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The Independent Weekly thirst
Philip White http://drinkster.blogspot.com/
Dowie Doole Tintookie
Chenin Blanc 2008
$30; 11.5% alcohol;
Brian Light makes this beauty the old way, with wild
yeasts, lotsa lees, some old oak, and the best
handpicked old vine Chenin Lulu that Lunn and
Drew Dowie grow on the deep Semaphore sands
of Blewett Springs. It's still grainy, like an old
Bunuel movie, but finer and less agricultural than
the 2006, which I pointed equally, but has the
same propensity to age for decades. It has the
perfectly pithy dry finish that makes the drinker
feel starved for fresh char-grilled seafood, and the
darned thing sits in your mouth like a belligerent
squatter, long after the eviction order has been
issued A new benchmark!
mpranillo Touriga 2007
7; 14.5% alcohol;
delaide is an appelletion super-zone, covering
verything from Clare to Kangaroo Island. Steve
Pannell made this from Spanish and Portuguese
varieties grown there, in respect of the mighty but
are Wendouree pressings reds. Since wendouree
s a western Victorian aboriginal word meaning
piss off, it makes those wines seem rarer still.
This is not quite so scarce. But it has all those
magnificent bone dry tannins, in a boisterous,
orceful mouthful with still retains some berries,
natural acid, and right royal poise -- it's not based
on brute alcohol. I could utter many fulsomely
profane curses here. Go buy!
In the late 80s, I lived for a
while on the edge of the Mallee,
between Truro and Eudunda.
There were no vineyards within
a 30-minute drive, but I always
knew when vintage was on. Mighty
juggernauts piled with grapes
suddenly began to roar past, 24/7,
trucking fruit from the Murray to
the Kaiser Stuhl/Penfolds refinery
Blokes who normally carted
landfill and gravel would seal the
tipper flap at the back of their
trucks with stuff they called
Gorilla Snot -- it came from a tube
-- and suddenly switch to the fine
Curiously, I slipped into the
winery one afternoon to check the
quality of that fruit. After hours
of dirt roads, the sticky grapes
had gathered a thick layer of dust,
which was mud by the time it
They d break the seal and simply
tip the muck into the hoppers,
where the great worm screws
would force the disgusting load
into the winery.
Mud wasn t the only contami-
Harvesting machines pick
snakes, lizards, rats, mice, snails,
birds, earwigs, spiders and
everything else that lives in the
vine canopies. Everything went
through the big worm, with the
Unless the winemakers used
various chemicals to remove the
resultant protein and filth from the
finished wine, we drank it.
No other food industry would
permit such contamination.
The machinery has improved
since those days, but mechanical
harvesters remain indiscriminate.
To make better wine, and provide
a more marked point of difference,
thereby justifying higher prices,
proper winemakers still go to the
bother of picking by hand.
There are fewer stalks, leaves
and critters, and hand-selected
bunches I see each year going
through the hopper at Penfolds
Magill, for example, look as if they
have been hand-washed.
They are pristine.
For many years the fanatical
winemakers of Bordeaux, and
other grand French vignobles, have
been hand-sorting such carefully
picked bunches once more before
they hit the crusher.
Bunches with botrytis, other
moulds, too many raisins, or the
slightest blemish get the flick.
Australian wine industrialists
regard such care as prohibitively
Enter a suave French engineer,
Jacques Blain, of Lyon.
He runs a company called
Vaucher Beguet, designing and
supplying the best wineries of
France with grape processing
We sat chatting on my patio last
week, a short stroll from the new
Yangarra winery near Kangarilla.
Inside that handsome building sits
Vibrators and hair dryers
Ingenuity at work: Gerald Asbroek of Wineries By Design, builder of the new Yangarra winery; Jacques Blain of Vaucher Beguet, inventor of the Mistral grape sorter; and
Peter Fraser, GM/winemaker of Yangarra Estate.
a glittering example of Jacques
ingenuity: a Vaucher Beguet
This single invention is chang-
ing winemaking forever.
"A customer in Bordeaux
complained that human grape
sorters were far from perfect,"
"They talk with each other, you
know, tell the jokes, take their eyes
from the work, and still we see
imperfect fruit getting through.
So they ask me to design a sorting
machine. We have three weeks to
Jacques sat down with his
business partner, Gerard Vouchet,
and designed a machine that
destemmed the grapes, then
vibrated a sloping perforated
steel panel which let the smaller
imperfect berries fall into a bin
before the better fruit went into
"It did not work very well," he
explained, "because all the leaf
and stem and other contaminant
still come through with the must.
"So I say to myself 'We should
try with wind . Gerard said, 'Give
me five minutes , and he soon
came back with his wife s hair
dryer. It worked.
"I patent the machine and we
delivered ... In 2005 we have sold
seven sorters: four in France and
three in the USA.
"Now we have sold 300. There
are six in your country."
I can watch this machine for
hours: it s hypnotic.
Other winemakers can t wait to
put their fruit through it ... there s
There are four bins surround-
One fills with the stalks from
The next fills with the grey pulp
of raisins, unripe berries the size
of lentils, crawling with earwigs,
snails and whatnot.
The third fills with leaves, more
stalks, petiols, bits of critters,
mucky broken berries, more
earwigs, snails, and numerous
There was perfect kidney in there
And the fourth bin fills with
perfectly matched individual
grapes, looking as if each one
was hand-selected and polished
It s incredible to think that it
took so many centuries of dirty
winemaking to see the need for
this improvement, and to get on
with designing and building the
But the biggest shock came not
with your average machine-picked
fruit, but the first batches of
fastidiously hand-picked whole
Stuff that we ve always
regarded as clean, perfect
material for the very top shelf,
suddenly began spitting out the
hidden greeblies from within each
bunch: not quite the volumes of
contaminating crap the harvest-
ing machines deliver, but enough
to make all who see it curse in
The ferments are brilliant.
I say to myself We
should try with wind .
Gerard said Give me
five minutes and he
soon came back with
his wife s hair drier.
and ingenuity built
the new machine
that separates the
good stuff from
issued. A new bench
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