2012 Giant Steps Gladysdale Vineyard Pinot Noir

From a vineyard up in the hills of the beautiful Yarra valley. Living in a big city, you often forget the country on your own doorstep. Lovely name too, the dale of Gladys. Expect scones and a nice cup of tea perhaps. Rather than a play for power and impact, this is light bodied, still fresh and perfumed. Bright red fruits in the manner of strawberries, raspberries and the occasional cherry swell through the nose and mouth. Some spice, sort of sarsaparilla and nice savour from hardly noticeable oak and a twist of sappy stems keep the mouthwatered and then gently dried by their tannin and some ripe acidity. Held up really well over two days. Graceful in a swish of silk.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. Was about $45 if memory serves?

93 points.

2018 Davide Carlone Colline Novaresi Nebbiolo

Great place to stop for a well priced bottle of Nebbiolo, those hills around Novara up toward Maggiore and the Alps. There’s a beautiful perfume of Pink Lady apples, wild strawberries, sour cherry and all that Alpine meadow in spring floral and herbal stuff. Builds with clean red fruit across the tongue, floats on a feather of saliva inducing acidity and the finest grains of tannin. Right at the end, a glorious twist of what them Italians call amaro, like the bitter herbs used in those odd digestive drinks. Mountain fresh and barely middle weight. Becomes sweeter fruited after twenty four hours of air but still cuts a pleasantly bitter sense of place. Fairly obvious there’s such well grown grapes carefully and simply turned to wine. If you’re a fancier of Valtellina mountain Nebbiolo, you’ll be very happy with this, all at a bargain price. So different to the grunt and depth of Barolo but no less interesting.

13.5% alcohol. Diam, hooray. $30 as a direct import from Boccaccio Cellars, great value.

93 points.

2020 Eastern Laneway Vintners Grampians Shiraz

Maybe Aldi’s astute wine buyers have a soft spot for Grampians Shiraz too? Not exactly the most prolific region to plunder for the volumes needed to fill supermarket shelves. This is the second one spotted on those dangerously slippery shelves in the last year. You try taking a bottle out to read the label and then attempt to put it back on those rollers. My first 2020 from a vintage that’s going to be remembered in so many ways. At least the Grampians avoided the smoke from the awful east coast bushfires. This bottle opened with regional mint and damp Australian forest smells. Good build of whole berry red fruit, pepper and a little Grampians tar, earth and pepper emerged with air. Unobtrusive tannins and gentle acidity do enough to even thing up. The burst of youthful fruit is a good distraction from perhaps not the most concentrated of mouthfuls. Nonetheless a $12 wine that drinks like a $25 bottle and nudges you toward a sense of place. The..er..Story behind this Aldi own label may interest the curious reader as the maker’s address is also the home of R. Lane Vintners who make one of the best interpretations of Grampians Shiraz, ever. Coincidence?

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $12.

88 became 89 points over two days.

2019 Scala Dei Garnatxa Priorat DOQ

Stairway to Grenache heaven from up in the hills of God’s Priorat staircase. Electric, pristine and without blemish. Such a different expression than the rich and full versions from lower down the beautiful, wild slopes of Priorat. Crackles with just medium bodied energy. Perfumed with red fruits, roses and other flowery things, wet slate and sweet exotic mountain herbs and shrubs. Drives through on mouthwatering acidity and a rasp of cool skin tannin. No idea how it will go with time in the bottle but how could you wait when it’s so delicious now? God’s stair looks a great place to grow Grenache. Maybe the price could be more humble?

14% alcohol. Diam. $48.50 RRP.

94 points for immediate pleasure.

2002 Domaine Henri Gouges Nuits Saint Georges Les Pruliers 1er cru

Watching the metaphorical sand run out of my personal hour glass, time to drink what’s left in the cellar. Old Leslie Pruliers is on form for the Nuits premier cru league team tonight, Pinot fans. In the opening minutes, there’s great width of sweetly developed kirsch, dark chocolate and earth. Old Les really lifts his game towards the end with a great energetic burst of red fruits and minerals before running headlong into a wall of velvet skin tannin. The second half brings autumnal damp forests, dried blackberry and an enormous pile of sweet earth. The crowd’s roar at the final whistle reverberates with a profound clang of iron and stone. Well deserved home victory for NSG, take that PSG.

13% alcohol. Cork. About 40€ from Lavinia’s Paris treasure trove before Burgundy transfer fees got really out hand.

95 points for a win.

Enough bad football metaphors for quite a while.

2014 Piero Benevelli Langhe Nebbiolo

2014 was wet and the Benevellis decided to make no Barolo and declassify to Langhe Nebbiolo. The weather surely made a lasting impression as one September morning that year dearest and I arrived in Castiglione Falletto an hour or so early for a grand visit. How about a walk out toward Monforte on a dry and pleasant morning? Seems it was my fault we were tempted to plunge down a footpath through the Rocche cru towards Perno, just as the humidity became dense and the patter of following rain turned into a torrential thunder storm. The path fast became a mud slide. We scrambled up the hill to Perno. No way back down that path. Barolo roads being just a bit convoluted, it became obvious we were now several kilometres by bitumen from our visit and lunch, oops. Eventually a very simpatico couple from Milan took pity on our attempts to hitchhike in the wrong direction and dropped us within metres of our destination. The kindness of strangers and forgiving smiles at their wet muddy back seats. Fortunately dearest and I still talk as the tasting at Vietti and lunch were ace and we got there in time, just. This bottle shows none of those damp troubles. Nice red colour, fragrant with pot pourri and roses, touch of aniseed, stones and earth, fresh and perfumed through the mouthful. Maybe a hint of something green and herby, more mountain fresh than under ripe. Savoury too, perhaps some clean lees to fatten? The shape sort of reminds of the Valtellina but the flavours have their feet in the Langhe dirt, nothing muddy here.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $30 direct import, bravo Boccaccio.

92, probably 93 really, points.

2016 Decendientes de J Palacios Pétalos Bierzo

Like a vulture perched on the crumbling edges of physical retail, you had to be quick to spot a bargain in David Jones’ city centre rationalisation, a word for weasels. More Mencia the merrier from this great producer. A wee hint of development, dark preserved cherries, plum, fine dark chocolate, sage, perhaps lavender, mineral cut lick the spark of two flints smacked together, sweet ripe tannin and mouthwatering acidity. It’s the thrust of fruit, then the slash of structure that’s so good.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $35 in DJ’s sale, normally about $50.

93 points.

2016 Cavalotto Dolcetto d’Alba Vigna Scot

Of the few Barolo vineyards I’ve been lucky enough to walk around, the Cavalotto bit of Castiglione looks like it’s cared for like a perfect organic garden. Grudgingly sharing this bottle with mates over a good pizza, no notes but a lingering need to say just how good. Gentle but firm, all the flavours of good Langhe Dolcetto, bright cherry, touch of aniseed, sweet earth. It’s more the soft balance, everything in its place, no bombast, quiet assurance of grapes grown with great care, picked when the flavours are just ripe at lower alcohol, organic growing showing perhaps? Feels like it’s doing you good as it goes down. The shape reminiscent of digestible claret, the flavours all from a precious plot in Castiglione Falletto. How much longer I can keep my paws off my few Cavalotto Baroli?

12.5% alcohol. Cork. $38.

93 points but grace beyond numbers.

2019 Heredade Rocim Mariana Vinho Regional Alentejano

The back label tells the story of a lovelorn nun called Mariana, not sure about the relevance to a secular drinker, perhaps marketing to the devout. Personally more impressed by those interesting Portuguese varieties, in this case 40% Touriga Nacional, 30% Aragonez or Tempranillo, 20% Alicante Bouschet and 10% Trincadeira or Tinta Amarela. Not sure just how indigenous are the middle two but they do like a bit of warmth which the Alentejo can provide. This was one of those bottles which failed to inspire initially and had me grumbling about over ripe, contrived wine making, only to prove me entirely wrong after twenty four hours. Started off with leathery, dried grape skin, lacking a bit of freshness and bounce. Lots of chewy dry skin tannin and a wide clunk of acid. Considerable surprise the next day to find loads of bright spiced plums, dark blackberry, sweet dark quality chocolate mixed with dried fruit and nuts. A twist of baked earth and a bloody, iron tang. Touriga comes good again. Tannin and ripe acidity in place. Another lesson in not jumping too quickly to judge. Wine’s so much fun. Books and covers.

14% alcohol. Diam. $29.

89 completely misjudged points to start, 92/93 thereafter.

2019 Crawford River Young Vines Riesling

From a very long drive away vineyard in rural Victoria, young vines now middle aged by some measures. Concentrated, full of ripe limes, autumnal apples and something exotic like guava juice? Such intensely ripe fruit dances on beautifully modulated acidity, it tugs then lets go as the fruit swells and then pulls harder to a delicious end. There’s a comforting warmth and a latent hint of some of those hard to describe old stones and herby Riesling flavours to come with time. Great growing and making. Just gets better each year.

13.5% alcohol but carries it well. Screw cap. $34 less a bit for a drink local discount. May be a long drive for a local but it’s relative in big ancient Australia

93+ points.