2018 Te Mata Estate Hawke’s Bay Cabernets Merlot

Te Mata have been doggedly producing gently extracted, quietly digestible Cabernets for a long time, impervious to the wild swings of wine fashion. An idiosyncratic persistence with corks in their two best perhaps their only silliness. From a warmer season, a swell of sweet ripeness buffers the herby, gravel astringency of proper Cabernet. There’s still a savoury raspberry leafiness though, perhaps from the Merlot and Cabernet Franc listed on the back label. The usual Cabernet suspects like blackcurrant, mulberry and leaf are evenly measured out, freshened to end with gentle ripe tannin and a clip of acidity to invite another sip. All at a price to make a bottle of Bordeaux blush.

13% alcohol. Screw cap, hooray. $24.

90 stylish points.

2019 Oddero Dolcetto d’Alba

From one of the pioneers of the Barolo, a Dolcetto as it would be drunk at the table on a daily basis. Much as Nebbiolo and Barbera command the prices, if you order a carafe of rosso with your meal in the Langhe, more than likely it would be this under appreciated, early ripening beauty. This one has all the tart, red cherry fruit cut with the sort of challenging acidity and an austere stoniness that really suits a forkful of rich pasta. Not a drink for the novice discovering the sweet allure of berries and vanilla plumped by alcohol but a real taste of perfumed ripeness teetering on a high wire of tense acidity. After 24 hours of air, the colour darkened, fragrant flowers and more dark cherries emerged. The acidity, still glassy, crackled with life and that fierce dryness. Time will settle things and this will be compulsory on the table in 2022. Hopefully with some friends allowed to share.

13% alcohol. Diam, brilliant. $30 on the shelf at Boccaccio cellars.

92 points of pure typicity, if that’s a word.

Champagne Voirin Jumel Cuvée 555

Cinq cent cinquante cinq certainly isn’t the easiest French number for an anglophone to get their mouth around. So much easier to drink though. So rich, dense and compact. Beautiful clean smells and tastes of crystallised citrus, quince, apple tarte tatin and spiced brioche. Such a mid winter cheer up treat. Over two days nothing budged from the first phhuutt of opening. It’s been languishing in the cellar for a couple of years, demonstrated by the cork staying compressed after gently wriggling free and just about the only clue to its age. The flavours despite their power show impressive compression and tension. For the technically minded, the back label says so much more than most Champagnes are willing to admit. All Grand Cru Chardonnay from the Côte de Blancs, barrel ferment, five different vintages, 20% reserve wine, 6gs per litre dosage and no malolactic ferment. The last bit still shows strongly with a surge of mouthwatering, appetite enhancing tingling acidity to close. Don’t think there’s a better way to start yet another quiet evening at home.

12% alcohol. Cork. Enthusiastic wifely purchase. Thanks indeed for sharing, dear.

95 points.

2018 Celler del Roure Vermell

From the Spanish DO of Valencia in the way of 70% Garnacha Tintorera aka Alicante Bouschet and 30% Mandó, a rarity and yet another one of those Mediterranean grapes to add to the long list of discoveries. Jancis’ bible, Wine Grapes, suggests Mandón, originally from Bierzo in the opposite north west corner of Spain. Twinkling ruby red and only just medium of body, there’s a fresh, clean perfume of an uncrushed berry ferment casting its shadow over tangy red currants, cherries, pomegranate and earthy spice. Flows through the mouth like a good cru Beaujolais with naturally mouthwatering acidity and its own distinct chalky herbal end. A cool glass with some snacks on a warm Iberian night seems a nice dream. Don’t think it’s worth adding Mandó to the category section. Probably doesn’t pop up in a google search that often.

12% alcohol. Cork. Gratefully discounted to $96 for a six pack from The Spanish Acquisition. Worth a share with friends if you live in Melbourne.

92 points. Plus a bit for a sunny personality.

2018 Mount Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Shiraz

A producer with a long history for this drinker, my first vintage when there was just one Langi Shiraz bottling was 1986. Only one change of ownership since then puts it firmly in the heritage category. Such is the warming of the climate that an alcohol ripeness of 14.5% would have been unthinkable for this traditionally cool vineyard in the eighties. This release is all about a delicious cushion of evenly ripe summer pudding fruit backed up by what seems to be succulent natural acidity and some woody stem tannin. The details are some typical Langi pepper and aniseed spice. A warm and generous version of a regular buy. Maybe most attractive as a youngster.

14.5%. Screw cap. $25 member’s special at Woolies ethanol barn.

92 points.

2017 Tardieu Laurent Les Becs Fins Côtes du Rhône Villages

Fat, rich and warm hearted Grenache. Clean and deliciously very ripe raspberries, cherry liqueur, brown spices and those woody herbs that scent the air on a warm Mediterranean afternoon. All these things impact well as it slips through like molten chocolate with just enough life giving acidity to suggest another mouthful. The sort of fruit quality you’d be happy to see in a loftier appellation. Tardieu Laurent know how to source their grapes. For once the wine stained label was not my fault but maybe from a breakage in the case in the auction house storage. The chunky looking chap on the label looks a bit miffed about it. If I drank this regularly, I’d end up with Obelix’s belly. Lush, the wine that is.

14% alcohol. Cork and not the best. $22 win at auction.

93 points.

2010 Adelina Grenache

A winery with an address on Wendouree Road East which could be an indication of grape quality, especially as it seems the vines are eighty years of age. Here the Clare Valley puts its stamp on a Grenache, making it less plump and generous, more sinewy and lithe. Starts with the instantly recognisable smell of doing dusty bottle time, then breathes some faded rose, mint and cherry. Despite a pale colour for Clare, it builds well with these flavours sweetened with age. Finest of satin tannin and delicious twist of Campari acidity. Bony structure but flesh too. Made by gentle infusion more than rough extraction perhaps and better for it. The relatively high alcohol had more effect on the drinker than the flavours.

14.8% alcohol. Screw cap. Lucky auction win for $25.

92 points.

2014 Ravensworth Shiraz Viognier

Ravensworth sounds like a house name from Hogworts perhaps? There’s certainly something magical in the way they turn grapes into wine. This opened with bottle aged dustiness that gave way to lots of smoke and the dry herbs of whole bunch. As oxygen did its job, a north end of the Rhône violet and new leather perfume emerged, followed eventually by the precision ripeness of dark raspberry, cherries and aniseed. It took a while. Initial thoughts were it may be just too savoury. Quietly but confidently an even build through the mouth glides on resolved tannin and acidity. A little tickle of oak spice is tucked in nicely. All the tweaks of modern Australian Shiraz making, this time done with aplomb. Worth decanting, especially should you be entertaining vegetarian friends, lest they sight the label.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. Maybe $30 to $35 on release?

93 points.

2006 Wendouree Cabernet Malbec

Some generous wine loving people bring the most delicious things to the dinner table. Wendouree at its zenith. All those alluring smells, Oz bush after rain, rich cherry, cassis and whilst I’ve no idea why, the word mossy comes to mind. A soft explosion of all these things in the mouth as what must be the Malbec builds and builds a rose and bramble intensity. Structurally, the tannins are perfectly ripe and full of comfort. The acidity perfect. Expletives and pleasures galore.

13.7% alcohol. Cork. Thanks for sharing.

97 points, yes really.

2012 Castle Rock Estate Riesling

Some trepidation as a 2011 of this was just a little too austere, crackling with lemony acidity. The 2012 is a gentler, riper but still poised edition. A full range smells of a just starting to age Riesling, all in the deliciously ripe spectrum. White peach, lime, Meyer lemon, and a pinch of something more tropically exotic. Just the right touch of a busy garage, terpenes to the chemists. A cushioned glide as it slides down on that ripe acidity, refreshed for more please. Sometimes only one bottle in the cellar is good, as in interesting but enough, sometimes you really wish you had more, like this.

Oops, forgot to note the alcohol %. Screw cap. About $21 on release.

94 points.