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The pale pleasures of Provenance


Whitey gets lost in a movie somewhere between Zurich and Ballarat.

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Provenance the Griesling 2016
($26; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap)

Alsace is one French wine region Australians don’t seem very aware of, and yet its Riesling/Pinot gris viticulture has had a long-term influence from afar in its subtle, persistent way. Why not grow these varieties near Geelong. Or somewhere. And put them together?

Provenance winemaker Scott Ireland couldn’t see why not. I’m with Scott. The result is firstly a tour through pear land. The aromatics are steep with sliced pears of all types, led by a sharp, prickly edge evocative of their peel and the peel of the cantaloupe, as if shredded and grilled and presented as a garnish on a cushion of creamy lemon custard.

Those pears retreat nicely into a lightly-baked tart of all the above as you ponder the mouthful. It is indeed creamy and gentle, and not particularly much like either of its components. It has a gracious autumnal air about it, a little like some of the best Marsanne.

It’s dry, but has a polite illusion of sweetness, like Golden Syrup on dumplings. I can imagine taking a tipple of this in some grey old Zurich street, a tiny cream ristretto and a sweet dainty on the side. Should I attempt the newspapers in English, Italian, French or German? Dearie me. Is she still watching?

Provenance Tarrington Pinot Gris 2015
($26; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap)

Put that piquant prickle of the pear and cantaloupe peel in a dusty burlap sack and you’re closing in on this bouquet. It’s rustic and, again, somehow autumnal. It prickles and tickles. In contrast, its texture is fluffy and comforting.

If you drank it from a black glass, you’d probably swear it was a genteel and comfy red. Like a soft and simple morello cherry Pinot noir or Grenache without much tannin.

Like the Griesling, it has a spooky kind of spy movie feel about it, leaving me sitting here wondering which side of the Alps we’re on. Who polished this brass? Is that Graham Greene? Buttery croissant, please, with jambon and melted cheese. Blow the smoke off your .38 and light up a Lucky. Look out the window. Is this Bruges?

Provenance Golden Plains Chardonnay 2015
($28; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap)

We’re homing in on Beaune. Or Ballarat. The cooper’s been here, with a whole assortment of spicy staves from one tree here; one tree there. Replace the pears with citrus, honeydew – I swear I can smell lilac out there somewhere – but keep that same house style, and we begin to get the mind of south-west Victoria winemakers Scott Ireland and Sam Vogel. We hit serious acid here; a different authority.

These are dead honest wines: so barefaced in their sense of source and belonging that they transport you. They’ll hang you out over somewhere which is certainly not here. They’re mysterious and genteel.

Perfect drinks for the season. Get in the movie. I’ll keep an eye out for you. And yes, I’ll have the baked flounder with bitter melon and mustard please ZuZu.

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