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Wines with sass, slickness and style


Whitey’s got ink all over his fingers with this collection of very cool Vales wines.

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Dudley Brown scares me with Viognier. I saw him crushing some years ago. I’m colourblind, but I reckon it was blue like whitebait. Moulds after moisture. He usually makes a pretty good Viognier.

Then he comes out, or at least round, with this 2015 one that he tells pirate stories about while his partner, Dr Irina Santiago Brown, presents her famous 27-bottle batch of murky orange hippy wine out of a bucket of the 2016. I liked that bucket wine. It stayed fresh and staunch for months in the fridge.

Everybody in the know knows how I give orange wines hell. The Doc’s was a bewdy.

I still think the best Viognier I had came from the last little bit the French got down to in the ’70s, when there was something like 30ha of it left in Condrieu. Which was all there was on Earth. It was no big deal. A curio they wished they could sell. It always had good acid and the tannins of a red. In fact, its tannins were strong enough to fix and darken the hue of unripe north Rhône Shiraz.

As a neat varietal, which was rare, the wines were stiff with fresh ginger and horseradish root and a threatening layer of something that seemed too close to the cyanic acid you get in apricot kernels. That’s where we get nerve gas and blue food colouring. When I was a kid, Italian men used to eat it when they “gotta the cance”.

Anyway, as far as the Viognier politics go round at Casa Brun, I reckon a wine that’s somewhere between these two will do the best business. In the meantime, this Inkwell Blonde on Blonde McLaren Vale Viognier 2015 ($30; 12.9% alcohol; screw cap; 1596 bottles) has all the above in very polite missionary measures. And it’s got the right sort of alcohol for Viognier. Thirteen should be max.

It’s not russet or rusty or orange or anything: it’s clear and bright. It’s not like stone fruits, which they say Viognier should resemble. It’s more like honeydew melon. It’s perfectly, elegantly slimy. It has some butter and honey and then the sort of tannin that’s so fine it’s like a crushed-up mortar and pestle.

There’s a warm south-of-France bean stew with pork belly and artichoke hearts that would set a dangerous tectonic wave going if, like, 50 people ate it with this wine all at once.

Inkwell Reckoner McLaren Vale Cabernet Shiraz 2013 ($30; 13.7% alcohol; screw cap; 1200 bottles) is from the loam on the Pirramimma Sandstone in this bold vineyard down there a few kays from the beach on California Road. Fig, black briar berries, juniper, deadly nightshade – many of those gunblue peppery aspects of cress and basil – are all here in an acid shell lacquer, an essence. With musk and crème de groseille, the raspberry version of crème de cassis.

This wine has a lovely determined logic about it. It shows firstly what you can grow and make if you think first and then it begins to show how stupid it’s been mechanically making McLaren Vale reds at 15 to 17% alcohol, year in, year out.

Sass, silk ‘n’ velvet, slickness and sin.

Inkwell I & I McLaren Vale Shiraz 2013 ($30; 13.7% alcohol; screw cap; 1596 bottles) is more complex and sinister. Martial. There’s a lot of highly polished, very soft black dress leather. These are all black horses in here, Ma’am. That one’s got his tail braided. They musta done his hooves with coal tar.

This has all those blacksmithed essences and lacquer of the Reckoner, but with more currants, carbon and licorice/anise. To think Dudley and Doc skwoze all that intensity into this little glass at such a happy alcohol is a wonderful thing to see. We don’t need all that alcohol. Not with flavour like this.

This is a really glamorous and vibrant strap of a wine. Blue steak in a creamy black peppercorn sauce. Dammit, you could even put some ripe Roquefort in that cream. And more fresh pepper please.

No need to cut yourself short of turpenes.

These wines are about understanding the rocks beneath one’s feet and the flavour of the breeze in one’s teeth before even setting forth in winemaking. They are very cool. And that I & I Shiraz, that’s really out there. That’s a very fine wine indeed.

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