Home on the Grange


It’s like being down at the park, and finding yourself having a bit of kick to kick with Luke Hodge.

You’re not sure how, but here you are with the finest modern exponent of the drop punt. The elegance, the unforced style. The footy thuds into your chest, and you gasp. But, as great as it is, you don’t feel worthy. How did this happen? You’re enjoying the moment, while being aware of your inadequacy.


A Thursday evening, on the edge of the desert. Old Kapunda mate Chris, Eddie and I around my kitchen table.

1983 Penfolds Grange Hermitage. And not one bottle, but two.

The kitchen table cost me a Southwark six pack. I bought it from Bo, fanatical barbecuer, and my cricket captain. Completing the transaction, we then drank the beer. At the table.

In the untidy blur of a Wudinna footy club progressive dinner, we were outside, beneath the cold stars, working the tongs. It was 3am.

“Hey, Bo.”

“Yeah, Mickey?”

“The barbecue’s gone out.”

“I turned it off.”

“Oh. How come?”

“This way we can stand out here a bit longer. You know, have a few beers. Enjoy ourselves. There’s no rush.”


As a kid I played footy and cricket in the Barossa Valley’s main towns. Nuriootpa. Tanunda. Angaston. This was its only purpose.

Moving away was the key to appreciating it. To enjoy that it was probably the country’s premium wine-making region. Folks’d ask, “Where you from?” I’d tell them, Kapunda. Next door to the Barossa. Dad works at Penfolds.

And so living six hours away on the state’s West Coast, I began to value the place. It became more than just the soggy oval where as a senior colts footballer you’d hoped to roll the Tanunda Magpies. Or where Bob Blewett, father of Greg, would patiently humiliate you and your team mates on Angaston oval, crafting yet another century.


Ucontitchie Road. I loved living beside this sandy track as it seemed elemental, and more authentically Australian than distant Kapunda. About two kilometres from town, the massive stone farmhouse sat on a rise, and offered a view from the wide verandah.

With clothes, books and golf clubs in the boot of my VK Commodore I moved there. A day’s drive. Billy Joel in the cassette player. My interior design theme was Young Bloke Spartan. Bo’s table was the stylistic centrepiece.

During my first Wudinna winter I kept waiting for it to rain. Back home in Kapunda there was a constant twenty inches annually. Here a drought punished the land surrounding my house. A grain farming community, that year saw only seven inches, with two of those just before Christmas.

In the bush quiet I’d think about how big our country was, how far away I was. Our geography confronted me, and I knew if I walked north, I might see no-one before I flopped into the Timor Sea, three thousand kilometres distant. It was very Australian, it was very foreign.


Like viticultural blood brothers we vowed to prepare well. No beers from Sunday to Thursday, even if someone, like Bo, suggested a quick snort in the club after Tuesday’s cricket training. We wanted to be drink-fit. During the week I glanced at our Grange bottles on the rack. They were the most valuable things in my home.

What to eat with Grange? The BBQ kettle craze was at its zenith. A hunk of beef. Roasted vegetables. A jug of thick gravy. A heat haze shimmered across the stubble, while on my verandah, the Weber spat and popped.

Dad was allocated two bottles of Grange. We claimed both, and the dark receptacles cost us forty bucks each. As the afternoon sunlight bent through my kitchen, we pulled the corks.

“Good choice fella,” remarked Eddie as I slid in Rattle and Hum, U2’s exploration of America, pre Bono-with-welded-on-sunglasses-wanker-era. We also listened to the first CD I bought, the Beatles’ White Album. As Paul sang “Blackbird” we attacked the Grange, in our clumsy and brusque ways. Gee, youth is magnificent.

Later, with beers as crisp as the descending night air, the Seekers rang out over the paddocks. They were ancient even then, but we felt a happy, ironic duty.

Hey There! Georgy Girl
Swinging down the street so fancy free
Nobody you meet could ever see
the loneliness there inside you


We drank the Grange Hermitage in the year of the titanic grand final. The best one ever. If you believe, the one personally attended by about half a million fans. Dermie’s ribs, Gazza’s goals.

So what did we think of the wine? It was excellent, but I didn’t have the necessary vernacular. I still don’t. I was inescapably inarticulate, and without language, there’s only partial meaning in anything, especially shiraz. It was confronting, but I’m glad we had it.

Ultimately, its depths were as incomprehensible to me as watching Michael Holding bowling at Adelaide Oval. Playing for Tasmania in the season our Grange was made, he glided deathlessly to the wicket, released, and instantaneously the ball was 130 feet away. Up in the Edwin Smith Stand I could only see it after it arrived in the keepers’ gloves. Delivery after delivery.

It was metaphysical, beyond the boundary. I could only stare. On this planet much remains mysterious.


It’s a coarse deliberation, but I’ll ask anyhow. Would I now rather a solitary Grange Hermitage or, for the same outlay, a dozen bottles of d’Arenberg’s The Dead Arm Shiraz? Do you climb Everest once, or regularly ascend the Matterhorn’s pyramidal peak, and risk it becoming routine? What would you do?


You nod at Hodgy, and run into space. Spinning perfectly, it rushes at you.

All you have to do is catch it.


About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Mickey, I’m all for something you can regularly ascend. But I’ve never had Grange. Maybe it will be the wine served at Almanac lunches in 2015?
    Had many a cheap Shiraz while the Weber has been cooking. Another enjoyable read from M.Randall.

  2. Poofta Bear says

    Yes MR, I too remember such a coarse deliberation……..Ski trip, Magill College of Advanced Education, 1985………. West Coast coolers or Passion Pop. What would you do?

  3. Loved this Mickey. Transported.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I love how you recapture time , Mickey . Bob Blewett was a tough competitor I can imagine he would have scored a lot of runs and taken plenty of wickets in the
    Barossa . I remember being at Ad oval watching , Holding bowling for tassy yes some how I reckon we all appreciated the majestic run up more at a shield game . As always plenty of meaning in your article thanks , Mickey

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says


    You are very cultured.

    My own Grange experience is a stark contrast to yours. I was given a gift boxed ’71 by my generous employers in the mid 90s.

    I kept it in said box in my “wine cupboard” for a special occasion that never quite eventuated. Took it out a few years ago to find that the cork had been breached, evaporation and leakage followed, so the whole shebang was consigned to the bin (and I don’t mean 389).

    Another life lesson learnt the hard way.

  6. Mickey, this was an absolute joy. Thank you.

  7. E.regnans says

    Lovely story-telling, M Randall.
    That’s a trick there, for life, I reckon.
    Not worrying about the Hodge down the other end.
    Having the belief.
    Having a crack.
    Enjoying yourself.
    As you seem to be doing here. Superb.

  8. Thanks everyone.

    Luke- Indeed I look forward to my next Almanac lunch, probably in the second half of the year, when we’re back home. I’ll be sure to let you know.

    PB- I can’t be sure, but those seem very summery drinks for a ski trip. But you never were one to be unduly influenced by the seasons. Were you?

    Thanks T Bone.

    Malcolm- Blewett Senior played lots of cricket and made truckloads of runs. He was as competitive as they come. Holding at Sheffield Shield level was scary. He was magnificent, and he’s not the worst commentator either.

    Swish- that’s grim. Were you keeping it for the first CDFC flag?

    Thanks Joe and E.regnans.

  9. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Just love that ‘In the bush quiet …’ paragraph. A true beacon for thinking.
    As is the rest of this piece.
    Loved it.

  10. Mathilde- thanks very much for that.

    When I was thinking about this piece on three young chaps drinking Grange of an evening I imagined it would be quite boisterous in tone. It evolved into something more contemplative, perhaps as prose on serious wine should be!

    Is wine art, or does it inspire art? Probably a topic best tackled over a cup or two!

  11. chris hayward says

    Howdy Mickey. As I remember my time in Wudinna. The experience upon reflection was ethereal. It capture the movement to adulthood; its pleasures and disappointment. I still love u2 , drink southwark, playing cricket and love a glass of red listening to the seekers. Thanks mate

  12. Thanks Chris.

    It’s been a very long time since I gave the Seekers a spin, or had a Southwark. I must fix this, probably at the same time.

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