2019 Le Grand Roi Bouches du Rhône IGP

A Dan Murphy’s members’ special for $9 a bottle. Not sure what a knife wielding moose in a English gent’s hunting jacket has to do with the mouth of the mighty Rhône river? Caught the eye in a strange way though. In the words of Rob Brydon in one of those Trip to…. films with Steve Coogan, my bouche is amused. This is extraordinary for the money. A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, it opened with a bit of bubblegum but the fruit emerged in an hour or so. Very ripe plum, cherry, into raisins and fruitcake. Bit syrupy and low in acidity but persistent with Mediterranean scrub and a tasty saline tannic end of surprising plushness. Some dodgy negotiant CNdP bottlings of yore weren’t as good as this, although that may be faint praise. Really quite a decent clean glass of wine. Might well be the Carignan adding character? Maybe not.

14.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $9.

90 points.

2015 Domaine Brusset Les Travers Cairanne

A GSM with a bit of C for Cinsault and from a favourite recent vintage. Unlike a less than sanitary 2012 version the invitation to sniff and drink here is clean and full of summer berries, dark chocolate with a cloud of Rhone violets and smoke. Deepens in the glass but never teeters into over ripeness. Blueberries, particularly their chewy skins and deep cherry liqueur emerge, touched with those old Mediterranean woody herbs. The shape is pushing the heroic with fresh acidity despite the ripeness and solid velvet tannin. Good enough to be confused with a good CNdP with a good rocky crunch. Very satisfying notwithstanding the last mouthful of sediment and bits. Teach me to drain the glass without looking.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $32 at auction, sad there was only one bottle.

94 points,

2017 Domaine Bordes Les Narys Saint Chinian

A small organic producer practicing biodynamic agriculture. Looks pretty hipster, low sulphur yeasty when first opened with that distinctive aroma that Alice Feiring wonderfully described as puppy breath. A blend it seems of 30% Syrah, 30% Grenache with the rest split evenly between Mourvèdre and Carignan, it’s the Syrah that shines bright as it settled down the second day. Just medium weight, pure smoky, flowery, red berried and herby with a squeeze of blood orange over a bass of earth and roast juices. Energetic mouthwatering acidity and just a brush of powdery tannin finish it off with aplomb. Thought it too wild and volatile the first day only to be smitten the second. If you can’t hit a natural cave à manger for a carafe and plate for the moment, stay home with this.

14% alcohol. Cork. $32.50 at auction.

92 points but a bonus for a delicious, natural and edgy drink.

2014 Château de Lascaux Carra Pic Saint Loup Languedoc

Only recently confirmed by the AOC, now AOP, authorities as an appellation without the additional need for Languedoc, whether controlled or protected, Pic Saint Loup it seems is a cooler, wetter and one of the most northerly of the newer Languedoc appellations making it suitable for Syrah dominant bottles in the style of the Northern Rhône some say. This is 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache and comes from a producer who must be the near those ancient Lascaux cave paintings judging from the horse on the label. Looks more warm Languedoc to me with sooty red fruit jam, kirsch and dark blackberries. A bit of dark spice and pepper too. A lift of ethyl acetate berry shrivel stops it feeling leaden with ripeness. The muscle continues with dark rocky tannins adding to the depth and richness of fruit. Starts, middles and ends with spotless hygiene. Hefty but still some poise. Lovely rich glass of red wine on a cold and windy night.

14% alcohol. Cork. $32.30 at auction.

93 points.

2019 Ulithorne Chi Grenache Shiraz

Oh well, another of those bottles that tries to convince its quality by sheer heft. First growth Bordeaux fetches a lot more with much less glass. Nonetheless, Blewitt Springs seems to be a sub region producing Grenache of deliciousness, albeit possibly compromised by the addition of Shiraz here. Comfortably medium weight, starting with savoury peanuts, cherry jam, strawberry perfume, spices and a slightly salty finish, holding up well on naturally ripe acidity and velvet tannins. I do like it’s composure and making, less extraction, less oak, more interest. Higher toned perfumes emerge, roses, strawberry juice, a few of my favourite things. Poise and elan rather than weight and muscle, raindrops on roses, that’s enough Sound of Music.

14.5% alcohol but not showing too much warmth. Screw cap. $13.65 at auction which is quite a score these days as more people with Covid avoidance time on their hands plunder the lists.

93 points.

2020 The Story Super G Grampians Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre

Another from the super value six pack from Rory and his Story. It’s not breaking news to say it was apparent to grape farmers a long time ago that something was awry with the weather as their crop was on average ripening a bit earlier each year. I’ve heard candid comment about the sustainability of getting Shiraz flavour ripe in its most revered old vineyards from those who earn their living there each and every year. Happily for some there’s always been Grenache and Mourvèdre planted to thrive in those once were infrequent very hot years. The Grampians used to struggle to ripen Shiraz some years, now there’s interest in varieties that cope with the heat and need less water in an area where it’s always been less than abundant. Super G to the rescue perhaps? Early days but this may be the future. Medium weight, bright as a ruby in the sun, fragrant smack in the chops of roses, Turkish Delight, cherries, plums, spice, meat juices and earth. Just bottled primary fruit sweetness cut by stem sap and savour. Good gloss of fruit, a blend more than the sum of its parts perhaps? I like, super good.

13.5% alcohol, seems a recurring story. Screw cap. Part of the six for $150.

92 points.

2015 Domaine du Cayron Gigondas

An old favourite from the 1990s and rarely sighted in recent years. When a single and lonely bottle appeared on that desperately addictive auction website, well, budget be damned, here we go. Luckily, the label’s not as sought after as some and it came in under my bravest bid and normal retail. Initial impressions were good, nice new smart label, great vintage and sealed with a Diam. First sniff was off putting, horrible stink of sulphide and maybe some of the dreaded B word? Only thing to do was to stuff the better than a cork closure back in, put it in the fridge for twenty four hours and hope. The next day and all’s well. Now clean and sprightly smells of vibrant red fruit, a touch of balsamic lift, an attractive sweet herby spike, chocolate and plums add dimension. Profound and resonant in the mouth with a great depth of bright fresh fruit, a tar and earth richness and a tug of garrigue, a warming sense of place. Finally a firm but softly ripe flood of tannin and life extending acidity, the wine’s not mine, although it’s good to hope. Must say there’s an extraordinary freshness and no sense of tired old browning Grenache to prevent this staying a long and delicious course. Maybe it’s the unusual 15% Cinsault giving acidity helped by 14% Syrah which did so well in 2015 and the 1% Mourvèdre, a tiny bit going a long way? The 70% Grenache tastes extremely good though. Sad it was just a singleton.

14% alcohol. Diam. $65.

95 points but definitely not on opening.

2016 Clos du Gravillas Sous les cailloux des grillons Vin de Pays de Côtes du Brian

A beautifully complicated French name, something like, “under the stones, there’s crickets”. Seems the vineyards are stoney in a CNdP way and the crickets think it’s a nice spot to sit and make some noise. It also looks like the authorities responsible for naming VdP areas are big Monty Python film fans in the same way as the Catholic Church liked naming Burgundy vineyards. The wine’s back label continues the complications by listing eight or so ingredient varieties, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Grenache, Counoise, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Terrets Red, in the plural meaning perhaps there’s the red and Gris version of this ancient variety? Labels really don’t get much better for those nerds amongst us. Probably a good indication of old vineyards planted promiscuously as of old to hedge bets in ripeness despite the season. Well, the wine itself? Spotlessly clean, bright red fruited and delicious in a drink me now way but the stuffing to keep it delicious over a couple of days. Sweet cherry and spice to commence, a swell of rocks, gravel and almond paste, then Mediterranean scrubby sweetness and roasting pan juices to finish. Bright natural feeling acidity and drying towel of fine tannin. Clos du Gravillas also make an upmarket Carignan, if that’s not an oxymoron, from ancient vines giving great depth of fruit. Praise be to Brian.

13% alcohol. Cork. $24 at auction.

92 or 93 for hard work in amongst the crickets.

2018 Domaine Clos du Bagatelle Les Sentiers de Bagatelle à l’Origine Saint Chinian AOP

Many words in a name, a lot of flavour in the glass. A blend of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache in roughly equal parts. Lovely purple red colour like something from the more technical new world way of making. Smells like Languedoc though, albeit beautifully fresh and clean. Pure flavours of kirsch, soot, dark dried cherries and that Mediterranean scrub they call garrigue. Nice crunch of chalky acidity and tannin. Smatter of mocha oak seasoning. Warmth and brightness at ease with each other. Seems very polished in the technique, sort of Bordeaux gloss meets Languedoc generosity. There’s something in the rich sooty cherry flavours that bring to mind the tension of good Priorat, old vine Carignan? There’s two more bottles on the auction site. Big brave bid.

13.5% alcohol. One of those odd one plus one agglomerate stoppers, sort of Diam maybe? $29 at auction.

93 points.

2019 Thistledown Summer Road Old Vine Grenache Shiraz

It’s quite sobering, metaphorically thank goodness, to find that your supposed astuteness in seeking bargains is stuffed. This has a RRP of $75, so scoring a couple of bottles for a lot less at auction meant self congratulation until it turned up on the Vinomofo site for $25, what do I know? Nonetheless, probably a lot less, this is still a finely crafted bit of what McLaren Vale does best. Warm brown spices, stems? Sooty dark berries, purple flowers, don’t mind me, raspberries all flow on good ripe skin tannin and settled acidity. Made with discretion, a tickle of greener stem tannin emerges to stop things being too fruit sweet. Lovely to drink, cheerful and honest, notwithstanding price or a particularly heavy glass bottle. Wish the sensitivity of touch extended to the packaging.

14.5% alcohol. Screw cap. Price, well, variable.

93 points.