2018 Rizieri Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba Sori del Ricchino

To be honest, it’s not that often there’s a new direct import inclusion on the shelves of the one in every suburb now Dan Murphy’s that inspires an immediate purchase. Perhaps Piemonte is now so important in the wide world of wine that even an Australian supermarket behemoth is paying attention? I should pay more attention to my pouring skills so as to keep the label uppermost to avoid those deeply wine coloured streaks. Does look like we had fun despite my clumsiness. Not that hard, bottle to glass and happy to repeat in this case. Good excuse for more practice. Beautifully made, this just got better over a couple of days airing and sipping. Spotlessly clean. Bright red lip smacking cherries, slightly tart, with almond paste and a perfect Piemonte earthy sense of place. An extra depth of fruit and some sweet herbs. All carried long on crisp ripe acidity and a brush of cat’s lick tannin. It seems as if the Langhe 2018s I’ve tried so far look like they’re from the cooler vintages of the last century before the warming harvests of recent times. Some careful growing getting things just ripe rather than worrying over heat, sun and high alcohol arriving before flavour. Better get another bottle and try not to make such a mess.

13.5% alcohol. Diam, good. $23.10, bargain.

93 points.

Following up with a bit of research, it seems that the Sori del Ricchino single vineyard has long been prized for the quality of its grapes, in a village already known for the quality of its Dolcetto. My vote for best value in an increasingly expensive Langhe.

2018 Gathering Field Thousand Candles Vineyard Red Blend

A blend of Merlot, Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc and Malbec from a vineyard notorious for its ambitious first release from the wet and mulchy 2011 vintage – for a measly $100 a bottle. Better vintage weather and sensible pricing have prevailed. Very Yarra Valley, this is just ripe enough. Pencils, tobacco, leafy and just ripe black currants. Some mint and a hint of gum leaf. Oak supports but no more than a seasoning. It’s savoury but the tannins are ripe and sweet with just right acidity tucked well in. As it leaves, a dense mouth coating wave of still subdued fruit suggests there may be still lots more fruit depth to emerge with some time. Difficult to say, it may just dry out but I’d be willing to hide one away for a while, in fact I think I will. Optimism being essential to cellaring and definitely in the wider world these days.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $33.

93+

2017 Casa da Passarella A Descoberta Dão Tinto

Memory is a curious thing. On holiday in Lisbon a few years ago, the encyclopaedic wine shop the Garrafeira Nacional recommended a red or tinto from the high hills of Dão. It was a beacon shone bright, lighting up the flavours of grape and place. Forgetful, I left my notebook of wine ramblings on a meal table somewhere, never to be seen again. All that was left was a memory of a really good wine but no name. When an email from a favourite importer appeared offering this, it provoked an odd stirring in the cobwebbed recesses of recognition. Double checking the Garrafeira website, it could indeed be that forgotten label. There’s certainly the purity of flavour and aroma I remember. A blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz aka Tempranillo, Alfrocheiro and Jaen aka Mencia, so very Portuguese. There’s a spicy aroma and flavour I associate with Northern Portugal. It’s here wrapped up in rich plum and red berries, a little clove, aniseed and cinnamon, maybe a contribution from some clean oak and Touriga’s dark blackberry jam. No lack of backbone, a shining blade of bright acid and really firm tannin push austerely against the sweet spice and fruit. Warm but granite mountain fresh. Very much for the table and something meaty. Nearly forgot, it’s delicious.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $30 rrp.

93 points and muito bom.

2019 Bodegas Louis Pérez El Muelle Palomino Blanco de Jerez

Please indulge a travel fantasy. Along the esplanade in Sanlúcar de Barrameda there are restaurants serving seafood including the sort of chargrilled octopus with smoky pimenton potatoes as good as only Spain can. A glass of this unfortified old clone Palomino would do, particularly as it’s named after an old Sanlúcar pier. It would be a bit of a challenge to pronounce Muelle properly, Moo..eh..ee..eh, perhaps? Matured under Sherry flor yeast, this has all the flavours of Jerez I love without the dank oak and fire breath of fortifying. Single vineyard as is the wine world’s fashion from the Pago Carrascal, it really tastes of dirt, in the best way. Ripe yellow fruits, broad, creamy textured, citrus blossom, chamomile, finally a touch of green olive and warm sea spray. All wrapped up in mouthwatering, fine polished acidity and a proud grown up dryness. Such a special place that bit of Andalusia that sticks out into Atlantic breezes.

14% alcohol. Cork. $40 RRP.

94 points.

2018 Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard Harry’s Monster

Move over expensive Bordeaux, this polished 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot and 14% Petit Verdot is mellifluous. It harmoniously passes the checklist of what’s to like in Cabernet blends, perfumed, middle weight, soft ripe tannin and seamless natural acidity, finally a touch of vanilla pod oak just needing time to find its way to integration. The extra depth of cassis, berries and leaf push the quality into the Yarra Valley’s best examples. Even better, there’s a sweet black currant edge, lightly minted, that perhaps says Yarra more than anywhere else. Glorious touch of gravel and cedar emerge with time. Complete and focused. The highly pictorial Giant Steps website has a lovely photo of the Sexton Vineyard perched next to a sizeable expanse of water, sort of like Bordeaux.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. A ridiculous brief discount to $20 a bottle from a rrp of $55. Social media suggests the new owners are more interested in Pinot and Chardonnay and are quitting the Cabernet blends. Social media can be wrong, can’t it.

94+ points. Come back in a few years.

2015 Domaine de l’Oratoire de Saint Martin Cairanne Réserve des Seigneurs

Château Neuf du Pape may get all the tourists and good prices but when it comes to hanging around the southern Rhône the smaller villages like Cairanne and Rasteau get my vote. This great producer has been a favourite since last century. Now biodynamic, this is the property’s entry to its range of Cairanne made up with 80% Grenache, the rest Syrah. Opens with clean aromas of balsamic infused berries, kirsch and the most attractive bits of that Mediterranean scrubby garrigue. Smoothing out with age but still crisp and for want of a better word, smooth, maybe suave even. Just a glide through with just ripe tannin and enough acidity. Real depth of fruit. Great clarity and focus. Warm and generous too. Really ripe in line with hotter and hotter Rhône summers but in no way porty or leathery. It’s entirely subjective but there does seem a better definition to organic and woo woo biodynamic wines. Maybe it’s just more time and care in the vineyard or it’s humans working with the biosphere rather than against. This result is just delicious.

14.5% alcohol. Cork. $39 at auction.

93 points.

2019 Emilio Moro Finca Resalso Ribera del Duero Tempranillo

Along the Ribera del Duero it’s Tinta del Pais, one of the many names for the grape we all know as Tempranillo. Sensible, or for wine nuts into bad puns, a Cencibel decision to stick the name we all know and enjoy. Sorry, don’t think puns work well in obscurity. Nonetheless a Tempranillo as I do like it, joven as the Spanish say, not over done with oak. This one’s a tasty smack on the nose of sarsaparilla, cherry, pepper and strawberry. Straight ahead fresh and crisp. Such is the volume of flavour Tempranillo can cram into a sip, there’s toffee, lavender and sage too. As it sits, some extra ripeness in leather and tar. No complications in shape, just a good bump of firm tannin and acidity. Flavours enough to dream of Spain again and a cool glass and a tapa in one of those cheerful bars where there’s always a Tempranillo or two.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $19 in a six at Dan’s, value.

91 points. It wavered between 90 and 92.

2010 Bindi Pyrette Heathcote Shiraz

From one of the originals of Macedon and the nicest, most thoughtful vignerons around. Syrah from Heathcote, a bit further north and quite warmer than those chilly hills, picked earlier than some for bright bouncy fruit and gastronomic, nice word, pleasure. Clean smells of Australian forests, some bay leaf, whole bunch sap, a passing whiff of smoky reduction and steaming up through the detail, a bright sweet red berry plume, so typical of Heathcote. Just as it is to sniff, so it is in flavour. Nice mesh of fine tannin and settled acidity. Time has knitted it all together without losing the raspberry, plummy richness. It’s not enough for Bindi to make some of Australia’s most understatedly intense Pinot and Chardonnay commanding thoroughly deserved prices, there’s graceful Shiraz for us cheapskates too.

13.5% alcohol. Diam. $26 at auction, quite a score.

93 points.

2018 Paralian Grenache Shiraz

Yet another from Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale that is. Busy place. In the glass, there’s loads of dried herbs with an Australian bush accent. Very frisky red fruit, spices and aniseed. Good crack of bright acidity, little bit citrusy and some grip from those herby stems. Something like a lemony oak note or crashes the party a little for this fusspot. Probably won’t trouble most. In broad terms, it’s good to see the grapes picked for fresh red fruit, the Shiraz bit seems, well, almost racy. Enough depth of flavour to satisfy, still full of generous plum and pomegranate fruit. Paralian’s a good new word to add to the vocabulary for us living on the margin by the big ocean.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. 555 gms of glass which seems about average for most Australian bottles. After weighing a few, I’m going to stop, only to note those with virtuous lightness or berate those show off heavyweights. As a Campbell Mattinson Winefront review described one obese effort, “for those with more money than confidence”. This bottle was $30 at auction.

94 points.

2018 Guillaume Gonnet Le Virtuose Lirac

80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. Opened full of Blackforest cake and garrigue shrubbery. As it sucked in a breath of air, it lightened up to brighter red fruit and no small amount of sappy stalks. Good extras in the form of woody herbs, the old Mediterranean scrub and sun warmed earthy stuff. Cocoa powder tannin and enough acidity. Second day and the green chewy stems take up more room but the fruit’s there to cope, just. Could be a little out of whack for some. For me, there’s interest, good clean fun and value.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. 568 gms of glass. $23.80 in a six from Murphy’s.

92 points for whole bunch fiends, 90 for those opposed to shrubbery.