2011 Wendouree Shiraz

There was much bemoaning the 2011 vintage in quite a bit of Victoria and SA. Well, it was very soggy and cool for days in summer. Nevertheless, comes the test and if the vineyard’s ancient, deep rooted and seen worse, then there’s reason to believe it won’t be a waste of money to support this oversubscribed treasure. Comparisons, here we go again, are maybe less than odious if they help with context. If the 2011 Malbec had Wendouree packing up its flavours and taking them on a trip to Barbaresco to find its structure, then this Shiraz seems to have swapped the usual iron and velvet for a finer acid based frame from somewhere like Saint Joseph. In fact this is delight for those sniffy North Rhône fanciers, dark brown spices, menthol, Oz bush and bracken lift and season just ripe cherries and very ripe raspberries, harmonious and sotto voce. Floating and crisp rather than that usual firm velvet fog. Makes a nonsense of trying to fetish the favoured vintages, Wendouree way the bottle always seems too small.

13.7% alcohol. Screw cap. Thanks for keeping the faith dear C.

93 points but more soul than some bigger scores.

2014 Stoney Rise Pinot Noir

Producing good Pinot Noir seems to need the close attention only a dedicated, hands on producer can provide. In this case, naked bodies immersed as well according to reports. Still a good bright red colour for an Aussie Pinot, fragrant with tart berries, rose oil, wild strawberry and that sort of incense like mystery that does nothing to stop the obvious comparison to things from the Côte d’Or. There really is a flavour ripeness you don’t often see in Australian Pinot, energy, focus and poised between the herby and the brown sugar sweet. Mouthwatering acidity and a lick of iron filing tannin. Spotlessly clean too, as you’d hope the pigeage was too! Must be a good place to grow Pinot.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $30.

94 points.

2017 Hervé Souhaut Syrah

Time seems to pass so quickly, the first vintage of this quintessential natural wine that won my heart was 1999. A discovery at that Paris haven of real wine, Caves Augé. Some years later and it seems as if the wine making just gets better and the results appear finer, more perfumed and poised. There’s that floral, smoky raspberry thing typical of the Northern Rhône and perhaps also characteristic of whole grape Syrah ferments? Amazingly perfumed, that typicity plus brown baking spices, a riot of autumn berries and rocks. Rich fruit floats on supremely ripe but crisp acidity. Tannin to support, gently. The essence of flavour ripe Syrah on featherweight frame. Just so clean and focused, brilliant craft. Low alcohol too, liver approved.

12.5% alcohol. Nomacorc Green Select. $40 at auction which was good as the RRP is rising most unfairly.

2015 Wynns Coonawarra Estate V and A Lane Shiraz

Well, the WordPress platform can be odd. I tried using an ampersand between V and A as it appears on the label and when it saves it turns into & …..bizarre. So, “and” it is. Conjunctions aside, this is an elegant, for want of a better word, fresh and sort of subtle Shiraz, an antidote to the high alcohols of the late nineties and early two thousands. I can clearly remember a 1980 Leconfield Cabernet drunk in the nineties that was the essence of sweetly perfumed pillow softness and somehow this echoes the memory. Starts with noticeable oak, albeit not too raucously so, then in sweeps pepper, spice and just ripe red fruits that last and perfume the mouth. Soft but positive tannin and acidity match the composed flow of flavour. Even after a couple of days oxygen, it stayed tightly bound, suggesting a future of slow resolution in the best tradition of great claret wherever it’s made…..and no buts about it.

13.1% alcohol, AND better for it. Screw cap. $35 Dan Murphy clearance, thank you very much.

93+ points.

2009 Stefano Lubiana Grande Vintage

After months of sensible pandemic restrictions, the joy of being allowed to cook dinner for a dear neighbour was doubled when they turned up on the doorstep with such luxurious bubbles. Something like 70% Chardonnay, the rest Pinot Noir left on lees for nine years before disgorging and goodness, some impact and power. Starts a bit reductive and green but with the dense bubbles tickling the nose, there’s a richness of spice, caramel, butter pastry, crystalline citrus, barley sugar and aniseed. Lingers with a deep flavour of ripe Chardonnay and still fresh chalky acidity. Not exactly subtle but a powerfully balanced mouthful. Splendid Australian sparkling wine of its own merit. What a great way to celebrate our lockdown patience and true neighbourliness.

12.5% alcohol. Diam. Thanks.

94 points.

2005 Domaine de l’Oratoire de Saint Martin Cairanne Haut Coustias

The domaine’s top of the range label, still at retail for less than most CNdPs, is normally a blend of 60% old vine Mourvèdre with equal parts Grenache and Syrah making up the rest. It’s always with some trepidation that I risk a bid at auction for something well past its tenth birthday but here’s a well cared for bottle. No ullage, good cork of some length, always a relative term, no leakage and no taint, phew. Starts off with those dusty old bottle of wine smells, no surprise, swirl and air, then gloriously clean plumes of old leather couches, sweet kirsch cherries, blackberries, garrigue and spice, all deep, warming and rich. The fruit power and sweetness backed by an umami glycerol blanket of game meat pan juices, all those caramelised delicious bits. An earthy bass line of clay soil broken up with chalky stones, really. Remarkably all that richness is cooled by perfect fine pixel acidity and the ripest sweet tannins. The label may not be cutting edge fashion but this is great natural wine, biodynamic, no additions apart from some sulphur, I think and so clean and pure. A smile on the face of old Bacchus and me too.

14.5% alcohol. Cork. $33.80 bid.

95 points.

2017 Bodegas Costers del Sió Petit Siós Costers del Segre

Costers del Segre is a fairly recent addition to the DO scheme of things Spanish. Spread over two or three main areas, it sort of borders the more famous Priorat and is firmly Catalan it seems. This bottle contains a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon. Opened with a whiff of smoky sulphury reduction. As it quickly cleared, some clean medium weight dark cherry and berry, pretty suave really, all modulated well across a balanced mesh of settled acidity and firm ripe tannin. I scribbled, won’t frighten the horses but has an easy charm. Quite a surprise three and four days later to find it not only hanging on but more interesting. Sweet, round and ripe but not overly so. Almost Australian sunshine ripeness over the firm push of Spanish geology. Sweet damson which I think I remember from childhood, dried fig, sage and something rocky like wet concrete. Such lovely acidity. Tempranillo from a humble bottle does it again.

13.5% alcohol. Diam, good. $13.92 at auction, pat myself on the back, if I could.

Started a solid 91 points, pushing 92/93 later.

2018 Rizieri Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba Sori del Ricchino

To be honest, it’s not that often there’s a new direct import inclusion on the shelves of the one in every suburb now Dan Murphy’s that inspires an immediate purchase. Perhaps Piemonte is now so important in the wide world of wine that even an Australian supermarket behemoth is paying attention? I should pay more attention to my pouring skills so as to keep the label uppermost to avoid those deeply wine coloured streaks. Does look like we had fun despite my clumsiness. Not that hard, bottle to glass and happy to repeat in this case. Good excuse for more practice. Beautifully made, this just got better over a couple of days airing and sipping. Spotlessly clean. Bright red lip smacking cherries, slightly tart, with almond paste and a perfect Piemonte earthy sense of place. An extra depth of fruit and some sweet herbs. All carried long on crisp ripe acidity and a brush of cat’s lick tannin. It seems as if the Langhe 2018s I’ve tried so far look like they’re from the cooler vintages of the last century before the warming harvests of recent times. Some careful growing getting things just ripe rather than worrying over heat, sun and high alcohol arriving before flavour. Better get another bottle and try not to make such a mess.

13.5% alcohol. Diam, good. $23.10, bargain.

93 points.

Following up with a bit of research, it seems that the Sori del Ricchino single vineyard has long been prized for the quality of its grapes, in a village already known for the quality of its Dolcetto. My vote for best value in an increasingly expensive Langhe.

Despite some good words about the quality of the vintage, a 2019 bottle of this was disappointing. Just too savoury and a little green around the tannin department. Started off well, quite firm and structured but never really showed enough fruit ripeness to match the grunt. Oh well, never assume.

2018 Gathering Field Thousand Candles Vineyard Red Blend

A blend of Merlot, Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc and Malbec from a vineyard notorious for its ambitious first release from the wet and mulchy 2011 vintage – for a measly $100 a bottle. Better vintage weather and sensible pricing have prevailed. Very Yarra Valley, this is just ripe enough. Pencils, tobacco, leafy and just ripe black currants. Some mint and a hint of gum leaf. Oak supports but no more than a seasoning. It’s savoury but the tannins are ripe and sweet with just right acidity tucked well in. As it leaves, a dense mouth coating wave of still subdued fruit suggests there may be still lots more fruit depth to emerge with some time. Difficult to say, it may just dry out but I’d be willing to hide one away for a while, in fact I think I will. Optimism being essential to cellaring and definitely in the wider world these days.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $33.

93+

2017 Casa da Passarella A Descoberta Dão Tinto

Memory is a curious thing. On holiday in Lisbon a few years ago, the encyclopaedic wine shop the Garrafeira Nacional recommended a red or tinto from the high hills of Dão. It was a beacon shone bright, lighting up the flavours of grape and place. Forgetful, I left my notebook of wine ramblings on a meal table somewhere, never to be seen again. All that was left was a memory of a really good wine but no name. When an email from a favourite importer appeared offering this, it provoked an odd stirring in the cobwebbed recesses of recognition. Double checking the Garrafeira website, it could indeed be that forgotten label. There’s certainly the purity of flavour and aroma I remember. A blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz aka Tempranillo, Alfrocheiro and Jaen aka Mencia, so very Portuguese. There’s a spicy aroma and flavour I associate with Northern Portugal. It’s here wrapped up in rich plum and red berries, a little clove, aniseed and cinnamon, maybe a contribution from some clean oak and Touriga’s dark blackberry jam. No lack of backbone, a shining blade of bright acid and really firm tannin push austerely against the sweet spice and fruit. Warm but granite mountain fresh. Very much for the table and something meaty. Nearly forgot, it’s delicious.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $30 rrp.

93 points and muito bom.