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.
One of the many joys of living in Melbourne is the enduring influence of the last century’s Italian immigration. In inner north suburban Brunswick there remains the large supermarket, Mediterranean Wholesalers, who direct import our daily staples at great prices and where the last surviving members of the 1950s’ diaspora chat in impenetrable dialects. The wine selection can be a little patchy but for a while it’s included the Piemontese cooperative Terre da Vino at astonishing prices. This humble Dolcetto proved to be the perfect companion to a bowl of their quality Gragnano pasta. Clean, fresh and a good bite of food friendly acidity and tannin, just what you want. Barely medium in weight with gentle scents and tastes of red cherries and a touch of that Piemonte soil. A mouthwatering build of soft sparkle fruit makes it interesting as it then fades out to that simply satisfying end. Dread to think what our Anglo Saxon table would have been like without some Italian influence.
12.5% alcohol. Nomacorc Select Green 500 to be precise. $12. Not sure how they do it.
89 points of simple pleasure.
A very upmarket bottle of fizz from Chardonnay grown in the hallowed Grand Cru turf of Le Mesnil sur Oger in the Côte de Blancs. Opens with a bottle aged, nose tingling whack of barley sugar, dead yeast and lemon peel. Amazingly still bubbly on day two, it just threw off the blankets of age and awoke fresher and full of energy. More hedgerow flowers, touch of peach, candied citrus and gingerbread spice in aroma and mouthful. The structure sets it apart from any other BdB I’ve been lucky enough to share. Extraordinary vice like grip of shining steel acidity, paradoxically fine and pinpoint, carries the flavours on and on like a TGV at top speed. A smooth, powerful ride. Don’t think the ticket’s exactly affordable on a daily commute basis.
12% alcohol. Cork. Glad I didn’t have to pay for it, current release retails well over $200, gulp.
Opened this and the next day learnt of the recent death of the man himself, so cheers to nearly 87 years of a very influential life. So much so that this bottling has often been a welcome last resort when glumly staring at the shelves of an out of town supermarket. Old Georges’ ability to make and sell Beaujolais was such he even reached the drabness of Australian outer suburbia. Clean, reliable, perhaps anodyne but always a delicious, gently tangy drink on a warm evening. Probably a lot more is made of this each year than all the wonderfully alive new wave naturals put together. Sure, this one’s a bit over extracted, a little corporate but the rich bouncy cherry flavour suggests some good honest fruit and the biting crunch of good acidity and skin tannin demands the seasonal goodness of the summer table. Must admit to really enjoying this, think we can forgive the Beaujolais Nouveau which probably helped the growers’ cash flow no end.
13% alcohol. Screwcap, good corporate thinking. $18, bargain.
90 points but for drinking not pointing.
Lurking amongst the investment heavy labels on Langton’s wine auction website, you can sometimes find less coveted varieties and labels that don’t attract a bid and behold, a bargain pops up. Increasingly earlier and warmer vintages are highlighting how well the old Grenache vines are handling the warming. 2012 is perhaps seen as one of the cooler seasons since 2000 but there’s no lack of ripeness here. As the dusty bottle development clears, yes it does seem like red wine changes under a screwcap, sweet raspberry, aniseed and fruit and nut chocolate emerge. Maybe a bit of herby whole bunch pulls the fruit into line? Tasty resolved mouthful of the same fruit, spice and chocolate with just a twist of Barossa dark carbon. Perfectly ripe fruit, a swish of tannin and comfortable acidity. Probably developed as far as it’s going but still frisky as it plateaus. Worth the punt at auction in between the traded labels; this actually ended up in a glass.
13.50% alcohol. Screwcap. $14 at auction, probably about $30 on release. Happy.
From the variety Viura which being Spanish is of course a local name for something else, in this case Jancis says Macabeo, the Cava stalwart, and suggests widely underestimated too. This version is firmly modern in its winemaking and a long way from the oxidised, old oaky, traditional blancos. Full and creamy textured with aromas of chamomile, yellow peaches and apricot jam. Odd how often Spanish whites seem to evoke that sleep and wee inducing flower, not necessarily always compatible effects. Terrific balance of full rich fruit and pulpy grape skin acidity. Such a sunny disposition with a firm true handshake. Another fascinating voyage into the amazing territory of Mediterranean varieties or just an easily delicious glass of wine too. Getting on the email list for the wittily named Melbourne importer, The Spanish Acquisition, led to a mystery bin end clearance of six bottles for $60. Happy this turned up as Rioja Blanco wouldn’t usually register on the buying radar.
12.50% alcohol. Looks like a Nomacorc sugarcane polymer cork alternative. $10!
Whole bunch Shiraz from the cool volcanic soil end of the beautiful Yarra Valley. Sure, there’s some mulchy almost tequila like aromas but mostly it’s lots of dark raspberries, cherries and aniseed tinged earth. A bit of bottle age has helped the typically rich but fresh Yarra fruit swallow up the stalky tannin and crisp acidity. It’s all very svelte and dress circle Yarra Valley.
13.50% alcohol. Diam. $45 a few years back.
Maybe the old argument about traditional and modern winemaking is more blurred than important when seeking value in Piemonte? La Morra is seen by some as the devil of new oak and esoteric science. Well, you can hope new barrels probably won’t feature in a humble Langhe Nebbiolo and it seems they don’t here. A blend of two vineyards, the eponymous, lovely word, S. Francesco and Fontanazza with grapes from a vintage with a reputation. Add some highly polished wine making and deeply flavoured grapes and the result’s a resolved bourgeois glass of rich cherry, Langhe dirt, polished melting tannin and controlled acidity. Great fruit and suave craft. This or old dirty barrels?
14% alcohol. Cork. $50 or so then.
93 points for Nebbiolo in a nice suit.
There’s possibly still a misconception about Dolcetto, the little sweet one; this certainly isn’t sweet or little, more like tackle from one of those Italian centre backs from the eighties. Knees, elbows or whatever it takes. This is savoury, jammed with dark Piemontese earth and astringent to the degree of pizza being a necessity. Dark cherries and soil both in smell and taste. Seems like a hot, dry vintage character with assertive dry skin tannin, almost leathery and very firm but thankfully not sour acidity. If you just tasted between meals, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking it too dry and unbalanced but that’s not the way to do it. To the table for sweet tomato and pale mozzarella on a long prove chewy base and so delicioso.
13.50% alcohol. Cork. $30 or thereabouts.
92 points but not much else can match a pizza so well.