2011 Livio Felluga Friulano

A lucky win at auction fulfilled a wish to see how something from an absolute favourite Italian white wine maker ends up after a while asleep. Indigenous Friulano from the Friuli Colli Orientali bottled under a screwcap had to be worth a bet and yes, a winner. Opened still with a light yellow glow and aromas of ripe yellow stone fruit, a sort of autumn golden leafy linger, amaro herbs and a twist of tonic bitters. The same sort of flavours gained poise and focus as the air met wine and just got better to the last drop. The producer’s purity of fruit and gentle extraction held up so well under that wonderful screwcap. One day when the world opens up to travel again, Friuli and its own Friulano will be on the map, certo.

13.5% alcohol. Screwcap thank Bacchus. $20 bid was all it took!

93 points

2016 Domaine Ghislaine Barthod Bourgogne

Back in 2000, a simple call from a Paris station public phone in bad, halting Français was all it took to arrange an appointment with this wonderful Chambolle address. In the days when a Burgundy obsession was at least extravagantly affordable rather than a ludicrous billionaire’s foible. Lucky for me it was a rainy afternoon on the Côte d’Or and Madame Barthod was happy to stay in the cellar and pour tastes rather than be amongst les vignes. An unforgettable tour of Chambolle’s Premier Cru from barrel showed that Pinot can be even more tasty before it’s bottled. Anyway, the sight of a Bourgogne for 30 euros in that tempting basement of Lavinia was a chance to revisit good times. As meticulously clean and made as ever, gentle scents of wild strawberries, cherry and the smoothest limestone and clay swirl into a precise mouthful of just ripe fruit, a tingle of bright acidity and a trail of silky tannin. No huge weight or bombastic extract despite a bit of cold soak perhaps, just a well pitched melody. As good as many producers’ village level efforts. Some trophy bottles of late 90s and early 2000’s Burgundies have gone off to auction for jaw dropping prices to help fund other indulgences but there’s one, and only one sadly, 99 Barthod Charmes that’s going nowhere but my glass.

13% alcohol. Cork. What price great Burg these days?

91 very stylish points.

Odious Comparison, 2018 Wheeler Vino Great Western Shiraz and 2018 Reed Knife Edge Great Western Shiraz

An irresistible opportunity to open these and compare over a few days. Both made by two young and it must be said attractive tyros of the changing nature of Australian wine. Choosing small batches of carefully grown grapes and guiding them into a bottle without the impositions of big company formulae seems to end up in a glass of something properly authentic to place perhaps. The bottle shot is a glorious Grampians landscape unashamedly stolen from Max Allen’s splendidly definitive book, The Future Makers.

The Wheeler Vino version opens with a beautifully perfumed whack of Rhône like flowers and smoke. It’s hard not to compare when the resemblance is so striking but this in no way undermines how special are the Grampians. Perhaps in years to come someone will pick up a glass of Cornas and say this is so good it could be from Great Western. Medium weight in the mouth, red fruit and both peppery and sweet spice glide with a dragging anchor of natural acid and emery tannin. Any perception of oak is limited to texture and a sprinkle of dark brown seasoning. Just how this looks so…er..Syrah like without whole bunches is a question whose answer can only be guessed, maybe the natural yeast, whole berries, pre or post ferment soaking, ripeness or clone? From maybe one of the cooler sites around the special bit of the Great Western landscape, some gently just ripe fruit has led to a terrific, perfectly groomed, smooth operator.

By contrast, the Reed immediately looks darker and deeper in nature. Blackberries, spice and the tarry earth that echo the old vine flavours of Garden Gully and St. Peter’s gnarled soldiers. A top note of slightly balsamic ethyl acetate tickles the fancy as it so often does in great Victorian Shiraz. A rich but tense mouthful of the same blackberries and dark tar spice sweep through, savoury stem tannin offering a firm grip on the arm of a saline, low acid personality teetering on the edge. At its weighty core, there’s a chiaroscuro of bright fruit and dark earth. Knife edge making indeed but never falling off the perch in three days of balancing up in the open air.

Wheeler 13.6% and Reed 13.5% alcohol, nice numbers. Screwcap both. To be had for between $25 and $30, both bargains for such authenticity.

Over time both competed neck and neck in the pleasure stakes, one a bit ahead, only for the other to gain breath, catch up and gain a nose. The bottles drained almost simultaneously, a good indication of even favour. Churlish to play favourites with such proud efforts.

94 points for both but more importantly there’s modern love and respect for an ancient place. Colin Preece would have approved.

2017 Península Viticultores Vino de Montaña

Old vine Grenache from vineyards in the mountains near Madrid blended with a couple of obscurities in Rufete and Piñuela. The Jancis grape bible says Rufete is Portuguese in origin but has no entry for Piñuela, so it remains mysterious. Having spent time in Madrid and surrounds seeking out these mountain versions, it’s fair to say it was hard to find one that really scratched that Grenache as altitude Pinot itch. Sadly a bottle of Commando G has proven too elusive. It’s therefore a nice surprise to find a well priced, clean and fresh example. Just medium weight and increasingly delicious after a few hours airing, there’s tart cherry, a touch of almost musky incense and that sensation of licking a lump of granite. It’s already been pointed out a few times this might be a silly thing to do but I can’t think of a better explanation. Structurally there’s some fine pixel tannin and ripe but mouth watering acidity. Mountain wine! A little more mid mouth fruit weight and the bargain would be a steal. Some good olive oily Spaniard in the works food, mucho bueno.

14.5% alcohol but it doesn’t show. Diam I think. $26 but it can be found for as little as $20.

92 points but a strong shout for style and place.

2012 The Story Port Campbell Pinot Noir

Probably the last thing the world needs at the moment is a daft wine blog adding to our collective angst. Not much left to say except to express gratitude for good health, a kind companion, friends and a heart warming drink cloistered in a comfortable home. This terrific version from a remote Pinot outpost, where grape growing must be more than tricky due to some fickle weather, really shows some depth and cut. In local Australian terms there’s a proven Pinot place in rural Gippsland to the South East of Melbourne that can express the grape with dark cherry and earthy wild strawberry with a almost fragrant rose geranium edge. A long way west along the wild coast, the same flavours seem to thrive. This is beautifully clean, quite ripe for such a cool windswept landscape and deep at its core with paradoxically soft but firm tannin and acidity. A few years rest and it’s all mellow and sweetly just starting to autumnally decay. Sort of appropriate for the time of year and the drinker. Nice story again, Rory.

13.5% alcohol. Screwcap. About $30 a year or several ago.

94 points.

2016 Grand Bateau Bordeaux

In such times, alcohol in the form of good wine taken internally must be the perfect sanitiser. The big boat is a connection to the big 4th growth St. Julien, Chateau Beychevelle which is almost ten times the price these days. This opened a little oddly with some dank off putting drain smells. Twenty four hours later, another tentative sniff and sip showed all was in fact well. Mulberry, something bramble, earth and gravel with a fleeting top note of red plum and raspberry Merlot, a bit of a tease like those basic Bourgognes that can only hint at the real pleasures of the crus. Nonetheless, there’s some fine sandpaper tannin and, well yes you have to say it, refreshing mineral acidity. 80/20 Merlot and Cabernet they say on the back label, the Bordeaux self regard implicit on the front.

13% alcohol. Cork. $20 at auction, think it normally retails for $25 to $30?

89 proper Claret points.

2018 Miners Ridge Grampians Shiraz

A warm welcome at a small cellar door in the ancient, scrubby bushland of the gobsmackingly beautiful Grampians. A small proportion of the fruit grown is saved for just a few hundred cases of the vineyard’s own label. The quality of the selection is obvious from first sniff and slurp. Red fruits, touch of blueberry, brown spices and noticeable pepper richly swirled with a seasoning of vanilla custard oak. Very technically clean and conservative making perhaps limits the exuberance a bit as the finish tightens with some lemony acidity. Nonetheless, if you want to taste just how good Grampians Shiraz can be at a very modest price, take a delicious swerve off the highway to Adelaide and go have a taste. A recent bottle of 2018 Riesling was also delicious in that virtually bone dry traditional Grampians way.

14.5% alcohol. Screwcap. $25 and a bargain.

93 points.

2008 Hoddles Creek Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet from a chilly upland part of the Yarra Valley in a hot vintage. Still some purple in the glass and a fresh cut of blackcurrant leaf, cassis, mint with a seasoning of truffle and oak toast. Lovely mouthwatering compression of fine just ripe tannin and crisp natural acidity. Such is the low ph crunch, the flavours just got richer over three days without a hint of oxidation. There really is something special in the way Yarra Cabernet can get flavour ripe whilst hanging onto its naturally delicious bounce. More jump than a happy frog.

13.8% alcohol. Screwcap. $20 a few years ago.

92 points.

2017 Cave de Tain Crozes-Hermitage

From the major and very good Northern Rhône cooperative, Cave de Tain, and a direct import by Woolworths, this is a relatively a good value intro into the home of Syrah. If you were expecting a crisp red fruited and smokily floral effort typical of a cooler latitude, then you’ll be surprised by the rich, darker fruited power of what tastes like a hot vintage. Beautifully clean, dark red fruit, spice and chewy dry skin tannin make this more typical of Languedoc or Australia than Crozes. Evolved well over three days, shaking off some sulphide reduction to sweeten nicely. Climate change sceptics need to drink more. The evidence of warmer, earlier vintages is clearly in the glass.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $33.

92 points.

2015 Vietti Barbera d’Asti La Crena

Early one Saturday morning a friend rang and said he was standing next to a six pack of this at the importer’s wholesale bin end sale. Shame it’s only from Asti and not one of the Alba versions I said, thinking I knew something about these things. Well, wrong, as this vineyard has plantings going back to 1932 and is as much treasured by the Vietti as anything closer to Alba and similarly priced, alas. Hooray for bin end sales. Opens as cleanly and impeccably fragrant as Viettis always seem to do. Rich dark blue and black fruit, sort of cherry and a hint of blueberry, classic Piemonte earth and licorice. At first there’s that very ripe fluidity that suggests it’s a bit too slick but over a day or two the fruit gets fresher and carries further on that superb Barbera acidity. Refreshment and authenticity. The oak’s only a nutty hint hiding behind the weight and drive of some deeply generous fruit. Great craft in the growing and the making. Vietti, authority writ large. Don’t think I can resist opening one of my tiny collection of their Baroli soon.

14.50% alcohol. Cork. Bargain thanks to the wine frenzy sale.

94 points.