One of the good things about getting old is being able to spot absolute bargains from the past that hopefully elude those youngsters scanning the auction sites. From grapes grown on venerable Wendouree vines in the Clare Valley and turned into wine by Stephen George at Ashton Hills in the Adelaide Hills. A sideline that sadly ended with the 2002 vintage I think. Despite 1995 being perhaps the worst of vintages in SE Australia, the Clare Valley fared better than some. I remember driving through Coonawarra in May that year to see a good part of the crop left to rot on the vine. Aromas of Australian forest still perfume along with exotic brown spices, dark cherries and leathery caramel showing 25 years of age. Still a good red colour and plenty of broad acidity and ripe settled tannin, large but flowing so evenly, a true Wendouree treat. Touch of mint and some pepper mixed into that characteristic swell of deep fruit hint at the cooler vintage. Maybe not the full throttle of the great vintages but still a formidable mouthful. To some of us 1995 seems as close as yesterday.
13% alcohol. Cork, one of those ASA branded ones that seem to do a relatively good job. $29 at auction which is about a fifth of what a Wendouree label would fetch.
94 pushing 95 points considering age.
An Aldi exclusive for less than ten dollars which helps the illusion of keeping to a budget. So clean it’s almost sanitary, bright raspberry, tart red cherry and a Loire leafy lift give the impression of grape and place. Glossy and forward, there’s a suggestion of that whole grape ferment bubblegum which helps the fruit push forward, perhaps so much that the flavours do pull up a bit short. Nonetheless there’s a waft of berry perfume right up the retro nasals, a clip of ripe settled acidity and a brush of good skin tannin that distinguishes the fruit quality from the plodding ordinary. Maybe a bit too extracted like an over squeezed tea bag, but you do seem to be getting a twenty dollar bottle for much less, no bad thing really. Makes the Aldi shopping adventures even more exciting.
12.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $8.49.
89 points and delicious.
From one of the long term quality grape farmers in McLaren Vale with over a 100 hectares, the old bush vines have triumphed here. Looked a little uncoordinated at first, musky, handbags and a meaty sulphidic edge. Seemed too big and clunky. Just needed a good deep breath, the second day and the fruit flexed considerable toned muscle. Deep red fruits, a glorious top note like walking into a winery in full autumn ferment, sweet ferrous earth, salty mushroom and fine chocolate. Generous and contained by the sort of skin tannin and acidity that keeps you coming back for another sip. The back label says it’s a mushrooming walk in a pine forest and suggests firing up the pizza oven, nice words. Quality grapes, no wonder they’re on Penfolds’ list of growers for something called Grange.
14%. Screw cap. $30.
This makes me wonder how easy it is to miss something good by opening a bottle too soon after an early release. This looked just too dry, dusty and green in winter last year and difficult to praise in review. Some six months on and there’s still some leafy green but the earthy notes have receded to a Bordeaux like gravel edge for want of a better description. Mulberry, a hint of cassis and red currents build sweetly in the mouth, nicely balancing the savoury. Some youthful violet and sage. Tannins just get over the ripeness line and are mingling politely with fresh fine acidity. Turning into a good example of the quiet confidence and poise that typifies Yarra Valley Cabernets. The back label says it’s a hand picked blend of Cabernet and Merlot from the Valley sub regions of Coldstream, Gruyere and Seville which makes for some great value considering the production costs. This could even get better in the bottle over the next few years if patient. The choice of “Over the Shoulder” as a name for Oakridge’s basic value range has always puzzled, perhaps delicious in the mouth for the money could be more appropriate.
13.2% alcohol. Screw cap. $24 RRP but often discounted to around $20.
70% Carricante and 30% Catarratto. It seems these two are truly indigenous to the sulphurous slopes of Etna, the former particularly so and known for its ability to hang onto high levels of acidity. It must include a lot of malic acid as it’s known for frequent malolactic fermentation to soften things up. Murgo certainly seem to have a pretty good idea of how to make a very tasty bottle from their piece of the volcano. First day, toffee, exotic citrus and pear liqueur richness are pulled into shape by saline, ash and yoghurt sour acidity. Lots of power with much pith and acidity to balance. Second day and there’s an uncanny touch of Chardonnay from the Côte de Beaune about it. Unusually well applied oak, sweet citrus again and honeyed quince all delicious on a bed of drying mineral ash and that tangy yoghurt. A haunting mouth perfume stays around to emphasise the gentle power. Offered a glass without knowing, I would have offered a guess at Meursault or Chassange. Not many volcanoes in Burgundy but some influences in Sicily. Love to know if anyone’s tried this in an options game, had me fooled and I’d seen the label.
13.5% alcohol. Diam, yes. About $55 to 60 RRP?
94 and an argument for 95 possible.
More Grenache, not bored yet, this time from the Gredos ranges near Madrid, home of some very fashionable wine choices these days. Opens with a fair waft of ethyl acetate lift from maybe some dry, shriveled grapes in the bunches. Then it’s nutty with smells of old canvas tennis shoes on a dusty warm day, well, that’s what came to mind. Tart, red berry juice, darker dried cherry skin all washed in mountain fresh mineral water. Gains composure later, deep essence of red berries again and cherry touched with sage, bay and rosemary, all floating on that tang. Not your usual Grenache, like it’s been to cool school. Nervous and a bit on the edge but there’s some great fruit there.
14.5% alcohol and it’s not noticeable. Dodgy cork. $50 ish RRP.
South Australia may have built a formidable reputation for rich, generous Shiraz but it’s Grenache that seems a better fit to climate for my less than populist geek view. So, a few bottles in a damaged label six pack at the wholesaler’s annual clearance, or frenzy as it’s known hereabouts, promised a good chance to see what a favourite producer are doing. Very well in short. A touch of dusty bottle development already, tar and deep brown spices. Tangy plums suit the spice well. Sucking in oxygen over two days and it freshened up to include rich summer and autumn berries touched by chocolate. Terrific shape through the mouth with settled acidity well moulded to a sweep of stem and skin tannin. Any oak influence a mere afterthought. Sweet earth to season and a purple haze lingers. Compact and very well made. So different to those booze soaked, oaky, acid adjusted monsters of yore. Very happy to have another waiting a few years. Beautiful grape growing.
14% alcohol. Screw cap. $35 RRP and still great value at that.
A retro label indulging TWE’s marketing department’s love of even more new bottles to range. This was happily part of mystery six pack from a recent clearance. Opened as an apero at a family gathering thinking it might please those lucky not to be so obsessed by wine, it was avoided in favour of more familiar spritzes and gins. Getting most of the bottle to myself over a couple of days, it turned out to be delicious. Beautifully made without the clatter of artifice Penfolds save for their red wines, my guess would be a pure expression of Eden Valley Riesling, not that a Penfolds label would let you know. Googling reveals past Autumns were indeed such with a small percentage of gross Gewurztraminer which would have been enough to suggest a pass. Prejudice aside, what was in the glass was attractive and intriguing to sniff. Sweet lime zest and exotic citrus like bergamot and yuzu perhaps. Wet chalky soil and a real depth of quality grapes. An edge of mystery perfume, fleeting and judicially applied, Gewurz maybe? The acidity is settled and counterpointed by a lick of residual sugar, just enough to add a delicious glide. The big machine that’s TWE is easy to criticise but the way incoming grapes are sorted, graded and so carefully turned into a drink is damn impressive. Preconceptions are just daft, sometimes.
12% alcohol. Screw cap. RRP low $20s normally?
92 even 93 points.
Shamelessly biased review, this, as over the last decade I’ve come to admire the quiet, intelligent and determined way the man behind the Gravity Wine Co goes about things. Especially the sanguine shrug of the shoulders when frost decimated the chances of making wine in 2020 amongst other difficulties. One joy not lost though was the chance to sit with a glass of something very tasty. My inadequate scribble suggests an extraordinary spice bazaar, perfect mint and raspberry, haze of bay leaf, rosemary and almost lavender. Bit of Heathcote forest too. The inherent deep fruit softness and sweetness of tannin and acidity never to be mistaken for lack of backbone. An unassuming suggestion that this might be the best south bit of Heathcote Syrah he’s made, not going to argue otherwise. Spookily good.
13% alcohol. Screwcap. Perhaps around $30?
95 points lacking a bit of objectivity.
Not sure if complexity in wine flavours is necessarily a good thing but when all the smells and tastes are sumptuous, well then I’m happy to cope with the competition for my attention. Opening with almost caramel toffee, bit of aldehyde, damn cork perhaps? Quickly turns to creme brûlée, then wild waxy honey, quince and ripe exotic citrus. Twists and turns with air, a little hazelnut through the middle, bruised apples and pears, finally a yoghurt tang and wet chalky soil. Power packed but so self contained by pith and mouthwatering acidity. Great white Burgundy from the north end of things. Essence of Chablis, the world’s most delicious Chardonnay surely?
12.5% alcohol. Cork, they flirted with Diam in the past too, doh. About $80 I think.