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.

2018 La Vinyeta Heus Negre. Empordà DO

From the Catalan hills close to Dali’s Figueres this is the red or negre from La Vinyeta’s basic range. It seems this particular vintage is mostly Cabernet Franc and Grenache Noir with a little bit of Carignan or Samsò as it goes locally. Past vintages appear to have been mostly Grenache and Carignan, more typical of the hills on both sides of the arbitrary Catalan frontier as the Spanish side view it. Nonetheless this is a delicious bargain. Fresh but full clean aromas of dark raspberries, dried cherries, hints of rosemary and an austere rocky cut from the wind and sun blasted hills where grape growing’s a tough game. The initial reductive surliness airs and there’s a mouthful of truthful fruit carrying all those dark berries and gnarled country flavours. Catalan for red wine is Vi Negre it seems. Tried to pronounce it and it came out sounding like vinegar, nothing could be further from the truth as this stayed rich and staunch over three days.

14% alcohol. Cork. An astonishing 6.70 euros in the local beach side Costa Brava supermarket.

92 points.

2016 Te Mata Awatea Cabernets Merlot

Perfect way to celebrate Bastille day eve with a Kiwi that’s better value and probably a bit cleaner than some more illustrious Bordeaux, which was already an expensive dabble thirty years ago when the bug bit. Not that price stopped a reckless love of Burgundy instead. Probably as many disappointments too. Anyway, unlike nearly every other NZ producer, Te Mata are as nineteenth century traditional as the Bordelaise in the choice of stopper. Happily the expensive looking tree bark here didn’t spoil a seriously delicious wine. Just medium in body but achingly fragrant. A perfect mix of marginally tart but ripe fruit and a savoury anchor. Black cherry, cassis, sweet green leaves and seasoning of black olive and cedar oak, all in elegant proportion and driven long. Hint of that grounding claret gravel too. No grunt, just harmony. Anyone on either bank of the Gironde able to guarantee the same quality to price rapport? Could default to a predictably not funny….. choice, eh bro?

13.50% alcohol. CORK! C’est quoi!? $28 from what Dan’s questionably call a rationalisation which means they won’t stock it at my local. Happy to take the below cost discount to clear it though.

95 points.

2018 Black Sheep Yarra Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

A cleanskin of sorts from Boccaccio Cellars and so maybe from Hoddles Creek? A wine by any other name would smell as good? Classic leafy, red fruited gentle Cabernet with some serious acidity that’s still just the right side of ripe in a Bordeaux or Loire cool year way. Not sour. Gravelly too. Good mouthwatering drink and tastes like it hasn’t been mucked around with, astonishing for $8. Not going to appeal to those used to big boy Shiraz.

13.1% alcohol. Screwcap. $8.

88 points.