“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)





30 June 2018


This will be an old vine in the future. Ten year old Yangarra bush vine Grenache over the fence from where I sit. You don't see too many putting little bushies in anywhere these days because they're real slow starters, especially in this hard ironstone country. But they repay the patient with greater flavour on a more drought-resistant vine.

The pruners whipped through them this chill morning.

In this ground, you can judge the depth of the soil by the size of the vine. And these littlies get a bit of drip from the dam! 

To compare, this Grenache vine below is up the hill in the High Sands, which Bernard Smart planted in 1946. It has never been irrigated. Springtime. Budburst.

Here's Bernard and his son Wayne in their famous 1921 Grenache on the next ridge north.

This is about the highest Grenache gets above the sea on the Fleurieu. I made this photo just before ripening, looking south-east towards the Willunga Escarpment. 

There's a breeze I get that comes from the Antarctic over those hills. It obviously finds no solice in chilling my brain to gelato, while it often smells of whale's breath.

If they marched toward the camera and over me and the hill, Wayne and Bernard might, after harvest, find viticulturer Michael Lane being attacked by an old Hickinbotham Grenache 200 metres away. 

This one tried to bite him when he pruned it. It's a different place.

Between this hilltop and the one you see across the decline, in the middle, falls the dramatic Onkaparinga Gorge. That decline goes a long way down. In drought it's like a deep Flinders Ranges gorge, but when they let the weir go at Mount Bold, the entire gulch looks like a milkshake.

Onkaparinga is a Kaurna term that means 'women's river'. 

Onkaparinga was a safe place for Onka [women]  when rival groups invaded to get valuable ceremonial ochre from the coast, twelve kays to your left ... photos Philip White


As this special rarity is now much older than 30 years, it seems fair to give it some parole. 

So it's open. The cork was fucked. But the wine is good. As I ponder my notes for the word piano, I wonder if any readers can help with some detail about the wine. Somebody from Bleasedale must remember its sale, bottling, or assemblage.

The labelling, design and presentation is impeccable. Straightest labels in town.  

Of the Burnside Criminal Investigation Branch, I was very lucky to meet a few impressive officers, including the one who gave me this wine. On the other hand, that 'Burnside Club' included some notorious crooks. Any survivors out there? 

How many detectives did Burnside need?

All officers were proudly listed on the back label when their branch was shut. I think there's a good dose of Verdelho in with the Shiraz here.

29 June 2018


Tim Geddes at Seldom Inn; and below, his Shiraz, with ironstone ... photos Philip White

Another Blewitt Springs secret: tasting new Shiraz at Geddes' Seldom Inn

First time I saw Tim Geddes he was standing in the gloom in the back of Wayne Thomas's winery on McLaren Flat Road. I was there for a tasting - the mighty Thommo wanted to pick my brains over one wine or another. 

He'd collected me first thing in the city, handed me a stubby of Cooper's Ale and a smoke, and off we set, southward. The McLaren Vale pub was not officially open, but we snuck in the back door, attacked more beer and another pack of full-strength Escorts while Thommo emptied his wallett into the gambling till. 

Damn nags. Never happy til he was up to his ankles in betting slips. 

We reached the winery at about eleven ack emma for more beers and friggin fags while Thommo (left) got this bloke he called Tim to bring samples for me to taste. Your actual red wine. Beautiful red wine. 

"Bloody top winemaker, Tim," Thommo assured me, as if he had nothing to do with it. 

"Bloody Kiwi. Helped get me two Bushing Crowns. And the Perkins trophy. Want another beer. Whitey?" 

Now the lovely crazy Thommo's long dead, and Tim wins trophies for himself. He's married to Amanda, a chef, and they've got two great kids and a new winery and tasting room they call Seldom Inn. It's deep in the belly of McLaren Vale's latest glam discovery, Blewitt Springs. 

South across the Blewitt Springs gullies from Yangarra's High Sands ... photo Philip White

Which, as your actual geological region, serious white locals have appreciated for over a century. Before they arrived, the Kuarna must have revered it for its food and shelter. Before that it was significant for the fifty million years it took to take shape atop the billion year old bedrock way down below. 

Tim and Amanda offer a great range of local wines, including some brilliant single-vineyard selections. There's a long queue of vendageurs wanting to work there through vintage as Amanda matches the lunches to the wines. I'm dribbling like a dill into three current Geddes Shiraz offerings. Go visit! 

Geddes Maslin Shiraz 2017 
$40; 13.8% alcohol; screw cap 

Darrel Hunt's Le-Fleurie vineyard is in Maslin Sands at Maslin Beach. Darrel lives in the original Maslin's cottage. On top of that deep rusty coarse-grained sand there's a thin layer of clayey loam with odd scraps of calcrete and some very happy Shiraz. 

Darrel, Cowboy and Tim in Le-Fleurie ... photo Philip White

When made like everybody makes wine, with the conventional barrels and the conventional ideas, the Le-Fleurie wine reminds me of Coonawarra. But Tim made this in a posh 3,000 litre French oak foudre, or very expensive, very old-fashioned tank. In place of the usual simple berry fruit,and at this ideal, respectful alcohol level, this huge oaken tank gives the wine a leaner, tighter look. In fact, it seems to wind the volume of the ferruginous bit of the sand right up: in some ways, it smells like a forge, with all those whiffs of hot coke, tar and iron ... even the smithy's leather apron gets its nose in. 

So there's no shortage of complexity or interest here. Or brilliant Shiraz fruit picked at a sensibly modest baumé. Take a slurp and you have this tight, athletic, strapping red. Its modest alcohol keeps it lissom and bright, to bolster its deep garnet snarl. It's whippy and strapping, and reminds me of the St Henri Clarets of the '60s and '70s. 

Made in big wood tanks: St Henri Claret at Penfolds Magill Estate ... photo Philip White

To drink right now, it's a little like the reds Stephen Pannell makes in his very big oaks; tending to modern Spain in style. Let it have a few years in the dark and it'll drag you back into those gentle old-style St Henri Clarets, made in big wood tanks, not sappy new barrels like Grange and 707, and at much lower alcohols than those Penfolds of the '70s and 80s. Rock and roll. 

Geddes Fe2+ Shiraz 2016 
$40; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap 

Iron-rich - ferruginous - loam over calcereous clay near Torresans' Winery gave this fruit, which Tim thought deserved some new tight-grained French barrels. He chose puncheons, the largest of the conventional barrels. 

Profile near Torresan's: see that ferruginous, nutrient-rich top layer of loam? That's soil. The calcerious clay below is geology ... photo Philip White

So we have another tight irony bouquet in which the oak seems in a way to counteract the prickle of that higher alcohol. But the fruit aromas here are right down the Blackberry Nip/Ribena alley and there's not much sign of raw wood at all: the grapes have eaten it. Lively little bastards. 

As hinted in the Maslin review, the smaller new barrels seem to preserve the berry flavours, while the cheeky bare-faced juiciness of the fruit overwhelms any simple new barrel sap which would be more obvious with grapes of lower quality. Maybe grapes grown in ground with less nutrient ... or indeed made in even smaller barrels: hogsheads or barriques. 

So. A bouquet verging on the sinister leads to a mouthful of healthy fresh fruit, fleshy and vibrantly bright. It'll live for yonks, but this is a wine I will prefer to drink in its youth. It's fun. It makes me smile. 

Geddes Old Vine Shiraz 2016 $40
14,5% alcohol; screw cap 

73 year old bush vines in Blewitt Springs popped this baby out. The unique geology of the Blewitt gullies is confusing: way down there's the same coarse Maslin Sand that underlies Le-Fleurie, twelve kays away on the coast. On top of that in Blewitt Springs there's a layer of conglomerate ironstone (see photo), sometimes massive slabs of the stuff, otherwise pellets the size of grapeshot.

Slab ironstone in Yangarra's Ironheart Vineyard (top). This forms when loose Maslin Sand is exposed to the air where it oxidises in ferruginous water, which has washed those tiny quartz pebbles into the conglomerate before it set like terrazzo. This formation underlies many vineyards from Hickinbotham Clarendon on the rim of the Onkaparinga Gorge, south through Blewitt Springs to the edge of McLaren Flat.

This fresh profile's at the back of the Seldom Inn winery. Way below this lies the ironstone cap on the deep, loose  Maslin Sand that underlies much of the region. On top of that there's a layer of ferruginous clay, which you can see here, with a layer of grapeshot ironstone and quartz which has been washed on top, then the very recent æolian, wind-blown sand with its vegetal nutrient topping and scraps of calcrete ... photos Philip White

Then there's often some clay and on top a layer of white-to-grey æolian sand which the wind blew in during the last few thousand years. This sand is mobile: remove the vegetation and the sand moves. 

Tim made this in a foudre, but included one new small barrel's worth in the final assemblage "for structure". 

It too takes me back to the smithy, with all its dark gunmetal glints. Fruit? Think of the darkest, bluest, tiniest things like juniper. All those lovely little red things your Mum said were poisonous. This bouquet will  take a decade to unfold. Use a decanter. 

But the flavour? It IS a drink, and it's a very dangerous, easy slippery slide of a drink right now. It's wickedly delicious, with the bitter pickled cherry we're finding more and more in the new generation Grenache wines grown in those sands. 

It's delightful in its elegance, but also gives real meaning to the word ravenous, the restless driven hunger of the raven. In this instance it also indicates that scary black-blue gunmetal hue. And mood. I'd be careful who I shared it with: if they had the faintest glimmer of this in their eyes I'd be a goner. Stone the crows.

Mansplaining? Nah, holding forth: with Cynthia Ganesharajah at Geddes' handsome new tasting and sales room on Blewitt Springs Road, McLaren Vale ... photo Russell Jackson

28 June 2018


After harvest, the leaves hung longer than I've seen before, but they eventually fell. Then they put a tractor through with a dodge plough, which loosened the soil to a depth of about 15 cm in a neat row directly beneath the vines. Then the sheep came in and tore all the juicy bits of the weeds from the freshly-opened soil. Next came the barrel-pruner: a tractor-mounted cutter which removes the wildest canes, so the pruners have easier access to the cordons. Then the pruners came. Jeez they're good! They woke me this morning, their quiet chatter replacing the rhythmic munching of the sheep, which have all lambed. Here those good people finish their expert job as the evening chill sets in. All we need now is rain.


Moonrise over George Grainger Aldridge's head

A month of international crises finally takes vinous extra-terrestrial twist

It's been a tricky week at the depot: we blew our diplomacy budget as our portals bustled with cranky envoys from China, Bierzo, Nauru and now Caucasian Georgia. 

We have also survived skirmishes with the United States of America, Germany and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  

Initially we had the thunder and spittle of Australian ethanol magnates and the fusty Family First Winemakers blaming DRINKSTER for triggering a wine trade war with China.

Wrong. That was all blue-eyed, borborygmic fluff and blunder.

We were the first wine journal to report that possibility, of course. That's what we do. But we didn't start a trade war.

DRINKSTER has had a long and deep friendship with China. We were amongst the very first Australian winers to bother visiting when we went to talk and research the tea industry in the '90s. 

Second, we are still negotiating our way through the Great Nauru Shitfight. We suggested (on InDaily) that some wines smell like superphosphate sacks, which combine the oxidising methoxypyrazine of hemp, or burlap, with guano, the seabird shit which our professors alleged made up most of that lonely Pacific isle. 

The Germans began strip-mining Nauru's guano/phosphate for export in 1906-7; after which Australian troops overthrew them and with Britain and New Zealand, set up the British Phosphate Commission. 

Now, as the resource dwindles, an incoming missive from Robert Mencel, Chief Executive Officer of RONPHOS, The Republic of Nauru's Phosphate Company, kindly explains "The theory that Nauru's  phosphate was deposited as 'Bird Shit' was dismissed 20 years ago. The original source has been proven to be marine sediments, in other words 'Dead Marine Shit'." 

Mencel attached the comprehensive fourth chapter of the Davis Feasibility Report, The geological origin of Nauru, its limestone and phosphate, which explains this in appropriate geological detail and leaves the DRINKSTER team with 40 years of tasting notes to correct.

Like change most references to bird shit to fish shit. Big difference. 

And now we have the Georgian incident, codename Three Gs Mars Affair. Writing on the Eurasianet website, Tbilisi journalist Giorgi - all these Georges! -  Lomsadze revealed that vinicultural scientists this week launched IX Millennium at the Georgian National Museum. Their aim is to grow Georgian grapes on Mars. Or at least find a more appropriate variety if their local hero don't get up. 

Rkatsiteli by Nikoloz Bezhanishvili

This move comes in response to the May call from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), encouraging international co-operation in making Mars more liveable. 

"This could include shelter, food, water, breathable air, communication, exercise, social interaction and medicine," NASA said, "but participants are encouraged to consider innovative and creative ideas beyond these examples." 

In comes Georgia. "With a 8,000-year record of cultivating grapes on the Planet Earth," Lomsadze writes, "Georgia is still eager to give it a whirl. After all, NASA and International Potato Center have successfully experimented with growing potatoes in Mars-like conditions, so why not take Martian farming to the next, more sybaritic stage?" 

He reports the project involves up a "vertical greenhouse lab to grow grapevines in a 'closed, controlled space' ... in a lab based in a Tbilisi hotel and operated by a company named SpaceFarms." 

Lomsadze reminds us of the Georgian folk song that was sent into space on a solid gold record on The Voyager in 1977. 

"As with traditional polyphonic singing," he explains, "winemaking also is deeply intertwined with Georgian national identity. The glory of the grapevine is sung in folk songs and poetry and depicted as bas-relief ornaments on the nation’s ancient churches."  

The polyphony is now heading toward Gliese 445 at around 62,140 km/h. Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode is on the flip side.  

In November 2013 in the City Final edition of The Daily Toper George Grainger Aldridge first published our ground-breaking paper, Evidence of vineyards on Mars

This offered unequivocal illustrated proof that Mars already has a booming wine business, and surprise, surprise, it's all red. 

Like the Chinese, Martians have a distinct dislike for the colour white, as it indicates people like me: the walking dead. 

NASA operatives knew of the discoveries revealed in this report one week after its publication - their staff canteen people bought the first copies. 

As our research and extensive field work revealed, the Martian vignoble is distinctly rufous.  

DRINKSTER envoys are now en route to Tbilisi to negotiate the highly sensitive matter of introducing white or golden grapes like Rkatsiteli without showing full respect to the confounding Martian blonde phylloxera quarantine protocols.

There's a great deal at stake. Never say DRINKSTER's not diligent.

Sample review from Evidence of vineyards on Mars:

Casa Flagrante Zoomico 2019  

When you get to the corner of this wine it’s all bananas and bricks.  There’s some salt damp in the eastern crater, and when you look at the tracks the damn thing leaves it’s obvious there’s a nail or something in the fifteenth tyre on the left.  They probably wrangled the canes for maximum exposure to Saturn and forgot the forthcoming supernova in NGC 387, which has fried the epidermis and left all the titanium looking crackly. That thing sticking out the side is troubling, but it’ll probably go down when the twin moons come across next week. I’d recommend you have it with all your husbands and spermicide on toast. A touch overpriced at fifteen grocks, but it’ll keep.

... and here's George with his pet aural ectoplasm emergent in the Australian desert during our years of intensive field work in Martian-like conditions:

27 June 2018


Mencía? Bierzo? Luna? Just when I thought I knew everything ... wrong!

He hit me on the right day. Screwy neurology had me off the ethanol for awhile so I was now fresh and thirsty. Charles Lawrence, my dangerous sports obsessed American friend from Japan who works at Karatta Wines at Robe, called by with a mind-blowing Spanish red Duane Coates had given him at Kuitpo. 

Charles (below) is like that. Last cracker he brought me from Japan was a Shiraz from Canada. Blat! 

But this new wine came from an upland part of north-west Spain called Bierzo. Its maker, Alejandro Luna was a lawyer who ran away to join the family wine business in 2001. He made this red in 2008. Now, at ten years of age, it's available through Rob Hill Smith's Negociants International. 

I don't expect this Luna Beberide Bierzo Mencía 2008 to last long in the Negociants chaise. It's far too good for that. 

The grape is Mencía, which had been suspected of being a relative of Cabernet franc - they share some attributes of flavour and aroma - but has since proven to be genetically identical to the Jaen of Portugal. 

That first whiff still rings harmonics round my vaulted halls of smell. It was alarming. It reminded me of Eau-de-cologne mint, Mentha x piperita var citrata. This is not the sort of aroma one expects of a ten-year-old red. 

After that first blast it mellowed but still oozed that vibrant minty citrus til the bottle coughed its last: lingering like bergamot, the powerful Citrus x limon oil used to flavour Earl Grey tea. 

Gradually a more familiar flesh grew, filling the aroma basement with the smell of oiled leather harness. Sweet working horse kit without working horse shit. When the fruit arrived, it trapezed from mulberry through the pickled bitter cherries amarene sotto spirito of Abbruzzo through tiny Koroneiki olives, pickled, to the very edgy juniper and on into the dangerous nightshades. 

Challenging stuff. Methoxypyrazine country. What starts as tomato leaf ends up as dry burlap sacking, or hemp. I suspect this natural component of the Cabernet sauvignon family - Sauvignon blanc in particular - oxidises to produce that dusty hempy smell which reminds many of that sniff they once had of a superphosphate sack, way back in the days before the pricks replaced plant fibres with their own patented petroplastics. 

Superphosphate is made from birdshit, which builds entire islands like Nauru, which Australia has stopped digging up for money and now uses to lock refugees, and refugee children, in cages. 

I reckon the whiff of burlap methoxypyrazine subliminally brings guano to the minds of many tasters, which they politely call "minerality". 

As a kid in the Strzelecki Ranges of south-west Gippsland, I'd love it when my grandfather took a super bag from beneath his giant arse on the little grey Fergie tractor, unfolded it, tucked one corner of it into another to make a peaked hood, and put it over my head and shoulders in the rain. 

It was like a little private house to walk about in; the acrid guano and hemp combined so well I never once smelled Pop's bum there. 

Having been completely entertained by that aroma for as long as it usually takes to drink a glass, I eventually drank some. I'd been reluctant to be disappointed. Never happened. Man, I was tantalised. It was tight and wiry, and shiny like a whip ærial until those nightshade/hempen tannins loomed up to surround it. After an hour of air, these were being overtaken by the sweeter pipe tobacco flavours: Plumcake, fresh from the tin via a good Stanwell Danish briar. 

While tighter and less soulful, that tobacco reminded me of the lovely Basket Range Merlot of the Broderick family. 

Which provided another link: when I scoured the cobweb for vids and pix of Bierzo, it seems there are revered older bushvines growing in a gibber rubble that looks all the world like Basket Range sandstone. Quartz (silica), schist, decomposed slate and calcrete are also common there. 

Although the Bierzo soils are largely acidic rather than alkaline, these geologies seem quite close to the types offered by the Mount Lofty Ranges, and indeed their northern extension, the Flinders.

Basket Range: sandstone country ... photo Philip White

"It must have been a tough little bastard in its youth," I said, imagining haughty nazi red heads whingeing about it on the wine chat scrolls. Charles agreed. We couldn't believe the damn thing was ten years old. It seems about three. Today, I've checked those chat room reviews. Yep. For years they were full of whinging about the 2008 Bierzos. "Gritty and forceful." "Very little fruit." "Short and unremarkable." "A tannic mess." "Green wood smoke." "Stemminess on the nose." 

Until somebody eventually gets it: "Liked this better on day 2 (after storage in fridge in 1/2 bottle) - more integrated, green note has faded. Some cellar time is warranted." 

Like a decade, thanking Alejandro, who holds some of this wine aside for Negociants to ship mature. And thankyou for making a wine that not once made me think of alcohol or oak. It's only around 13.5% strongs and was made and aged in stainless steel with wild yeast. The vines, organically-farmed, are 40 years old. Since phylloxera killed all the original vineyards in the fading 1800s, these would be on rootstock. 

This tight style: ungiving; taut; narrow - the opposite of gloopy - is what a great deal of finer wine was like before Robert Parker made big alcohol jampots fashionable in the '90s. Some wise winemakers here are heading in a similar direction: right outa there; back to the future. Stephen Pannell and Peter Fraser come immediately to mind. Lower alcohols, less puppy fat, better focus, longer lives. 

It remains to be seen whether the determination of our visionaries extends as far as to accommodate a variety like Mencía, which itself pushes that lithe, wiry, narrow, strapping to outright brittle form. Given the altitude of the Luna vineyards, whose 70 hectares extend to 900 chilly meters, it may be safe to presume that if the variety was tried in the sandstone of Basket Range and the central Hills, or even as far south as the silica deposits of Mount Compass, these would be lower, warmer sites, and should produce flavour profiles and cross-sections which would be ready to drink before the passage of an entire decade. 

This lovely wine blew me away. Its wild individuality; its intensity; its elegance. The way it made me hungry. When I checked with Brooke at Negociants that it was indeed their current release, I was even more astonished to discover that it retails for $25. Which leaves me the other $50 I thought it'd cost to spend on jamón ibérico - black Spanish ham. I do hope somebody pays to get Mencía through our sensible quarantine regulations, and tries it in the upland geologies that match Bierzo's. Quick.

More sandstone country: the author with Dean Rasheed on Arkaba Station in the Flinders in the '90s ... this photo Dennis Vice; Bierzo Hello! images from the appellation website

23 June 2018


It's been a big week for barrels. 

First, Christo completed the construction of his floating monument, The London Mastaba on the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park. That used 7,506 steel barrels, which will be recycled when the mastaba, or bench, is removed in a couple of months. 

To match the green grass and grey-blue sky, Christo chose red, mauve and blue for his 600 tonne stack. 

With Jeanne-Claude, his partner (since deceased), Christo confounded Australia with Wrapped Coast in 1968 when they prophetically covered a million square feet of Sydney's Little Bay Pacific cliffs in plastic. 

The Barton 1792 Bourbon Distillery near Bardstown in Kentucky could have used some of Christo's stacking and packing skills later in the week when about half the 20,000 oak barrels in one of its chaise stacks fell during the repair of a wall. 

While much whiskey spilled, the distillery says it wasn't enough to reach the creek, hoping some barrels remained intact and full.

You can see here how much money the mash whiskey men save stacking barrels up in the southern humidity like this, rather than digging proper cool cellars.

This photo by Bardstown Fire Chief Billy Mattingly, Christo at top by Simon Dawson

22 June 2018



kill two stones with one bevvy ... photo Caribbean National Weekly

Psychoactivation beyond mere ethanol and caffeine: a Pinot for your PTSD?

Some readers may be old enough to remember the introduction of Red Bull and the sweet fizzy caffeine drinks which followed in a flood, changing the fridgescape in every roadhouse, liquor barn and supermarket. I believe that until caffeine was understood, this boom coincided with a change of attention span in schoolrooms and a certain anxiety emergent in traffic patterns. 

There was a fair dinkum state of crisis in the wowser camp when it became evident that some folks were mixing these devil drinks with alcohol. The hissing was mainly directed at the young, but it wasn't just kids doing the dastardly deed. I can vouch for this, recalling mobs of grown men coming back to The Exeter after a day drinking beer in the sun at the cricket, to order rounds of double vodkas with Red Bull on the rocks. A few pick-me-ups. Not many dead; move on to the red. 

Of course the coffee revolution was brewing too. Since barista joined sommelier as glamour purveyors of cool potions most aspiring young boulevardiers now have a background caffeine number like a rat on speed well before they even nudge the booze bar. 

I'm guilty. 

People mix intoxicants. Some intoxicants work together better than others. 

Like, tragically, you can now find entire towns whose populations seem to believe that ice is what you have before, during and after your Bundy'n'Diet coke, but never in it. You have ice instead of sleep and sanity. Those poor broke-down towns are scary. With a drought coming down the River. 

On a less destructive note, it's going to be fascinating watching the cannabis drinks business unfold in North America, and how the Australian booze and beverage industries prepare to compete with it, join it, or be damaged as it eats into their market. 

There's a wartime joke that Aussies are defrosted Canadians but right now there would be quite a few Aussies thinking that Canada's a lot hotter since it just voted to legalise pot. 

you've seen it now; you'll never unsee it ... to many, Canada has replaced its sugar syrup emblem with that of a far more efficacious plant

Like legalise it. Not just medicinal, not just fibre, or oil or seed, not all the business and busybody bullshit involved in fanatically defining and delineating all that. That'll happen to an extent, sure. The backrooms are very busy - the States have until September to prepare for it going on sale. But no more tests or reports. 

They did it. Just like that.  You can grow some in your yard. 

This coincided, not accidentally, with an ascendant San Francisco-New York-London bulk-and-wholesale oriented outfit called the Beverage Trade Network (BTN) announcing the CannabisDrinks Expo

This will stage at the South San Francisco Conference Center "centrally located at the heart of the Bay Area biotech region" in July 2019. 

"Particularly relevant in light of the new wave of cannabis-focused alcohol brands," BTN says the event will be "a unique chance for the industry to determine what strategies it needs to put in place now to capitalise on the huge opportunities for legalised cannabis drinks-related products over the next five to 10 years." 

ABV is alcohol by volume. Obviously thoroughly convinced this bracket they call "psychoactive, non-ABV drinks" will boom, psychoABV products are not far below the surface. 

BTN cites Arcview Market Research predictions that the legal cannabis market, already sitting at $7 billion, will grow to reach $23 billion by 2021. They also quote Rabobank figures showing that of the demographic "most likely to consume wine" 34% of women, 56% of baby boomers and 67% of those who earn over US$50,000 said their marijuana consumption would increase with legalisation; they would spend less on alcohol. 

Constellation Brands, a previous owner of BRL-Hardy, was the first big liquor mob to invest in Canadian marijuana. Corona was in quick, too. Other booze giants, like Miller and Pernod-Ricard watch very closely. 

Many of the early legal cannabis drinks, like the THC-infused 'beer' from Ceria, created by former Molson Coors director Keith Villa after he sold his regular Blue Moon beer business to Miller, are non-alcoholic. 

The psychoactive component of the pot can be isolated and infused or the pot plant can be used in place of, or in conjunction with hops, the usual preserving bittering agent. 

Like the early white settlers who couldn't get hops to grow in the Aussie bush instead used heads of wormwood, Artemesia absinthium, as the bittering agent in their ales. 

But like the early legit pot 'wines' these early US brews contained no ethanol. 

Suds aside, to me wine by definition means alcohol, ethanol, however modest. 

Out of all the bits and pieces of cannabis physiology and biochemistry, only two of its cannabinoids get much attention, and this pair have already transfixed the beverage industry. These are Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). 

While both are muscle-relaxing painkillers, the newly-popular CBD works well to relieve anxiety and psychosis. It can be good for PTSD. It is anti-convulsive. For many, it tempers, even stops seizures. For some reason, it has become known as the "non-psychoactive" cannabinoid, and is so far the preferred infusion for those vendors who add a little pot to their ethanol. 

THC, on the other hand, is getting a bad rap for its trippy-or-tanked extremes. To give more dumb bang for the buck, modern outlaw hydro croppers have isolated pot strains rich with THC and low on CBD. This is what makes people eat all the Tim Tams and Nutella and chips and then chew on the empty fridge or turn into blocked Easter Island stoneheads on the couch. 

More usefully, it's the one you want a wee puff of for the art gallery or a good concert or movie. Or just a touch to kick the broken appetite up if you're on chemo. So far, legit beverage manufacturers have avoided using this one much with ethanol. 

But damn, all the customer's gotta do, which they will do, already do, is make cocktails from whatever they like. If they want Green Bull and vodka, that's what they'll have. A mate who's lived awhile in Portland Oregon, who doesn't smoke pot, said sure, she had a favourite THC soda a bit like lemonade there but always poured it on Tito's vodka. 

And of course you can tie your little fluffball to the leg of the table and sit there and let the sommelier or barista mix something up just for you, depending on the way you feel. 

If I were an exporting winemaker not totally preoccupied with pleasing China, I'd be watching this segment closely. I can smell very big changes in the market. 

I trust there's a red maker out there with an eye to the future, reading about terpenes to discover which ones from the Leafly Terpene Wheel  are common in red grape skins. Thinking of smells and flavours and feelings. How to select and meld them. 

By the time you have your head around that, done the science, and recipes and trials begin to shimmer in the back of the brain, I'm sure the THC vs CBD battle will have relaxed somewhat. 

A better balance will emerge. 

But whether they take their newly-legalised pot in place of ethanol, or infused in some of it, it seems likely that many people will drink less ethanol. They will modify their intoxicant intake. 

It might pay for some of our exporters to be prepared for this trend. 

What time is it? Who's the Minister for Agriculture?

... and all this in a week which started with Mexico's former president Vicente Fox joining the board of the 45 year old bastion of the literate stoner, High Times.