adopted Grandma, who's trying my hat ... Grandma, her daughter Dora and grand daughter Gi Gi were the first folks to bring classical teochew 潮州菜  regional cuisine to Adelaide, with chef So ... that's GiGi's partner Chris Sykes, centre ... GiGi took the photograph in Park Lok ... dear Grandma lived one hundred years.