This week’s episode of The Adelaide Show, Of Words and Wine with Philip White, we introduce you to a man who has written more about wine in Australia than most others. Philip not only was one of the early editors of Winestate Magazine, he has been published in just about every publication in Australia, has written about and advocated for many aspects of the wine industry, and this week, we sift beneath the dense undergrowth of language he crafts in his writing, to take it straight.

This week, the SA Drink Of The Week is a wine from Mitchell Wines.

In IS IT NEWS, Nigel challenges us on stories about wine.

In 100 Weeks Ago, we take you back to episode 143 for a reminder of InDaily editor, David Washington, and his now defunct segment, Talk Of The Town.

And in the musical pilgrimage … we have a song from Abbey Howlett.

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Running Sheet: Of Words and Wine with Philip White

00:00:00 Outtake
 Yeend means The End
Theme and Introduction. Our original theme song in full is here, Adelaidey-hoo.
00:02:45 SA Drink Of The Week
2010 Mitchell Sevenhill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon … tasting notes.
00:16:50 Stories Without Notice
 No story this week
00:21:27 Philip White

In my reading library, there are three sources I know will demand my full attention. James Joyce’s Ulysses, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, and Drinkster articles by Philip White. I know that in all cases, the writing is dense and demanding but if I persevere and stoically suffer the thorns and scratches, I will make it to an idyllic clearing where I have earned the right to relax and feel a little bit content. Today, we are going to look for parallels and contrasts between Philip’s writing style and his drinking style, and we hope to leave with a blend worthy of savouring with friends and travellers.

In the interview, we hear about the time when Philip had to “fire” Len Evans from the Wine and Spirit Buying Guide. It caused much rumourmongering around Sydney. Thus, we present, from his archives, a picture of the “Oxford Street punk who fired Len Evans”.

Philip White: The Oxford Street punk who fired Len Evans, from The Adelaide Show Podcast 243

Philip, I have been attracted to seeking you out due as much to your writing as to your wine insights. You have written for most publications in Australia, were the founding editor of the iconic Winestate Magazine, sacked the iconic Len Evans from The Wine and Spirit Buying Guide (a publication he founded), and displaced the iconic James Halliday to become wine writer for The National Times. That’s a lot of bodies and egos along your career path. What has the emotional aspect of your writing journey been like?

I’d like to share some of your writing from your most recent InDaily article because it is what inspired my opening thoughts about your writing style.

And there was always Cobbley’s Cider Blue Moose to consider. A sideline to their mad lumpy scrumpy, this was a filtered aerated cider containing a skyful of blue dye in a fizz bottle with a plastic fizz stopper wired well down and a blue moose on the front. I presumed the blue was there to hide the brown polka dots or whatever the fake mousse naturally had in it at the time.

That great gastronome and critic John McGrath/Howard Twelftree, central Hills dweller, taught us to have Blue Moose in big Burgundy balloons on ice with a good shot of Cointreau and a smacked mint leaf, but you wouldna wanted to get caught drinking that in the open, for fear of sexual deviancy or communniss allegations.

At least Howard was officially nuts. And he seemed somehow, impossibly, genetically endowed to handle fluently that spaghetti mess of crazy roads and goat tracks pissed in a Mini with no brakes.

How do you describe your writing style?

A Guardian reader left this caption under an article about the difficulty of reading Ulysses by James Joyce: I find late Henry James more maddening and glutinous than Ulysses. Every sentence, notwithstanding its position, has a subordinate clause which, sometimes expanding into a secondary subordinate clause, makes the comprehension of the meaning – if meaning is to be expected in literary work – a task which the reader, mired in what now looks like a third subordinate clause, will find a task stretching her or his patience to the furthest latitudes of its expatiated being.

Can we add too much density and too many adjectives to our writing?

While we’re talking about your writing, the real reason I sought you out is because my dad shared one of your articles with me, Intoxication and Rural Civic Amenity, which has haunted me since 2012 and really strikes at the heart of what Philip White brings to the world – you have a knack of calling out the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Here is the first of three quotes I’d like to explore:

“I only drank professionally,” Leonard Cohen said a few years back. “I found this wine: it was Chateau Latour. The experts talk about the bouquet and the tannins and the fruit and the symphonies of tastes. But nobody talks about the high. Bordeaux is a wine that vintners have worked on for 1,000 years. Each wine has a specific high, which is never mentioned.” In all the millions of mouthings of gastroporn and even the more technical writings on wine, you’ll have to chew through an enormous amount of shallow, endlessly repetitive praise of popular product before you find the word ethanol. Ethanol is a psychoactive recreational intoxicant which plays with the GABA receptors in our brains in pretty much the same way benzodiazepines and barbiturates do. The word intoxicated is even less likely to appear.  High?  Well, everybody knows that applies only to illicit drugs. In over 30 years of observing this community’s relationship with wine and other intoxicants, this reluctance of my wine-writing colleagues to mention ethanol and intoxication is glaring.  Perhaps this is why they call themselves wine writers, and not wine critics

Do you still find that ethanol is the elephant in the cellar door?

Nigel took this point to a deeper level recently, pointing out how shabby the research is that argues that moderate drinking is good for you.

Second quote: We may never mention ethanol or alcohol, for example, while we permit wineries which look like oil refineries into our rural landscapes.  Imagine the whingeing and perhaps even activism which would surely put a stop to a real oil refinery should one dare to enter.

Can you expand on your thoughts about the conflict of values and motivations that lead us to worship scenes of vineyards, especially where regions are just pumping out cheap, vulgar ethanol?

What do you remember most about the Vine Pull scheme of 1985?

And the third quote:  My fascination in all this has recently led me to play about blending a range of products I found on sale in Coles.  I’ve been wondering whether we really need to waste so much of our best productive ground making drugs.  I bought 750ml screw-cap jars of Sunraysia brand juice drinks.  They’re $5 a pop full price.  I chose one each of cranberry, blueberry, prune and the beetroot and apple blend.  Coles soda was $2.45 for 1.25 l; next door in Woolies I found Finlandia vodka: $33 for 700 ml of clean, fairly neutral spirit of 37.5% ethanol. I made a good sparkling Cabernet Shiraz first.  Blueberry makes good Cabernet base, fruited up with Cranberry.  A tiny admixture of prune gave it a few years age; a teaspoon of cold plunger coffee added oak; bitter green tea added tannin.  The beetroot/apple is dominated by the earthy beet: with it you get more Pinot characters, through to the GSM array to straight Shiraz, using tiny dribbles of prune as the ager.

NOTE: We did this. Here are our notes.

Here’s how you can make your own wine drink at home in about 15 minutes. We were inspired to try this after a long chat with wine writer, Philip White (InDaily). NOTE: This is not perfect yet, but we are getting closer.
120ml neutral vodka (we chose Finlandia Vodka)
120ml blueberry Juice (we chose Wilsons Organics)
60ml cranberry drink (we chose Sunraysia Australia)
10ml prune juice (we chose Sunraysia Australia)
5ml/teaspoon green tea
1.25ml/quarter teaspoon cold, strong, plunger coffee (we chose Baristador Coffee)
Quarter freshly ground clove
10ml Soda water
Mix your cordial base first with the vodka, juices/drinks, tea, coffee, and cloves.
Taste and adjust to your palate. Blueberry and cranberry add fruity sweetness, prunes add age, tea adds tannin, coffee adds coffee/chocolate bass notes, cloves add spicy aromatics.
When happy, add a splash of soda for some spritz and enjoy.
This should make a pleasing, refreshing drink.
If you try this yourself, please let us know what success or otherwise you had. Remember, tiny, trace additions of flavours are all you need to affect large changes in flavour. Experiment, have fun, and may it help you deepen your enjoyment of the beverage bounty we produce in South Australia.
Making a wine drink the Philip White way
How easy was it to make your own wine? Can it even be done without the “heat”?

Is the latest trend or fad for natural wine a middle ground? Last week we tried a Grenache from Ochota Barrels and it was hard work drinking it. Mick Jagger bought cases of the stuff but I felt like it was Emperor’s New Wines. What did you make of the Basket Range producers at the event you went to recently?

From “unmade” wine to fake wine, do you think it is good news that Wine Australia says it is going after shonky exporters now that it has new powers to fight counterfeit operators, including disallowing export approvals, and even the option to suspend or cancel licences. How much happens here? I would have thought there’d be huge factories in China churning out fakes, that we can’t touch?

We had Nick Ryan on our show last year and he commented that Moscato or Sav Blanc would never be something he opened unless wine judging. What is your secret “go to”. Are any of them from commercial producers?

A winemaker friend of mine who worked at Rosemount, said you know your stuff but were quite an “asshat” with your anti Rosemount stance at a time they were winning awards including the Bushing Festival.

Terroir? I have read articles in which writers have claimed it is wank. You use to work in the Department Of Mines, so you must have an appreciation of minerals and earth, what do you say?

American Oak? Why do you hate it so?

French wine?

I notice you are a lifetime baron of the barossa. If you were in charge of all our regions, what would you change? And if you were in charge of restaurants, what would you change? And if you were in charge of alcohol usage in homes, what would you change.

01:25:13 Is It News?
Nigel Dobson-Keeffe challenges the panel to pick the fake story from three stories from South Australia’s past. And Adrian, one of Ralf’s popular drivers, also steps in for the challenge.

The Advertiser – January 1949
Wine Grape Prices Under
It was expected that grape prices for the coming vintage would be not less than those paid last season, and that some varieties would show an increase, the president of the Wine Grape Growers’ Council (Mr. E. M. Elsworthy) said yesterday. There appeared, however, to be a reluctance on the part of winemakers to making an early announcement of the prices they were prepared to pay. Picking costs would probably be higher, as an increase in the AWU award rates for grape pickers on the River Murray was expected to be announced in February. Grape growers in the Barossa Valley last season felt that it was rather unjust that they should receive the same price for true wine grapes as that being paid to river growers for drying grapes that cost not less than 45/ a ton to cart from the river to the distilleries in. the Barossa Valley and beyond.

The Advertiser – October 1931
No Vintage Review
Several South Australian vignerons yesterday expressed regret that there was no review of the 1931 vintage in Sooth Australia available, because the position of Government viticulturist, which carried with it the responsibility for making such a report, was abolished three years ago. The point was also stressed in the report of the Federal Viticultural Council which met in Melbourne yesterday for its annual meeting. Whereas there were comprehensive reports from the Government Viticulturists of New South Wales. Victoria, and Western Australia, and from the director of fruit culture in Queensland, South Australia, the most important wine growing State in the Commonwealth, was represented by only a few lines on vineyard production from one of the last reports of Government Statist (Mr. W. L. Johnston). In view off the fact that this State provided 80 per cent, of the wine shipped oversea, the absence of such a report was regarded by wine growers as a slight on the industry, said the preside it of the South Australian Grape Vendors Association.

Chronicle August 1945
Much Goes To Dried Fruit Trade

With the dried fruit pack for South Australia in 1946 increasing to 23,286 tons of dried vine fruits and 2,102 tons of dried tree fruits, attention should be called to the encroachment by the  dried fruit trade in the domain of the wine and spirit industry, states the annual report of the Winery Board, tabled in Parliament recently. In 1945 the dried fruit pack for South Australia was 19,240 tons, which was above the average production for the five years ended December 31, 1944. A contributing factor in the serious decline in the 1946 production of wine grapes is the diversion of substantial tonnages grapes from wineries and distilleries. While a fair proportion is rendered unfit for fermentation because of rain damage, there is evidence that an appreciable portion could have been used for wine production.

01:41:52 100 Weeks Ago
We opened the vault to go back 100 weeks for a reminder of InDaily editor, David Washington, and his now defunct segment, Talk Of The Town. What was the hot topic of political discussion on May 18, 2016? It was trams. Here is just the introduction, the full segment can be heard in episode 143.
01:45:36 Musical Pilgrimage
And our song this week is by Abbey Howlett, selected by our musical curator, Todd Fischer.
01:59:27 Outtake

Here is this week’s preview video:

SFX: Throughout the podcast we use free sfx from for the harp, the visa stamp, the silent movie music, the stylus, the radio signal sfx, the wine pouring and cork pulling sfx, and the swooshes around Siri.