2018 Domaine Georges Vernay Les Fleurs du Mai Syrah Des Collines Rhodaniennes IGP

One of the most respected Condrieu producers who also make great Côte Rotie which I’ve been lucky enough to drink just once. This bottle appeared on the Langtons auction site. To follow the old Clive Coates maxim that you should seek the colder sites in hot years I made a bid. It seemed oddly appropriate as November is our May in the inverted Southern Hemisphere. Maybe a flowery omen? Hopefully not the Fleurs du Mal of Baudelaire to be really pretentious. My $28 bid won to my eyebrow raising surprise as googling revealed you can still buy a bottle in Melbourne for $65, lucky me. Clean and extravagantly smelly on opening. Just so ripe raspberries, exotic spice bazaar fragrances and incense, blimey. Flowers and smoke. Hints of liquorice too. Just medium bodied, it tightens across the tongue and floats off on wisps of high resolution tannin with both the flavour and acidity of really ripe and dark blood orange. Incredibly good grapes coaxed into my lucky glass with no mucking about, great lightness of touch. Two words, clarity and focus. How good is their Côte Rotie these days?

13% alcohol. Diam. $28, like winning a lottery.

93 points to start, easy 94 to 95 as the bottle went down.

2018 Domaine Verdier Logel La Volcanique

From an obscure and very small AOP close to the source of the Loire up in a valley in the Massif Central and a valley over the hills from the Rhône, this is a clean and deeply fruited Gamay. The ripest, darkest and most squishy imaginable dark cherries are seasoned with cocoa dusted sweet earth. Almost like there’s an infusion of the rocks in which the vines grow. Starts well and then goes deep into the palate, resounding as it leaves with a sweet hug of ripe skin tannin and a sparkle of rock, spice and acidity. Loosens up a bit the next day with a lift of skin shrivelled ethyl acetate and a drying finish. From a hot year up in remote cool mountains. Great wine from nowhere.

14.5% alcohol. Cork. $32 at auction.

94 points.

2015 Innocent Bystander Syrah

When this was first released it was a cracking buy close to $20 when discounted. The very good 2015 vintage fruit looked round, poised and filled the senses with vinous joy with the whole bunch herb and woody spice adding a satisfying counterpoint. I must admit to fretting a bit about how these cooler, or should that be less hot, vineyard Shiraz progress with time in the bottle? Must admit to enjoy calling it Shiraz, it seems to add to the debate, hee hee. Let’s see. Dusty bottle age lifts to perfumed spice, stems or Shiraz spice or a bit of both? Loads of tart red fruits like an English pudding sit fat on the tongue, still fresh and bright. Some pepper and more of that spice too. The end and overall texture are drawn tight by some sour green stem tannin and acidity. Wether this is a pleasant tension or a distraction from some beautiful fruit is open to discussion for me. I found a tech sheet that says 40% whole bunch, so it’s there to some extent. I think I preferred this in its bouncy youth as I do a lot of Australian red wine. Fascinating to get the chance to compare and contemplate. Serious business this wine thing.

13.8% alcohol. Screw cap. $26 at auction.

91 to 93 points depending on whole bunch enjoyment?

2019 Moulin de Gassac Guilhem

Over the years this has been one of the better quality and value direct imports on Dan’s shelves. As I was struggling to find bottles to fill out a six bottle buy, it seemed time to revisit this vintage. A bottle almost exactly a year ago wasn’t quite as good as previous vintages and perhaps a reason to not bother with a scribble. As usual a SGM from the Pays d’Hérault and a year later the sweaty reduced nature of last year’s bottle isn’t there. Bit more mid weight than normal, some sweet Mediterranean red fruit with some dried cherry maybe, brown spice and some woody herbs. A little green rawness to the tannin and just ripe acidity. Certainly more composed after a year on the shelf and shows even the most basic can benefit from a short rest. The previous review was a cool year wine from Coonawarra, this looks a warm year in the Languedoc. For the price it’s still offers something more than just alcoholic soothing which is quite something.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $10 members’ special.

88 points.

2021 Wynns Coonawarra Estate The Sidings Cabernet

This and Wynns Shiraz are often discounted to below $15 which perhaps makes them amongst the best value Australian red wines. From a cool year with a late burst of glorious autumn weather, this opens with a pretty purple red colour and smell if colours have perfume? Thick in texture and fragrant with sweet earth and green herbs, Tart blackberry and blackcurrant that just qualify as ripe with much fruit sweetness and a tweak of Cabernet leafiness. Lots of extract helps the feel of soft tannin and gentle acidity but doesn’t hinder the impression of Coonawarra claret as it was last century. Just ripe enough but some will perhaps prefer more fruit sweetness rather than the savoury and earthy side of a La Niña season. For the price the discussion could be a bit precious.

13.7% alcohol. Screw cap. $13.25 in a Murphy six.

89 points.

2020 Mommessin Beaujolais Les Papillons

Good basic Beaujolais. Probably enough words. But I’ll bang on a bit more. The second from my desperate Dan’s November six and it’s already the 23rd so I’d better get drinking. Lots of that bubblegum or boiled sweet or lolly as Australians say, coming from fermenting whole uncrushed grapes I think. Underneath a lick of bouncy cherry and red berries and a glitter of rocky minerals. Carries well on clean, well mannered acidity and a flicker of grape skin tannin to a washy dilute feeling ending. Good value but maybe not nearly as good as Mommessin’s Beaujolais Villages or Crus. Dan’s direct import prices means this beggar can choose.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $12.00 as a member’s special and probably the cheapest way to get an authentic glass of cool Beaujolais.

88 points.

2018 Tertini Yaraandoo Vineyard Riesling

Visiting a cellar door can be an opportunity to get a glimpse of the people behind the business and their feelings toward the land they farm. A 2019 road trip to Sydney stopped off in pretty Bowral and a bit of research suggested Tertini near Mittagong were making some of the more interesting wine thereabouts. A warm welcome, it’s a cold place up in the Southern Highlands, and a cosy seat to taste their range was a good start. This Riesling was first in their line up and looked good. The rest of the range didn’t quite hit the same level. In hindsight that’s probably more a measure of how good is their Riesling rather than any lack of quality in their other efforts. Hitting a cellar door without context and pro levels of tasting can make benchmarking difficult. Lovely passionate people staffing the cellar door, they were happy to answer a daft geeky question by finding the winemaker not far away, saying he loves to talk about his efforts. More than three years later and curiosity about my measly single bottle buy got the better of me. Clean and inviting smells of ripe lime with a burr of white peach, sort of coriander pesto, all round and full in the middle. Obviously carefully grown and picked fruit. Just so ripeness, gentle soft acidity leaves a mouthwatering finish. The second day and even more evidence of very good grapes with the flavours deepening and resolving into more pleasure. Really delicious surprise. By way of comparison perhaps more round and succulent like Victorian or Canberra’s better Rieslings than the lime and citrus drive of South Australia? Or just faithful to the Southern Highlands and a care for a good vineyard? Whatever, the sort of cellar door visit that doubles the pleasure, then and now.

12.4% alcohol. Screw cap. $35 I think?

Started 93 points but happy with 95 second day.

2004 Domaine de l’Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Réserve des Seigneurs

Another old bottle from a favourite Rhône producer. One of those gambles at auction, the older the wine the more the risk? Bacchus smiled on my willingness to waste $30 dollars or so and the cork came out in one piece with barely a stain. Lovely smells of old cherry liqueur and a well cared for old house, polished furniture and a recently used sooty brick fireplace. Sweet and healthy garden soil, a touch of dark chocolate and very ripe strawberries maybe. Firm skin tannin and acidity softened by balsamic alcohol warmth. Gentle decay with age which may be the best we can hope for? There’s a feel of just fading lush sweetness and softness that brings to mind Priorat perhaps. A glimpse of Rhône history as I think the Alary brothers who produced such great value over the years have retired without family willing to take over their labours. Their twenty hectares are now owned by Château Mont Redon of CNdP. Things change.

14% alcohol. Cork. $32 at auction, just in time.

93 points.

2020 Borsao Clásico Garnacha

November, another month and another six bottles from the empire of Dan. One old shop in the inner Melbourne suburb of Prahran that became a nationwide stupor market. Escaped this time with six bottles for $96. Immediately ready to go, nuts, spice and sweet cherry and berries with a swell of perfumed ripe fruit to finish. Just medium bodied and gently washy. Countered with a meaty and rocky drying skin tannin and firm acidity. Second day the meaty element becomes a more sulphide driven bitterness. Borsao have some great fruit of immense ripeness and a little sulphide can add a savoury note to stop the surge of sweet berries from overwhelming. Some will find this an attractive balance. For me just too bitter and recent Borsao bottles have just got more reductive over a couple of years. The sort of nitrogen deficit that can be fixed with a bit of winery fiddling. Or work in the vineyard a better option? It was a delicious drink when first opened and great value. Bit silly to over analyse such simple cheap pleasure at the table really.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $8.95 in a six.

90 points day one, 88 day two.

2020 Oakridge Over the Shoulder Cabernet Merlot

Last bottle from the Dan Murphy’s October six buy and in some ways the best. Well, that’s if you’re convinced the Yarra Valley is best suited to the noble Cabernet family? Seems bouncy and keen to escape the bottle with a perfume of raspberries and blackcurrants, like a waft of passing aftershave but much nicer. An overlay of tobacco and green leaf, fresh and refreshing. Finished with a rich note of just turned sod for want of a better phrase. Mineral and sweet ripe tannin and acidity mingle well. The sort of fruit and earth you’d want from Bordeaux but closer to home and much better value.

13.3% alcohol. Screw cap. $19 Dan’s member special.

91 points.