“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)





11 April 2018


Tom Belford and Casama have a new splinter group Rising from the Sticks

Rising Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2017 
($30; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 500 cases made) 

Rising Wines is a new Yarra Valley outfit Sticks winemaker Tom Bedford seems to have split off as a sort of premium small batch showcase of wilder beauties. 

How new? The website's not up yet, or I'd tell you more. So much for planning ahead for marketing in the day of direct internet sales ... How wild? The first Rising quartet makes up for the lack of digital advice, starting with a beautiful creamy Chardonnay. 

I've just escaped the supermarket which is a scarce enough misadventure for a hermit and attempted salving some of this freak heat with a couple Asahi 3.5s, whose hoppy tannin burrs the tongue and sets it looking for fats so maybe I'm over-reacting to this calming Chardonnay unction action. 

Umami. Mother's milk. Fatty: the first acids to hit the newborn tongue. Those fatty acids you find around isolvaleric aromas, which are often presignallers for calming human pheromones which then don't come. You need a real human mother to get real pheromones. 

But the very anticipation of them often leaves a frisson if not your actual fru-fru - you get these subliminal precursor signals sometimes as sidelines of secondary, or malo-lactic ferment, when bacteria, not yeast, convert the metallic natural grape acid, malic, to lactic, the softer acid of milk. 

All that - with oak-smoked bacon or cashews or something in the pan - wraps the aroma around me, by which time the acid of the end of the lovely thing starts to build. Which it does smooth and slow, drawing real fine chalky tannin with it. 

This is one fine reassuring wine. 

Rising Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2017 
($30; 12.5% alcohol; scew cap; 500 cases made) 

This baby's real deep and dry after a good airing: I prefer it with these ravens in its dark piny boughs. 

That'll be some of the colour of its smell. It gets a wee bit sooty, which is also cool. Because below those prickly crarky topnotes come dark juniper and blackcurrant, even that whiff of tiny grape currants. Real deep framboise and crème de cassis pressings. Yum. 

The palate's sinuous and juicy. The velvety tannins here are more active than the acids, until way back in the very end when they rise like a rapier. 

This is no royalty among Burgundies: it's more of a country type with birds in its hair. At least it's had a look around the court to see what all the princes are wearing. 

Rising Yarra Valley Gamay 2017 
($30; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 250 cases made) 

Here's a rare Australian go at the juicy indigo Gamay of Beaujolais. The Mornington Peninsula's Eldridge has had some success with the same tricky, but rewarding, if frivolous beast. 

Ripe heady raspberry and dark strawberry well away, cheeky and unabashed. It's a swoony, swirling experience seasoned with dark gunbarrel anthocyanins from the skins: it's like juniper with its scented hint at tannins to follow. 

This is dead honest wine of no obvious sophistry: a comforting drink with no pretention but a really lush and luxurious bed of squishy flavour. 

Eventually those neat little tannins creep in, tidying up your baby dribbles with its corrective pucker. 

I want an aged crumbly Blue Wensleydale - with all its natural acid - on an oatcake, please.  

Rising Yarra Valley Shiraz 2017 
($30; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 250 cases made)  

Here's a rare thing loose in South Australia: a soupy rich Shiraz syrup without gloop. Goodness me. 

Somehow, it's not all berries, but somewhere near a bortsch made with ripe sweet beets with a swirl of good fresh yoghurt or sour cream. The best one I had was on a Russian ferry that got loose in these austral waters: somebody in Vladivostok had welded her bow doors shut and filled the cargo hold with stifling cabins. The officers' beets had been downstairs even further in some great fridge, ripening slowly since the revolution. Because we had no blazers, we could not not sit at the Captain's table, but we were afforded his top vittles. I wish I had a bottle of this to send across in return. 

Got off the track ... coming back to it, I reckon I can smell pomegranate ... that soft long velvety tannin ... yep, bortsch, a smoked strout on the side with a worried cornucopia of sprouts and capers; sourdough rye ... 


It felt strangely reminiscent of the 2013 launch of some Hungry Dan's specials  when I realised these entertaining, if slightly mysterious wines came from the same Abbottsford office and address as a couple of finer wines from Catalina Sounds in New Zealand. Posted together, same sort of covering letter, same handwriting in the signatures, one purporting to come from "tom", or Tom Belford, the other from "Pete". That'll be Peter Jackson of Catalina Sounds. Turns out these Yarra and Kiwi offerings are from the Casama Group.

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