2019 Pájaro de Buen Agüero Garnacha Cariñena

Is there better value than an authentic, firmly of the place Garnacha from Aragón? Sure, there’s attractive prices for Bordeaux grapes transplanted to the new world but do they have the natural balance, detail and unadorned charm of tough old Grenache? This is much more in the medium weight, rich in extracted bits than recent vintages. Disappointingly it was stinky with reductive smokiness when opened but patience really paid off a day later. So much more open, there was a little balsamic lift to a summer berry sweetness, a spring breeze of roses, darker just picked cherries and plums in the middle. Firmly put in place by genuinely ripe skin tannin grip. Fresh and mouthwatering to finish. Admittedly, not the most lingering of ends and a bit washy but for less than $10 it’s bargain of the year so far. Great effort from those old sun blasted, windswept vines.

Forgot to note the alcohol, denial probably. Screw cap. $9 from Aldi.

91 points.

2012 Frogmore Creek Riesling

From a Tasmanian creek with more frogs therein, perhaps? Having gone nuts buying 2012 Australian Rieslings, it’s good to still keep finding them lurking amongst the dusty bottles. Riesling from Tasmania seems to produce some flavours not usually tasted in the mainland versions. Perhaps sort of a hybrid of Alsatian and the warmer bits of Germany if comparisons have to be made? This opened with exotic citrus, beeswax, then some mandarin and a honey richness. All clinging well as it passes through. With a bit more air, white peach like some of those Germans. Pithy grip, positive but not assertive acidity, any brittle edges knocked off by a well judged tickle of sweetness. Should explore Tasmania more, frogs, vineyards and wine, cool in both senses.

12% alcohol. Screw cap. About $20 to $25 a while ago.

93 points day one, loosened up to a simpler 91 day two.

2013 Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz

From the initial three bottles bought six or so years ago but I did notice it as a Dan Murphy’s cellar release for $20 if you want to join the fun for still not much, notwithstanding the quality of the storage, of course. To repeat myself, again, not sure how this has so much character for something made on a large scale. Savoury and earthy to sniff and taste. Brown spice, blackberries, earthy in a red dirt way, tar and that saline, mineral water thing that seems like an alkaline Coonawarra marker? Just medium bodied, even acidity settled into good firm tannin and a touch of nougat from subtle oak. The label’s even older than I, not many of those left in Australia. Would be great if they went back to the original white label, still calling it Hermitage might be a push but maybe Syrah to be..er..self consciously modern.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $12 discount on release.

92 points.

2020 The Story Super G Grampians Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre

Another from the super value six pack from Rory and his Story. It’s not breaking news to say it was apparent to grape farmers a long time ago that something was awry with the weather as their crop was on average ripening a bit earlier each year. I’ve heard candid comment about the sustainability of getting Shiraz flavour ripe in its most revered old vineyards from those who earn their living there each and every year. Happily for some there’s always been Grenache and Mourvèdre planted to thrive in those once were infrequent very hot years. The Grampians used to struggle to ripen Shiraz some years, now there’s interest in varieties that cope with the heat and need less water in an area where it’s always been less than abundant. Super G to the rescue perhaps? Early days but this may be the future. Medium weight, bright as a ruby in the sun, fragrant smack in the chops of roses, Turkish Delight, cherries, plums, spice, meat juices and earth. Just bottled primary fruit sweetness cut by stem sap and savour. Good gloss of fruit, a blend more than the sum of its parts perhaps? I like, super good.

13.5% alcohol, seems a recurring story. Screw cap. Part of the six for $150.

92 points.

2017 Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly L’Héronde

A good friend brought a bottle of this to dinner and for once hadn’t had the chance to open it first to check the tree bark. Murphy’s cork law applied itself with vigour and it was simply the most TCA affected bottle to offend my delicate nose for months. A kind suggestion to drink the replacement if I could get it swapped got me off the couch the next day, thanks Rathdowne Cellars for the sympathy. The new bottle opened without any musty horror, in fact with a good whack of super fresh, glistening red fruit. Over time darker plums and spices gave gravity and a sweet lip stick kiss seduced another glass. Beautiful earthiness and a bloody lip after that sweet kiss add depth. In terms of brilliant acidity and ripe tannin underpinning svelte and deep fruit, this rivals a good village Burgundy for half the price which probably means I’ll have to open another from the Côte d’Or for that dear friend. He did stick his ample nose in the last one opened blind and exhaled ‘ah, Burgundy’.

13.5% alcohol. Cork, despite being a daft thing to stick in a bottle, it did lead to me getting more of the contents and a nice stroll to the shops. Thanks D.

94 points.

2015 Domaine du Cayron Gigondas

An old favourite from the 1990s and rarely sighted in recent years. When a single and lonely bottle appeared on that desperately addictive auction website, well, budget be damned, here we go. Luckily, the label’s not as sought after as some and it came in under my bravest bid and normal retail. Initial impressions were good, nice new smart label, great vintage and sealed with a Diam. First sniff was off putting, horrible stink of sulphide and maybe some of the dreaded B word? Only thing to do was to stuff the better than a cork closure back in, put it in the fridge for twenty four hours and hope. The next day and all’s well. Now clean and sprightly smells of vibrant red fruit, a touch of balsamic lift, an attractive sweet herby spike, chocolate and plums add dimension. Profound and resonant in the mouth with a great depth of bright fresh fruit, a tar and earth richness and a tug of garrigue, a warming sense of place. Finally a firm but softly ripe flood of tannin and life extending acidity, the wine’s not mine, although it’s good to hope. Must say there’s an extraordinary freshness and no sense of tired old browning Grenache to prevent this staying a long and delicious course. Maybe it’s the unusual 15% Cinsault giving acidity helped by 14% Syrah which did so well in 2015 and the 1% Mourvèdre, a tiny bit going a long way? The 70% Grenache tastes extremely good though. Sad it was just a singleton.

14% alcohol. Diam. $65.

95 points but definitely not on opening.

2016 Clos du Gravillas Sous les cailloux des grillons Vin de Pays de Côtes du Brian

A beautifully complicated French name, something like, “under the stones, there’s crickets”. Seems the vineyards are stoney in a CNdP way and the crickets think it’s a nice spot to sit and make some noise. It also looks like the authorities responsible for naming VdP areas are big Monty Python film fans in the same way as the Catholic Church liked naming Burgundy vineyards. The wine’s back label continues the complications by listing eight or so ingredient varieties, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Grenache, Counoise, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Terrets Red, in the plural meaning perhaps there’s the red and Gris version of this ancient variety? Labels really don’t get much better for those nerds amongst us. Probably a good indication of old vineyards planted promiscuously as of old to hedge bets in ripeness despite the season. Well, the wine itself? Spotlessly clean, bright red fruited and delicious in a drink me now way but the stuffing to keep it delicious over a couple of days. Sweet cherry and spice to commence, a swell of rocks, gravel and almond paste, then Mediterranean scrubby sweetness and roasting pan juices to finish. Bright natural feeling acidity and drying towel of fine tannin. Clos du Gravillas also make an upmarket Carignan, if that’s not an oxymoron, from ancient vines giving great depth of fruit. Praise be to Brian.

13% alcohol. Cork. $24 at auction.

92 or 93 for hard work in amongst the crickets.

2017 The Story Wines Grampians Syrah

It’s always a joy when time and patience prove me wrong for the better, again. First bottle of this a couple of years ago seemed too green with stems and lacking fruit power. To such an extent, I passed on writing anything and buying another. When a mixed six pack email offer popped up and Rory the Story maker said it was a favourite cool and graceful vintage, perhaps time for another go? Goodness, he’s right. In two years the fruit has gained sweet weight. The scribble reads, rich but contained, generous spicy plums, dark cherry, tar and pepper, all wrapped up in sinews of mouth puckering tannin, stem, skin and oak riding on natural feeling acidity. Top notes of raspberry and a haze of sappy stems. If a dodgy memory serves, there’s echoes of those beautifully medium weight Shiraz from the eighties before Australia knew what Syrah meant.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $30 RRP, less proportionally as part of the bargain mixed six pack which looks to be still live on The Story website thestory.com.au

94 points and great value.

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.