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Small Change, big flavour

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Whitey discovers two beaut off-the-wall babies made at a very shiny price by a bloke of uncommon gastronomic intelligence – don’t forget your Small Change.

Small Change White
$20; 11.9% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points

Fillets, Flipper, Filth, Furber, Snow, Whitey … I’ve had some nicknames in my time, some of them completely appropriate, but I’ve never been called Small Change. Pardon my presumption, but I rather like it. Rhys Howlett made the wine and named it. It’s 2013 Verdelho from Langhorne Creek, made, dare I say, much after the retro-rad style of Luis “Louie the Duck” Pato, leader of the Portuguese white wine revolution. It reminds me of some of his exemplary Vinhas Velhas, like the 2010, which just manages to have the same modest number of alcohols as this. What a lovely number!

Verdelho can be made to taste a bit like Riesling, and sometimes it tastes a bit like Chenin blanc, both of which are surprising for a variety the Portuguese cultivated on their tropical island colony of Madeira in order to make mighty concentrated fortifieds that would last for a century or more. It was common for sailors headed to the antipodes to call by there for a schlück, hoist the odd barrel or two aboard, and a bale or six of cuttings for their New World. So we grow Verdelho. And, oh yes, did I forget to tell you that most Australian Verdelho is very, very boring.

This wine is NOT boring. This one’s made to taste and feel more like an actual wine than, say, your most flinty austere Riesling or indeed most Oz Verdelho. It has just the right drip of gingery sweat on its tropical flesh, and the right ping of lemony acid that draws your lips to a pucker as its tail disappears down your throat. Made to slurp with crayfish, scallops, sardines, Coorong mullet et cetera, it is a lovely thing at a shiny price. If it had a duck on it, like Luis’s posh Portuguese blends, you’d be paying twice this price.

Small Change Red
$22; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points

Same bloke; same gastronomic ethic and wit; same region; made from 2013 Langhorne Creek Grenache and Shiraz. It’s beautifully heady and scented, somewhere well beyond morello cherries, past beetroot, even past Guinness, away out in those swoony nether regions of black fruits and spooky licorice roots which have not yet evolved. It’s viscous and silky and barely tannic, as if Auguste Clape were suddenly to make a Beaujolais, or Pope Frank were to burst out in tongues and begin chasing sheilas round the nave.

It makes me crave those big gamy Calabrian snags they build out of scrapings and other odd shreds of critters that fall off or get sliced or ground or chewed off or blown away, even get run over, and miraculously escape the smokehouse. Which makes me realise the wine has no discernable oak, which pushes it even further out and away from the mainstream plonkers.

I get the feeling Rhys has been plotting these wines through all those years of exile he spent working for the Bordelaise winemaker Jacques Lurton, at his Kangaroo Island vineyard. Neither of these two Small Changes happened without a lot of thought and an uncommon wallop of gastronomic intelligence.

Wines can be ordered via the Small Change website.

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