“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)


.

.

.

.

16 February 2018

SOMETHING TO DO WITH SAUVIGNON BLANC

When nobody's looking, the temptation to try naughty blends is overwhelming

Intimate confessions:
Whitey spills a savvy blonde secret   
by PHILIP WHITE 

There are two of you, right? One of you doesn't always want to drink Sauvignon blanc. 

Or maybe somebody just leaves you a bottle. You don't have to hide it. If I visit, I'll pretend some silly billy that doesn't understand your superior level of vinous intellect left it there in the fridge. Oh damn!

Like that red you can't quite learn to love, and the weather being a touch too hot for spag bol and all, you haven't yet found a suitable dish in which to park it ... 

This is sacrilegious this wicked suggestion. You didn't read it here. I won't dare suggest you should cook with plonk you won't drink. But I'm gonna suggest you make some mud pies to drink: a mixture which for some staggering reason our snobby wine culture has taught us is verboten: make a blend! Mix 'em up! Use some ice and soda! 

A kindly winemaker left me a few bottles of pretty good Adelaide Hills  Sauvignon blanc "just for drinking in the heat." When the heat's that bad, and a Riesling with a big ice block is simply too much of a challenge, I'd be the last one you catch trying to rehydrate with the blonde Sauvignon. But I use it. I keep it in the fridge. I put it my red. 

Sssshhhhh!

Having a morbid fascination in the way wines decay, I usually have a few opened reds on the work bench. If I taste just one glass per day, the wine is mostly tired and oxidised by the time I reach the punt. But I've learned more about its structure as different bits of it fall away, and in a most unscientific but fairly reliable method, I've got a pretty good understanding then of how the wine will mature in a cellar. 

If I'm confounded by an exceptional performer, it's always a great delight then to examine a fresh sample, to remind me where I started. I learn the drink from its bones out. 

Of course most folks are not in this business and never know the luxury of having such a selection of oxidising wines lying about the house, which is not to say you shouldn't try it anyway with what's at hand: go on, make a blend! 

Just doodling around on the bench, I long ago discovered that a dash of half-good Savvy-B can give a magic lift to all sorts of desultory reds. Got a Shiraz there that you feel a bit silly about? One that's unconvincing? Bang it with a dash. You can go as far as making a rosé like this - winemakers call it the tache, or stain method - but you needn't. Try it first with just a spoonful of the cold white stuff: just enought to chill the unconvincing red a little, and let that soursob acid edge of the Sauvignon blonde work its sharpening way into your drink. 

As I say, you didn't read this here. But be aware: you're reading the recommendation of a malt whisky fiend who, in moments of perverse solitude, has been known to try some of the very best ones with a big shlück of, er, Coke. Nobody sees; nobody knows. Dead of night. I like the sound, the fizz, the clunk of ice. Jeez it's good.

you gotta pick your time to fully appreciate a malt whisky with Coke

15 February 2018

BOTTLE-O HAMLET HITS THE FRINGE


"I tell it how it really is for me - an actor who has to work in a bottle-shop to pay his bills, whilst auditioning for plays, ads, films, musicals, anything." 

So says Nick Mercer of his role in Hamlet at the Bottle-O, or The Wineshop Monologues written by returned (whew) Adelaider Pat Wilson and directed by her longtime collaborator, Adrian Barnes. With a warning of moselle-fruity vernacular, this 50-minute monologue is sponsored by the good Saturno family, of Longview Wines (below) at Macclesfield. As owners of the Booze Brothers liquor chain, some of those Saturnos have learned a thing or two about life behind the bottle-o stoop.  And acting.

HOME OF THE WEEK: McLAREN VALE?

Seaford Heights? McLaren Flat? Nah. Morris Short, broker at ReMax, just happened to nominate this as his Home of the Week. It's in Rooty Hill, where the famous Minchinbury Vineyards covered the slopes west of Sydney for over a century.

As you can see, it's well-fortified.

Which is not to say you can't get architecture and planning to match this brilliance amongst the wineries south of Adelaide. Even the classic Reynella siltstone bush vine Shiraz Max Schubert chose to make up half of Grange has disappeared beneath such Tupperware Tuscany. Villa rash.

With the foreboding South Australia election pushing into vintage with three political parties instead of the usual two, planning issues we thought we'd cornered with the McLaren Vale and Barossa Protection legislations are suddenly under question, and the Glenthorne Farm scientific research site within the internationally-gazetted McLaren Vale GIC is under threat of development of one sort or another: anything but science and viticulture research, which is what it's for.

So next Wednesday, the 21st, we're having an important public meeting in McLaren Vale. The three candidates standing in the local seat of Mawson have agreed to take part in a public forum with the Mayor of Onkaparinga:

We'll first work through an agenda roughly following that "Where To Next" guide, then open the gathering for questions from the floor.

This is a great opportunity to clear the air and assist you choose or question your candidate, and have some vital input into the style of life you hope to enjoy in this beautiful, bounteous vignoble. 

Democracy is not a free gift. Give some of your brains and your time and get along!

We are fully aware that vintage is upon us, and people are working long shifts, so if there's a chance you can't make it, please ensure somebody takes your place. Send two proxies. It's important.

Nothing would be better than to see everybody leave with a new feeling of enlightenment, confidence and community. 

Let's give it a go!

VINTAGE 2018: IT'S ON!

Waves of heat then damp breezy cool:  2018's looking pretty good so far
by PHILIP WHITE


2018 is on. 

With one obvious trait: As annual weather patterns change repeatedly and convincingly enough to become climate, the quality crop is more and more likely, or certain to be, the result of particularly clever, sensitive viticulture. 

The years of vintage flukes faded with the good old days. 

As the weather scientist tends now to be a contantly astonished observer the gardener has become the hardcore frontline warrior. One of the more likely to be able to effect some survival. As wine science has become fat and lazy and oversupplied enough to afford itself a retro phase, removing some of the product's reliability in pursuit of character and flavour under the "natural" flag, Bacchus knows there's room for some real sassy, bright viticulture revolution out there right now. 

Seriously.  There's room for plenty of rock stars in viticulture.

Flavour should come from the ground and the sky, not from a denial of wine science. 

And with the popularity of wild yeast replacing the cultured stuff, maybe it's time now for viticulturers to start learning about the yeast they grow in their vineyards ... 

Take a drive around McLaren Vale, Barossa or Clare right now and check those drooping yellow leaves in the greedier, high-yield grapeyards. They're exhausted. Fried. You need healthy leaf to ripen berries. Whatever do these people think they're doing? 

There comes a time to climb down out of that air-conditioned stereo tractor capsule, turn off the spray, and inhale some reality. Taste some vegetation. Taste your dirt. Is it poisonous? Stop putting poison on it.

At veraison - the colouring of the grape skins - here near Kangarilla, we had one of those heatwaves that have marked this summer: a day or three of blistering heat, with the wind coming south off the desert, mercifully followed each time this year by gusty cool with some rain in it. But before it chilled, that heat seemed to set the colouring Shiraz skins at quite ripe, leaving adjacent berries just as big, thick-skinned and healthy, but green as an apple. 

There are still a few green Shiraz berries at this end of the Vales, but nearly everything's coloured up nicely. 

Further south along the Willunga Fault the fruit was more advanced earlier, with an even set of colour. Most of this stuff, especially in the broadacre vineyards, is well into harvest now, ripe, rich and still maybe a bit splooshy to accurately judge, but largely free of moulds and sniffles. Guardedly, good. Ish. 

I hear a few winemakers whingeing about the high incidence of raisined fruit. Depends on the viticulture. 

Shiraz looks best so far, but we're not yet into the best Grenache blocks in the Vales' northern uplands ... some of it had barely commenced veraison when the worst heatblast hit, so who knows? 

Tiny baby bush vine Grenache: this close to the hard ironstone, some of the littlies struggled in the heat, in spite of a relieving drip from the dam. These will be the Old Vines of tomorrow

Way up at the north end of these Mount Lofty Ranges, at Clare, they're gurgling about the quality of their Shiraz, but suggesting the better viticulture is surely rewarding the 2018 Riesling crop, with those heatwaves frying berries grown in exposed aspects. There comes the kero characters some buffs - particularly the English - seem to adore in maturing Rieslings. Vineyards with better aspects and smarter row orientation look like growing the sorts of austere steely-clean Rizzas that I prefer. 

Source of some of our best Riesling: the Watervale "Côte d'Blanc" in the North Mount Lofty Ranges near Clare

Some of those heatwaves were quite confronting. Like that day the famous bicyclists raced up Old Willy Hill. It was blistering. Man I was here cowering, blinds drawn, listening hard through the coolest jazz in the house for the worried buzz of water bombers. That's no way to start a vintage. Ask our friends in California. Their bombers were for real. 

Then came a week of irritating pollens so intense there was no room between their particles for the air. Next, mercifully, more cool breezy stuff with some mist, followed by cool breezy stuff without the mist, moving through those properly-managed, nicely dappled, open canopies to dry everything out without the need for fungicides. 

It's interesting that all last night, the harvesters were droning away picking the big industrial/conventional vineyard owned by neighbors on the clay flat opposite me, while on the ironstone slope between us - different owner - the biodynamic Shiraz sits stubbornly at 10.5 degrees Baumé, holding good firm acid with thick, healthy foliage. And I mean individually thick, textured leaves of good colour, and not too many of them. 

The leaf-pluckers have been through here twice this year. So the high foliage, high spray input red gets picked at what to me tasted like about 15 Baumé - or roughly 15 per cent alcohol - while the hand-tended, leaf-plucked, low-input vineyard under the net between us acts like it's growing in a much cooler place. It's about four alcohols behind, but with more promising and complex flavour. 

The birds are fascinating. There are lots of fruit-eaters this year. We need raptors. Those other birds that eat grapes have free range feasting on the flat. One afternoon I watched a wee Kestrel politely hovering there for grasshoppers and mice while a restive Brown falcon hunted and worried the swarms of grape-eaters out on the fen. Then there came a mighty gust of skawking and panic followed by a shocked vacuum of silence that  meant the local Peregrine had just blitzed through at about 150kph. 

Relentlessly bombing some poor soul clean into raptor scat. 

After that happens, it takes about ten minutes for birds to begin to re-emerge before things return to normal picnicking and socialising. 

"Wedgie" - Aquila audax: Wedge-tailed eagle ... photo Pat Sprague, others Philip White

I've not seen so much of the Wedgies this season: I live where  the territories of two pairs overlap. The year's been rich and sweet enough to keep them full of joeys, back up on the ridges. 

While these Ironheart grapes on the slope at my fence are not yet ripe, the gardeners put the netting up a fortnight earlier than last year, which was a very smart move, given the fact that all those greedy little feathered dinosaurs from the flat now, suddenly, have no grapes to eat. And neither do the hordes of rodents. This is the time of year when all I need to do to attract furry company is leave the doors open. Once the grapes are gone, in they march, looking for the sort of gastronomic tour the vineyards cannot really offer. The raptors will chase them inside. 

One big'un that didn't want to go back to live on the wilds of the range... machine harvesters pick and deliver these dainties with the grapes ... protein haze, anybody?

As for other wildlife? Booming. While I cowered over my tripod in the dark, hoping the bloody blue supermoon would poke through the clouds, a bull koala in the gum above let go a mighty roar that stopped my heart. Jeez that's a bellow! 

My grumpy buck koala and I did get a quick peek at that portentous Moon, veiled in murk

And the local buck roo is hyper-panicky. His roars are more grunty. I watched him from my bed the other morning, all two metres tall on point, sauntering along my front fence in the dawn. When he hit the old chook pen in the corner, he leapt easily through the hole left in the fence when somebody stole the chookhouse before I came here. Leaving me wondering about what to wear when assisting a giant buck roo to remember the hole he came in through in order to make a gentlemanly escape. 

I went back to bed. It took him five minutes. He worked it out. 

Good luck with the rest of it!



09 February 2018

TOM'S DROP LOW WATER SHIRAZ

Beautiful organic Shiraz from barely-watered Riverland vines
by PHILIP WHITE


Tom's Drop Premium Shiraz 2015 
($24; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap) 

Contrary to a paranoia peculiar to some of the biggest-irrigating Mallee cults, I love to love what the Riverland can do when it turns the water off and tries.

Check this slice of Christmas cake from Berri. It reminds me of some of that stinkin Shiraz from around Greenock in the Barossa.  Like best. 

This one's grown and made by that irrepressible trier Michael O'Donohoe who names it after his grandfather Tom. That's Tom on the label with his six brothers on the goldfields in 1896. They put bore water through that still to make it safe to drink and retailed it in barrels to keep their rival diggers alive while they bankrolled their own prospect. Which is the best excuse I've ever heard for running a still of that size on a goldfield. 

"We use it only to make water, your honour." 

No room for water in this wine. This sicko blossom of a thing really is as rich and hearty as fruitcake full of raisins and currants. It's fresher and less nutty than the Italian panforte I often savour in grand Shiraz: this is straight through into the plush bedchamber of thoroughbred Shiraz monarchy. It's really swoony in the way it spins me out to recollections of great fruit puddings and plum cakes gutsed discumbent in many favoured places. It has the most gradual rind, cinnamon and nutmeg seasoning and then in a late epiphany I get a lash of fresh blackstrap licorice. 

It's never porty. I mean 13.5 alcohols is dreamland ideal but hardly commonplace in Murray-Darling reds. Neither are vineyards like this too thick on the ground: organic since 1986 and so licensed since 1991. 

Michael uses only a dribble of water to keep his polycultural vineyard below the magic "two-tonnes-to-the-acre" you find dry-grown on mighty Barossa bush vines. 

It's really strappy-in-the-craic Shiraz that finds you amusing as it soothes the laughing gear with a fine unctuous syrup. Then the satin acid shimmer and luxurious velvet tannin crew march in like the Vatican Guard and demand to know what you're doing in there. In fact, the wine seems so honestly refined and perfected its unlikelihood carries a certain covert air. 

"I'm only cleaning this dirty water, your Grace." 

Refreshing, alive, delightful: both satisfying and tantalising, Tom's Drop is a work of passion that flat out proves you can save a great deal of precious River water and wallow in supple luxury well below 15% alcohol. And a long way below $30, if only Michael would make his pricing more clear on the website. 

It just goes to show what can be done in the Riverland. I recall Penfolds reds Max Schubert made from Riverland vines, and the brilliant Bullamakanka, which Karl Seppelt made to ridicule the Spanish, as really worthwhile underpriced reds in the 'seventies. Delicious wonders like Brian Barry's Berri Estates Jimmy Watson Trophy winning Cabernet Shiraz 1972 ... This living lovely takes me there. There's not been much else since.

07 February 2018

MURRAY-DARLING BASIN DECLARATION

Prominent riverine experts demand action; all SA political parties agree
by PHILIP WHITE

 Even before he sent us our anti-terror fridge magnets Prime Minister John Howard promised us he'd start tipping money into saving the Murray-Darling Basin if we let him sell our telecommunications network to us. 

"That will be the greatest ever capital investment in the environmental rebuilding of this country," he said twenty years back [November 1997], guaranteeing the investment would "over time do more in a constructive way to regenerate the Australian environment than any other set of policy decisions that any government has ever undertaken. 

"And of course it will have employment implications in regional Australia." 

Implications? Regional Australia? This is a wine column. About 60 per cent of South Australia's wine comes from Australia's biggest wine region, the  Riverland. There, over 1,000 growers manage 21,000 hectares of irrigated winegrape vineyards, the vast majority selling fruit at a loss. In total, the region grows about 400,000 tonnes of grapes, 

Through major pipelines this side of the border, the Murray-Darling also supplies water to Clare and the Barossa wine growers, and keeps the major Mount Lofty Ranges and Adelaide reservoirs supplied. Apart from the Limestone Coast, that's pretty much this state's wine industry. It sure drinks a lot of water. 

There's a lot more of it being squirted around further up and interstate, but we're having an election down here right now. And it's messy. 

Maybe unpredictable is a better word.

Yesterday a formidable group of scientists, economists and prominent academics signed their Murray-Darling Basin Declaration.

With it they issued a paper stating "Some A$6 billion has been spent on 'water recovery' in the Murray-Darling Basin ... some $4 billion has been spent on water recovery infrastructure projects [alone], but for many of these projects there is no scientific evidence that they have actually increased net stream flows, which was a key goal of water reform.

"It is time to call it like it is. Australia is paying the price of alleged water theft, questionable environmental infrastructure water projects, and policies that subsidise private benefits at the expense of taxpayers and sustainability." 

Quite some attention was afforded the Basin after June last year when Four Corners peeled the lid from some of the alleged theft, but this focus soon faded from the public screen. 

"Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown."

Referring way back to Howard's time, the Basin Declaration signatories yesterday said "Despite allocating half a billion dollars in 2007 to upgrade water meters in the Basin, as much as 75 per cent of all surface water diversions in the northern part of the Basin may still not have water meters." 

In their three demands, these experts call for a "comprehensive and independent audit of Basin water recovery to be published," along with a publicly available, independent economic and scientific audit of the Basin's current state, and ongoing, the establishment of an "adequately funded, expert, scientific and independent body to monitor, measure and give advice about delivery of the Water Act (2007)." 

These Declaration signatories made no mention of the Royal Commission Premier Weatherill called for last September. 

"There are currently five separate investigations," South Australian Water and the River Murray Minister Ian Hunter said then, "which have led to various jurisdictions and agencies all pointing the finger at one another." 

A long time ago: the Murray Mouth now requires constant dredging to keep it open ... sometimes it gushes murk and turtles into the Great Southern Ocean

This photo, plus top and bottom ones, by Philip White

Also Minister with the portfolios of Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, and Climate Change, Hunter said "It is past time for a real investigation ... a Royal Commission is the only credible way we can investigate the depth and the breadth of these allegations and review the way we are managing one of our nation’s most precious resources. 

"A Royal Commission would have the power to compel key witnesses and key individuals who are alleged to have rorted the Basin system and stolen our water."

Federal Assistant Agriculture and Water Resources Senator Anne Ruston (left), a conservative Liberal Riverlander, called the Royal Commission another political "re-election stunt" set to "jeopardise" the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, which I suggest is a good reason to actually find out what's going on. 

Shadow Minister for the Environment in South Australia, Liberal David Spiers, reports a more conciliatory stance in his state-level conservatives. 

"The state Liberals support the state government's Royal Commission into serious allegations of water theft from the Murray-Darling Basin," Spiers said yesterday. "We need an independent inquiry to get to the bottom of the alleged systematic issues that are plaguing our most important river, hurting irrigators, regional communities and the environment." 

"Only an inquiry will sort this out," a spokesman for Nick Xenophon's fledgeling  SA Best said. "Nick was calling for an inquiry before Premier Weatherill suggested one. Only a thorough investigation will sort it out. One thing we'd be concerned about is witholding funding that might disadvantage our grape growers. But this rorting upstream must be stopped." 

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young referred to more than three million Australians supported by the Basin: "Without any confidence that the Plan is delivering the lifeline the River and the environment needs, there's no way we should be allowing the big corporate irrigators to get their hands on more water originally ear-marked for the environment," she said yesterday. 

"A full-independent audit of the Plan is urgently needed." 

Of course there are scientists who don't agree with the authors of this Declaration. With the brevity typical of Twitter, Professor Ross Thompson, Director of the Institute for Applied Ecology at University of Canberra flatly stated "The scientific facts simply don't support the 'Declaration' - and the authors fail to provide any realistic policy alternative." 

Which would seem to me be another good reason to proceed with the inquiry everybody seems to want, if only we could agree on its type. "If in doubt go hard" would be the right investigatory line to me. 

Whatever your line, there's no doubt that there's room for a lot more forensic study of our Big Rivers, ongoing, and it would be cool to see the four parties running for election here co-operating with these eminent scholars on a full-bore inquiry before another single dollar or drip of water dribbles away. 

Minister Hunter's response is all positive:  "A healthy and sustainable Murray-Darling will be crucial to the long term sustainability of Riverland wine grape growers," he said this morning.  

"The Weatherill Government is standing up for the River Murray and supports Australia’s leading water scientists in their call for action and greater independent transparency in the funding, delivery and monitoring of the Basin Plan. Only the Weatherill Government’s Royal Commission will be able to examine the allegations of corruption, collusion and water theft risking the future of Australia’s most important river system." 

Which leads me to, ahem, this little post script about, er, Global Warming. 

While smart vignerons from all over the Australia's mainland are scouring cool green Tasmania for prospective vineyard sites, those left in the hot hinterland, like the Mallee, or the Basin from Blanchetown to Burke, are stonkered trying to work out which premium wine grape varieties can profitably survive there. 

With wine grapes, more heat requires more water, but these steepening curves on the graph very quickly tumble when things reach a certain point. 

Fear of this reality could well be our worst terror within. Maybe the independent inquiry/commission/audit/investigation should also address the likelihood of viticulture's survival in this hot arid inland. Some hard science please. And some duly estimated timelines. It's gonna take a lot more than fridge magnets and name-calling to fix this.

06 February 2018

WINTER OLYMPICS - MY OLD NOTEPADS


REILLY'S RIGHT ROYAL BOYOS

Three handsome brutes
by PHILIP WHITE

Reilly's Dry Land Clare Valley Sangiovese 2013 
($29; 14.5%; screw cap) 

Dry and dusty as hot summer's day, with old horse tack swinging in the breeze ... here's a Sangio set to make Chianti jealous in the way it's unswervingly focused and determined to be Clare. Or Watervale, to be more precise. 

The palate follows that aromatic line straight and true. It's lean and puckery and pointed straight at that bistro/brasserie table with the big glasses. It makes me hungry as much as talkative. Don't talk with your mouth full, Philip. 

Any sort of rustic antipasto or tapas will swing with this fine, austere, deliciously appetising intensity. Ping! 

Reilly's Dry Land Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 
($38; 14.4% alcohol; screw cap) 

Similar in its lean visage and thousand-yard stare, this is classic Clare Cabernet wearing a stylish French oak couture. 

Something about that region - I suspect it's the very low humidity during ripening - grows fruit with less of the fleshy primary berry character you find in, say, typical McLaren Vale. 

At its very best, Clare seems to produce more savoury olivine flavour: it's more like pickled kalamata juice than blackberry or raspberry. Here's your example. It grew in the eucalypt country at Leasingham. Oh sure, there are sweet red fruits glowering in here, and the musky confectioner's sugar, violets and faint lavendar like other grand Cabernets waft about. But it's lean and athletic and while it's taking its time to start, it'll soon swing into that long-distance rhythm and run an easy decade. 

Right now, it's another guaranteed appetiser: bring on the dribbling pink cutlets!  Spinach with pine nuts. Potato and pumpkin mash with raw diced Spanish onion stirred in with the butter. Parsnips with properly caramelised tails. Or, dammit, a towering chevalburger with frittes. 

Reilly's RCV Clare Valley Shiraz Pressings 2012 
($65; 17% alcohol; screw cap) 

Brrrr. Dry-grown 91-year-old Shiraz from the Stolen Block at Watervale. 100% pressings. 23 months in new French oak. Seventeen alcohols! 

It doesn't smell like seventeen alcohols. It sure smells strong and aloof in its authority, but all that many? 

Nevertheless, honesty is unavoidable with a big mutha like this. You might well ingest it innocently and eagerly, but it won't take you long to realise what just went in there. 

With all that posh livery on the blacksmithed essence of old Clare we get this sweet royalty: in some ways a solid ingot of calmly reserved power, in others a felicitously-dressed scoundrel spilling ethanol all down its shirt. 

It does have some pretty minty edges in its intro, and then the spirit of great French trees that would have built a brutal navy moves into the field of sensory vision and you know you might just as well take your bottle to the hold, lie down on the sacks, and wait til the cannons go quiet. Suck your thumb. 

Ensure you keep half the bottle for the captain. It'll help you avoid the deserter's lashing. Otherwise, have it with slow-roast side of walrus. Or seriously, spooned stilton like Max used to have when the Granges got big. Ka-boom.

03 February 2018

2018: TOO DAMN HOT THEN COOL, IN WAVES

Since veraison, when the berries turn red, we've had some blistering bursts of heat here in McLaren Vale. Fortunately these have always been followed by cool damp spells up here on the north-eastern ridges, and then quite stiff  breezes come on cue, to dry everything out.

I heard some truck business down by the kangaroo scrub yesterday and there was the Yangarra vineyard crew unloading the big rolls of bird netting to protect the ripening crop from our gourmandising feathered dinosaurs. In 2017, I photographed these nets going up on the 20th of February.


North-west-facing corner of Ironheart Shiraz Vineyard in foreground; that's a Chapel Hill vineyard on the fen behind ... totally different geology; different flavour ... Bernard hasn't taken his treadly for a fang since the dogs ate the Martians ... photos Philip White

below is looking south from the High Sands Grenache, across the top of Blewett Springs toward Willunga and Sellicks Hill on 30th March last year


01 February 2018

PLANTS THAT REACH FOR THE SKY


This poor old introduced tree in my back yard can't live very happily with its roots hitting the slab terrazzo-like tennis court ironstone just a metre beneath. 

But it never gives up, and galahs and parrots and cockies love roosting in its wired dead hair. They are fascinated by me pegging my laundry there on the ancient Hills Hoist, and discuss it with me as I go.

Sometimes, rarely, magpies sit there and watch. They are faster to dismiss me: the Cacatuidae are more amused and curious.

The postfarm beyond the fence is a lovely boot hill for the old industrial Perma-Pine mentality. Since that went in, Yangarra went all bushvines (no trellis posts) or stainless steel posts (if one must have posts). So these posts will be extracted and sold. No vines have been planted there. It'll be good when all these old-fashioned toxic teeth have been removed and they plant new chewers! That's premium geology under there.


I reckon there are several acres of solid slab tennis court terazzo ironstone here under this cottage and the Ironheart Vineyard. There are no handy boulders or cracks. Just a dusting of sand or loam on top of acres of this. Tough titties. Every baby grows at least one perfect bunch. This 400mm vine already provides tiny dollops of serious gastronomic heaven ... photos Philip White