“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)





25 May 2018


Silver service and sensual starch precedes outright carnal abandon

Ashton Hills Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay 2017 
($35; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 100 doz. made) 

2017 was the second vintage after founder Steve George's amicable sale of Ashton Hills to Wirra Wirra. Steve kept his house there in the pines, and continues to tend the vines he began planting with Peter van Rood, his father-in-law, and Peta, his wife, in 1982. 

Peter, Sophie and Peta van Rood are since deceased. 

We would sit there in the shade, eating mountains of oysters with Riesling, hurling the shells into the vineyard in the hope the calcium would help the terroir. 

Made by Wirra Wirra man Paul Smith from the Chapel Valley vineyard, this is a mellow and pacifying Chardonnay to sniff, all musky melons, buttery, creamy pears and and mace. It lived in new and old Burgundy barrels for eight months before assemblage: a judicious, unobtrusive oak interaction which has added subtle, perfectly appropriate spices. 

Paul let the ferment commence with yeasts from the skins and the air before adding a few personal favourites to finish things tidily. 

The texture and flavours are precisely what the smooth tropical fruits in that bouquet signaled: the modest viscosity and clean, fresh, jungle juice all add up to a very sensible, uttery comforting glass of everything's gonna be all right now, especially with a rare snapper steak and capers or a gentle yellow carp curry with silver service on a good starched linen tablecloth. 

I can guarantee I'm quite capable of pouring it myself, but I can't help thinking it's the sort of wine one would prefer to be served by unobtrusive staff. 

Stephen George with Wirra Wirra MD Andrew Kay and winemaker Paul Smith at Ashton Hills in 2016 ... Stephen loved everything but running a business ... photos Philip White
Ashton Hills Piccadilly Valley Pinot Noir 2017 
($35; 14% alcohol; screw cap)

Principally from that vineyard with the Anthropocene Epoch oyster shells, this delight. There, over the years Stephen has tried 25 different clones of Pinot in search of the ideal match of type to site. 

That's like select, propagate, graft or plant, wait, harvest, vinify (three or four cycles), bottle, mature ... nah try something else. 

I think he's down to five favourites now. So it's good to see his name on the bottle, too, as winemaker. Must feel good. 

From the first waft, this is almost disgusting in its visceral sensuality. This is the sensation most of the most obsessed Pinot perves dream of, but rarely get to feel. There's just a cheeky tickle of the spice of old French oak, but mainly this bouquet is silk-smooth, musky, fresh-washed flesh. It is not what mortal humans expect of grapes. It reminds me of that bit below the ear lobe, with freckles. You don't want any staff around watching you tango with your nose in there. To drink, it's so bare-faced matter-of-fact that you might just as well undress before you start. You won't want food. You'll want another bottle. 

Don't fall over in the glass. 

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