The 60th vintage of a most reliably true to its roots Cabernet which is produced in what could be described as substantial quantity. For the last 25 years or so the same remarkable team of wine maker and viticulturist have been coaxing possibly the planet’s best value Cabernet into the bottle from vineyards where the machine does most of the work. Cost input relative to genuine product seems amazing. This vintage is a wonder. Not in a blockbuster way but just perfectly even ripeness showing the reserve and grace of good Cabernet. Sure, there’s cassis and berries and a hint of green leaf but there’s a gravelly, menthol finesse, all naturally settled into good fine ripe tannin and acidity. Only medium bodied at first, a thicker richness develops over a day or three with a touch of deeper earthy flavour and that saline, almost oyster shell Coonawarra reserve. Professorial authority in a bottle. Best maybe since 1986 or 1991?
13.8% alcohol. Screwcap. $25 when super discounted but a RRP of $45, happily Treasury Wine Estates don’t treasure this enough.
Three Rieslings in a week and not a dud. It’s possibly the only variety that appears on auction sites that consistently sells for less than the original retail, Grosset from great years excepted, of course. This is another ageing with some grace, still a pale colour and hanging on to the aromas of youth. Yes, lime and citrus naturally but again more in the way of mandarin, apples and something that brings to mind those spice notes of Alsatian versions. Beautiful flavours immaculately controlled by svelte acidity and a fruit sweetness born of flavour or a scintilla of residual, hard to tell. Softly autumnal untrammelled by coarse phenolic extract. Over many seasons, a deeply thoughtful producer of great craft. Those of us who visited the cellar door high in the hills were always in for a treat and stunning bargains in the form of those Galahs!
13% alcohol. Screwcap. $24.50 at auction.
It’s still February, thus it’s more Riesling. This one from the stack of cardboard boxes that passes for a cellar. From a producer who has done a lot to promote the wonders of the grape loved by wine geeks and largely ignored by the rest of drinkers, this one’s shrugging off the effects of age with aplomb. Still pale and fresh smelling. Limes, of course, but lots more in the form of apple pie, almost a touch of vanilla bean, mandarins, waxy candles and sweet green herby notes. Nice line of texture through the mouth, lithe, no real skin grip, just gentle acidity and perhaps a whisper of sweetness to balance impeccably. No shouting but a confidential wink of authenticity for those of us who love the charm of proper Riesling. As old football wisdom has it, form is temporary, class is permanent.
12% alcohol. Screwcap. Was about $25?
February really is the best time to enjoy the majesty of one of the world’s best white varieties should you abide south of the equator, notwithstanding Melbourne’s summer, currently even more than usually fickle. It does seem that the quality of viticulture has improved a lot in the relatively warm growing climate of most Australian Riesling regions. Keeping fruit shaded by better canopy care has perhaps avoided the once too prevalent early appearance of those broad kerosene flavours. This old fellow is still sprite of colour and has the mellow, waxy, old incense calm of age but still hasn’t forgotten its lime and sweet young herb flavours of youth. Natural feeling acidity has settled well and there’s the slightest brush of phenolic skin and counterpoint fruit sweetness. Gentle but not lacking impact. Some kind people bring the best things to share over my attempts to make a mess in the kitchen, chiz!
12% alcohol. Screwcap once again takes the utter lottery out of opening an old white wine. A generous share.
From a vineyard planted on the very old Cambrian volcanic red soils of Heathcote proper in 1971 says the helpful back label. It also says the maker is Peter Dredge. There’s a man by the same name making wine in Tasmania which makes me wonder if he’s extremely busy or there’s two of them? Nonetheless time has been kind to this bottle, producing a lovely sweet roundness to the black cherry and blackberry fruit with the dark char of mocha oak now seasoning nicely. There’s also some background savour in spice and bay leaf. Acid and sweet ripe tannin have settled any differences and sit calmly together. The fruit’s so good that the advertised alcohol really doesn’t breathe heat at all. A few years of bottle rest seems a good test of fruit quality and this passes with ease and no little grace. Heathcote showing just what it can do, tasty.
14.6% alcohol. Screwcap. Lucky auction win again for $24. Normal retail closer to $40, clever me.
Another lucky win on the addictive on line auction site, this is fantastically bright, spotlessly clean and full of a spankingly fresh essence of Barbera from the mighty Langhe. Rich cherry and dark raspberry fruit with a touch of aniseed, spice and that wonderful stony mineral thing that those Piemonte hills do so well. One of the distinctive joys of good Barbera is its ability to cut even the ripest fruit with a pure crunch of mouthwatering acidity, making it almost essential for a nicely oily and tomato rich pizza. Not sure how this may develop as it disappeared with alarming haste as did said pizza. Joy.
14% alcohol. Cork. $23 auction bid, probably nearer $40 full retail. Lucky.
93 punti deliciosi.
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.