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Wine to drink in quadrophonic headphones

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Philip White sings the praises of three releases from Vales winery Inkwell – including a ravishing tribute to Lou Reed that’s more Metal Machine Music than Perfect Day.

Inkwell Blonde on Blonde McLaren Vale Viognier 2014
$25; 12.9% alcohol; screw cap; 91 points

It seems that a few Australian winemakers have reached a new level of appreciation of Viognier, which had almost entirely disappeared from its home in France by the time the quirky Peter Wall decided it would become Yalumba’s top white nearly 30 years ago. Now, with wines like the sublime Castagna Ingénue 2013, we see an enlightened change of gear. Here’s another example: heady with a sort of royal oiliness that reminds me of avocado, but with balancing, paler flesh, with aromas and flavours like a salad of carambola, cherimoya and sapodilla.

Such wines are moving the variety from a Chardonnay alternative made pretty much to be like an ordinary Chardonnay canned with thicker syrup by a different mob to a true alternative in the sense of radical departure. I know it’s the wrong album, but you really “don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”. To pause a mo on His Bobness’s Blonde on Blonde, sooner or later one of us must know that while this wine is no idiot wind, it’s clearly blowing from somewhere else. It has that subtle confident oiliness that caresses and soothes the mouth rather than rinsing or bleaching it, but it never begins to paint and coat it to the point of sealing it from the weather. Rather, its fatty acid unction is calming and satisfying, and provokes no urgent hunger, a famishing quality I usually like in wine.

So what does it make me wanna do, other than snooze? It makes me put it back in the fridge and begin the careful construction of a red pork curry. Which is a contradiction, but who cares?

Inkwell I & I McLaren Vale Shiraz 2012
$30; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93++ points

Maybe it’s the vineyard’s proximity to the Gulf St Vincent (patron of viticulturers) that has soothed this wine to a more mellow state than the mighty 2012s made in regions further from such calming Mediterranean humidity; perhaps it’s Dudley Brown’s increasing wisdom as a grower and maker who understands his geology. I reckon it’s both. Whatever. This is a rich dense syrup of prune and pickled morello cherries with a drying topnote that’s as much soft-and-pithy Ditters dried apple as the chalky clay and ferruginous sandstone of the site.

In the Vales, sandstone often seems to impart more morello, while the rare bits of chalky calcrete give tighter, less humourous, Coonawarra-like tannins. But that’s the bouquet. In the mouth the wine is more typical ’12. It’s long and intense and bone dry with the sort of fine tannin that will carry it for the year or two it will take for its lovely fruit juice to properly swell and cushion that natural grapeskin and pip preservative. Right now, I’d love the opportunity to have it with numerous spoonsful of ripe Stilton. Which is how my mate Max Schubert preferred to take a younger Grange.

Inkwell Perfect Day McLaren Vale Shiraz 2012
$40; 14.6% alcohol; screw cap; 94+++ points

A touch more new French oak in the barrel selection and a dab of the Calabrian Primitivo has given this wine more smug carbon darkness right from the start. It has everything the I & I projects, but in a more authoritative and monumental form. Like the stony faces of Easter Island or the Sphinx, it’s gonna take a long time for its countenance to weather and fall.

There’s intensely compressed and ultra-smooth fruit in the bouquet, but that’s only the beginning. Think of melting iron in a limeburner’s kiln and you’re beginning to get close. Take a schlück and the gums and cheeks wince hungrily, reaching for the dribbling pink steak and a stack of field mushrooms in butter and lemon, a reduction of this wine, barely-ground black peppercorns and cream all over the top. This is not for vegan diets. But it is a ravishing thing.

While it’s dedicated to Lou Reed and named after one of his most childishly hopeful songs, I reckon that at this baby stage it’s a lot more Metal Machine Music on vinyl. It’s the sort of wine I’d prefer to drink in quadrophonic headphones. Clunk. Hiss. Schlurp. Chew. Choof. Chill with a grin.

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