2005 Domaine de l’Oratoire de Saint Martin Cairanne Haut Coustias

The domaine’s top of the range label, still at retail for less than most CNdPs, is normally a blend of 60% old vine Mourvèdre with equal parts Grenache and Syrah making up the rest. It’s always with some trepidation that I risk a bid at auction for something well past its tenth birthday but here’s a well cared for bottle. No ullage, good cork of some length, always a relative term, no leakage and no taint, phew. Starts off with those dusty old bottle of wine smells, no surprise, swirl and air, then gloriously clean plumes of old leather couches, sweet kirsch cherries, blackberries, garrigue and spice, all deep, warming and rich. The fruit power and sweetness backed by an umami glycerol blanket of game meat pan juices, all those caramelised delicious bits. An earthy bass line of clay soil broken up with chalky stones, really. Remarkably all that richness is cooled by perfect fine pixel acidity and the ripest sweet tannins. The label may not be cutting edge fashion but this is great natural wine, biodynamic, no additions apart from some sulphur, I think and so clean and pure. A smile on the face of old Bacchus and me too.

14.5% alcohol. Cork. $33.80 bid.

95 points.

2015 Domaine de l’Oratoire de Saint Martin Cairanne Réserve des Seigneurs

Château Neuf du Pape may get all the tourists and good prices but when it comes to hanging around the southern Rhône the smaller villages like Cairanne and Rasteau get my vote. This great producer has been a favourite since last century. Now biodynamic, this is the property’s entry to its range of Cairanne made up with 80% Grenache, the rest Syrah. Opens with clean aromas of balsamic infused berries, kirsch and the most attractive bits of that Mediterranean scrubby garrigue. Smoothing out with age but still crisp and for want of a better word, smooth, maybe suave even. Just a glide through with just ripe tannin and enough acidity. Real depth of fruit. Great clarity and focus. Warm and generous too. Really ripe in line with hotter and hotter Rhône summers but in no way porty or leathery. It’s entirely subjective but there does seem a better definition to organic and woo woo biodynamic wines. Maybe it’s just more time and care in the vineyard or it’s humans working with the biosphere rather than against. This result is just delicious.

14.5% alcohol. Cork. $39 at auction.

93 points.

2018 Paralian Grenache Shiraz

Yet another from Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale that is. Busy place. In the glass, there’s loads of dried herbs with an Australian bush accent. Very frisky red fruit, spices and aniseed. Good crack of bright acidity, little bit citrusy and some grip from those herby stems. Something like a lemony oak note or crashes the party a little for this fusspot. Probably won’t trouble most. In broad terms, it’s good to see the grapes picked for fresh red fruit, the Shiraz bit seems, well, almost racy. Enough depth of flavour to satisfy, still full of generous plum and pomegranate fruit. Paralian’s a good new word to add to the vocabulary for us living on the margin by the big ocean.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. 555 gms of glass which seems about average for most Australian bottles. After weighing a few, I’m going to stop, only to note those with virtuous lightness or berate those show off heavyweights. As a Campbell Mattinson Winefront review described one obese effort, “for those with more money than confidence”. This bottle was $30 at auction.

94 points.

2018 Guillaume Gonnet Le Virtuose Lirac

80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. Opened full of Blackforest cake and garrigue shrubbery. As it sucked in a breath of air, it lightened up to brighter red fruit and no small amount of sappy stalks. Good extras in the form of woody herbs, the old Mediterranean scrub and sun warmed earthy stuff. Cocoa powder tannin and enough acidity. Second day and the green chewy stems take up more room but the fruit’s there to cope, just. Could be a little out of whack for some. For me, there’s interest, good clean fun and value.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. 568 gms of glass. $23.80 in a six from Murphy’s.

92 points for whole bunch fiends, 90 for those opposed to shrubbery.

2014 Joan D’Anguera Montsant

A bit of lacklustre googling suggests this might be equal parts Grenache and Syrah. Señor D’Anguera’s website is not exactly comprehensive. The wine in the glass leaves no doubt it follows the trend for less extraction, less ripeness, less oak and lots of stems. More Montsant Morey St Denis, sort of. Starts a little reductive, sulphur and rocks, opens out to sappy cherry and strawberry and some distinctly savoury yeasty lees and old wood. Over a day or two, the struck flint persists and the fruit darkens to almost a dried fruit sweetness. The chalky acidity and stalk tannin sit high. It’s all almost too wild, savoury and stalky acidic but given the amount of good olive oil in Spanish cooking, it makes itself useful. So differed to the oaky ripeness of the recent Can Blau. Such lovely crisp red fruit, sort of Etna Rosso for another odd comparison, probably more Montsant in its own right.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. 548 gms of glass. $28 at auction.

A wild spread of 91 to 94 points.

2016 S C Pannell The Vale

Going back to the blends of Grenache and Shiraz that would have been labelled Burgundy last century, this one shows itself more than the sum of its parts. Spiced poached cherries, dark brandy soaked fruit cake, tar, aniseed and chocolate. Plums galore as it sits in the glass, not for long though, delicious. The structure seems naturally grippy and large enough to handle the generous ripe blast of fruit. Big heart, broad shoulders, firm handshake and no artifice.

14.5% alcohol. Screw cap. 593 gms of glass. Clearance special at Dan’s for $27.88

93 very solid points.

2016 Celler Cecilio Negre Priorat

60% Garnatxa Roja, normal Grenache not Alicante Bouchet I think, and 20% each of Caranyena, or Carignan, and Syrah, thought the Catalans would have their own name for that too? Opens a bit sulphur reductive which never completely clears lending a not disagreeable meaty edge, not too bitter. It’s in the mouth though where things really take off. There’s what seems to be typical Priorat kirsch and sooty fireplace, all so soft and comfortable. Sweet roasting pan juices, some woody herbs and a twist of liquorice too. It’s the rich but not leathery fruit and the cushion of cocoa tannin on a bed of juicy acidity that makes these wines from the near unpronounceable llicorella soil so good and full of character. What I can say, delicious.

14.5% alcohol. Cork. 416 gms of glass. Not sure of the price as it was part of a multi bottle swap, sadly not cheap but compared to Bdx and other Bs relative value.

94 points.

2018 Guillaume Gonnet Le Hardi Côtes du Rhône Villages

Opened ready to go, bright and clean. 80% Grenache, the rest Syrah. Overlay of peanuts, crisp red cherry, pomegranate, woody herbs on a firm bed of acidity and tannin that’s maybe a bit stalky. Medium of body, astutely avoiding over extraction. Deepened after twenty four hours, very squishy ripe raspberries and some chocolate made dark with a soupçon of bitter sulphide. Enough good fruit, particularly with food, to dream of Châteauneuf du Pape. Bit of a bargain really.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. 532 gms of glass. $17 Dan Murphy’s member special.

Solid 92 points.

2018 Jericho GSM

A blend of 85% Grenache, 12% Shiraz and 3% Mourvèdre which means it could be simply labelled as Grenache under Australian labelling rules which apparently allow 15% of something else without having to declare it. Not much chance of real ingredient labelling anytime soon then. Nonetheless, kudos to the Jerichos for being this concise. The label also says it’s from the Blewitt Springs sub region where nearly every McLaren Vale Grenache I’ve enjoyed seems to come from. Smell and flavours thus, leather, earthy, dried cherry and a sort of clove or nutmeg feel. It comes alive on the tongue with really bright rich raspberries, florals, hot cross bun spice and leathery dried grape skins. Good whack of natural feeling, stalky acidity cleans up nicely. Second day and the rich fruit’s quite lolly sweet to the point of almost cloying but that stalky cut organises it well. Delicious but you have to like that youthful power of full throttle sweet Grenache, honest, rich and probably typical of the Springs of Blewitt.

14.20% alcohol. Screw cap. 548 gms of glass. $26, good value.

93 points.

2017 Tardieu Laurent Les Becs Fins Côtes du Rhône Villages

Fat, rich and warm hearted Grenache. Clean and deliciously very ripe raspberries, cherry liqueur, brown spices and those woody herbs that scent the air on a warm Mediterranean afternoon. All these things impact well as it slips through like molten chocolate with just enough life giving acidity to suggest another mouthful. The sort of fruit quality you’d be happy to see in a loftier appellation. Tardieu Laurent know how to source their grapes. For once the wine stained label was not my fault but maybe from a breakage in the case in the auction house storage. The chunky looking chap on the label looks a bit miffed about it. If I drank this regularly, I’d end up with Obelix’s belly. Lush, the wine that is.

14% alcohol. Cork and not the best. $22 win at auction.

93 points.