2016 Grand Bateau Bordeaux

In such times, alcohol in the form of good wine taken internally must be the perfect sanitiser. The big boat is a connection to the big 4th growth St. Julien, Chateau Beychevelle which is almost ten times the price these days. This opened a little oddly with some dank off putting drain smells. Twenty four hours later, another tentative sniff and sip showed all was in fact well. Mulberry, something bramble, earth and gravel with a fleeting top note of red plum and raspberry Merlot, a bit of a tease like those basic Bourgognes that can only hint at the real pleasures of the crus. Nonetheless, there’s some fine sandpaper tannin and, well yes you have to say it, refreshing mineral acidity. 80/20 Merlot and Cabernet they say on the back label, the Bordeaux self regard implicit on the front.

13% alcohol. Cork. $20 at auction, think it normally retails for $25 to $30?

89 proper Claret points.

2008 Hoddles Creek Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet from a chilly upland part of the Yarra Valley in a hot vintage. Still some purple in the glass and a fresh cut of blackcurrant leaf, cassis, mint with a seasoning of truffle and oak toast. Lovely mouthwatering compression of fine just ripe tannin and crisp natural acidity. Such is the low ph crunch, the flavours just got richer over three days without a hint of oxidation. There really is something special in the way Yarra Cabernet can get flavour ripe whilst hanging onto its naturally delicious bounce. More jump than a happy frog.

13.8% alcohol. Screwcap. $20 a few years ago.

92 points.

2015 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

The 60th vintage of a most reliably true to its roots Cabernet which is produced in what could be described as substantial quantity. For the last 25 years or so the same remarkable team of wine maker and viticulturist have been coaxing possibly the planet’s best value Cabernet into the bottle from vineyards where the machine does most of the work. Cost input relative to genuine product seems amazing. This vintage is a wonder. Not in a blockbuster way but just perfectly even ripeness showing the reserve and grace of good Cabernet. Sure, there’s cassis and berries and a hint of green leaf but there’s a gravelly, menthol finesse, all naturally settled into good fine ripe tannin and acidity. Only medium bodied at first, a thicker richness develops over a day or three with a touch of deeper earthy flavour and that saline, almost oyster shell Coonawarra reserve. Professorial authority in a bottle. Best maybe since 1986 or 1991?

13.8% alcohol. Screwcap. $25 when super discounted but a RRP of $45, happily Treasury Wine Estates don’t treasure this enough.

94 points.

2012 Château Batailley Pauillac

Fifth growth, 70% Cabernet, 25% Merlot, the rest Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc and reputed value if that’s possible with an address in Pauillac. Opens cleanly with a svelte cultured perfume of bright red berries, a waft of cassis, crushed gravelly rock and candid, straight ahead vanilla oak. Gained some toned muscle and flesh over two days. The acidity and tannin as beautifully sculpted as the limestone that clads so much of Bordeaux. Bourgeois poise without flamboyance and probably the last upwardly mobile dalliance in the light of cru Beaujolais at half the price.

13% alcohol. Cork. 40 euros.

94 points.

2010 Château Cantemerle Haut Medoc

Most commentaries suggest this fifth growth is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Well, it certainly presents with Cabernet’s serious austerity. Dark savoury berries, menthol, pencil boxes and an ironstone firmness. As it opens there’s some real power in the middle and a touch of not quite clean old oak. The chomp of Cabernet skin tannin and bright acidity make for an unequivocal statement of Bordeaux made for age and no frippery. Just a hint of sweet cassis softens the rigour of a Bodelais frown at the notion of hedonism. Serious business and a serious price for an entrée in the world of proper Bordeaux.

13% alcohol. Cork. 45 euros from Badie, one of those implacable Bordeaux cavistes.

94 points just coping with a scintilla of mucky oak.

2017 L’Atypic de Peybonhomme

First ever night in Bordeaux and something apparently not typically Bordelais to celebrate. 60% Malbec and 40% Cabernet Franc from Château Peybonhomme les Tours in the Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux appellation. Two favourite varieties from the Cabernet family and perhaps the hardest to find amongst the good and great of grand Bordeaux. Opened with a plume of just ripe red fruit and gravel smells. Satisfying drag of understated feathery tannin and acidity carrying flavours that start with those sparkling red berries and pull on through to more savoury and stoney things. Almost pretty. Clean and refreshing without being simple. Maybe it’s just imagination but is it brighter, finer and more pristine because of biodynamics? All that extra work, you’d like to think so.

13% alcohol. Cork. 27 euros on a great pizzeria wine list. Atypically Bordeaux.

92 points.

2017 La Vinyeta Llavors Empordà

An odd blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Samsó or Carignan. Llavors means some thing like then or formerly in Catalan it seems. The ‘then’ referenced was September 2017 and the referendum for Catalan independence. Two years on and there are crowds again massing on the streets of Barcelona and Girona. Choosing the local granite kitchen splash back as a background makes my eyes go a bit funny and the 2017 pro independence crowd photo on the label hard to see, oh well, perhaps the Madrid government would approve? The wine’s a typical Empordà mix of sweet ripe dark berry and chocolate fruit gripped firmly by those iron and granite tannins. Touch of oak seasons nicely. Clean and well made without losing the sense of place or it’s rustic grunt. On the basis of a brief flirtation involving two bottles, La Vinyeta could be a producer to pursue further if you’re lucky enough to find yourself Catalunya bound.

14.50% alcohol. Cork. 12 euro worth of value.

90 points.