1999 Domaine de Montille Volnay 1er cru Les Mitans

A spoil for a very quiet dark Saturday night in Melbourne under curfew. For once the cork was still firm, taut and came out in one piece. Good omen. The contents of the bottle? Very ripe wild strawberries like they sell in those small punnets in French markets. Some rich cherry extract and a good amount of sweet autumnal leaf litter from the twenty years slumber. All very of the essence with no sweetness, each sip leaving a haunting perfume in the retro nasal canyons. Sometimes a good sized nose is a blessing. Great adult flavours built on a firm but lithe backbone of austere chalky acidity and powder fine tannin. Just beautiful.

12.50% alcohol, size it not everything. Cork. 593 gms of glass. Maybe about €40 years ago in Paris.

96 points.

2019 Bondar Rayner Vineyard Grenache

An example of Grenache made in the less extraction is more way. Just cooked strawberries or as those Frenchies with a word for everything edible say compôte, makes me think of compost though. Roses verging to musk, raspberries and cherries too. Sweetly transparent fruit running up against fresh cut fennel sap, dried up by no nonsense acidity and stem tannin. Second day and just the same, just balanced. Such a long way from what you’d traditionally expect from a McLaren Vale red, polarising for some maybe. Pale and interesting.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. 707 gms of glass. $35.

93 then 92 points.

2018 Famille Sambardier Cuvée Des P’tits Jean Gamay Noir

Once more to the shelves of Dan Murphy’s for some budgetary relief and hooray, there’s some new things. From what seems a fairly substantial producer of Beaujolais, this avoids the bureaucratic authentication of appellation and says simply Vin de France on the back label. Took a while to even out, a little reduction to blow away, then a lift of marker pen took a while to sink back. Once it calmed down, a light weight of good whole berry fruit and bloody ironstone floated on sweeping acidity, like licking glass. Over twenty four hours, some of the perfume receded and cherries in toffee darkened the flavours. By no means concentrated but not confected, a clear blast of freshness and some regional truth. A run of the mill Bourgogne Rouge as good would probably be three time the price, the credit card balance likes this.

13% alcohol. Looks like a Diam with discs of cork glued on each end. $14.30 in a six bottle buy.

88 points.

Must confess to a little environmental neurosis as the effect of us humans on our only planet becomes more obviously less than sustainable. Please don’t remind me of all that CO2 produced on those flights to Europe. A recent bottle of a once favourite Barossa GSM was not only unusually weighed down by ripeness but also by the sheer quantity of silica melted to produce the container. It makes the recycling bin even more embarrassingly heavy and it even needed a larger than usual screw cap to seal it. To join Jancis’ crusade, bottle weights are now featured. This one 421gms. Yeh, I know, stop drinking poncy high carbon imports.

2018 G D Vajra Langhe Rosso

Anyone who’s had more than a dabble in the joys of Barolo will have a particularly soft spot for this producer. From a vintage that seems to have led to crisp, high acid wines, this is probably the usual mix of mainly Nebbiolo with bits of all sorts like Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa and others. The back label is coy this year. Open over three days. First, sweetly pretty with a fizzy cherry drink flavour, in a good way, cut tart and Langhe tense and earthy. Almost a natural wine feel, pure and alive. Second, deeper colour, more obviously Nebbiolo, spiced cherries, floral built on a puckering balance of almost glassy acidity and finest tannin. Third, better again, more fragrant red cherry and roses, such a tasty crunch of succulent acid controls the shape. So much in something light to medium weight at best. As good as anything with good pasta. In a fascinating interview with Aldo Vajra on Levi Dalton’s excellent podcast, I’ll Drink To That, it seems the new generation are learning from their papa and vice versa. The wine just gets better. Now, to find a bottle of their 2016 Bricco delle Viole.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $30.

92 then 93 then 92, daft as a linear scale is for such subjective pleasure.

2010 Les Vins de Vienne Saint Joseph L’Arzelle

Three really good wine producers of the northern Rhône, Cuilleron, Villard and Gaillard got together for this label and produced some great value. Briefly imported into Australia by Dan Murphy’s, sadly no more. Seems to have enjoyed its slumber in bottle, opens with clean, almost new worldly so, smoky red fruits, sort of those raspberry, loganberry or blackberry flavours all mixed up. There’s also brown spices, pepper, a bit of the old charcuterie and incense. Over time a waft of violet on top. Still bright and jaunty. Just so, ripe tannin and acidity are superbly tucked in. A treat on a very cold night, cockles warmed alright.

13.5% alcohol. Fancy 50mm cork. Not sure why Dan’s stopped importing but there’s always the bargain clearance pricing. Just wish I’d bought more than one.

93 points.

2010 Karra Yerta Riesling

The Winefront is by far my favourite subscriber wine review site for a very modest yearly fee. Good palates, vast number of reliable posts, unlike here and many introductions to small producers with great value wines. The only major complaint is the damage done to the budget by all those Barolo reviews. This sadly now out of the game maker was a particularly good tip. From an eighty year old dry grown vineyard atop Flaxmans Valley and only 107 cases made says the back label. In the glass, lime cordial on toast wrapped around old stone and chalk, perfumed with that old Catholic Church aroma of candle wax and incense. Fresh still and full, controlled by quick to settle powdery acidity. A little bruised apple shows some slow development. Perfectly dry finish. Just got more delicious as the bottle emptied, no chance of any left for another day.

12.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $13 bid at auction, what luck.

94 points.

2017 Enrique Mendoza La Tremenda Alicante Monastrell

Mataro by another name would still be Mourvèdre. From the dry hinterland behind the horror of the Costa Blanca comes a suave, clean version of the grape that’s doesn’t mind a bit of sunshine itself. Dark cherries, honey biscuits and sort of maple syrup without the sweetness of course. Under the gentle extraction lurks a little of that Spanish iron ruggedness. Upon the second day, there’s more heft. Dark dried fruit, soot and dry scrub, sweetened by cherry, liquorice and new leather. Tannins and acid well judged for somewhere so apparently dry and hot, no bull in the ceramic outlet. Bit of a sexy beast really, innit.

14% alcohol. Diam. Bargain as part of the wholesaler’s clearance.

Started 90 ended 92 points.

2016 St. Huberts Cabernet Sauvignon

Clean, appealing cassis, green leaf and mint. Some cedar through the middle to end. Opens up with mulberry, brightly edged fruit which seems good friends with the leaf and breath of wood. Second day it’s still sinewy but relaxing a little. More of that cassis and mulberry woven with sparks of acidity and tightly woven tannin. Yet more evidence, should it be needed, that the Yarra Valley is such a good place for Cabernet Sauvignon when it’s this well grown and made. Frustratingly the slightly cheaper Cabernet Merlot blend from the same vintage was just a bit too dull and savoury. Often available for under $30 in the supermarket duopoly’s booze shops. Worth the trade up. Proper Cabernet.

14% alcohol but in no way breathy or warm. Screw cap. $12.50 in a mystery six pack from cellardoor.co. Good way to extract some value from the layers of TWE’s many labels.

93 points.

2018 B minor Grampians Shiraz

So good to see more Grampians’ Shiraz made in small detailed batches by a number of smart young, well relatively so, creatives. This one looks as if all the variations of whole bunch and berries have been played. Over three days the main theme of spice, florals and bright berries kept recurring as notes of mulch, sage, regional mint and bush added colour. After a reasonable sample range, from these newer interpretations to the warmer, riper and oakier 1990s styled, there does seem to be a gloss of summer pudding fruit to these 2018 Grampians Shiraz, pretty delicious really. Interpreted here in a way that will challenge some perhaps. Only just medium bodied, driven by acidity despite a mattress of woody stem tannin, it’s definitely one for the Rhône fanciers. The reward is pristine violet perfumed raspberries and spice, the anchor those stems and damp earth bass notes. Almost discordant to some, modern harmony to others. At its most delicious on day three, that must say something.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $34.

Started 92, ended up high side of 93 points.

2004 Wendouree Shiraz

To remind myself why patience is very much a virtue while waiting for the annual mail, as in snail, purchase from my favourite Australian red wine producer, must be time to open one. Wendouree Shiraz always commands the highest price on the secondary market but its first amongst equals position is debatable, especially with the fascination of vintage variations. The cork is well behaved, letting deep flavours of brown spices, linseed oil and biscuits emerge. Lurking like a dark foreboding presence under a calm sea is a sinking depth charge of profound red fruit. This detonates splendidly after twenty four hours, spreading very spicy chunks of cherry fruit all over the mouth. The kind of ripe full but caressing tannin that only great grapes possess. Perfect firm acidity. Just as it finishes there’s a flickering glimpse of the first signs of caramel decay or maturity depending on how much you like old things. A lot in this case.

13.3% alcohol. Cork. $45 in 2006. The mail out also notes grapes from 1919 Eastern vineyard and 1893 Central vineyard.

Started about 93 points ended up the high side of 95.