“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)





01 October 2018



Right up to your chin: an old Scot's Coonawarra offspring mobs the table

Douglas Balnaves is a man of his word. When he wrote to me of our joint responsibilities cavian in response to my bit about William Wilson, sight undrunk, he promised a bottle of the new red work of the Redman's and the Balnaves families. 

Here it be. 

It is beautiful fragrant wine. Yep, it'll cost a couple of haircuts, but to certain levels of the luxury bibulant spender, what's a loose hairshirt among the discerning hirsute? The bearded aspirant? Like a great malt, the new Balnaves/Redman is perfect for special friends on special days. Plan a raid. Dig out the plaid. Steal some.

William Wilson Coonawarra Shiraz Cabernet 2016
($300; 14.5% alcohol; cork; 250 cases) 

It's not as raw as I recall Peppermint Pattie being, but holy hell this is an exotic pretty that reminds me of that legendary Mildara Coonawarra from 1963. That old glory was all Cabernet, mind you, and probably not quite as ripe as this, but keen as I was to get the damn cork out from under this wax, I sat bumped square on my arse once I got the smell of it flooding across the table. 

It's an incredible gastronomic ornament, and its floods like a big fluffy musky marshmallow cushion of loveliness that comes right up to your chin. You need only lean the hooter down a few inches to get a proper headful. Whoosh! While the Pattie was more raw eucalyptol at a dozen years, this is the whole damn confectioner's shop, from crystallised violets to spun sugar fairy floss pashmak to red and black currant fruit gels and the chill Malay shaved ice dessert, ais kacang, with all those jungle syrups dribbling over it. 

Which doesn't sound much like a proper bottle of red wine, eh. Nope. And this is not. This is a freak. Grown and made by the Balnaves and Redman families, it's named after their common ancestor, the canny Black Watch Highlander Wilson who was probably the first white bloke to appreciate the gardening potential of the long terra rossa bank that stretches from Penola to Coonawarra. 

Old William would have turned 200 this year. It's all his fault. 

This wine, his namesake, really is a freak. It's lithe and spritely, but never sinewy or tough. It's so pretty with all those confections that it sometimes seems barely vinous: you might forget that's dry red wine in your glass. Which it is, or course. It's just that this wine is so cutely balanced and disarming in its dimpled youth you might forget it's likely to rock along, cork willing, for a couple of decades yet. 

It has many brazen hearts to break, this beauty, and as many broken ones to heal. Whadder you got? 

Other than that total warp in the Mildara cosmos from 1963, maybe the only other Coonawarra reds much along the lines of this would be Penfolds hyper-luxuries, like the staggering Penfolds Bin 620 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2008. Which was $1000 a pop before it sold out in a flash upon release in 2011, if you need some price relavisin'. 

I'm not suggesting anybody should blithely duck out and buy a couple of cases of this: it's expensive. I can't afford it. But now and then when somebody needs a very special gift this would be the business. This would please every party. This is extra. Just remember: two glasses. One corkscrew. No wolfhounds. And a suite.

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