Another wine that shows its sense of place with conviction. Very ripe but not gushingly sweet raspberries, a little toffee and spiced biscuits and the smell of a dry dusty country road. So different to the tubby, generously talkative Shiraz of South Australia, more the wiry, taciturn leanness of a quiet Chips Rafferty. Lovely gentle ripeness carried by some crisp but not crunchy acidity and fine grape skin tannin. An impression of savoury restraint compared to other Aussie Shiraz. Good wine places can be confounding, how does such a hot, sometimes humid and torrid, place give birth to such gentle ripeness? Tyrrell’s seem to keep finding magic in those old soils. Hope they bounce back in 2021 after a dreadful 2020.
13.50% of modest alcohol. Screwcap. $20 on special.
Wine that communicates a sense of place and the vagaries of wine fashion over the longer term are two of the great fascinations of fermented grape juice. My ancient copy of Hugh Johnson’s World Wine Atlas from 1986 doesn’t even acknowledge any vineyards on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula, now a prime wine tourist destination. It does however reserve a whole page for the more rurally distant parts of Piemonte, before phylloxera once a much larger producer of Nebbiolo than Barolo. Thanks to growers like Davide Carlone, areas like Boca are on the way back from obscurity. This wildly delicious version smells of sage and those weirdly volatile Italian herby digestive drinks. As it settles with air, cherries and sweet earth charm with a distinct rocky flavour, sort of like licking granite if you would be daft enough to do so? The fine dry tannin and firmly ripe acidity are a wonderful foil to good food and as tightly bound together as only the Italians know how. Maybe even more igneous rocky in character than Nebbiolo from the svelte Langhe or just a geological fancy? Nonetheless a beautiful Nebbiolo with a fierce pride of place. Good pizza amplifies the pleasure and smooths the rustic charm.
14% alcohol. Cork. $37.
Auto suggestion seems unavoidable when the back label says the vineyard whence comes the fruit is planted on ironstone in 1947. This just medium bodied, only just bottled Grenache has an extraordinary fresh depth and complexity including a ferrous note a bit like the taste of a recent bloody cut. A bit of low sulphur fresh bread, deep cherry flavour, maybe blueberries and a deep sweet earthy backbeat. Deliciously pristine fruit indeed. The acidity is totally natural feeling and sits well with the fine skin and what seem to be ripe stem tannins. Ochota Barrels is a surfing reference and this hangs like a perfect hundred metre shoulder. Whoohoo…
13.20% alcohol. Cork. $42.
Accidentally typed Soms of Eden, appropriate typo perhaps as this is just the sort of real Barossa that I like to drink. A few years rest in the bottle have rounded and sweetened the beautifully rich flavours. Blackberry, perfumed with cherry, plums and aniseed underpinned by Barossa carbon and coal dust. A veritable symphony that swells with deeply meaningful fruit in its last movement. The blend again is more than the sum of its parts, Grenache the treble, Shiraz the middle and spicy too, Mourvèdre the bass. Warm, rich and generous Barossa at its best. Old Joe in the hat on the label would be as happy as if that were a jazz roll up.
14.50% alcohol. Screwcap. About $27 on release.
Organic and Biodynamic Grenache for the most part and some Syrah. Opens with a whiff of matchstick reduction which happily lifts to show the brightest raspberries and sweet green Mediterranean shrubbery. Really pure scents and flavors, bouncy across the tongue as fresh mouthwatering acidity and a rasp of fine skin tannin balance things up. It takes some patience to let it sit in the glass but the reward is some extra depth of stewed cherries, aniseed and a calm earthy energy. Zan was the nickname of the maker’s father. He’d be proud to see it on the label of what the importers call a high country freshness from the western slopes of the Rhône, both kinds of C&W good.
14% alcohol. Cork. Lucky win at auction.
Gamay is just the ticket to buy for summer. Served cool, the bright splash of vivid berries and cherries – or griottes, of course – closely followed by a crunch of mouth freshening acid without the frown of serious tannin suit a warm evening so well. This one’s an old favourite and its 2018 vintage shows those glossy cherries but perhaps in their ripest form as there’s a dark colour and some prune depth to show for a dry, hot vintage. The acidity felt a touch too firm and maybe greenish to start but by day three it had softened into the generously weighted dark cherries. Despite the suggestion this is the producer’s more simple, get straight into it bottle, three days of improving sipping hint to the fact that a few years wait won’t hurt. It’s been a great season for cherries around here.
13% alcohol. Screwcap. $32.
Set in the lush hilly end of the Yarra Valley a bit north of Healesville, Tarrawarra seems suited to sophisticated Chardonnay as well as having a extraordinarily beautiful private gallery which has hosted some of the best of modern Australian art. This reserve bottling from the cool season of 2012 opened pale and surprisingly unwrinkled by age. Spice and oak clear away to let grapefruit, quince and some fancy tickling floral honey combine in both smell and taste. Not huge in concentration but suave in shape and glide. Comparisons may be odious but this grape variety, its oak barrels and making methodology were born in France, so perhaps the Burgundy allusion is unavoidable and just? The acidity has the soft cool elan and delicious cut of its now unaffordable mentors. Thankfully barely any of that reductive spent matchstick that the fashionistas of modern Chardonnay deem essential. Hopefully the pendulum of trend will settle somewhere around this sort of confident balance. Lovely work of modern Australian wine art.
12.8% alcohol. Upmarket Luxe screwcap. $60 spoil at the cellar door.