2016 Xavi Pallejà Buxus de les Aubagues Priorat

Catalan labelling is far more complicated than my limited language ability can deal with. I think Xavi is the producer, Buxus seems to be a variety of boxwood and Aubagues has something to do with shade and the cooler zone of Priorat or Partida les Aubagues? The label also notes the village of Bellmunt del Priorat and that this is a village wine, vi de villa, in what seems to be the emerging Priorat classification system. There’s a good article on spanishwinelover.com which goes into fascinating detail. Annoyingly, my ageing iPad won’t let me copy and paste the link. Looking at the label, I was hoping Buxus might be a pretty good name for an elephant.

Notwithstanding the esoteric label, if ever a bottle shows just how profoundly good a Samsó, or Carignan to us non Catalans, with 25% Grenache can be, then this is the business. It even looks so good as it pours, a bright carmine with royal purple flashes. In smell and flavour, it’s soft, clean, rich and precise. All the fresh, squishy berries of summer plus a seasoning of cocoa, roast sweet goat and that Priorat sooty old fireplace thing. The next day and a couple thereafter, I found myself scribbling words like, great wine, seldom seen. So pure, deep and a perfume to haunt those places where we remember our favourite pleasures. Staring into infinity length, floating on buoyant acidity and such sweet skin tannin. Essence of grape and place. Alright, it’s a nice drink.

14.5% alcohol. Cork. Part of a mystery six pack from The Spanish Acquisition’s pandemic survival sale. Somewhat dismayed to see a RRP of over a hundred in Australian dolores. Worth a trip to Tarragona and into the hills to save a fortune.

96 points plus another point for an elephant.

2013 Tyrrell’s HVD Vineyard Semillon and 2009 Tyrrell’s VAT 1 Semillon

Our turn to host neighbours for drinks. They’re of a vintage to have known Murray Tyrrell and the Hunter Valley in the 1970s, thus it seemed a safe bet to haul out a maturing HVD from the stash and invite their reminisces. Indulging my hopeless wine obsession, they turned up with a cool bottle of Tyrrell’s finest from a very, very good year. Wise with age and very kind. Smoked salmon blini and off we go.

Tyrrell’s Semillon siblings, there’s a strong family resemblance but naturally some personality differences. Both have a white peach richness over lemon curd and a beeswax glide. Similarly there’s a dry, mouthwatering line of svelte acidity. The HVD has a swell of more hedonistic fruit and generosity. The VAT 1 is perhaps more composed and even with a perfumed linger, less plump pleasure and more intellect, metaphorically so or I’d struggle. Nonetheless the DNA is one of just sweet ripeness contained by a lightness of being at low alcohol rarely glimpsed in warm hearted Australian white wine. Idiosyncratic and as Australian as Xmess in the sun.

HVD 11.5% VAT 1 11% alcohols. Screw cap, perfect for such delicate power. 94 points for both, maybe 95 as they got on so well, no sibling squabbling.

2019 Saltram Winemaker’s Selection Barossa Valley Fiano

Another example of trying to find varieties more suited to a warm and getting warmer climate, this time a favourite Italian suited to food from the ocean. It starts with typically Italian white wine neutrality. No fruit depth charge here. There’s smells of warm beds of chamomile in the sun, warm rocks, sweet hay and nuts, all quite savoury. A pleasing roundness in the mouth kept cool and in line by large textured acidity. Good tension, wide and generous but well contained. Lees lend creamy glycerol and a dab of bitter sulphide adds a tang. Well put together by the big player in Australian wine, again. Lumbering corporation with deft fingers. Impressive.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. Part of six bottle mystery pack for $90 from TWE largesse or just largeness.

90 points

2018 Crissante Alessandria Barbera d’Alba

A new producer for me, based in La Morra, home of Altare the modernist and this looks appropriately clean and fresh, albeit without being clobbered by oak flavour. Bearing in mind the Italian formality of putting the family name before the given name, this could the estate of Alessandria Crissante or not? Lovely to say with a musical Italian voice nonetheless despite the possibility of being unforgivably rude and bad at accents. The contents of the bottle are much easier to understand. Bright with dark sour cherry, digestive biscuits, nuts and that Piemontese austere stony earth. Sort of washy in a good way as the flavours float on the journey down the red lane. Ripe but crisply mouthwatering, yum. Wonder what that is in Italian? They must use the words a lot being so good at putting food on the table.

14.5%. Diam, bravo. $41 at auction.

93 points, better the second day, good sign.

2018 Giant Steps LDR Pinot Noir and Syrah

Count my blessings, a place to live where the Covid numbers aren’t troubling the scorer and a bottle to remember very early days in Australian wine when they cared not for variety but made light dry reds by blending. Sadly I’ve never been privy to one of the great Maurice O’Shea blends. Despite an unreasonable prejudice for Pinot the pure, this works a treat. Perfume and cherry Pinot at hello, spice and raspberry arrive late and keep going on a bit. It was at first crack smoky and too reduced for me and needed a day’s air. Second day, there’s still some biscuity reduction, strawberry and roses at the front whilst that Shiraz has a party at the back with berries and toffee. Fine, open meld of acidity and a lick of stem tannin. Graceful in the making. So much for preconceptions, the some of the parts here is more.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. Another bargain from the wholesale clearance.

92 plus a bit for enjoyment.

2016 Louis Jadot Côte de Nuits Villages Le Vaucrain

Apart from the odd Bourgogne, there’s been little Burgundy buying around here since the 2005 vintage when already high prices started to get just daft. When a normally sensible wine buying friend returned from a frenzy of a wholesaler’s warehouse clearance sale buried under a mountain of bottles with a average price of about $15, it would have been rude not to accept an offer to split the spoils, just not sure where to put it all? Always had a soft spot for Jadot, who make something like 240 different wines each year without seeming to resort to much rationalist blending and industrial safety. Le Vaucrain is a single vineyard holding in Comblanchien where the Nuits Saint Georges vines give way to limestone quarries. Bit of reduction and lift to start which clear quickly. Then there’s a dark stony edge here that maybe reflects those NSG preconceptions. Dark dried cherries, over ripe wild strawberry and a whiff of roses, all cut by suave acidity and firm grape skin tannin. A touch of earthy mulch to season the cut of a mineral grip. Improving over two days, those cool soft tingles, perfect ripeness and that composed freshness which can clearly mark Burgundy are much in evidence. A delicious surprise, though a current RRP pushing $100 makes it perhaps not the best value Pinot Noir on the planet.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. Thanks D and finewineco.com for such a bargain.

93 very suave points.

2012 Murrindindi Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

From a vineyard on the backroad from the Yarra Valley to the Goulburn Valley. Such is flat old Australia that the Yarra flows south toward the sea whilst the Goulburn flows north and inland, wrong way, silly river. Both valleys do grow some good Cabernet and no surprise this one seems to sit well between the cool reserve of one and the generous ripeness of the other. Starts a bit tart and savoury with a bit of truffle. Airing brings a perfume of mulberry, black currant and a back end of sweet ripe cherry. The acidity’s perky and well bound to sweet currant and raisin tannin. The second day, gently oxidising and doing a Bordeaux impression of sorts in seaweed and iodine breezes over some good solid fruit. It’s been a long time since the still mourned Mark Shield reviewed a delicious 1990 Murrindindi Chardonnay. Wine memories linger long.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. Was about $25 maybe?

93 points.

2015 Descendientes de J. Palacios Petalos Bierzo

From a very good vintage in top left corner of Spain whether it be Galicia or just across the border in Leon following the river Sil upstream, this was worth a bid at auction. DJP as us Mencia fanciers know them seem to be the original revivalists of the variety in the almost just a memory vineyards of Bierzo. Smoky and floral in that unavoidable comparison with the north end of the Rhône valley. Grew in the glass to rich but never jammy soft berries, summer pudding style. An extra depth of fruit fills out the rear and just as powerful, there’s a roaring cut of perfectly ripe tannin and extraordinary stoney, mineral acidity. If this is the entry level, it does make you wonder how good the more expensive single vineyard bottles could be. Very tempted to spend the whole month’s wine budget on one or several months’ worth in the case of La Faraona.

14% alcohol. Cork. $47 at auction.

94 points.

2016 Domaine Chignard Fleurie Cuvée Les 10 Coupées

Trusted observers suggest there was a lot of crop loss to hail in Beaujolais in 2016, particularly in Fleurie. Some of what was left ended up in this delicious bottle of deep joy. Over two days, it started a bit wild yeasty with middle weight cherry, all bright and fresh. The countryside yeast swirls into sweet clod earth. Just picked fresh fruit acidity and pithy grape skin push the flavour along. Second day, things darken, kirsch, exotic spice and a floral perfume to still lighten. Succulent and concentrated, power and poise. Beneath the depths, a rigid backbone of sparkling granitic acid. Hearts and bones as Paul Simon sang.

13% alcohol. Cork. Thanks D for the careful choice.

94 points plus a bit in time?

2011 Wendouree Shiraz

There was much bemoaning the 2011 vintage in quite a bit of Victoria and SA. Well, it was very soggy and cool for days in summer. Nevertheless, comes the test and if the vineyard’s ancient, deep rooted and seen worse, then there’s reason to believe it won’t be a waste of money to support this oversubscribed treasure. Comparisons, here we go again, are maybe less than odious if they help with context. If the 2011 Malbec had Wendouree packing up its flavours and taking them on a trip to Barbaresco to find its structure, then this Shiraz seems to have swapped the usual iron and velvet for a finer acid based frame from somewhere like Saint Joseph. In fact this is delight for those sniffy North Rhône fanciers, dark brown spices, menthol, Oz bush and bracken lift and season just ripe cherries and very ripe raspberries, harmonious and sotto voce. Floating and crisp rather than that usual firm velvet fog. Makes a nonsense of trying to fetish the favoured vintages, Wendouree way the bottle always seems too small.

13.7% alcohol. Screw cap. Thanks for keeping the faith dear C.

93 points but more soul than some bigger scores.