It’s not often that I get to do a tasting of one of my favourite wineries, before going to a gig by one of my all time favourite bands; but Thursday the 7th of March brought exactly that combination. The winery? Rippon from Central Otago in NZ. The Band? The one and only Stone Roses.
Oh yes, that’s right – it’s a slashie post – wine/music. Wine first.
Central Otago in NZ is oft hailed as the greatest ‘new world’ pinot producing region going round. I’m not sure that I subscribe to this point of view, but they are certainly committing themselves to the variety and are spending a great deal of time and effort to start understanding some of the subregional factors that influence the wines (i.e. moving down the path of better understanding their terroir). Many of the wines are delicious, and their fruit forward immediacy makes them a great place to introduce people to pinot who may have found it too hard to get in the past. The region can also produce some particularly good riesling and a few other bits and pieces.
However, wineries like Rippon, and there are too few of them, are enough to make you believe all the hype about what the region can do. In town for the Melbourne food and wine festival was winemaker Nick Mills, who found time to squeeze in a quick tasting at the Prince Wine Store around his other commitments. Starting the whites, which show great balance of texture and flavour, was the excellent 2010 Gewurztraminer; loaded with luscious lychee fruit and a rich mouthfeel. There were two rieslings on show, the 2011 Jeunesse (young vine) showing apple skin aromas and with a touch of natural sweetness, and the 2011 Rippon Riesling which I remember to be a textural beast and one that I neglected to write any notes for aside from ‘excellent’!
What stands Rippon apart from many of the other wineries in the region is that rather than take the power that is inherent in the Otago fruit and max out the volume, they let it express itself naturally; and the resulting wines show poise and precision. Given that I can currently hear the Melbourne GP in the background, It’s kind of like the difference between the V8s (Make it as big as it can be) and the F1s (precision engineering).
Moving onto their Pinots, which they are most famous for, is always exciting. The 2010 Mature Vine shows a punch of sweet strawberry Otago fruit, but is balanced by delicate acidity and a firm net of tannin which acts to sweep up the wine into a clean package. The 2010 Emma’s Block was full or dried herbs and some darker black/purple fruit and spice aromas while the 2010 Tinkler’s Field was a step above again. A mouthfilling palate that was defined by its briary, woody structure and more savoury characters. A true example of what the region can produce.
Now, still reading? Or maybe you skipped forward to get to the music part…
There’s not much that I can write about the Stone Roses that hasn’t been written before. To listen to them is to hear the hundreds of bands that have been left in their wake and were conceived due to their existence. 24 years since the release of their eponymous debut it still sounds amazing yet at the same time encapsulates a time and place that would have been incredible to have experienced first hand. I was only 7 when it came out, discovered them in the late 90s and never looked back. They are a band that inspires an incredible amount of emotion and I never thought I’d get a chance to see them, but the time was here!
I’m not a big one for ‘reunion tours’ and was extra hesitant after seeing Ian Brown warble through a few of the tunes at a gig I went to about 6-7 years ago. It was about 50 degrees in festival hall, before they even started. And with no chance of making it back to the bar for drinks it was going to be an uncomfortable one. All was forgotten as Ian, John, Mani and Reni took the stage to a cheer that was 20 years in the making and launched immediately into ‘I Wanna Be Adored’. That bassline, the first crack of the drums, and that unmistakeable guitar sound of John Squire – truly the sound of the stone roses – brought everyone together and the crowd sung, and sung at the volume of the band. It was like nothing I’d ever seen nor heard – the sound of pure unadulterated joy. Moving through ‘Mersey Paradise’ and into ‘Sugar Spun Sister’, things somehow went even higher with the amazing ‘Sally Cinnamon’. The outpouring of energy at seeing this lineup play together was extraordinary.
Midway through the set came the unmistakeable bassline of ‘Fools Gold’. Their most famous track, played live it was impossible to live up to the amazing recorded version and it kind of just jammed along. All this changed about half way through the track though when the focus switches to John Squire’s guitar. He’s an incredible blues-tinged player, and he took the song by the horns and lifted it, one riff at a time, to an incredible climax.
From there, things continued to climb and any attempt at objectivity is now thrown out the window. The Waterfall/Don’t Stop double came out, which included a quick Ian and John hug after they’d walked into each other mid song while looking the other way. Anyone versed on the acrimonious past between these two will know the significance of these small gestures… Ian was prowling the stage with maracas while John was wailing away and Reni was really loosening up on the drums. Seen live, their influence on modern music is even more striking.
Things went into the roof with ‘Made of Stone’, which was followed with ‘This is the one’ and the epic ‘Love Spreads’ as sweat was dripping off the roof of the venue and the entire crowd was rapturously dancing and singing. Beatlemania mark II. ‘She Bangs the Drums’ brought the house down, for about the 10th time that night, and then Reni went into an extended drum solo before emerging with the beat for ‘I am the Resurrection’
In a night full of rapturous highlights, it’s hard to even describe how good I am the Resurrection was. By the time they reached the chorus it truly was the second coming. I’m still singing it to myself a fortnight later. Playing out the tune with some extended jamming the band members congregated in the centre of the stage to hug and bow together before leaving the stage. No encore, none required, nothing more could be done.
Farking Hell, I just saw the Stone Roses.
Until next time,