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Beautiful Isle beauties

Eat | Drink | Explore

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Whitey admits to some deeply vested interests in cool Tasmania before he turns his tastebuds to two Beautiful Isle beauties.

Beautiful Isle Tamar Valley Pinot Gris 2013
$300 per dozen; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 91 points

As usual, I must begin this with a confession of vested interest. I’m friends with these winemakers. I’m mates with David Feldheim, whom some Addled Adders may remember from his days as co-proprietor of Sugar. In fact, I think I’m his godfather in a vague Jewish way. Winemakers may remember him working for years for Warren Randall and Stephen at Tatachilla, when that was still in the main street of McLaren Vale, before Randall covered the site with a yuppie ghetto or retirement village or whatever it is. I also loved David’s crazy dad, Syd. We used to scat sing together when we were drunk. I think that led to the godfather promise or whatever it was. Of course I know his mum, Jenny. I chased Dave’s wife Cyn around the Grand Hotel one night before she left her winemaking job at Hardys and ran off with David to live near her parents’ wigwam and vineyard in Tassie. Cyn and Dave’s little sons, Solomon and Aristotle, call me Uncle Philip. I feel like I’m their godfather, too.

Just thought I’d make that clear.

Next, I want you to think about grapes like Riesling and Sauvignon blanc, and “the new Sauvignon blanc, Pinot gris” – like hell – and how they can be harsh and sharp and humourless, and if they come from cold Tasmania, they’re even more cutting and crunchy. Just for now, you can forget all that.

These wines from David and Cyn’s joint are soft and wholesome. Even if you over-chill them, they have more warmth and soul about them than what you’re used to. You might expect that of a Pinot gris, but you wouldn’t expect the comforting stewed pear and quince, and even a little honey, like you get in this oozy baby. To go with those stewed fruits, it even comes with what I reckon looks like fine-ground nutmeg, and maybe a clove or two. And it’s a touch smoky, in a comforting way. It’s just syrupy enough, without getting oily. And helped by its wild yeast ferment, you’ll get just a little phenolic tannin drying off the edges of your tongue.

Damn thing makes me yearn for a duck or rabbit rillette, crunchy-crust white bread, lashings of Paris Creek butter and a big sprinkle of cracked pepper.

Beautiful Isle Tamar Valley Riesling 2013
$300 per dozen; 12% alcohol; screw cap; 93++ points

Even this Rizza has a squeeze of honey. It reminds me of the paramount Rieslings Michel Dietrich’s dad used to make at Kaiserburg in Alsace. Perhaps it’s in the dry spaetlese style, as in late-picked; fermented dry. Once you accept that honey in the bouquet, you realise the rest of it is pure Riesling, but complex and welcoming and ripe, even with these scant alcohols. It both cleanses the mouth and fills it, lolling round the laughing gear like it lives there.

Tip some in there like properly and you’ll begin to feel the chalky tannins Cyn has teased through the ferment. I’ve had this bottle open for a few days now and it gets better with air, so I’d even recommend a spot of decanter if you’re in a hurry. I can’t think of anything better suited to a hearty chicken casserole stacked with whole garlic cloves, black peppercorns and bunches of herbs fresh from the garden. And that bread-and-butter treatment as mentioned above.

These labels come from a 1920s fruit box, which makes them look very, very cool. I’m sure if you get in touch with these wildcats through their Beautiful Isle website, they’ll help you with a mixed dozen: there are other strange beauties in their arsenal, which I hope to address at further length on my website.

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