2014 was wet and the Benevellis decided to make no Barolo and declassify to Langhe Nebbiolo. The weather surely made a lasting impression as one September morning that year dearest and I arrived in Castiglione Falletto an hour or so early for a grand visit. How about a walk out toward Monforte on a dry and pleasant morning? Seems it was my fault we were tempted to plunge down a footpath through the Rocche cru towards Perno, just as the humidity became dense and the patter of following rain turned into a torrential thunder storm. The path fast became a mud slide. We scrambled up the hill to Perno. No way back down that path. Barolo roads being just a bit convoluted, it became obvious we were now several kilometres by bitumen from our visit and lunch, oops. Eventually a very simpatico couple from Milan took pity on our attempts to hitchhike in the wrong direction and dropped us within metres of our destination. The kindness of strangers and forgiving smiles at their wet muddy back seats. Fortunately dearest and I still talk as the tasting at Vietti and lunch were ace and we got there in time, just. This bottle shows none of those damp troubles. Nice red colour, fragrant with pot pourri and roses, touch of aniseed, stones and earth, fresh and perfumed through the mouthful. Maybe a hint of something green and herby, more mountain fresh than under ripe. Savoury too, perhaps some clean lees to fatten? The shape sort of reminds of the Valtellina but the flavours have their feet in the Langhe dirt, nothing muddy here.
13.5% alcohol. Cork. $30 direct import, bravo Boccaccio.
92, probably 93 really, points.
Like a vulture perched on the crumbling edges of physical retail, you had to be quick to spot a bargain in David Jones’ city centre rationalisation, a word for weasels. More Mencia the merrier from this great producer. A wee hint of development, dark preserved cherries, plum, fine dark chocolate, sage, perhaps lavender, mineral cut lick the spark of two flints smacked together, sweet ripe tannin and mouthwatering acidity. It’s the thrust of fruit, then the slash of structure that’s so good.
13.5% alcohol. Cork. $35 in DJ’s sale, normally about $50.
Of the few Barolo vineyards I’ve been lucky enough to walk around, the Cavalotto bit of Castiglione looks like it’s cared for like a perfect organic garden. Grudgingly sharing this bottle with mates over a good pizza, no notes but a lingering need to say just how good. Gentle but firm, all the flavours of good Langhe Dolcetto, bright cherry, touch of aniseed, sweet earth. It’s more the soft balance, everything in its place, no bombast, quiet assurance of grapes grown with great care, picked when the flavours are just ripe at lower alcohol, organic growing showing perhaps? Feels like it’s doing you good as it goes down. The shape reminiscent of digestible claret, the flavours all from a precious plot in Castiglione Falletto. How much longer I can keep my paws off my few Cavalotto Baroli?
12.5% alcohol. Cork. $38.
93 points but grace beyond numbers.
The back label tells the story of a lovelorn nun called Mariana, not sure about the relevance to a secular drinker, perhaps marketing to the devout. Personally more impressed by those interesting Portuguese varieties, in this case 40% Touriga Nacional, 30% Aragonez or Tempranillo, 20% Alicante Bouschet and 10% Trincadeira or Tinta Amarela. Not sure just how indigenous are the middle two but they do like a bit of warmth which the Alentejo can provide. This was one of those bottles which failed to inspire initially and had me grumbling about over ripe, contrived wine making, only to prove me entirely wrong after twenty four hours. Started off with leathery, dried grape skin, lacking a bit of freshness and bounce. Lots of chewy dry skin tannin and a wide clunk of acid. Considerable surprise the next day to find loads of bright spiced plums, dark blackberry, sweet dark quality chocolate mixed with dried fruit and nuts. A twist of baked earth and a bloody, iron tang. Touriga comes good again. Tannin and ripe acidity in place. Another lesson in not jumping too quickly to judge. Wine’s so much fun. Books and covers.
14% alcohol. Diam. $29.
89 completely misjudged points to start, 92/93 thereafter.
From a very long drive away vineyard in rural Victoria, young vines now middle aged by some measures. Concentrated, full of ripe limes, autumnal apples and something exotic like guava juice? Such intensely ripe fruit dances on beautifully modulated acidity, it tugs then lets go as the fruit swells and then pulls harder to a delicious end. There’s a comforting warmth and a latent hint of some of those hard to describe old stones and herby Riesling flavours to come with time. Great growing and making. Just gets better each year.
13.5% alcohol but carries it well. Screw cap. $34 less a bit for a drink local discount. May be a long drive for a local but it’s relative in big ancient Australia
There’s a lot of geographical and geological info on the label. From the Sierra de Gredos near Madrid, in particular the valley of Tiétar where lies the village of Rozas de Puerto Real at 850 meters altitude on granite soils, phew. On first sniff and taste, it surely looks like one of those edgy, minimal intervention Madrid Garnachas. Reduced and yeasty, eventually smells of roses, fennel, cherries and warm smoky rocks. In the mouth, things get really interesting, challenging perhaps. Balancing the crisp red fruit and herbs is an indelible line of finest tannin and a sweep of granite acidity, whilst still keeping the warm yeasty breath. Feathery lightness but full of flavour. Natural wine in essence, would a touch more sulphur calm it down or muffle the purity? Quite a mountain adventure, bewitching perhaps.
14.5% alcohol, never would have guessed, so cool. Cork. $42.
94 points if you like vino natural, less if you’re a wine scientist.
Many words in a name, a lot of flavour in the glass. A blend of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache in roughly equal parts. Lovely purple red colour like something from the more technical new world way of making. Smells like Languedoc though, albeit beautifully fresh and clean. Pure flavours of kirsch, soot, dark dried cherries and that Mediterranean scrub they call garrigue. Nice crunch of chalky acidity and tannin. Smatter of mocha oak seasoning. Warmth and brightness at ease with each other. Seems very polished in the technique, sort of Bordeaux gloss meets Languedoc generosity. There’s something in the rich sooty cherry flavours that bring to mind the tension of good Priorat, old vine Carignan? There’s two more bottles on the auction site. Big brave bid.
13.5% alcohol. One of those odd one plus one agglomerate stoppers, sort of Diam maybe? $29 at auction.
From the most vertigo inducing vineyards I’ve ever teetered upon, it seems 2018 was particularly good in north west Spain for getting Mencia nicely ripe. This is wild but clean, so smoky, nutty and dark sour cherried. Blood orange both in flavour and mouthwatering acidity. Backing chorus of sweet dried fruit and fine dark chocolate. Gets a bit balsamic after twenty four hours but such is the natural wild edge, it all gets pulled back into delicious shape by that mineral acidity. Worth risking your neck to pick grapes this good. I think this is what terroir and natural wine means, done proper.
13% alcohol, perfect. Cork, not so perfect. $40 RRP.
93, perhaps subjective 94 points.
Riesling loving neighbours to dinner, fine taste in wine and generous too. The veto seems to refer to the Barry patriarch trying to keep some control when his two clever sons took over the business. Based on recent deliciousness, he should leave them to it. Rich and dry with an appealing savouriness. Mandarin, limes and stones of good weight for the lively acidity which dances on light feet. I get the feeling this is going to be extra good in time. It’s starting to loosen up but the power’s there for that rich lime marmalade on toast built on ancient chalk soil to emerge in many years to come. Wish I was as confident in my own outcome.
12.5% alcohol. Screw cap. Thanks for sharing your last bottle, D and Y.