2020 Julien Mingot Le Petit Comptoir

The label looks like all of Melbourne’s bars at the moment sadly, so many empty chairs. This blend of mostly Merlot with some Cabernet Franc from a vineyard north of Pomerol avoids the appellation naming and conventional oaky way of Bordeaux with organic growing, low intervention making and a basic Vin de France label. Rich, ripe and clean with a juicy freshness to lift. Loads of ripe raspberries, cherries and leaf flood the nose and mouth, wrapped up in that Bordeaux gravel and clay mineral thing. In fact I must confess that characteristic reminds me of pulling off a new gum boot caked in clay and soil after a winter walk in the damp English countryside. Weird how our sense of smell can evoke time and place. Succulent and soothing tannin and acidity to end. Perhaps not the cool just ripe claret of old but a delicious clean and glossy natural wine from a warm vintage.

13% alcohol. Diam. $32 but seems it’s available for $24 on some on line stores which make it good value Bordeaux,

92 to 93 after a day or two.

2017 Pyren Vineyard Earthscape Franc

Pyren caught my attention in the early 2000s with a couple of bottles that were much less bombastic than the high alcohol and extract reds that clamoured for our attention then. Charm more than muscles. A six pack of this didn’t attract a bid other than mine at a recent no reserve auction, so I ended up with half a dozen for less than $70, thank goodness a good friend is willing to share the spoils for better or worse. This won’t help the relationship if he doesn’t like the bitter herbs of serious whole bunch action. Day one the scribble reads, Northern Rhône stemmy smoke, herbs and flowers, sour cherry preserve, then the herby alpine meadow blast takes over with a bitter, sour edge. Goodness though, the fruit fights back the whole way, good acid and surprisingly melded tannin considering the stalks. The day two note reads, the whole bunch and nothing but the bunch, well almost. Reminds me of an old Bannockburn without the mucky barrel edge. As with Bannockburn you have to admire the conviction to the whole cluster. Once more though the fruit quality holds its ground convincingly. Good different as that annoying ad suggests. Can’t help thinking though that perhaps Cabernet Franc has enough naturally leafy bits without recourse to more green complexing. A tiny glass left on day three suggests this might smooth out with time locked away until it behaves.

13.5% alcohol. Screwcap. $11.32 auction, that’s a lot of interest for not much.

Sort of 92 with stems, 94 without, maybe?

2017 Salomon Estate Dark Pearl Cabernet SFM Fleurieu Peninsula

Happy memories of generous Austrian trade commission funded tastings a couple of decades ago jogged my memory when a few bottles of this popped up on the temptation that’s my favourite auction site. What’s Austrian wine got to do with Cabernets from near McLaren Vale you ask? Well, the Austrian maker, Salomon, enjoyed Australia so much, they invested and produced some reds of more restraint and drinkability than was fashionable on the Parker tasting bench. This is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon it seems, with the remainder split between Franc and Merlot. Despite the advertised 14.5% alcohol, this was bright and fresh. Loads of Australia in the form of mint and bush land in the wet, then rich cassis and berries, little bit of iron and chocolate to add detail. Deliciously concentrated and fruited but it skips away to the end with vigour, hitting a swell of settled acidity and very ripe sweet tannin as it frolics. Definitely Australia not Austria.

14.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $15 at auction, good buying.

93 points.

2015 De Bortoli The Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

From an original Yarra Valley vineyard in Dixon’s Creek, the area not actually the creek itself I think. Full ripe Cabernet smells, almost lush, backgrounds of earth and pencil case austerity too. Just right ripeness in the mouth with black currant, touch of gravel, black olive, all sweet but in no way sugary. Satisfying old style Yarra Cabernet with a fine mesh of milky tannin and natural acidity. Touch of cedar oak in low volume adds seasoning. Another of those that shows just how good 2015 was in the valley where it’s best grape still struggles to be noticed in the sea of Pinot and Chardonnay. Unless you’re from Mount Mary or similar royalty of course.

13.8% alcohol. Screw cap. $27 RRP but discounted to close to $20 and still there’s to be bought.

93 points.

2014 Dalla Mia Finestra Cabernet Sauvignon

Budget friendly Yarra Valley Cabernet of quality, good oh. Starting to benefit from a rest in the bottle. Opens with the warm friendly smell of polished timber, black currant, leaf, mown lawn, mulberry and sweet green herb. Gentle but firm tug of just about ripe tannin and fresh natural feeling acidity. Maybe a little green if you like warm hearted, traditional Australian Cabernet, maybe quite ripe if you like Bordeaux before global warming started a market for reverse osmosis machinery? Plenty of pleasure and flavour for the price though.

13.5% alcohol. Screwcap. $24.

92 points.

2019 Famille Bourgrier Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil Les Cailloux

A few new French vins on the shelves of Dan Murphy’s at prices that may help the budget. Experience does suggest some may not quite please this jaded palate sufficient to empty the bottle into glassware rather than the plug hole. This one is encouraging. Fresh, clean whole berry ferment lift. A couple of days airing and it resolves to bouncy raspberry and leaf, very Cabernet Franc. A bit of cool earthiness too. Sure, the extraction has been pushed a bit hard but there’s enough fruit concentration, sweet tannin and fresh acidity to cope. In fact the fruit’s so good, it was best on day three when it looked like the sort of thing you’d love in a carafe, scoffing something good in a quintessential French bistro, one day.

13% alcohol. Screw cap, zut alors. $16.90.

Started 88 and got to 90.

2012 Skillogalee Basket Pressed The Cabernets Clare Valley

The Barossa gets a lot of attention for its unctuous, warm and generous Shiraz but for those of us seeking a bit more cut and austerity, it’s good to head north and up to the Clare Valley for some muscled Cabernet, best brightened like this with some Malbec berries. Red fruits, even and just ripe, cherries for example, spring of mint, Australian forest, hints of cocoa and a nutty thing that reminds me of old school linseed oiled cricket bats, call me bats. An evocative earthiness too. To complete the Clare experience, tannins like suede and a final tilt at a dry stone wall of firm acidity. Open for three days and it just got better. Firm muscles, sanguine attitude but a soft heart too.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $25 ish on release.

93 points with stamina.

2019 Réserve de la Famille Drouet Loire Valley Cabernet Franc

An Aldi exclusive for less than ten dollars which helps the illusion of keeping to a budget. So clean it’s almost sanitary, bright raspberry, tart red cherry and a Loire leafy lift give the impression of grape and place. Glossy and forward, there’s a suggestion of that whole grape ferment bubblegum which helps the fruit push forward, perhaps so much that the flavours do pull up a bit short. Nonetheless there’s a waft of berry perfume right up the retro nasals, a clip of ripe settled acidity and a brush of good skin tannin that distinguishes the fruit quality from the plodding ordinary. Maybe a bit too extracted like an over squeezed tea bag, but you do seem to be getting a twenty dollar bottle for much less, no bad thing really. Makes the Aldi shopping adventures even more exciting.

12.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $8.49.

89 points and delicious.

2019 Oakridge Over the Shoulder Cabernet Merlot

This makes me wonder how easy it is to miss something good by opening a bottle too soon after an early release. This looked just too dry, dusty and green in winter last year and difficult to praise in review. Some six months on and there’s still some leafy green but the earthy notes have receded to a Bordeaux like gravel edge for want of a better description. Mulberry, a hint of cassis and red currents build sweetly in the mouth, nicely balancing the savoury. Some youthful violet and sage. Tannins just get over the ripeness line and are mingling politely with fresh fine acidity. Turning into a good example of the quiet confidence and poise that typifies Yarra Valley Cabernets. The back label says it’s a hand picked blend of Cabernet and Merlot from the Valley sub regions of Coldstream, Gruyere and Seville which makes for some great value considering the production costs. This could even get better in the bottle over the next few years if patient. The choice of “Over the Shoulder” as a name for Oakridge’s basic value range has always puzzled, perhaps delicious in the mouth for the money could be more appropriate.

13.2% alcohol. Screw cap. $24 RRP but often discounted to around $20.

91 points.

2012 Murrindindi Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

From a vineyard on the backroad from the Yarra Valley to the Goulburn Valley. Such is flat old Australia that the Yarra flows south toward the sea whilst the Goulburn flows north and inland, wrong way, silly river. Both valleys do grow some good Cabernet and no surprise this one seems to sit well between the cool reserve of one and the generous ripeness of the other. Starts a bit tart and savoury with a bit of truffle. Airing brings a perfume of mulberry, black currant and a back end of sweet ripe cherry. The acidity’s perky and well bound to sweet currant and raisin tannin. The second day, gently oxidising and doing a Bordeaux impression of sorts in seaweed and iodine breezes over some good solid fruit. It’s been a long time since the still mourned Mark Shield reviewed a delicious 1990 Murrindindi Chardonnay. Wine memories linger long.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. Was about $25 maybe?

93 points.