2019 Domaine des Closiers Saumur Champigny Expression

A newish enterprise with wise investment across vineyard, viticultural and winemaker input it seems. 15 hectares of oldish Cabernet Franc on good limestone and clay soil. A viti expert from Roche Neuve, one of my favourite reliably clean producers and winemaking input from the famous Clos Rougeard. No small investment or expectation then. The added recommendation from Randall’s, simply put as effing amazing, tipped me in. Made with no recourse to oak suggested there could be an absence of the oft encountered Loire horse stable held together by a dirty band aid…er…terroir. And joy, spotlessly clean powerful but even aromas of great Cabernet Franc. Raspberry, leaf and fruit. Darker fruit and sparkling pale limestone in the rain. Initially seemed to show a bit too much gloss of slippery ripeness but as air worked its magic, the fruit cooled to a fresh mouthful of perfectly ripe raspberries, sweet green leaves and chalky minerals, that word again. Inadequate but… Concentrated and intense. Long and measured. Power supported by a wave of ripe grape skin tannin indistinguishable from a tug of sweet ripe acidity. Beautiful grapes and no mucking about.

14% alcohol, quite something for the latitude. Cork. $55ish.

93 points and hooray for medium weight delicious purity.

2019 Giant Steps Pinot Noir

A bit of clarity in labelling. You don’t have to declare grape ingredients below 15% on a label under Australian wine rules but here it’s noted there’s 8.5% Central Otago Pinot Noir as well as the majority Yarra Valley. Kudos for rigour. Sort of apposite to the last Fairbank post as the winemaker has made the move from there to here. Doubly so as both wines that seem to be honest, no fiddling expressions of grapes, season and place. Perhaps this hasn’t the weight and charm of that lovely 2015 vintage. Here there’s mint, a lick of Oz forest, sappy stems and wild strawberries. Some lifted perfume, almost incense or joss stick like. Darker fruit emerges. Just enough flavour to buffer the slightly green stem and acid structure which dries things up enough to warrant another sip or bite of food. Must say I do enjoy Yarra Pinot when it’s young and fresh. Maybe with a bit of Otago richness too? Again a good drink not trying too hard to impress.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $30 on special.

91 points.

2018 Fairbank Syrah

From an estate born of what seems equine wealth. Must admit never having been to a horse race, mystery to me. Victoria appears littered with horse breeding places involving considerable amounts of money. Hope it’s a bit more profitable than the struggle to make a small fortune in wine after investing a large one. Opens well after half an hour or so with clean, sweet sappy herbs and whole berry brightness. Gentle medium weighted core of savoury spices, bay leaf and red berries. Seems to isolate the good flavours in middle Victorian Shiraz without being over ripe or over oaked. The tannins are stem woody with fresh acidity tucked in nicely. Second day, the fruit gets a bit richer into plum flavours and a waft of retro nasal red fruit perfume. Touch of road tar on a warm day too. Made in a way that gets the best of the ingredients.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $25ish.

92 solid points.

2016 Domaine Leon Barral Faugères

The usual trawl of the auction website and a new producer, yet the label looks vaguely familiar. Maybe a memory nudge from times inhabiting those cavistes of baffling choices in Paris. It’s been a while since the last happy browse with data charged mobile google capabilities. There’s some good words about M. Barral. True artisan with old vines in places where they’re happy and no social media. Lots of old vine Carignan here, half the blend with the rest Grenache and Cinsault. It was a bit pongy to open. My first couple of sniffs had me thinking of the sweet earthy smell of well tended farmyard. In one of those lovely moments of shared olfactory recognition, my dearest reckoned, “this smells just like a farmyard but in a really good way”. Much cleaner to taste. High tones of lavender, Mediterranean scrubby bits, and very ripe, squished up berries. Powerful tug of fine limestone tannin. It’s odd how wine brings rocks to mind, it’s a struggle to put it any other way. As it airs, beguiled by cool sweet berries, sweet roast meat, dark but bright with mouthwatering acidity and more of that limestone tannin. A natural wine feel, close to the edge but no wobble, just standing with feet firmly planted in the soil.

14% alcohol. Cork. $47 at auction.

94 points.

2016 Luke Lambert Nebbiolo

I’ve read that Luke Lambert is obsessed by Nebbiolo, sensible fellow. This is possibly the best non Italian version for me, albeit from a pretty limited sample range. Still some cheerful crimson colour without the tiring orange seen in high PH Australian versions. Touch of typical Luke Lambert reduction clears quickly to fresh sour cherry, raspberry and sweet earthy fruit. Hint of regional mint and forest. The shape is beautiful. Crackling fresh ripe acidity and the sort of ripe, sweet and melting tannin that’s rarely seen in Australian wine. Oddly but in some way not surprisingly, the freshness of fruit and soft depth of tannin remind me of Yarra Cabernet. Obviously not the flavours. Something in the valley season seem to soften the green hardness both these varieties can show in places where they ripen too quickly perhaps? Probably a daft generalisation but looks good here. Like the Socceroos of past generations, there’s quality here to play at international level without embarrassment. Particularly at the price point.

14% alcohol. Diam, extremely difficult to get out of the narrow necked old style Bordeaux bottle and even harder to get back in. $60.

95 points, even in an away game at the Stadio degli Alpi.

2021 Brothers at War The Grape Grower Eden Valley Riesling

Langtons auction site, yet another booze business owned by Woolworths, is a bit of an obsession hereabouts. Sadly, red wine bargain bids are few these days. Happily, some recent luck makes it clear good Riesling can be had for not much. Don’t think pointing this out will make much difference, it’s still a nerd’s variety. Interesting there’s what looks a Banksy on the label. Don’t suppose he pursues copyright if he doesn’t own up to his identity, assuming he’s a he? Perhaps the eponymous brothers protest too much, as this could only have been made by people that get along well. It’s harmonious. Gently pure scents of fresh squeezed, just ripe lime and wet slate in the rain. Fleeting notes of flowers and exotic citrus, maybe yuzu or bergamot. Something like that. Texturally it’s seamless. Really difficult to tell if it’s a touch of residual sugar or just intense fruit that softens the bracing but mouthwatering acidity. As it stretches out over a couple of evenings, murmurings of honey and waxy apples seduce. It’s not shouty but good Eden Riesling needs your full attention. Gentle, firm and fine.

11.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $28 RRP which is still value. Smug me got it for $11.40.

93+ points.

2020 Combe St Jean Bourgogne Gamay and 2019 Tenuta Santodeno Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore

Two direct imports from Dan Murphy’s or Pinnacle Drinks or whichever brand one of the three big supermarkets who bypass the usual wholesale call themselves. Australia’s appalling wine taxation seems to make us wine freaks seek some import value wherever we can. I’ve noticed that the most viewed posts on this sporadic blog seem to be for cheap imports, glad to know I’m not alone in my ache to find a gem that helps the budget. The exploration has been entirely Dan Murphy’s and Aldi. One day I’ll brave Vintage Cellars or the other versions of Coles booze outlets again but their silly pricing and lack of spark still look pretty discouraging. Dan’s and on rare occasion, Aldi offer the odd one good enough to raise the enthusiasm for a recommendation. Often the shiny new French, Italian or Spaniard on the shelf turns out to be not exactly a disaster but something that’s just acceptable, certainly not worth bothering a reader about. Maybe it’s worth the time to point out those that are OK if you’re desperate for a latin fandango but not much more. I’ve certainly laboured my way through a few over two or three nights. Don’t think a little disparaging here is exactly going to worry the megastores. It’s only opinion anyway. So….things to maybe avoid if you want to make every bottle count.

The Bourgogne Gamay. Impossible to nail down a producer. Googling just leads to opaque branding and a suggestion the Gamay in question comes from “Beaujolais Crus”, who knows where the Combe St Jean makes wine? Light to medium weight, sappy cherries, sweet green herbs and nuts, good firm 2020 acidity but dilute through the end just when you’d prefer some weight and clipped with what tastes like a heavy hand with safety first sulphur flinging. The Mommessin from Dan’s versions are much better value and often delicious. Enough here to go back to see if there’s more to come but ultimately there’s not.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $23.80 in a six.

87 or 88 points and a nice gold medal sticker too.

The Sangiovese. Must admit to a long time love of Emilia Romagna, Champagne socialists, food, red brick ancient cities, delightfully out of fashion Lambrusco and the occasional great Sangiovese. Whenever a new Sangio import appears, the lure is siren. Flashy heavy bottle here, filled by a winery that’s part of one of those large conglomerate Italian businesses. Industrially clean, heavily extracted from just OK, just ripe enough grapes. Loads of furry tannin and reasonably mouth friendly acidity. Sadly, the fruit decides to take a holiday as that structure flexes. Not sure I could say it were Sangiovese were it not on the label. Again, no faults but not much joy. it’s very difficult to find proper Sangiovese under $30. Suggestions welcome.

14% alcohol. Diam. $17.80 in a six.

87 points.

2014 S C Pannell The Vale

Grenache and Shiraz and the first wine region I visited. Thirty six years ago, sea breezes and almond blossom and a vague idea wine tasted nice. McLaren Vale was a friendly place, still is, with generous cellar doors ready to pour the good things. This is generous and warm too. Opens with bottle aged old polished furniture smells, then blackberries and spiced plum jam fill the mouth. More complications like a sweet, fertile, well tended garden, quality dark chocolate, cherry liqueur as it warms verging on that childhood cough syrup and roast nuts. All sort of melted together by time. Good natural feeling acidity and chocolate tannin. Idle thought that perhaps I like most Australian red wine in its earlier years. Sometimes things just mellow and sink into each other, comfortable but better, not sure? Nonetheless on a cold winter night, this warmed the proverbial cockles.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $30 at auction, unusually shrewd bid.

93 points.

2020 Mommessin Morgon Côte du Py

In the scheme of Beaujolais crus, Côte dy Py is very well regarded it seems, particularly due to Foillard bottles. This appeared on Dan Murphy’s shelves as a $20 member’s special, about a quarter of the current Foillard, if you can find it. Certainly worth the risk for the outlay. The other Mommessin 2020s have proved great value, consistently fresh and clean. Well, pop me in a TARDIS and go back to when things were made to last with loads of dry extract, built tough to endure and difficult to make friends with in their youth. Sort of reminds me of old, hot year Burgundy. First day, event horizon lack of perfume and a full savoury dry mouthful. Something in the density and chew flickered with a satisfying clean grape skin sweetness and depth. Second day and there’s some flavours of dark cherry, fruit and nut chocolate and granite firmness. Frowning generosity. Could well surprise with a long lie down somewhere cool and dark to see if that extract flowers into fruit you can actually taste? Maybe the tree bark just flattened the fruit beyond my faculties? Maybe it’ll just dry out and become even tougher? Be fun to try another. Quite a ride for $20.

13.5% alcohol. Cork, shame lots of other Mommessin bottles choose better. $20.

90+ points or somewhere between 88 and 94, what do I know.

15th June 22. Had to try second bottle, particularly for $20. Maybe just a bit more fruit showing and a touch softer than the first. More cohesive. Whether that’s due to a few weeks more in the bottle or the first one suffering the endless and often indeterminate horrors of corks, I still don’t know. Anyway, delicious bargain.

93 points this time.

2021 Eastern Laneway Vintners Grampians Shiraz

The label says a Shiraz of genuine class and elegance. Two virtues unusual to the aisles of Aldi whence comes this bargain. Loads of fresh as a new government fruit, pepper and raspberries seasoned with a whip of herby stems. Seamless glide of fine tannin and fresh acidity. Despite the advertised 14% on the label there’s a coolness to the fruit that suggests good even ripening. A burst of 30 degree warm, sunny autumn weather seems to have been a blessing to a cool, sometimes damp La Niña season. There’s maybe a young vine washy dilution through the end but Grampians beggars must be very grateful for such a sensitively made Shiraz for not much. Probably at its best now and for the next year or so. I had to buy another, the true test.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $12.

90 points.