Once, when researching the origins and earliest uses of the propagandist term “spin”, as in “spin doctor”, I found a 46BC recommendation of Caesar’s histories in Cicero’s Brutus:
“They are like nude figures, upright and beautiful, stripped of all ornament of style as if they had removed a garment,” Cicero wrote of his adversary Caesar’s writings.
“His aim was to provide source material for others who might wish to write history, and perhaps he has gratified the insensitive, who may wish to use their curling-tongs on his work; but men of good sense he has deterred from writing.”
In this Basket Range Wine quintet of various presentations of three prime Bordelaise red varieties, I have found wine which is good enough to deter others from trying, surely.
There is no spin on these wines. No ornament. They are upright and beautiful. Unburnished. But I’m gonna try and write about ’em anyway. Undeterred, see? Easy trap for young players, this spin thing.
We start with the earliest-ripening Merlot, and end up with the last one in, the Petit verdot.
Basket Range Wine Adelaide Hills Merlot 2016
($36; 13.5% alcohol; cork)
The early-ripening Merlot starts the red influx in the Bordeaux vintage. Here it is at its most open-hearted. It’s fresh-faced and dead honest, a luxurious creamy framboise, a shoosh of whipped cream on the tiny forest strawberries and then some fine fresh pepper … sip its jujube lozenge and its vapour seems to flash: blithe, lithe and ethereal. I’d love to say Chanel No. 5 but then you’d probably think I meant aldehyde and I don’t. After all that pink and white beaded naugahyde in the T-Bird seat behind Marilyn you hit some nice grainy tannin and yep there’s a pack of Luckies rolled in her tee sleeve. It’s toasted!
This is not mellow Merlot; this is real cheeky juicy red wine with punchy toasted tobacco tannin.
Basket Range Wine Adelaide Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2016
($45; 13.8% alcohol, cork)
Take the above brilliant flash and add some to that austere slide rule of Bordeaux, the gunmetal glinty Cabernet, and everything changes very quickly. Suddenly it’s a sultry tango. As the blackberry leaf and briary thorn of the Cabernet twines through the Merlot flesh, they lace it with musk and confectioner’s sugar. It reminds me of the shaved ice jungle drink of fresh-squashed sugarcane juice somewhere in tiger country with a heavenly sticky dark kachang syrup like a voodoo Cottee’s Topping all over it.
It’s fascinating how these extremes play together. Somehow the very major Cabernet turns the Merlot minor. It’s a bluesy cool shiny shiny bottleneck Am7 in the moonlight. Elegant; sublimely fine; poised and balanced; it dances and shimmers on the water with authority and finesse, casting a real bone dry china dust tannin about – or is that fiddle resin?
Basket Range Wine Adelaide Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Petit Verdot 2017
($34; 13% alcohol; cork)
I dunno if you can remember Eleanor Bron playing Ottoline Morrell in Women In Love but this wine shares the sort of overbearing sensuality those two women – one then living, one dead – focused in the memorable screen character.
In this drink, that bit’s the influence of the Petit verdot, the last Bordelaise red grape to ripen. It’s the tightener. The persistent one.
So the wine seems even more railroad narrow, more steely, almost numbing. I mean look at those scarce alcohols, and then agree the wine is nevertheless heady and swoony like another flapper perfume, all black lacquer and patent polish; the distilled bark of the blackberry; prickly saltpetre, and then to ensure your forgiveness for whatever comes next, a puff of musky talc on the jitterbugged sinews. It’s gorgeous. Just watch she don’t clock you with that big glass paperweight.
Basket Range Wine Adelaide Hills Merlot Petit Verdot 2017
($35; 13% alcohol; cork)
Remove the schoolmasterly Cabernet from the middle and we should be tighter, more wiry, eh? This starts tight and granular as coffee grounds in the sun more than wiry, but then the black Merlot syrup wells up around the shiny bergamot blade of Petit verdot and the thing takes form. In this its infancy I found myself feeling like I was spreading mulberry jam with a commando knife so watch your tongue. There are subliminal hints of peppermint and wintergreen among the musk and fine sugars but it’s deep and black and overall, it’s lush and fast and it don’t look back.
While you try to remember whether it was gloss or matte it flicks you the butt as it eventually recedes, leaving you there in the dust and rubber and clutch smoke and the echoes of a fast-slow, hard-soft, silk-velvet motorcycle throb.
But it never says “potater-potater-potater” like a fluffy old Harley. This killer’s more along the lines of your tight hi-tweak Ducati. Bbbbrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. The agitated panther purr.
Basket Range Wine Adelaide Hills Petit Verdot 2016
($40; 13.8% alcohol; cork)
So we started out soft and cuddly, according to common red wine lore, and here we are on the other side of the range in the leanest territory. The little green, neat. Partly expecting the obvious: a tapering tail. But Darling, tapering? This one’s martial. It’s wily and tight and shiny as ravens and spit-polished boots. Like really abruptly so. Nutmeg oil. Lignum vitae, smoking acrid on the steel lathe. Officer material. This is the prickly hot bit, the real risky unfinish of the whole damn perfect adventure thing. But tapering? Uh-huh.
This wine’s the polished vinous equivalent of that monolith the apes hurl bones at in 2001 A Space Odyssey.
Yeah yeah I know that menhir was titanium matte, not shiny. Forgive me for putting some spin on it. And okay, this here monument’s also got lovely fragrance and flesh. It’s posh as. But it’s not tapering. It’s got crisp 90-degree edges, see.
This is a very special wine.
These are very special wines.
So you gonna throw your bones or what?
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