Time to take a ride in some Tim Smith red. Jeez he’s good at it. After working for decades around the Barossa for various large outfits, he knows the Big Valley’s viticultural nooks and crannies like the skins on his drum kit, or the tank on his Trumpie Bonneville: you can learn a lot about a person by measuring the fetishes they hold closest.
Tim sniffs out the fruit he knows suits his style, and makes the wine in his own corner of the old Penfolds/Tarac complex at Nuriootpa, now named after my departed friend and mentor, the great wine scientist Ray Beckwith. Fitting. Ray always said: “There you have the science. Now show me your art.”
For a warm-up riff, slap the Bugalugs by Tim Smith Barossa Shiraz 2016 ($25; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap). This, ahem, is his drink-quick line: a perverse tilt at Barossa Nouveau. Made from inky Shiraz? You bet.
Think of the scary powerhouse Mingus/Miles drummer Elvin Bishop suddenly switching to a lazy bossa nova with Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto. But this girl is from Nuriootpa, not Ipanema. And she may have started out cool and steady, but now she’s driving the Triumph flat strap up Menglers in her leathers, not slinking along a beach in a bikini. The music gets faster.
Coffee. The oak reminds me of good coffee. Which is a change from the old chocolate-prominent oak that once was an easy hint that you had Barossa in your glass. Before the obsessive barista phenomenon hit town, Don Hannaford used to tell me that if they could make coffee taste as good as it smells, he’d drink it. I’ll bet he’d have no trouble schlücking a jug of this. Not just because of that sultry aroma’s introductory promise of caffeine, but via the ridiculously juicy black fruit that wraps around it. It’s fleshy, curvy and healthy on the one hand; on the other, sinister in its frank and immediate seduction.
Whack her back a cog for the big sweeper round the Sculpture Park, and head for the hilltop by tipping some in: smooth as, with just a tickle of neat acid tidying the ultra-fine tannin. I was about to say “drinking, not thinking” but it’s more than that if you get off the pillion, sit on the roadside, and watch her go. Once that risky thrill of hanging on lifts, you’ll feel a lot more involved in the drift. Yum-O. Things could be a lot wurst.
Having absorbed all that, imagine what this bloke would make of a full-bore Barossa. Answer: Tim Smith Wines Barossa Shiraz 2015 ($38; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap). This is Elvin driving the Trumpy. Hill? What hill?
Eight vineyards were raided for this ride: different sites, heights and geologies. Soot, stoves, sump oil in the pan. Dammit, this dude’s riding the damn thing straight down into the ground, dragging the sunshine behind him. It seems leaner, meaner, more determined and shiny with sweat from that last big solo. Miles playing through his mute before he opens the trumpet right out and Mingus slaps that bass clean through to voodoo heaven. It’s a friggin gorgeous thing: a spell-binder. Serious avant-garde jazzrock on a motorbike built for those of us who enjoy confused senses. Just watch out for the finish. It never seems to come.
But it’s not Elvin leaning across the tank, it’s that girl from Nuriootpa, and as she passes each one she goes “Aaaaah.”
I trust that makes everything clear.
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