2019 Bodega Badiola Laderas Rioja

The slow and at times discombobulating hold of the Covid virus has certainly whacked the already less than impressive energy levels and made the last couple of months at times seem like a drizzly English weekend. Eventually the sun comes out again as the virus loosens its hold and a bottle comes along that just brings a smile. The 2018 of this was very good, this is a paragon of what good Rioja Tempranillo can do if there’s not too mucking about in the winery. Spank me, it’s fresh. Just right ripeness, carefully extracted and delicious. Bright red fruits, strawberries and cherries with a swirl of healthy dirt. Makes the mouth happy with sparkling acidity and a well sharpened blade of fine tannin. Probably has the weight to gain with age but such a cheer up as of now. Seize the day and a bottle. This maker is consistently very good.

14% alcohol, perhaps can’t read my writing. Not that it matters if the balance is there. Diam. $26.60 in a Murphy’s six.

92 or 93 points.

2020 Famille Bougrier Gamay Noir

Can’t resist a glittering gold medal sticker, particularly on a cheap Dan’s import. Must confess to being uninspired by the lack of new things on the shelves to raise enough enthusiasm for a six bottle discount buy this month. Cabernet Franc seems more plentiful along the Loire but there’s been quite a few Gamays I’ve enjoyed. From the Côtes du Forez, near the river’s origin, all the way to Anjou it’s been a maybe crisper, less lush alternative to the Beaujolais versions. Bit cheaper too. There’s no real clue as to where this was grown but there’s quite a bit of Gamay to the east of Tours where the maker’s based. In the glass and it’s very clean, whole berry bright red fruited. Crisp with a snap of mouth wetting acidity and a dab of skin tannin. The fruit’s just a brush of summer berries nicely perched thereon. As Spandau Ballet would, Gold, or errr, bronze.

12% alcohol. Screw cap. $14

88 points and very nice to drink.

A just opened 2021 version is as fresh and crisp and again just enough sweet summer berry to keep up. Savoury too. Simple but nice balance.

89 points.

2021 Domaine ‘Alzipratu Fiumeseccu Corse Calvi AOP

Possibly the first ever wine from Corsica for me, at least as far as I remember. Seems from reading about the island, it has a fierce sense of independence, so a blend of Rhone and Tuscan grapes maybe shows they’re not wholly French or Italian but go as they please. Thanks to the Jancis’ wine grape bible for translating, this is a blend of Niellucciu, local for Sangiovese, Sciacarellu aka Mammolo, Grenache and Syrah. Very tasty mix up it is too. Opens with loads of crushed rock smells, tart fresh red cherries and woody herbs like sage. Time in the glass turns the reductive rocky element into a not unattractive bitter herb infusion, some sweet new leather and a good focused concentration of dried red fruits. Hardly surprising it seems like an Italian set of flavours but on holiday with those dried woody herbs of Southern France. All wrapped up in a mouth watering crunch of fine rocky tannin and neat acidity. What a lovely diversion on the wine road.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $40 ish.

93 points.

2012 Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Dry Riesling

From Alsace to the Clare Valley is a long way but the Riesling connection keeps my glass half full. One of my favourite local wine shops has the clever workers stylish in T shirts telling me it’s the summer of Riesling. My attempts to be so chic in a free one have been answered only by suggestions I’d need to buy a few more bottles to get a complimentary shirt. This particular bottle from the cellar makes me wish I’d bought a lot more 2012 Lodge Hill than just one. Opened with a bit of asafoetida like sulphur reduction which blows away rapidly to let the intense and typical aroma and flavour of Clare lime to power on through. Lime in its many forms too, leaf, skin oil, juice and when it’s been cut and put flesh side down to caramelise in a pan. Loads of sweet fruit but no sugar, it does say dry on the front label, a tropical sort of lime richness that’s balanced beautifully by natural and mouthwatering acidity, all bedded on a twist of tonic water tang. Not the full orchestra of the Schaal Riesling but so true and clear in pitch. Ageing superbly, unlike some around here.

12.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $20 on release, stupidly cheap.

94 points.

2019 Julien Schaal Rangen Volcanique Riesling

A recent 2018 Schoenenbourg Gypse from this maker was so good, a modest bid for a Rangan was essential. After a casual look at what’s around, it’s apparent good Grand Cru Alsace is in the rare treat price category. Happy to say this did not disappoint and made it very clear there’s great growing and winemaking here. Volume and clarity. Generosity and elegance. A range of fine, complex favours. Something sort of petrol and mineral, green mango, white peach and very ripe yellow apples. Great flavours arranged neatly on a strict chessboard of skin phenolics and an indelible caress of unbreakable granite acidity that draw it all out into the distance. Goodness, there’s more, freshly ground sweet spices, floral honey and a twist of quinine bitterness to calm. You could say I like this very much.

13.5% alcohol and no undue warmth. Diam. $59 and in terms of prices for great white wine, a bargain.

96 points.

2020 Daniel Bouland Morgon Corselette

Nothing better than gathering across the table to share and chat, unless a Beaujolais smitten good friend brings something to jog memories of great bottles from M. Bouland, then it’s shut up, this is special. No notes, having too much fun but in case you fancy one of the best 2020 Crus so far drunk, here’s a happy memory. Clean, pure red fruits just over ripening into something sweet and darker, rich and concentrated. Perfect summer berries. Sweet earth and rocky complications. The carriage of granite acidity and tannins, so fine you’ll need a microscope to see them separately, cleans up and then there’s just perfume and length for a long, long time. Very fine indeed. Beautifully made. Kept me quiet for a while, probably why D brought it along.

13.5% alcohol. Cork or Diam, forgot. Thanks for sharing.

95 points.

2020 Gran Sasso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

For not much money we may be getting something a nudge up from the bottom of the quality pyramid. I think it’s from a clever operation buying good grapes in quite a few regions and looking for something safe and clean but properly whence it comes too. In the days when friends would let me tell them what to put on their restaurants’ wine lists, this often helped financially and slid the pasta go down nicely. A decade later and it’s still helping with the illusion that the wine budget’s OK. Maybe one of the better recent years? Vivid purple and red, clean, a punch of bramble fruit, fresh and preserved. Not that deep but the boisterous Monty skin tannin and crunchy acid are well under control, nipping the fruit but not imposing. There’s a volcanic smell and salami savoury lick that adds interest. Really well made. Bouncy fun.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $15 well spent.

89 for sure, easily persuaded 90.

2016 Ritme Celler Ritme Priorat

You have to like Priorat. It seems it can produce wine that’s both lush, rich and full but still holds an almost paradoxical freshness. The landscape looks similarly rugged but hospitable. Wines and their places again. That makes it fascinating to some of us but it isn’t cheap. This one’s imported by Langton’s into Australia and ended up their auction site in some quantity. Maybe they couldn’t sell it in their online store? This one is laboratory clean and bright. Sour dark cherries, sooty fireplaces, cocoa and a balsamic edge. A waft of alcohol warmth gets sternly reprimanded by some gruff acidity and silty texture. Bit too tart(aric). Both elements seem big and biffy, close to overdoing it but sort of balanced like elephants on a seesaw. In time, there’s roast meat pan juices you seem to get with good Carignan. Maybe not the softness of the best Grenache and Carignan Priorat blends but the oak interferes not and the price was right. Not quite enough enthusiasm to bid for more in the next auction but still, nice.

15% alcohol, hic. Cork. $20.64.

91 to start, got enthusiastic at 93, then more a 92.

2018 Eden Road The Long Road Syrah

Another inexpensive bottle, thanks to auction luck, to test the recovering olfactories. Gentle scents of blackberry and other summer joys, some nutty savoury treats and a touch of chocolate. Only medium bodied and an unforced caress of stony acidity with perhaps a touch of ripe stem tannin. All in harmony. In no way trying to be more than it can and charms in so doing. Less can be nice.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $15 at auction, happy days.

92 points.

2021 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Shiraz

Stricken by flu, then a nasty encounter with the major pandemic can really damage your mood, your sense of smell and any confidence in a return to anything like objective tasting, should there be such a thing? A gentle and familiar toe in the water then in good old Wynns Shiraz. Still so enormously discounted that there’s no serious loss if it tastes as bad as my normal coffee drink did for a while. Phew, it tastes like red wine. In particular, starts with low key blackberry and plum jam with a touch of earthy tar all put firmly in place with a rasp of lemony acidity and green herb fine tannin. In time, there’s more bright red fruit, pepper and the acidity tends to freshen instead of jar. Tannins are nicely bound. A friend fancied the 2021 Reframed Shiraz x Riesling version brought to mind the North end of the Rhone valley. There’s a parallel here maybe in terms of just over the line ripeness and freshness within the boundaries of local flavours. Still a bargain with a sense of real grapes rather than an industrial recipe. Coffee tastes good too now.

13.6% alcohol. Screw cap. $13.

89 points.