2018 Gathering Field Thousand Candles Vineyard Red Blend

A blend of Merlot, Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc and Malbec from a vineyard notorious for its ambitious first release from the wet and mulchy 2011 vintage – for a measly $100 a bottle. Better vintage weather and sensible pricing have prevailed. Very Yarra Valley, this is just ripe enough. Pencils, tobacco, leafy and just ripe black currants. Some mint and a hint of gum leaf. Oak supports but no more than a seasoning. It’s savoury but the tannins are ripe and sweet with just right acidity tucked well in. As it leaves, a dense mouth coating wave of still subdued fruit suggests there may be still lots more fruit depth to emerge with some time. Difficult to say, it may just dry out but I’d be willing to hide one away for a while, in fact I think I will. Optimism being essential to cellaring and definitely in the wider world these days.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $33.

93+

2018 Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard Harry’s Monster

Move over expensive Bordeaux, this polished 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot and 14% Petit Verdot is mellifluous. It harmoniously passes the checklist of what’s to like in Cabernet blends, perfumed, middle weight, soft ripe tannin and seamless natural acidity, finally a touch of vanilla pod oak just needing time to find its way to integration. The extra depth of cassis, berries and leaf push the quality into the Yarra Valley’s best examples. Even better, there’s a sweet black currant edge, lightly minted, that perhaps says Yarra more than anywhere else. Glorious touch of gravel and cedar emerge with time. Complete and focused. The highly pictorial Giant Steps website has a lovely photo of the Sexton Vineyard perched next to a sizeable expanse of water, sort of like Bordeaux.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. A ridiculous brief discount to $20 a bottle from a rrp of $55. Social media suggests the new owners are more interested in Pinot and Chardonnay and are quitting the Cabernet blends. Social media can be wrong, can’t it.

94+ points. Come back in a few years.

2018 Crawford River Apis Field Blend

Apis, Latin for a bee, the winemaker’s affectionate nick name, got it, took a while, der. It’s a mystery what lurks in the field whence it came but a search of the encyclopaedic Winefront says there’s five percent Gewurztraminer from cold, windy Drumborg in the mix. Sort of a big field but the Crawford River property is so spacious in the possession of dirt, it could extend that far. The wine’s so well made, it had me struggling to find any evidence of cloying Gewurz perfume without reading Mike Bennie’s lovely review. In the glass, a little sulphurous reduction which evaporated quickly, then bright red fruit, raspberry and strawberry type, a lift of brown baking spices, Gewurz? The shape feels more rosé than tannic red, slippery, slurpy and round. Second day and it gets better, the fruit gets rounder and deeper, glides down on just enough strawberry acidity to freshen. My guess, there’s some Cabernet Franc at work. If only Melbourne’s hospitality were open, this would be a perfect by the glass pour with all those lovely green things dripping spring juices at the moment.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. 365 gms of glass and a bit of aluminium of course. The lightest, enviro friendly bottle so far. It actually seems a bit small but that might just be swift drinking. $25 rrp.

91 points but thoughtful styling bonus.

2005 Château Tour St Bonnet Medoc Cru Bourgeois

Whilst I can grasp the basics of the leviathan that’s the Bordeaux wine business, the sheer volume of options and some scary pricing often steers the buying choices elsewhere. If I knew enough to regularly buy something this good, I’d be a lot more willing to explore. Of the last two experiences, one was too leafy, underripe and a bit feral, the other leaden with over ripe deadened fruit and oak. Neither escapade worth sharing. Research suggests this is from 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot and the rest a bit of Malbec and Petit Verdot. The cork was in good nick. Once opened, scents of iodine and old wood sweetened by some raisined bottle age. Once the air got to it, some solid cherry and mulberry fruit plumped up the middle with a whiff of cassis to follow. All clean and nicely extracted. The ending marked by a glorious almond and hazelnut paste savour. The ending of the ending controlled by mature fine tannin and still fresh and clean acidity. If I drank enough of the stuff, I’d be bold enough to say proper claret. Simply delicious.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. 536 gms of glass. $31 at auction.

92 points but a big plus for sheer class.

2016 St. Huberts Cabernet Sauvignon

Clean, appealing cassis, green leaf and mint. Some cedar through the middle to end. Opens up with mulberry, brightly edged fruit which seems good friends with the leaf and breath of wood. Second day it’s still sinewy but relaxing a little. More of that cassis and mulberry woven with sparks of acidity and tightly woven tannin. Yet more evidence, should it be needed, that the Yarra Valley is such a good place for Cabernet Sauvignon when it’s this well grown and made. Frustratingly the slightly cheaper Cabernet Merlot blend from the same vintage was just a bit too dull and savoury. Often available for under $30 in the supermarket duopoly’s booze shops. Worth the trade up. Proper Cabernet.

14% alcohol but in no way breathy or warm. Screw cap. $12.50 in a mystery six pack from cellardoor.co. Good way to extract some value from the layers of TWE’s many labels.

93 points.

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.

2006 Wendouree Cabernet Malbec

Some generous wine loving people bring the most delicious things to the dinner table. Wendouree at its zenith. All those alluring smells, Oz bush after rain, rich cherry, cassis and whilst I’ve no idea why, the word mossy comes to mind. A soft explosion of all these things in the mouth as what must be the Malbec builds and builds a rose and bramble intensity. Structurally, the tannins are perfectly ripe and full of comfort. The acidity perfect. Expletives and pleasures galore.

13.7% alcohol. Cork. Thanks for sharing.

97 points, yes really.

2010 Skillogalee The Cabernets

Clare Valley Cabernet blends are part of Australian wine heritage, particularly if they have some Malbec adding sweet berry fruit to that stern old Cabernet. There’s also some Cabernet Franc here too but the back label is coy about percentages. Opening with all the correct clean smells of strict winemaking, cassis, red fruits, mint, tobacco and a dab of coffee and vanilla oak. Broad shoulders, square of jaw and firm of handshake. Open and guileless. It’s the depth of sweet berry red fruits that convinces, all set against firm, no nonsense tannin and acid. It’s the lingering mouth perfume of cassis that beguiles, showing beautifully ripened Cabernet. Little age weariness, just a smooth mellowing. Very tasty and firmly Clare. Nothing fancy.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. Was about $26 on release.

93 points.

2004 Wendouree Cabernet Malbec

One from the cellar. The tree bark came out a little bit too easily but still seemed to have done its job. Such a volume of those typical Wendoree smells, Australian forests after rain, choc mint, cherries, blackcurrant, and something involving iron and liquorice. Huge in the mouth but still disciplined by fresh, natural acidity and a solid wall of frowning skin tannin. A reminder of Wendouree from the last century. A lasting fruit perfume smooths the structure and maybe there’s finally a suggestion of age starting to calm the austere Cabernet scaffold or is it that round Malbec swell of sweet berries? In no way diminished on day two. The 2018 vintage mail out on real paper in an envelope is due in the letter box soon. A few for the cellar and some optimism about living long enough to enjoy them.

13.2% alcohol. Cork. About $45 on release.

94 points.

2018 Pierre et Rodolfe Gauthier Jour du Soif Bourgueil

Maybe jour du soif is French for an AFD, whatever that may be? This is far too good to just quench a simple thirst. Stainless steel only I think and it’s so clean and pure bar a little reduction in the first small glass. Ripe and dark for a Loire red, there’s bright raspberries, sour cherries, almost plum and a satisfying build up of gravelly earth as it slips away. Just as it does, a waft of that sweet green leafiness pops up to remind us it’s Cabernet of the Franc sort. These fleshy evenly ripe flavours have great support from silky ripe skin tannin and comfortable acidity. It proved its worth by staying much more than just thirst slaking over three days. At last, a Loire red wine not spoiled by a dirty barrel.

Following a bit of a google, it seems the producer is also more widely known a Domaine du Bel Air, Gauthier Père at Fils and have been certified organic since 2000. The back label on my bottle was just Pierre et Rodolfe Gauthier. Their more expensive cuvées are finished in oak, hmmm.

13% alcohol. Cork. Think it was about $36?

92 points.