2016 Celler Aixalà Alcait Pardelasses Priorat

Pardelasses, for the donkeys it seems and this ass thought this 50/50 blend of Garnatxa and Samsó close to the one of the most enthralling drinks so far this year. Despite opening a bit sulphur stinky, a quick decant revealed dark balsamic cherries, a beguiling scent of sweet smoky pimenton, olé, and liquorice earthiness. There’s also kirsch, morello cherries and a finish where that sweet smoked paprika taste pops up again. Like a lot of great red wine, there’s an incredible freshness and a paradoxically firm but soft textured end gently brushing things clean to a mouthwatering conclusion. A very special expression of grape growing and place. Just as good on the second day. Samsó or Carignan as it’s better known can be so special in old vines and low yields. So soft and luscious. This old donkey is smitten by Priorat now.

14.50%. Cork. Another from The Spanish Acquisition’s wonderful mystery packs.

96 points.

2012 Mac Forbes Pinot Noir

Mac Forbes’ wines with their early picked lower alcohols and gentle extraction always make me think of those Yarra Valley Pinots and Cabernets from the 1980s and 1990s, before the boom in planting and warmer seasons. Mac being a Mount Mary alumnus does a lot to focus that impression. This is just what I like in Yarra Pinot, still a bright red, perfumed with ferny undergrowth, herbs and wild strawberries grown in a wild wood. Tart raspberries expand as it ends with a wash of still keen acidity, fine tannins and a hint of lemony oak, all more water coloured than alcohol warmed. The whole thing nicely sweetened by bottle age. The fruit weight may not be loaded enough for some but this is about perfume and focus and all the better for it.

13% alcohol which is almost extreme for a Mac Forbes Pinot. Screwcap. Was about $30 on release.

93 points.

Lot 5/2017 Celler Aixalà Alcait DeStrankis Priorat

There’s no clear vintage year on the label apart from lot 5/2017 in small print tucked away on one side. So, 2017? A little research on the importer’s website says 2017 and the fact that Destrankis is a Catalan term for assets that were hidden from the Franco dictatorship. Ah, hence the bottle hidden under the coat on the label. Opens cleanly, lots of dried cherry skin, ethyl acetate balsamic, sweet roasting pan juices and a richness of fresh red fruit. Grapes left to ripen until they just started to shrivel a bit. Instead of dried fruit cake flavours, there’s still an extraordinary sweet swell of fresh ripe berries and then the thing that perhaps marks Garnatxa and Samsó (or Carignan) from Priorat, a smooth wall of polished rocky tannin and acidity. An amazing expression of grapes and place. Finally it’s dawned on me why there’s all the fuss about Priorat. Delicious ripeness that seems to glide on such a fine bedrock of the local llicorella stone. Paradoxically soft rocks? The blend’s 80% Grenache and 20% Carignan, beautiful wine.

14.50% alcohol. Cork. Enormous thanks to the importers, The Spanish Acquisition, for offering mystery six packs for $90 and included this and another Celler Aixalà Alcait bottle with RRPs well north of $60. Really hope they keep their heads above the dreadful Covid financial waters. Saludos.

93 points.

2004 Wendouree Cabernet Malbec

One from the cellar. The tree bark came out a little bit too easily but still seemed to have done its job. Such a volume of those typical Wendoree smells, Australian forests after rain, choc mint, cherries, blackcurrant, and something involving iron and liquorice. Huge in the mouth but still disciplined by fresh, natural acidity and a solid wall of frowning skin tannin. A reminder of Wendouree from the last century. A lasting fruit perfume smooths the structure and maybe there’s finally a suggestion of age starting to calm the austere Cabernet scaffold or is it that round Malbec swell of sweet berries? In no way diminished on day two. The 2018 vintage mail out on real paper in an envelope is due in the letter box soon. A few for the cellar and some optimism about living long enough to enjoy them.

13.2% alcohol. Cork. About $45 on release.

94 points.

2012 Yangarra Mourvèdre

Wine is a never ending opportunity for the pedant. Do you have to use the accent grave on the first e of Mourvèdre or can we drop it for ease in English? Weirdly my spellcheck thinks it should be there. Then there’s that old thorny question of Mourvèdre’s innate flavours and their similarity to those from the spoilage of a nasty organism known as Brett for short. Well, this does smell a bit old oaky and a little wild. Likewise, as it warms in the mouth. But wait, there’s still delicious tarry and deep flavours of black cherry, with sweet roasting pan juices that swell nicely as this goes down. All helped along on rich velvet tannin and fresh acidity. There’s still the hint of the farmyard though. Brett can thin the flavours out through the palate and this Mourvèdre has those deep bass notes but not much top end or middle range which seems typical of the variety. It also has a slightly grubby spice note like our unwanted friend, Brett. Grape or bug? Such flavour confusion and a moderately baffled drinker. Still very enjoyable and a long way from the commercial fruit sweetness of the mainstream and wildly interesting for this pedant.

14.50% alcohol. Screwcap. Was about $26 on release.

92 points of pleasure and intellectual confusion.

2017 Bodegas La Purisima Estio Blanco

Spain has some of the most convivial bars for a delicious crawl but frustratingly for a wine lover, some have a limited wine selection by the glass. Try finding a fresh copa of Manzanilla outside Andalucia or anything elsewhere apart from the ubiquitous Tempranillo or Verdejo, Spain’s answer to Sauvignon Blanc. Or perhaps it’s my prejudice about grapes beginning with a V? Oops, Macabeo’s name in Rioja is Viura, perhaps we can stick to the former to maintain the unreasonableness? This example of Macabeo is from the hills of Yecla, 150kms inland from the beaches around Alicante where it’s probably drunk by the tanker load. An interesting but recently a less loved variety, here it doesn’t shout too much but shows low key but complex smells of chamomile, green apple, olive, and sort of plasticine. Widens out nicely in the mouth and then tails off, leaving a good pithy grip and firm but fair mineral acidity, tinged with a breath of oxidising sun burnt skins like a warm sea breeze. Could be enjoyed without paying too much attention but enough going on for those seeking a taste of an authentic Mediterranean grape.

12% alcohol. Screwcap, yes. $21.

88 points but a decent bonus for a cleverly made, properly authentic to region drink.

2017 Giovanni Rosso Langhe Nebbiolo

The 2017 vintage reports suggest it was hot and sticky work for a bunch of Nebbiolo grapes in Piemonte. First impressions were of brisk warm fruit and a chunk of firm tannin and acid without some of the perfume and for want of a better words, intricacy of flavour possible around Barolo. Nebbiolo can be contrary and slow to articulate though. So sure enough, by the third and particularly the fourth day of airing some rich cherry fruit and warm rose fragrance unravelled. Perhaps there’s not the sweet earthy complexity but it finally turned out round, satisfyingly ripe, with the tannin meets acidity fun of good Nebbiolo falling into place. Only medium bodied and gently extracted, perhaps showing a light touch in a hot vintage? Just landed from a long sea journey, some imports can look surly and take up to twelve months to open up, maybe the case here? It would be good to revisit in a couple of years.

14% alcohol. Diam, I think, guilty of an incomplete note. $45.

92 points.

2018 Pierre et Rodolfe Gauthier Jour du Soif Bourgueil

Maybe jour du soif is French for an AFD, whatever that may be? This is far too good to just quench a simple thirst. Stainless steel only I think and it’s so clean and pure bar a little reduction in the first small glass. Ripe and dark for a Loire red, there’s bright raspberries, sour cherries, almost plum and a satisfying build up of gravelly earth as it slips away. Just as it does, a waft of that sweet green leafiness pops up to remind us it’s Cabernet of the Franc sort. These fleshy evenly ripe flavours have great support from silky ripe skin tannin and comfortable acidity. It proved its worth by staying much more than just thirst slaking over three days. At last, a Loire red wine not spoiled by a dirty barrel.

Following a bit of a google, it seems the producer is also more widely known a Domaine du Bel Air, Gauthier Père at Fils and have been certified organic since 2000. The back label on my bottle was just Pierre et Rodolfe Gauthier. Their more expensive cuvées are finished in oak, hmmm.

13% alcohol. Cork. Think it was about $36?

92 points.

2017 Domaine Oudin Chablis 1er cru Vaugiraut

A weekend treat for this Chablis lover. Opened a little bit yeasty and wild but soon calmed down as it took a breath of air. Oh yes, this has all those Chablis smells and flavours of ripe citrus, maybe quince, creamy yeast lees, a yoghurt sourness and that ocean spray. Natural and relaxed. The concentration of flavour ramps up as it glides on flinty rails through the mouth, flaunting it’s premier cru caste. The flavours swell and linger, carried along on a cool watery stream of chalk and pebbles. Oddly this may be a real memory of smell and taste. Growing up in Wessex, my early summer holidays were often spent splashing in a gravelly chalk river. So immersed on a rare hot day that I probably swallowed a fair drink. Delicious Chablis will do these days.

13% alcohol. Cork, boo. $60.

94 points.

2017 Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

If you’re looking for value, lots of flavour for your money and a good place to step into the world of savoury Italian wine suited to the table, then the full Monte is the grape. Nothing to do with the Tuscan town of Montepulciano where they grow Sangiovese under a different name, typically obtuse Italy. Zaccagnini predate the designer labels, sort of obvious really, and they still tie a vine wood twig to the bottle as a badge of authenticity. The contents are still very authentic too. Starts off a bit surly and reduced but air draws it out. Mouth filling tastes of those sour Italian cherries, roadside berries, coffee grounds and sweet tar. Good grainy tannin and enough well meshed acidity to carry those honest, rugged flavours. If you were a fan of Italian football a while ago, you could say this is more Gennaro Gattuso than Rui Costa.

12.5% alcohol it says but feels warmer. Cork and a good old fashioned lightweight bottle with a twig. Around $25.

91 points.