“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)





15 September 2018


Spring is Clare Riesling time. O'Leary Walker always sets an early template

O'Leary Walker Watervale  Clare Valley Riesling 2018 
($22; 11.5% alcohol; screw cap) 

Just limes. Pure and simple. 

Oh yes. There's also the wild high smell of that chalky Watervale slope after a light summer sunshower. Dampened dry pasture. A general feeling of nature and delight. Good Clare Riesling does this. 

And the O'Leary-Walker blokes are the masters of getting all this into the bottle, safe and sound for decades. My annual wait for the arrival for these truly distinctive whites, after nearly twenty years of them, has become a bigger deal than Christmas. The frustration is handling the idea that each year seems better than its predecessor. Yep, this year seems better than all of them. 

This really is about as definitive as Watervale gets. Precise, fine, uncompromising, taut: it's hard to handle the notion of something so steely and humourless being so packed with life. And we're still just sniffin'. Drink. As predicted: limes and shiny, shiny steel. Refreshment with its own inbuilt challenge. 

Prime slice of Watervale's Côte des Blanc, viewed from the tasting and sales room ... these photos Philip White  

This is no joke, but it makes me smile. It's full-bore austere, yet it's really a solid billet of generosity. Confident. It pretty well moves in and just sits there, totally occupying the mouth. 

Fresh Emu Bay King George whiting sizzled briefly with butter, squirted with lemon, fresh grind of black pepper, crunchy bread and butter, bottle o' this ... hear me leer. 

O'Leary Walker Polish Hill River Clare Valley Riesling 2018 
($25; 12 % alcohol; screw cap) 

Grown in the older schists, siltstones and slates across the range to the east of Watervale, the Polish Hill River wine usually has more tropical fruits, like fleshy, aromatic lychee and rambutan, than the straight down-the-line steely citrus offered by the Watervale chalks. 

Same here in 2018: maybe there's more of both tropicals and Ozzie dust. This is looking increasingly like a mighty year - these ARE better, or maybe just more obvious than usual, if that means anything. 

So in there with the grapefruit pith, the magnolia petals, the star fruit, the entire jungle fruiterer, that reek of high summer dust, you'll find a less austere, more open-heartedly generous, more coddling and cuddling sort of a companion. 

This is the wine for fattier river fish and marron with garlic in butter. Reminds me of Jean Meyer showing me how his Alsace Riesling from ancient marine geology went better with seafood while his Riesling from freshwater riverine geology was best with freshwater fishes. 

Shiitake. Enoki. I suspect that of the great longevity both wines promise, this year the Watervale wine is the real long-hauler. It'll outlive me. The Polish Hill offers more humourous pleasure and immediate comfort and reassurance in this its youth. I intend to outlive it. This bottle, anyway. Get up to Clare and rattle a few glasses. And buy a bottle or two of the right royal 2013 Drs. Cut Riesling while you're there. That'll shiver some timbers.

Here be the lads with the serious pre-party jitters. Have we done the right thing? Like which is the better Riesling? Have we invited the right people? 

They'll be cool when the guests arrive!

"Whole lotta things that I never done - I ain't ever had too much fun!"

I hope that Peter Dutton keeps this snap close to the front of my file: I was invited to do the business welcoming Prime Minister John Howard and introducing him at the opening of the O'Leary Walker winery. You don't get too many Prime Ministers opening too many wineries anywhere on Earth these days. Together, on the day, we did a good job. I reckon overall, Howard handled my low pH intro speech pretty well. Not chatted since, mind you. 

Six Prime Ministers later, and the O'Leary Walker is the only constant. The Rieslings get better organised every year.

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