“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)





18 May 2018



Yangarra's four new front-liners: a higher bar in the sands and old iron

I love it when my landlord sneaks his new wine in amongst my tasting samples: I'm always curious at first about who sent the packages with no sender. Then when it reveals this cargo, man I'm singin!  These four wines are a new authoritative statement about just where Peter Fraser always dreamed Yangarra Estate would be. Peter's putting his foot down. Get back.

Yangarra Estate Roux Beauté Roussanne 2016 
($72; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 3060 bottles filled)

"I have come to the conclusion after many years of sometimes sad experience that you cannot come to any conclusion at all. But one simple thing I have discovered in gardening ... is the fact that many plants do better if they can get their roots under stones." 

So wrote that great garden designer, poet and author, Vita Sackville-West [@thegardenvs]. The inspiration for her shimmering Orlando, Vita was Virginia Woolf's lover. 

This is Maslin Sands ironstone cleared from the Roussanne block; below is Kurrajong formation rubble, which also includes lots of alluvial ironstone ... all photos Philip White

Grown where the slab ironstone kisses the creekline Kurrajong rubble, these vines have had thirteen years to get their roots into that adult business. 

Like the old eyelid cinema, it sort of flickers up faint memories of other tinctures, but it's really unlike any other wine I know ... maybe apart from an early 'nineties one Guille de Pury made at Yeringberg in the Yarra after Gerard Jaboulet encouraged him to plant Roussanne. I don't recall that bottle including Marsanne, a grape I reckon is over-rated by Oz, but it may have.

Thankyou  Duncan Miller for the recommendation!

I handed a glass of that precious Yeringberg to the Chardonnay evangelist, Len Evans, in The Universal Wine Bar way back when. He snorted in it and handed it back, which I read as a promising sign. Evans was a vanilla man. This is not vanilla essence. 

Evans on set, preaching Chardonnay

As a Rhône-born gastronome, Gerard was bemused by Victoria's obsession with Marsanne, but I'd love to hand him a big glass of this. A prim, complex, grown-up thing for the committed, or at least aspirant  boulevardier, boater and all, in a philosophical way it teeters on the edge of Campari territory. 

It's very particular, with lots of exotic citrus rind like the bitter Seville orange or even further out, the Curaçao Laraha orange which mutated from the Seville in the 500 years since the Spanish left it in the humid Caribbean. Think of all that in a tart marmalade with gooseberry and ginger: it's a concentrate that just sits there in your tongue puddle like a dainty little lozenge, its ultra-fine tannin drawing the lips tight and pulling one's soothing blood close to the surface. 

That's all very sensual and personal stuff, just by the way. 

Food? Bacalhau. Laksa with great chunks of pink snapper. Gratin d'Aubergines. Provençal sautéed mushrooms. Cool pork belly and white bean stew. Lentils with truffles and sliced carrot in pork stock. Anything with Vita and Virginia in it, or at it, and its roots in the rocks. 

That'll do it. Can we talk? 

Yangarra Estate High Sands Grenache 2015 
($140; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 3120 bottles filled) 

The hungry thick skins and big greedy acid of High Sands pulled fresh white pepper and oily nutmeg from their old French barrels in 2015. The wine lay there on lees for nearly a year, putting on form. And my goodness it has form: it's like raven oil. Lacquer. Shellac. 

Eventually the curious nose begins to find berries: tight, tannic little black buggers like juniper and deadly nightshade. This is no simple morello cherry lollypop, this baby. It's not even like the lovely bright fruit of Blewett Springs, just over the ridge. This is a twenty year wine, at least. It's tight and taut, somewhere on the border where springy meets brittle. It is an athlete with twangy sinews. It is not what anybody I know expects of Grenache. This is not dumb fun. This is a brand new sign on the Grenache church door.

"No instant gratification today." 

Which is becoming the sort of thing I expect from this particular section of the old bush vines on the top of the dune, where that wind-blown sand is deepest. This sets a new strapping standard. 

Play Whipping Post and pass the port salut. 

Yangarra Estate Ovitelli Grenache 2016 
($72; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 3276 bottles filled) 

Holy shit. This one's all ceramic eggs; not a splinter of tree. From the High Sands bush vine Grenache, beside the patch selected to carry that valuable name. It's hand-picked, then destemmed. The sorting machine then selects the most perfect berries, which are slightly squashed in the crusher and tipped  straight into the eggs for a long wild ferment then 191 days on skins. Just left there to get on with it. 

I'm not ignorantly using his name post the cursed grave, but I knew him well enough to know that dear Jaboulet would be fascinated by this: he was the first winemaker I met with an amphoræ collection. Having a brother in the French submarine corps, he got his from the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, and never dreamed of fermenting anything in them. He'd put all this in magnums, peel a new packet of Gitanes, and be straight on the phone to Bocuse ... 

So what's it like? It's a more frivolous, ruddy-cheeked companion than anything at the Virginia-Vita table. This is not Beaujolais, but it reminds me a little of the brightest and cleanest from the sand of  Moulin-à-Vent. It's audacious, but never rude. It'll go a slippery decade: I'd better stay alive a bit longer, just so I can test the slide. 

While it shows all those berries at their best, it also casts a shadow nearly dark enough to be sinister. Foie gras. Or the vegan equivalent. 

Yangarra Estate Ironheart Shiraz 2015 
($105; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 5088 bottles filled) 

Some people might see this wine as a slightly scary. Why? It's snaky slender? It doesn't smell like jam? I dunno. It's right up my alley. Ironstone alley. I live in this vineyard. There's only a scratch of sandy stuff atop great tennis-court slabs of ironstone as dense as terrazzo. 

Below that hard oxidised cap, which spreads like tennis courts under thin sand and clayey loam, there's more ferruginous sand, probably right down to the molten irony magma somewhere beneath. 

I'm stretching that, but you get my drift ... How all that, like total impenetrability, like thick natural iron sheeting with hardly any obvious goodness in sight, can produce wines as lithe and lively, like snake-like writhing lively, just beats me. But that's how it is, and how the next stretch looks for this remarkable vineyard. 

Peter Fraser's got it locked in now, and after all those years the style has nailed itself. After a good breathe in the decanter, the flesh of those berries begins to swell. Opulent, slick, classic Shiraz. Formidable! You can sit on a glass of this for an hour. 

If you listen, it'll tell you about the future.


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