2020 Vinatero Old Vine McLaren Vale Grenache

At the prices Aldi sell their wine, this is indeed a pauper’s Pinot. Initially shows that bubblegum like whole berry carbonic ferment thing, roses, lipstick, cherry juice heading toward kirsch, maybe some sappy stem to cut the fruit sweetness. Grenache suits the Vale so well, naturally hanging onto mouthwatering ripe acidity and a brush of tannin to slice the sweet fruit. Light to barely medium bodied. Really nicely made, a cute wine! Does get a little washy and dilute through the mouth but the perfume resonates and it did hang on over a couple of days without falling apart. Does make you wonder how long bargains like this will continue as McLaren Vale Grenache gets increasingly popular? These relatively small makes of regional specialties may not build a long term brand but they do suit the Aldi way, opportunistically snaffling and putting on the shelf at a price until all gone. Just don’t expect it to be there next time. Good fun for the jaded wine nut.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $11.99.

90 points.

2015 De Bortoli The Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

From an original Yarra Valley vineyard in Dixon’s Creek, the area not actually the creek itself I think. Full ripe Cabernet smells, almost lush, backgrounds of earth and pencil case austerity too. Just right ripeness in the mouth with black currant, touch of gravel, black olive, all sweet but in no way sugary. Satisfying old style Yarra Cabernet with a fine mesh of milky tannin and natural acidity. Touch of cedar oak in low volume adds seasoning. Another of those that shows just how good 2015 was in the valley where it’s best grape still struggles to be noticed in the sea of Pinot and Chardonnay. Unless you’re from Mount Mary or similar royalty of course.

13.8% alcohol. Screw cap. $27 RRP but discounted to close to $20 and still there’s to be bought.

93 points.

2019 Pájaro de Buen Agüero Garnacha Cariñena

Is there better value than an authentic, firmly of the place Garnacha from Aragón? Sure, there’s attractive prices for Bordeaux grapes transplanted to the new world but do they have the natural balance, detail and unadorned charm of tough old Grenache? This is much more in the medium weight, rich in extracted bits than recent vintages. Disappointingly it was stinky with reductive smokiness when opened but patience really paid off a day later. So much more open, there was a little balsamic lift to a summer berry sweetness, a spring breeze of roses, darker just picked cherries and plums in the middle. Firmly put in place by genuinely ripe skin tannin grip. Fresh and mouthwatering to finish. Admittedly, not the most lingering of ends and a bit washy but for less than $10 it’s bargain of the year so far. Great effort from those old sun blasted, windswept vines.

Forgot to note the alcohol, denial probably. Screw cap. $9 from Aldi.

91 points.

2012 Frogmore Creek Riesling

From a Tasmanian creek with more frogs therein, perhaps? Having gone nuts buying 2012 Australian Rieslings, it’s good to still keep finding them lurking amongst the dusty bottles. Riesling from Tasmania seems to produce some flavours not usually tasted in the mainland versions. Perhaps sort of a hybrid of Alsatian and the warmer bits of Germany if comparisons have to be made? This opened with exotic citrus, beeswax, then some mandarin and a honey richness. All clinging well as it passes through. With a bit more air, white peach like some of those Germans. Pithy grip, positive but not assertive acidity, any brittle edges knocked off by a well judged tickle of sweetness. Should explore Tasmania more, frogs, vineyards and wine, cool in both senses.

12% alcohol. Screw cap. About $20 to $25 a while ago.

93 points day one, loosened up to a simpler 91 day two.

2013 Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz

From the initial three bottles bought six or so years ago but I did notice it as a Dan Murphy’s cellar release for $20 if you want to join the fun for still not much, notwithstanding the quality of the storage, of course. To repeat myself, again, not sure how this has so much character for something made on a large scale. Savoury and earthy to sniff and taste. Brown spice, blackberries, earthy in a red dirt way, tar and that saline, mineral water thing that seems like an alkaline Coonawarra marker? Just medium bodied, even acidity settled into good firm tannin and a touch of nougat from subtle oak. The label’s even older than I, not many of those left in Australia. Would be great if they went back to the original white label, still calling it Hermitage might be a push but maybe Syrah to be..er..self consciously modern.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $12 discount on release.

92 points.

2020 The Story Super G Grampians Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre

Another from the super value six pack from Rory and his Story. It’s not breaking news to say it was apparent to grape farmers a long time ago that something was awry with the weather as their crop was on average ripening a bit earlier each year. I’ve heard candid comment about the sustainability of getting Shiraz flavour ripe in its most revered old vineyards from those who earn their living there each and every year. Happily for some there’s always been Grenache and Mourvèdre planted to thrive in those once were infrequent very hot years. The Grampians used to struggle to ripen Shiraz some years, now there’s interest in varieties that cope with the heat and need less water in an area where it’s always been less than abundant. Super G to the rescue perhaps? Early days but this may be the future. Medium weight, bright as a ruby in the sun, fragrant smack in the chops of roses, Turkish Delight, cherries, plums, spice, meat juices and earth. Just bottled primary fruit sweetness cut by stem sap and savour. Good gloss of fruit, a blend more than the sum of its parts perhaps? I like, super good.

13.5% alcohol, seems a recurring story. Screw cap. Part of the six for $150.

92 points.

2017 Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly L’Héronde

A good friend brought a bottle of this to dinner and for once hadn’t had the chance to open it first to check the tree bark. Murphy’s cork law applied itself with vigour and it was simply the most TCA affected bottle to offend my delicate nose for months. A kind suggestion to drink the replacement if I could get it swapped got me off the couch the next day, thanks Rathdowne Cellars for the sympathy. The new bottle opened without any musty horror, in fact with a good whack of super fresh, glistening red fruit. Over time darker plums and spices gave gravity and a sweet lip stick kiss seduced another glass. Beautiful earthiness and a bloody lip after that sweet kiss add depth. In terms of brilliant acidity and ripe tannin underpinning svelte and deep fruit, this rivals a good village Burgundy for half the price which probably means I’ll have to open another from the Côte d’Or for that dear friend. He did stick his ample nose in the last one opened blind and exhaled ‘ah, Burgundy’.

13.5% alcohol. Cork, despite being a daft thing to stick in a bottle, it did lead to me getting more of the contents and a nice stroll to the shops. Thanks D.

94 points.

2015 Domaine du Cayron Gigondas

An old favourite from the 1990s and rarely sighted in recent years. When a single and lonely bottle appeared on that desperately addictive auction website, well, budget be damned, here we go. Luckily, the label’s not as sought after as some and it came in under my bravest bid and normal retail. Initial impressions were good, nice new smart label, great vintage and sealed with a Diam. First sniff was off putting, horrible stink of sulphide and maybe some of the dreaded B word? Only thing to do was to stuff the better than a cork closure back in, put it in the fridge for twenty four hours and hope. The next day and all’s well. Now clean and sprightly smells of vibrant red fruit, a touch of balsamic lift, an attractive sweet herby spike, chocolate and plums add dimension. Profound and resonant in the mouth with a great depth of bright fresh fruit, a tar and earth richness and a tug of garrigue, a warming sense of place. Finally a firm but softly ripe flood of tannin and life extending acidity, the wine’s not mine, although it’s good to hope. Must say there’s an extraordinary freshness and no sense of tired old browning Grenache to prevent this staying a long and delicious course. Maybe it’s the unusual 15% Cinsault giving acidity helped by 14% Syrah which did so well in 2015 and the 1% Mourvèdre, a tiny bit going a long way? The 70% Grenache tastes extremely good though. Sad it was just a singleton.

14% alcohol. Diam. $65.

95 points but definitely not on opening.

2016 Clos du Gravillas Sous les cailloux des grillons Vin de Pays de Côtes du Brian

A beautifully complicated French name, something like, “under the stones, there’s crickets”. Seems the vineyards are stoney in a CNdP way and the crickets think it’s a nice spot to sit and make some noise. It also looks like the authorities responsible for naming VdP areas are big Monty Python film fans in the same way as the Catholic Church liked naming Burgundy vineyards. The wine’s back label continues the complications by listing eight or so ingredient varieties, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Grenache, Counoise, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Terrets Red, in the plural meaning perhaps there’s the red and Gris version of this ancient variety? Labels really don’t get much better for those nerds amongst us. Probably a good indication of old vineyards planted promiscuously as of old to hedge bets in ripeness despite the season. Well, the wine itself? Spotlessly clean, bright red fruited and delicious in a drink me now way but the stuffing to keep it delicious over a couple of days. Sweet cherry and spice to commence, a swell of rocks, gravel and almond paste, then Mediterranean scrubby sweetness and roasting pan juices to finish. Bright natural feeling acidity and drying towel of fine tannin. Clos du Gravillas also make an upmarket Carignan, if that’s not an oxymoron, from ancient vines giving great depth of fruit. Praise be to Brian.

13% alcohol. Cork. $24 at auction.

92 or 93 for hard work in amongst the crickets.