“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 April 2018


Gurgling with glee over three new beauties made by Jason Barrette
Hemera Estate Single Vineyard Barossa Valley Grenache Rosé 2017
($25; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap) 

Jason Barrette, who makes wine all over the world since leaving Penfolds' Grange at Magill, made this wine at Hemera Estate (formerly Ross Estate) in the Barossa. Century-old Grenache vines were picked earlier than normal to make an austere, adult rosé. Most of the fruit was crushed, left on skins for a meagre two hours to get the right hue and phenolics and then fermented cool in steel. 

The balance went through a wild yeast ferment in old oak and was left there on yeast lees for four months before assemblage. 

The result is summer-dusty-dry, a nose-tickling tantaliser with just the right amount of gentle, fleshy  rosebud Grenache welling below. It's as lean as a good pink Champagne to sniff. Complex with dry summer meadow, it's appetising and devoid of the dumbarse raspberry that has marked too many of the inferior lollypop rosés that got Grenache demoted from its rightful place as a source of sublime dry pinks like this. 

Given that introduction, the wine is more fleshy than you'd expect. Its authority and form is nevertheless firm and staunch and its capacity to linger longer than the glass lasts is very impressive, and as I say, adult. 

Straight to the top of the rosé tree, this baby. It looks neither to left or right, stalks with a certain arrogance through the sensories, and leaves you hanging out for pink salmon or barely-seared tuna and salad. 

Rock and roll. 

Hemera Estate Single Vineyard Barossa Valley Old Vine Grenache 2017 
($35; 13.8% alcohol; screw cap) 

More from the same 1912 planting near Lyndoch, this triumph also benefits from having been picked earlier than most are game to try. It's rich and smooth and deep and immediately seductive, and needs no more alcohols or simple gloopy sweetness. 

Jason "bled" off some of the free run juice to leave this essence. The pale free run went into that remarkable rosé. 

As the mighty Peter Lehmann would say, "Wilful waste makes makes woeful want and I may live to say 'Oh how I wish I had that crust which once I threw away'." 

That early master of whole-berry ferments, Peter Lehmann has a schluck from his latest trophy. I think it was the Stoddard, mid '70s ... photo Milton Wordley

This bit was made with destemmed whole berries in the ferment. 

I love the oak here: it's sultry and spicy and utterly supportive of that wondrous fruit. It reminds me somewhat of the wood that helped make such a delight of the Bouchard Grand Vin de Beaune Grèves Vigne de l'Enfant Jésus 2009 Burgundy I could once afford in magnum. Yum. 

Grenache is not really like Pinot, but if you make it with the respect a great Burgundy house shows its fruit, you can achieve lovely gastronomic pinnacles like this: elegant yet complex and totally disarming. And, well, yes, closer to ripe Burgundy than Shiraz can ever get. No need to go on, eh? 

But go, buy, and enjoy saving the couple of prayer mats or grey nurses  - or whatever those that have them now call the hundred dollar bill - involved in that major Baby Jesus spend. 

The wine's really complex and alluring: perhaps the best Barossa Grenache of recent times.  In my book.

Hemera Estate Single Vineyard Barossa GSM 2017 
($35; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap) 

Similar in form, but bolstered by post-maturation admixtures of 32% Shiraz and 18% Mataro, this is bigger and more typically Barossa, getting there without venturing into the gloop one can't avoid above 15% alcohol. 

It's a gorgeous blend, sultry and moody in the fruit division. Then, once again, Jason has the oak just right: it's older and seasoned, its spice sitting in there like it too grew on those priceless old vines: properly married and assimilated, it's ready to enhance the fruit for a decade or more. 

The G bit's still cool and approaching Burgundy, while the S&M addition lives up to its wicked insinuation, offering a little more dark adventure. It stops just short of sinister, leaving the drinker wondering about the "what ifs" but never quite stretching to the "if only". 

While it has the hint of well-dressed leather, this wine is utterly satisfying without getting any whips out. 

Dribbling pink steak or a great steaming stack of field mushrooms would settle it down all tidy and neat, thankyou very much. It's good to see some Penfolds Magill/Grange know-how and sensitivity escaping from the mysterious Treasury.

Jason introducing Maynard to Dr Ray Beckwith's ph meter at Magill

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