The Friday Fermentable: Philip White, Drinkster, and George Aldridge, Artist, Cartoonist, and Illustrator

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, is a place that many have told me I must visit (although perhaps not now as they are experiencing record heat). In fact, a twist of science and friendships nearly brought me there for my sabbatical before I had a big change in my life. The University of Adelaide is outstanding (and home of colleague and Astroblog blogger, Ian Musgrave), the surrounding wine appellations are world-famous, and the mountains to the northwest would be a combination I'm told I'd be certain to enjoy.

Therefore, I was delighted to receive the following e-mail on 3 January from renowned Australian wine writer, Philip White, who was attracted by my pseudonym:

Dear Dr.,

There's a lot to be said for ersatz monikers, especially if they're cleverly constructed, which drew me to yourn.

You made me laugh - I glued you in my regulars, which is the place to be.

I started writing so long ago my cover was blown by the time I was six, so I'm envious.

I do however answer to Fellici Bianco, and to various other appellations.

I was Filth at school. My black mates call me Whitey.

I'm sitting inside my French windows in a beautiful vineyard in McLaren Vale, South Australia. It's about 38 degrees Centigrade outside ... the cutting horses are dozing neath the eucalypts, and all the wee berrudies are taking their arvo nap. I'm sposed to be writing about geology for money, but, well, you know, it's Saturday, the riesling is cold, I'm too lazy to cook, and sometimes a mind sets a ramblin and takes a stroll through the big cob web. Anything to do with drugs and drinking immediately attracts my attention.

So thanks for the humourous break you gave me.

Keep in touch,
Philip White.

With that fantastic imagery, it will be no surprise to you that Mr White keeps a blog of wine stories at d r i n k s t e r, and an incredible wine-tasting notes archive at Drankster.

White's self-description:

Philip has written about the history, economics, politics, geography, geology, ecology, manufacture, marketing, packaging, flogging, not to mention the drinking of grog, mainly grape-based, and its results, for thirty years, in newspapers and magazines all over Australia, not to mention a couple of shiny ones in London.

His writing simply makes me want to either strive to be him or hang up The Friday Fermentable feature in resignation. Witness his skewering of a, shall we say, substandard beverage:

Golden Oak Australia Argentina Medium Dry White 05:33 L 8290
$2.50/litre; 9.5% alcohol; bladder pack; 68 points
Alarmingly fizzy when poured (from a chrome handbag) this wine has obviously used all that soluble CO2 to maintain its bright fruity freshness. It smells like fresh white grapes - doradillo maybe, like Petaluma has on its labels - with a dusty whiff of the desert about them. Can't blame that on the cork, eh, Portugal? Maybe a little plastic, but it's not overt with polyvinyl chloride, which is a mercy. It does show a squirt of some cosmetic, adding to its quality. The palate tastes like a glass of sugary water with a dash of impossibly fresh grape juice - about as sweet as what we used to call spatlese riesling in the '70s and '80s. Mother's Little Helper. While there's no vintage date, there IS a batch number in fine print on top of the box. So if you get another batch number, it's not the wine I tasted here. Not too bad, really: fault-free, but cleverly concocted to the price, cheaper than imported bottled water, and sweet! Go for it! PS: Try it with ice and soda in a long tumbler, and a sprig of mint. BWS.

Cheaper than imported bottled water. True, indeed.

Originally a poet, Mr White has been a formal journalist and wine critic for over 30 years. Not highly publicized is his dedication to his community, from supporting wine making from residential grapes left to waste to fundraising for the care of those with alcohol addictions. Mr White is easily the most highly-regarded wine writer in South Australia.

Philip's take yesterday on the impact of the current SA heat wave and vintage 2009 and, more importantly, the people of Adelaide, is far more informative than other press reports. (Mr White is, however, also quoted in The Independent Weekly as well.). Fellow Twitterers can follow the latest news using the hashtag #adelaideheatwave.

Beyond his terrific writing, I am impressed by Mr White in his outspoken support for small, traditional wine makers and disdain for mass-produced corporate swill - these comments from 2001 were particularly prescient:

Philip White says the tragedy is smaller winemakers who still handpick their fruit are making better, more authentic, Australian-tasting wine. He says the big companies, millions on distribution and marketing, are churning it out to a formula in hyper-sized refineries.

"What was a cute wholesome product is now a commodity that is generally overpriced. It's totally unnecessary and in some cases is like coca-cola except in some instances you'll find it's selling cheaper than coca cola," Philip White said.

Philip White hopes consumers here and overseas will be a wake-up to the hype, before the industry is consumed by it's own hubris.

"In South Australia if you're even vaguely critical of any aspect of the wine industry, you're regarded as a traitor who should be thrown out of Australia. It's a very cocky self-satisfied group of people at the moment," he said.

I wrote a few months ago about my current disappointment in one of my old Aussie favorites, Rosemount Estates Shiraz, and learned that the original maker has started a small estate winemaking enterprise. I share Mr White's enthusiasm for small, authentic Australian producers.

With that all said, I strongly encourage readers of The Friday Fermentable to dial up Drinkster and Drankster. While you may not get all of the wines in your area, you can still enjoy the delicious imagery of Mr White's writing.

One final aside that we'll follow next week: While perusing Mr White's Drinkster site, I came across some fantastic drawings by artist, George Aldridge:

i-d7da8336bcf0488b77cfa53f0ab7e554-aldridge drinkster.jpg

All the DRINKSTER cartoons are by the Flinders Ranges based artist, George Grainger Aldridge. While George draws cartoons for DRINKSTER and The Independent Weekly, he usually paints huge beautiful landscapes of the Adnyamathanha country in the northern mountains, and portraits of those who live in them. For copies, or originals, of the work of George Grainger Aldridge, contact him at aldridge_george [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] au.

So taken was I by Mr Aldridge's artwork that I asked Mr White for an introduction. Mr Grainger and I had a few conversations and I sent a few photographs of me enjoying a McLaren Vale Reserve Shiraz. Next week, we shall present Mr Aldridge's interpretations of your humble blogger and hold a vote for the most appropriate image to accompany this near-weekly feature.

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Delightful. Another source for wine escapes.

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