2016 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Le Orme

Seems odd that a bit of Italy that produces grapes with tannins to make stewed English tea look wimpy can also value a variety with virtually none. Sweet blackberries, toffee and an earthy stone flavour. Blood orange both in flavour and acidity. Synesthesia suggests purple and blue. It’s a strange perception but there it is. After a lot of stern tannin recently, it’s a surprisingly pleasant change for simple fresh ripe acidity to sweep clean. Roll on summer and a bowl of fresh, sun warmed tomato pasta.

13.50% alcohol. Screwcap, bravo. $20, Murphy’s direct imports gets it right now and again.

91 points.

2010 Chateau Aydie Madiran

Big and burly Tannat civilised but still bluntly true to its roots from one of its best addresses. Warm vintage and such richness. Dark plums and mulberries with a kirsch sweetness firmly kept in order by the enormously soft but firm tannin. Good spice and sweet earth too. Somewhere beneath the velvet fog lurks just the right amount of integrated acidity to hold it together. So deep and well made, the fruit just kept emerging. By day two there was a bright fresh cherry finish to match the grunt. Pauillac out of reach? It’ll be a while or never before HK billionaires realise Madiran’s a label to covert.

14.50% of well carried alcohol. Cork. $35 at auction a few years ago.

94 points.

2005 Produttori del Barbaresco Ovello Riserva

The relaxed pleasures of the Italian table perhaps touch the sublime in Piemontese inspired cooking? Fresh Tassie truffle liberally sliced over a plate of agnolotti del plin and what to drink? Undeserved spoiling in carefully sipped glasses of Produttori tradition. Great purity, freshness and ripe melting wax tannin. Head full of truffle, rose, cherry, licorice and tar perfume. Great fatty comfort cut by a tannin acid nexus like no other. A few moments of life on planet Earth which offer a very tasty connection to its best farming and cooking tradition. Even at just over ten years in the bottle under the most unreliable of closures, this Nebbiolo is only just starting to soften after a rough double decant. There’s no fat to the ripeness but there’s no green either. The acid cleans up the finish but it helps freshen the lovely mix of red fruit and darker savoury tar. Thanks, Scopri, our local Carlton Italian for birthday spoiling and the best glassware for Neb. Sitting under that huge black and white wall sized print of the Barbaresco landscape only helps the mood.

14% alcohol. Cork. $135.

95 rapturous points.

2018 Cirillo The Vincent Grenache

It’s unusual for the words finesse and Barossa to appear in the same sentence but it can’t be avoided here. Perfect musky, red fruit ripeness. Some whole berries in the ferment push the plush brightness and a fine phenolic grip keep the scales perfectly balanced. All the good bits of Grenache grown where it’s happy and no awkward heat, green acid or tannin. It just flows gently, builds sweet fruit and then waves bye with some graceful grip. It’ll be fascinating to see how it ages. Will it get deeper fruited or just lose its brightness? Venerable vines, great purity and just over a twenty. Heart warming generosity.

14% alcohol. Screwcap. $22!

94 points.

NV Philippe Glavier Genesis Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs

The front label is much prettier but goodness, don’t you wish all NV Champagne had a back label with this much info? If you just like glugging Veuve then you’re probably indifferent and aren’t reading this anyway. For the price of anodyne LVMH you can have this though. Sparklingly clean in every sense, flowers, crystallised citrus, touch of yeasty patisserie and driving linear acidity carrying all those flavours a long way. Contained, subtle power that rules on shiny polished rails. The reserve wine and time on those little yeast beasties just add intricacy to the chalky sense of place. Côte des Blancs precision from an obsessively quality driven producer who only makes small amounts of bliss like this. This would make even the most jaded appetite drool.

12% alcohol. Cork. $70 or thereabouts direct from the importer.

95 points.

2016 Te Mata Awatea Cabernets Merlot

Perfect way to celebrate Bastille day eve with a Kiwi that’s better value and probably a bit cleaner than some more illustrious Bordeaux, which was already an expensive dabble thirty years ago when the bug bit. Not that price stopped a reckless love of Burgundy instead. Probably as many disappointments too. Anyway, unlike nearly every other NZ producer, Te Mata are as nineteenth century traditional as the Bordelaise in the choice of stopper. Happily the expensive looking tree bark here didn’t spoil a seriously delicious wine. Just medium in body but achingly fragrant. A perfect mix of marginally tart but ripe fruit and a savoury anchor. Black cherry, cassis, sweet green leaves and seasoning of black olive and cedar oak, all in elegant proportion and driven long. Hint of that grounding claret gravel too. No grunt, just harmony. Anyone on either bank of the Gironde able to guarantee the same quality to price rapport? Could default to a predictably not funny….. choice, eh bro?

13.50% alcohol. CORK! C’est quoi!? $28 from what Dan’s questionably call a rationalisation which means they won’t stock it at my local. Happy to take the below cost discount to clear it though.

95 points.

2009 Produttori del Barbaresco Montestefano Riserva

Just to make sure Nebbiolo’s over represented hereabouts, yet another. Enoteca Sileno have developed a reputation for perhaps not the thinnest of margins on wine but if you look carefully in their impressive wine fridge, you’ll notice less lauded vintages still there for about $135. Less if you buy a few and tongue in cheek ask for a discount. This Montestefano is still a craggy peak of dense stone. Very ripe red cherry, earthy tar and a bit of licorice, well, it is Neb of course. Chunks of mouth desiccating tannin and acid. Only tamed by fat and protein. Warm vintage, big hearted wine from the most stern of the Produttori’s crus. As unyielding as a 90s’ Juventus back four.

14.50% alcohol. Cork. $135.

93 four square points.