2017 St Hubert’s Pinot Noir

St Hubert’s has been a confused brand in the TWE empire of labels for quite a while now. When their friends and family direct sale website had a mystery six pack for $75, I must admit I jumped in. When six bottles of St Hubert’s turned up, they stirred some early memories of Yarra Valley joy before the Penfolds marketing department got their hands on one of the valley’s originals. This bottle was a bit subdued on opening, stalky, brown sugar and spice. As the air got to it, dried strawberry and raspberry preserves with a fleeting whiff of rose oil amongst the woody stalks. Nice use of whole bunches to lift what seems a little awkward ripeness. Although 2017 was thought a later, cooler year, the ripeness here does provoke thought about climate change and just how Pinot Noir will cope in the warmer valley floor sites. Looking forward to some Grenache grafting perhaps?

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $12.50 in a six pack!

90 points for some deft winemaking.

2006 The Story Westgate Vineyard Shiraz

If memory serves as they used to say on Iron Chef, this was something like Rory’s second commercially released vintage. At first, dusty bottle age, a little caramel and leather. Fading blackberry, soft ripe tannin and a lick of lemony acidity that now stands at a distance. Sometimes you can leave a bottle of Aussie red a bit too long and it seems slumped with age into just an old red wine. It was a surprise then, on the second day to find it fresher, more of a blackberry crunch and the middle palate swelling with spice, tar and rich fruit. Once again proof as to the reticent glory of Grampians Shiraz. A waiting game.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. Was about $40.

90 points first day, 92 to 93 on the second.

2017 Viña Callejuela Blanco de Hornillos

If this was poured without knowing what it was, would we accept the nutty oxidation? Drinking what is basically Sherry without the flor yeast slumber and the fortification is a grand adventure in flavour and how we approach different styles of wine with the prior knowledge of how they’re produced. I must admit to being reasonably tolerant of the touch of dank old oak and sour nutty oxidation in a good Manzanilla or Fino. There’s often a depth of fruit and salty richness to compensate. It seems this is Palomino from the Pago, read vineyard I think, of Hornillos, blended with grapes from three other Callejuela owned pagos. Gently nutty, amazingly complex and pleasing flavours of that chamomile, chestnut honey, yellow fruits and a bite of chalk. The mouth filling richness cut by firm acidity and some pithy texture. It all seems to hang together and beckons another sip. Another one of those Mediterranean places that owns its special grape and distinct style. Makes you miss travel with a sweet ache.

12.5% alcohol but a lot of ripeness and flavour. Cork, oh well, screw cap would suit perfectly. Another lockdown bargain from TSA.

92 points for pleasure not technical things.

2018 Te Mata Estate Hawke’s Bay Cabernets Merlot

Te Mata have been doggedly producing gently extracted, quietly digestible Cabernets for a long time, impervious to the wild swings of wine fashion. An idiosyncratic persistence with corks in their two best perhaps their only silliness. From a warmer season, a swell of sweet ripeness buffers the herby, gravel astringency of proper Cabernet. There’s still a savoury raspberry leafiness though, perhaps from the Merlot and Cabernet Franc listed on the back label. The usual Cabernet suspects like blackcurrant, mulberry and leaf are evenly measured out, freshened to end with gentle ripe tannin and a clip of acidity to invite another sip. All at a price to make a bottle of Bordeaux blush.

13% alcohol. Screw cap, hooray. $24.

90 stylish points.

2019 Oddero Dolcetto d’Alba

From one of the pioneers of the Barolo, a Dolcetto as it would be drunk at the table on a daily basis. Much as Nebbiolo and Barbera command the prices, if you order a carafe of rosso with your meal in the Langhe, more than likely it would be this under appreciated, early ripening beauty. This one has all the tart, red cherry fruit cut with the sort of challenging acidity and an austere stoniness that really suits a forkful of rich pasta. Not a drink for the novice discovering the sweet allure of berries and vanilla plumped by alcohol but a real taste of perfumed ripeness teetering on a high wire of tense acidity. After 24 hours of air, the colour darkened, fragrant flowers and more dark cherries emerged. The acidity, still glassy, crackled with life and that fierce dryness. Time will settle things and this will be compulsory on the table in 2022. Hopefully with some friends allowed to share.

13% alcohol. Diam, brilliant. $30 on the shelf at Boccaccio cellars.

92 points of pure typicity, if that’s a word.

Champagne Voirin Jumel Cuvée 555

Cinq cent cinquante cinq certainly isn’t the easiest French number for an anglophone to get their mouth around. So much easier to drink though. So rich, dense and compact. Beautiful clean smells and tastes of crystallised citrus, quince, apple tarte tatin and spiced brioche. Such a mid winter cheer up treat. Over two days nothing budged from the first phhuutt of opening. It’s been languishing in the cellar for a couple of years, demonstrated by the cork staying compressed after gently wriggling free and just about the only clue to its age. The flavours despite their power show impressive compression and tension. For the technically minded, the back label says so much more than most Champagnes are willing to admit. All Grand Cru Chardonnay from the Côte de Blancs, barrel ferment, five different vintages, 20% reserve wine, 6gs per litre dosage and no malolactic ferment. The last bit still shows strongly with a surge of mouthwatering, appetite enhancing tingling acidity to close. Don’t think there’s a better way to start yet another quiet evening at home.

12% alcohol. Cork. Enthusiastic wifely purchase. Thanks indeed for sharing, dear.

95 points.

2018 Celler del Roure Vermell

From the Spanish DO of Valencia in the way of 70% Garnacha Tintorera aka Alicante Bouschet and 30% Mandó, a rarity and yet another one of those Mediterranean grapes to add to the long list of discoveries. Jancis’ bible, Wine Grapes, suggests Mandón, originally from Bierzo in the opposite north west corner of Spain. Twinkling ruby red and only just medium of body, there’s a fresh, clean perfume of an uncrushed berry ferment casting its shadow over tangy red currants, cherries, pomegranate and earthy spice. Flows through the mouth like a good cru Beaujolais with naturally mouthwatering acidity and its own distinct chalky herbal end. A cool glass with some snacks on a warm Iberian night seems a nice dream. Don’t think it’s worth adding Mandó to the category section. Probably doesn’t pop up in a google search that often.

12% alcohol. Cork. Gratefully discounted to $96 for a six pack from The Spanish Acquisition. Worth a share with friends if you live in Melbourne.

92 points. Plus a bit for a sunny personality.

2018 Mount Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Shiraz

A producer with a long history for this drinker, my first vintage when there was just one Langi Shiraz bottling was 1986. Only one change of ownership since then puts it firmly in the heritage category. Such is the warming of the climate that an alcohol ripeness of 14.5% would have been unthinkable for this traditionally cool vineyard in the eighties. This release is all about a delicious cushion of evenly ripe summer pudding fruit backed up by what seems to be succulent natural acidity and some woody stem tannin. The details are some typical Langi pepper and aniseed spice. A warm and generous version of a regular buy. Maybe most attractive as a youngster.

14.5%. Screw cap. $25 member’s special at Woolies ethanol barn.

92 points.

2017 Tardieu Laurent Les Becs Fins Côtes du Rhône Villages

Fat, rich and warm hearted Grenache. Clean and deliciously very ripe raspberries, cherry liqueur, brown spices and those woody herbs that scent the air on a warm Mediterranean afternoon. All these things impact well as it slips through like molten chocolate with just enough life giving acidity to suggest another mouthful. The sort of fruit quality you’d be happy to see in a loftier appellation. Tardieu Laurent know how to source their grapes. For once the wine stained label was not my fault but maybe from a breakage in the case in the auction house storage. The chunky looking chap on the label looks a bit miffed about it. If I drank this regularly, I’d end up with Obelix’s belly. Lush, the wine that is.

14% alcohol. Cork and not the best. $22 win at auction.

93 points.

2010 Adelina Grenache

A winery with an address on Wendouree Road East which could be an indication of grape quality, especially as it seems the vines are eighty years of age. Here the Clare Valley puts its stamp on a Grenache, making it less plump and generous, more sinewy and lithe. Starts with the instantly recognisable smell of doing dusty bottle time, then breathes some faded rose, mint and cherry. Despite a pale colour for Clare, it builds well with these flavours sweetened with age. Finest of satin tannin and delicious twist of Campari acidity. Bony structure but flesh too. Made by gentle infusion more than rough extraction perhaps and better for it. The relatively high alcohol had more effect on the drinker than the flavours.

14.8% alcohol. Screw cap. Lucky auction win for $25.

92 points.