A fab quartet blanc from Thorn-Clarke
Whitey surrenders to four delicious fleshy new ‘uns from Thorn-Clarke winemaker Pete Kelly.
Thorn-Clarke Sandpiper Eden Valley Pinot Gris 2017
($20; 11.5% alcohol; screw cap)
Long of the belief that you can’t grow good Pinot gris anywhere that won’t grow good Pinot noir, I hit the dogma wall at this wine. Like you wouldn’t expect to grow the best Pinot noir in the Eden Valley, but then unless we knew the lesson of colonial history, you’d never think the Riesling grape of cold Germany would grow well there, either. Which of course it does.
It’s as unlikely as Riesling working brilliantly in the Clare valleys, until you appreciate that parts of Clare, like the Polish Valley side of the range, are very similar geologically and sunshine-wise to parts of Alsace, where Riesling and Gris make serious mojo magic.
This lovely slurpable has a topnote that smells like Craneford when they’re baling hay. Below that fascinator there’s all sorts of fruit from lollypop-simple dessert salads with meringue, banana and pineapple, to honeydew and strawberry. There’s also lots of lollyshop bubblegum and frivolous whatnots that make it somehow childish simple, which it’s not. Not at all.
Rather, it’s just downright disarming in its bare-faced charm. That bit grabs me so convincingly I don’t even bother delving into the refined complexities lying beneath the rosy freckles.
In keeping with simple impulses, I wanna run off with this bottle now. To the Stanley’s fish café of a decade back for battered flathead and chips with fresh-sliced chilli and lotsa salt. You comin’ with?
Of this new quartet blanc, this was the first I opened. I proceeded, half-imagining it was a fluke. Nope. This fab four is the best white release yet from Thorn-Clarke. By a long shot.
Thorn-Clarke Sandpiper Eden Valley Chardonnay 2017
($20; 12% alcohol; screw cap)
$20 Chardonnay is something I normally approach like bat goozie, so I was even more delighted to find this clean, clear spring-and-summer waft of a thing knocking that prejudice out of the ring. It’s obviously been made to a price, but with a great deal more intelligence and sensitivity than most Chardonnaise show.
It has a grainy, almost chalky aromatic edge in the same hayfield as the gris. Firm white peach, sapodilla and comice pear are the first fruits to come to mind, with none overwhelming. It’s a smooth, clean, honest perfume with just a fleeting insinuation of French oak and fetta, and, dammit, enoki.
But we’re here to drink, not talk, surely? Same deal: down-the-line fresh-faced honesty with a stack of immediate appeal, but plenty hidden in there for the fancy gang and nerds to discuss. Just get on with it, I say. With pont-l’Évêque and/or port salut and some fresh-sliced pear. Like comice. Get on with it.
Thorn-Clarke Sandpiper Eden Valley Riesling 2017
($20; 11% alcohol; screw cap)
I was about to go on about Dr Loosen’s Riesling in Mosel vs Pfalz vs Alsace etcetera, et al, but get over it, Whitey. And forget all that stuff about lemon and lime and citrus blossom. In keeping with the form of the pair above, this is like powdered vegan cherub’s cheeks grilled lightly in butter. I can think of no better introduction to Riesling. Swoon. It has the flesh to handle the sort of brutal chill too many restaurant fridges deliver, but it’s best just slightly on the chill side of cool. Which is precisely what it is. Also: Deadly.
($24; 11.5% alcohol; screw cap)
Tell me another premium white wine producer whose elite superwine is one whole $4 more expensive than its standard version? And we’re still an entire buck short of $25? Get down.
Only slightly less chubby than those rosy cheeks, this is that previous wine cranked in the finest, most tasteful and intelligent direction. It has less flesh, more bone. Its spine, for example, is not quite brittle, but approaches ground-up bone china in its dry, fine-grained authority. The sinews and pink muscles around that bit will hide it if you’re not in the mood to think too hard.
Grilled squid with lemon, please. And would you mind if I left my clothes here on the chair? I need to go out and lie in the sun.