2021 La Línea Mencia

From a meagre range of two samples, both from La Línea, it seems Mencia could be right at home in the Adelaide Hills. Such is its obscurity still that it only took an average bid of $15.80 each to win three bottles of different vintages at auction. Hope it doesn’t catch on. This bottle is spanking fresh and deliciously so. Evenly ripe with bright whole berry fruit, there’s violet florals, stewed strawberries, blueberry, almond and a darker twist of fruit and nut chocolate. Cool and composed, the structure has a mouthwatering cut of rocky acidity and skin tannin. Sort of invigorating like those Spanish versions. Love the cheeky location reference in Spanish on the back label.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $15.80 at auction including delivery. Wish all my bids were so good.

93 points for a beautiful grape variety.

A 2019 and the last from the three different vintage bottles from auction just goes to show how idiotic generalisations are in wine. More dilute and lacking the just so ripeness of 2018 and 2021. Looks a shade or two away from the succulent. Bit of that Australian supermarket strawberry that’s a bit sugary but hasn’t developed the warm in season fragrance of summer. Dried herb and a bit of toffee leads to an end that’s teetering on a green edge, not quite there. In its defence, great to see the season writ in the making rather than submerged.

89 points.

2029 Xavier Vignon Côtes du Rhône Grenache Vieilles Vignes

Say bonjour to M. Vignon from Avignon, maybe not from there really but close enough. There’s a natty photo of him on the web wearing a very stylish pink shirt with the classic French écharpe or foulard looped and the ends pushed through. Trés chic. Certainly a brand with an eye to self promotion. I do wonder which of those two words word do the French use most for scarf? Seems wearing one is de rigeur from September to June, so they must buy a lot of them. The label claims organic and vegan. Dead little yeast beasties and vineyard insects notwithstanding of course and by the look of him, I bet you M. Vignon’s not a vegan. The last of July’s Dan Murphy direct import random buy and again it’s no disaster. Spotlessly clean, fresh and bright. Lots of dried woody herbs, crunch of red berries and cherries, peanuts and that garrigue on a warm day thing. Second day and it’s a bit quieter but there’s good tart red fruit still, verging on rhubarb. The ripe stalks are more prominent, a touch of sourness rubbing up against the fruit well and carrying the end with a pleasant but firm astringency. Not quite a repeat buy but the bottle emptied at a steady rate with some good food. Didn’t wear my scarf though.

14.5% alcohol and not too prominent. Screw cap. $20.90.

90 points but probably 91 day two.

2020 Cavallotto Dolcetto d’Alba Vigna Scot

Location indeed. Not the beautiful, politically sensible bit of the British Isles but between Bricco Boschis and Monprivato as they buttress the rise to Castiglione Falletto. To find Dolcetto in such real estate is good. To have it then grown and turned into wine by Cavallotto is better. I’ve read they make it in roughly the same way as Nebbiolo to extract good tannin and avoid the reduction which can afflict Dolcetto. It surely presents thus in the glass. Austere smells of rocks, sweet earth and those Piemontese cherries. All quite strict and quiet until the end where there’s a pleasing dance of pure sweet fruit, firm but melted skin tannin and acidity of perfect ripeness. No lush fruit explosion just confident refreshment, sort of like old school claret. Second day and it changes gear with a purr like an old Alpha. Fresher, richer and deeper but paradoxically more severe. Uncompromising tannin and ripe acidity blast through the beautifully detailed, tartly sweet depth of fruit. Challenging you to find something deliciously Italian to eat. Then the structure makes perfect sense. Probably not as good with haggis but I haven’t tried.

13% alcohol and such poise. Cork albeit a first grade sort. $50 and value still. Think I’ll have to buy another.

93 points but I wouldn’t argue with 94 the second day.

2016 Paitin Sori’ Paitin Dolcetto d’Alba

Probably said it many times but The Winefront is probably the most useful resource for we who chase honest pleasure from our purchases. When this scrolled up on a Langton’s auction, the fine review made a bid obligatory really. Spot on the review is too. Goodness I love good Dolcetto, sort of austerely sophisticated yet generous and yum at the same time. Here be dark, tartly ripe cherries, sweeter blackberry, the tang and depth of blood oranges, aniseed and an anchor of good Langhe dirt. The fruit’s so good, it’s freshness frozen in time, just smoothed a little by age. I wish. So delicious with umami rich veggies and tomato sugo. Great surge of chocolate ripe furry tannin and a lick of acidity to finally clear up my dribble. Seems those Piemontese take pleasure at the table very seriously. Take your time, chew thoughtfully, sip and reflect. Sloowww fooodddd.

13.5% alcohol. Diam. $40 at auction.

93 points.

2014 Michel Laroche et ses enfants Le Domaine d’Henri Chablis Saint Pierre

It was perhaps last century when I realised how good Michel Laroche’s Chablis were in terms of clean winemaking and consistency. Maybe not the magic of the now beyond reach Raveneau or Dauvissat. Laroche was perhaps one of the first French producers to use screw caps as a logically scientific answer to the organic whims of tree bark, such was the care taken. It was a surprise to read the family business had sold. I should try and keep up. It must have been of some size. Le Domaine d’Henri seems to be a much smaller operation run by ses enfants and named after his père. This particular bottle came as another hearty recommendation from Randall’s Wine Merchants. Starts off with a whiff of sulphur reduction that clears quickly in the glass. In honesty you can only describe aromas in terms of those which are familiar. So bear with me but this has that heady perfume of one of those Australian wattles in full bloom, don’t know which one and there’s a lot of them. Like walking in seaside forest on a warming sunny winter day as those acacias are vivid in their yellow fragrance. More familiar are flavours of pears in honey, exotic citrus, yuzu or Meyer lemon, a whisper of white peach and cut apple, all cruising to a detailed end of real length. Texturally there’s a quiet build of feather tickle acidity that starts as a murmur and builds to a self confident sweep of beautiful fruit. Plenty of wine description fancy too in those Chablis chalky mineral flavours. Such good manners and maybe at a point in life where it’s most comfortable in its skin?

12.5% alcohol. Diam. Didn’t keep a receipt which is wise after visiting Randall but about $60 I think.

94 points, just fading a scintilla on day two to 93. Silly quibble really.

2020 Mommessin Côte de Brouilly

Mommessin seem to be one of the successes in recent Dan Murphy direct imports. Reading Bill Nanson’s prolific and informed blog, the Burgundy Report, it’s clear the very large Boisset’s ownership of Mommessin has had a positive effect on quality. From tired, over sulphured boredom to a delicious sense of place. Some real craft in dealing with the last few hot vintages too. This is another of the grandly titled “Grandes Mises” series which seems to mean a flashy heavier bottle and bad quality corks as well as some quality fruit. I think I enjoyed this even more than the Côte de Puy from the same vintage. Seems a bit fresher and more supple. Berry pips, somewhere between raspberry and blackberry, loganberry or something? Dark and sweet cherry compôte, meaning not quite jam but sweeter than just picked and fresh? Pleasing intensity of fruit swept dry by lots of puckering skin tannin and mouthwatering acidity, yum. Second and third days, no real oxidation and richness gained. Darker fruit emerges, kirsch and cocoa sit on tannins that seem even sweeter. Very good grapes methinks. Takes some trial and several errors but there’s something good lurking on Dan’s import shelves these days.

14% alcohol very nicely buffered. Horrible cork. $22.80, bargain.

93 points.

2016 Sorrenberg Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc Merlot

From a vineyard that’s been quietly biodynamic from last century and one of the most carefully farmed I’ve been lucky enough to visit. Beautiful place, beautiful grapes. The Moreys’ annual tasting at Rathdowne Cellars in leafy North Carlton was always a favourite before spitting in close company became such a health risk. This bottle was bought as a treat when visiting Sorrenberg instead of the even bigger indulgence of their Chardonnay which had sold out of course, now that it’s become more widely appreciated. This opened with some cedar and lemony oak, that minty Australian forest freshness, leaf and high frequency cassis perfume. Saturated with loads of sweet red fruit. Floral too, almost a lavender fragrance. A sweet earthiness develops, sort of like that wet peaty moss when it’s squashed as you scramble across a damp stream side path on a winter bushwalk. Well, that’s what it brought to mind. Only just medium weight for an Australian Cabernet. Refreshing crisp acidity in a happy tight embrace with soft ripe tannin. Second day, some black olive and more smells of the country around Beechworth perhaps. Graceful and natural feeling, a happy wine. Claret stylee in the best sense.

14% alcohol. Cork, both Sorrenberg and Hochkirch, two of my very favourite organic Victorian wineries persist. Such lovely wines. About $45 I think.

94 points.

2019 Château d’Anglès La Clape Classique

Yet another of the Dan’s direct imports. 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre. The 2018 was so good, I’ve had three bottles. Keenly interested to see what a new vintage brings. Again, spotlessly clean. Big waft of woody herbs, garrigue, spice, very dark berries and good for you prunes. Same in the sipping with some blackberry jam. Very ripe, dry skin flavours all polished and contained in a brusque sweep of astringently drying acidity and furry dry grape skin tannin. The tannins maybe suggest a bit of woody stem or oak tannin, hard to tell. If the 2018 had the lithe and svelte perfume of Syrah from the north end of the Rhône, this vintage looks solidly Mediterranean, warm and spiced. Chunky in fruit, trimmed in the making, rough with the smooth. Good value again.

14% alcohol. Diam. $20.90.

91 maybe 92 points and worth another if it becomes a Dan’s member’s’ special.

2020 Bodegas Rectoral de Amandi Matilda Nieves Mencia Ribeira Sacra DOP

Another of July’s Dan Murphy seven. There’s a sticker on the neck boasting 97 points from Decanter for a simple unoaked red from a relatively large Galician conglomerate of five wineries. What room is there left on the points scale for a DJP La Faraona? Who knows? It opens with a bit of sulphury reduction, as Ribeira Sacras often do. Left to catch its breath and there’s typical cool, tart red fruit. Even ripeness, no jammy flavour nor any green tones. Savoury texture being a huge part of the Spanish wine experience, a rise of silty tannin and saliva drooling acidity carries that crisp fruit. It seems strictly made. Just medium bodied as Ribeira Sacra should be, there’s little if any of the smoky wildness of a deeply complex Guimaro version. Probably made in much larger quantities with an eye on the balance sheet. Nonetheless finding a very enjoyable Galician Mencia for $20 is something. Probably could be persuaded to try another when it’s had a chance to settle in a month or two.

There was a glass left after four days, the bottle kept in the fridge apart from being sloshed around in an esky on a two hour drive. Barely oxidised, that evenly ripe fruit is even more mouthwateringly delicious. I’ll try and find a couple more now. There’s something about Mencia I really like. Probably getting closer to the Decanter score.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $19.90

90 points to start, rocketed up to 91 after a day or two. Maybe it’s a Decanter typo?

2020 Cantine Settesoli Mandrarossa Frappato Costadune Terre Siciliane IGT

Another of Dan’s July budget savers. A close up bottle image rather than repeat the seven bottle line up again. Pretty colour label. Italy’s heritage of what seems like thousands of grape varieties is great territory for the nerd, guilty. I just about remember a tasty Planeta bottle of Frappato in purezza and a Cerasuolo di Vittoria where it’s blended with stodgy old Nero d’Avola to bring perfume and life. Not to be confused with Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo of course which is a rosato made from Montepulciano. Love Italian convolution. Good to see this on Dan’s shelves then. Settesoli I also remember were a major player in Sicilian imports in the nineties. Judging from their website, they’re still commercially powerful. Well, this is nothing like the Planeta version I remember, it’s light of weight and took a hour or two to open up after seeming washy and a bit dilute at first. With air it’s seventies disco perfume time. Fragrant with musky rose water, raspberries, almost like a red version of one of those Muscat variations. Bit challenging and odd to the red wine drinker’s expectations. Second day and the perfume’s toned down a notch, more red fruit, sort of New World Pinot Noir in shape and texture but uniquely Frappato in flavour. Spice and volcanic rocks push against the perfume. Good smear of drying skin tannin and an incoming tide of firm acidity. It finally dawned that if you were to drink this fridge cooled with one of those western Sicily seafood couscous, then it would make sense, obvious really. The thought did also occur that if I had tasted this from one of those black Riedel tasting glasses, I think I might of thought it a white made with skin contact such is the surprise awaiting here. Warning, Australian Shiraz it is not.

13% alcohol. One of those odd conglomerate corks with a disc of cork glued each end, why bother? $17.10

Started 87 points but warmed up to an open minded 91. What’s Italian for vive la difference?