“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 July 2018


Xmas Hill, Tynan Road, Kuitpo, The Range and Duane Coates: go visit!

Sandy and Heidi Craig live on their picturebook Xmas Hill Vineyard on Tynan Road, on The Range, midway between McLaren Flat and Paris Creek. 

Duane Coates makes their wines in his new winery overlooking the vines. 

Tynan Road Kuitpo Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($25; 13% alcohol; screw cap) is a more grown-up wine than most of the grassy-green versions of this grape: it's had some time in good French oak. This contributes some perfectly-appropriate seasoning and extra texture, adding a tantalising aroma like slightly smoky, pale charcuterie meats. 

To a comfy degree, this plumps the cushions of the wine's bright ripe gooseberry/tomato coulis/passionfruit spectrum. For the best appreciation of this, it should not be served chilled - out of the box and fifteen minutes in the ice bucket should lob it at a more suitable "cellar" temperature. 

On one hand, it's smooth, easy, lip-smacking refreshment for that dappled veranda or patio with conversation, crudités and pale crumbly cheeses. 

But put some linen on the table and try it with barely-grilled garfish or whiting with prawn mousseline and it'll be more luxuriated oohs and aahs over the quiet clink of cutlery. Ring the bells.

looking south-west over the Blewett Springs gullies and the Willunga Fault and Escarpment toward The Range

Tynan Road Kuitpo Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2016 ($30; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap) sees that oak turned up a notch toward fresh ginger and those pale cured meats surrender to a more cashews-grilled-in-Paris Creek butter sort of affair. 

In tidy, clipped counterpoint, the wood also adds some piquant, prickly topnotes, giving the form of a cheeky young Burgundy. Which, mind you, would be taking at least double this money from your cache. 

After the Savvy-b, this is a more serious adventure. It calls for a cool Provence style pork and bean stew, or big slabs of seared pink salmon or tuna with capers, fennel and a gentle mustard cream. It's proper cool region Chardonnay made with great sensitivity at a bargain price. 

The Range from the top of Yangarra's High Sands, vintage 2018

While we're Burgundy dreaming, the Tynan Road Kuitpo Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2016 ($25; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap) is a little more Austral, more Côtes de Coates than Côtes de Nuits ... more vibrantly fruity than, say, the Dujac Gevrey 2011 I happened to taste at lunch yesterday ... maybe even more complex than your average year there on the Côtes. Which is not fair to Coates ...

At which point we can forget France and get on with Tynan Road. Its jolly, cheeky, berry fruit reminds me somewhat of my usual Adelaide Hills favourite, Ashton Hills Pinot, which is a bunch even more complex and from the real Adelaide Adelaide Hills much further to the north. But I love the little spicy hint in here, with all that pink bubby Aussie flesh. Cheeky, brash, audacious, early ... the acid's is still a tad lemony - it needs another year or two to be ideal, if that's what you want. 

Right now, I'd be entirely happy using it as a handy bridge between those fish steaks and a proper roadhouse cassoulet

The Range from McLaren Flat

Which leads neatly to the variety I regard as the Pinot from the other side of the Alps: Tynan Road Kuitpo Adelaide Hills Nebbiolo 2016 ($30; 14% alcohol; screw cap). This has even more audacious fruity flesh: bright meaty blueberry and jellied red currant with cream, wandering off toward cranberry, even salmonberry. It's a gorgeous, wholesome, dessert-like bouquet. 

Duane has been particularly judicious with the oak: this fruit would very easily be overwhelmed by the sap and spice of too many new barrels. As she stands, there's just enough to prickle and tease the gaping olfactories. 

The palate's the real playground: after those cheeky fleshy fruits the tannin settles in like a cloud (a nebbia on the Italian Piedmont, the source of Nebbiolo). While from below in the stones, the firm grape acid rises. 

Until these fringes wash back into the mainstream and settle, gimme the Piedmontese insalata di carne cruda, which is about as close as Italy gets to the minced steak tartar

Tungsten chef Rebecca Stubbs and her partner Duane Coates hosting a very special lunch on Tynan Road; Heidi and Sandy Craig lower right ... this photo Milton Wordley ... apart from eagles and satellite shots, all other photos by Philip White

Tynan Road Kuitpo Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2016 ($30; 14% alcohol; screw cap) is lovely spicy upland Shiraz right in line with the rest of this bonnie range, but bigger. 

Heady sweet perfume and flesh are once again the hallmarks, seasoned a little more by the appropriate oaks. You'd be hard-pressed to find a Shiraz as cool and fine as this on the McLaren Vale flats: it's a polar opposite to all that powerful hearty gloop from the past. 

It's more suited to the fungi textures and flavours than, say, your standard steak. Portabello, boletus and shiitake mushrooms with wokked spinach greens and reconstituted Si gua luo, the dried Chinese luffa gourd, (called something like "chiuk sung" when they have it in T-Chow) all in black bean and garlic sauce, would be a very happy marriage. 

Keep your nose on the wines coming from this fine new establishment: now he has a permanent home, Coates joins a new wave of top-level southern winemakers, who, in the consolidating years of their middle age, are finally leading the Vales in a bright new gloop-free direction. Think Pannell, Fraser, Geddes, and the bold new Grenache brigade who are finally learning to pick early. Rock'n'roll. 

A short note on appellation boundaries

Kuitpo is an unofficial appellation within the official  boundaries of the Adelaide Hills

I'm a neighbor - I live over the range to the north, near Kangarilla, in the McLaren Vale region. Which is a bit strange. I know where I live, but I no longer believe McLaren Vale knows where it is.

The site of your actual Kuitpo seems vague, but for all my life it seemed geographically and geomorphologically to be the wide, flat, crescent-shaped valley floor that starts at the road junction west of Meadows and extends toward the old Kuitpo Colony alcoholics' rehab retreat in the south. 

This complex was most infamously the last holdout of the Agape Ministries doomsday cult. To assist with counterpoint, the Meadows Technicolour Fair was a total alcostone rockout for those who survived it at the northern end of Kuitpo in north Meadows in 1972.

I remember crisply Bowie buddy Tony Visconti removing his beautiful old cello from the hail of ice thrown by a thousand drunken fiends [screaming "we want Forpie"] to guide his string quartet from the stage leaving new wife Mary Hopkin there in a presbyterian mini-dress singing "Those were the days" with a nylon-string guitar. 

Whatever Kuitpo now is has something to do with the western boundary of what early white settlers, including 1840s Macclesfield grapegrower Robert Davenport rather vaguely called Battunga, which they thought meant "country of big trees". Whether they meant stringy-bark or red gum remains to be clarified.

More significantly, that remaining government-farmed forest country - all Pinus radiata and Corymbia variegata now - was the border land between the Kaurna and Peramangk original peoples. It seems that as the white colonists moved north up the Fleurieu Peninsula, replacing the Kaurna and methodically destroying them along with their habitat, the southern Ramindjeri followed the English routes north as far as the Onkaparinga, confusing the original language boundaries.

Never use what you think is an appropriate aboriginal word as a region or brandname without checking it out with those whose tongue it is. 

Whiteman: If there were consistent logic in South Australia's Geographical Indication boundaries for wine regions, these hills called The Range and now "Adelaide Hills" would be part of the McLaren Vale GI, just as the Barossa appellation extends to include the Barossa Ranges and Eden Valley to its east.

The Kuitpo forest country is known for its astonishing range of fungi. To read of one scientific excursion, click here.

In the meantime, take a tour to Tynan Road, and see whether you agree that the wines are are as good as the remarkable view. Wine never tastes better than it does where it grew.

Kuitpo proper? Fungi scientists in the contemporary Kuitpo Forest on the eastern side of The Range, with introduced Pinus radiata on the left and introduced northern spotted gum - Corymbia variegata - on the right ... below is Leon Bignell's photograph of a pair of wedge-tailed eagles hunting on the western side of the range, with the Gulf St Vincent - patron of viticulturers and winemakers - on the horizon. This is the southern part of the McLaren Vale vignoble. All this embayment was originally covered with big river red gums - Eucalyptus cameldulensis ...

Here's what The Range looks like from the north, looking south at it over the shoulders of master high country Grenache growers, Bernard Smart and son, Wayne, in their 1926 model vines in the hills above Clarendon ... I promise soon to post some photographs looking down from Craigs' Xmas Hill and Duane Coates on Tynan Road:

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