2013 Paolo e Lorenzo Marchionni Poggio della Bruna L’Erta Toscana Sangiovese IGT

Shared at the table with the 2008 Vietti Castiglione and again no proper note but equally worth a shout. From what seems a small producer near Florence and only made in good vintages. Spotlessly clean, gently extracted and just a touch of good clean oak. Simply perfect, gently savoury Sangiovese, dark cherry, that sweet leather and bitter almond paste to close. Exquisitely fresh and ripe sweet tannin settled into mouthwatering acidity. Not for those seeking hefty, power packed Brunello but for us who value quiet charm. Reminds me of those lovely Castell’in Villa Chianti. This and the Vietti were the best of Italians with impeccable table manners. Perfetto indeed.

14% alcohol but again no sense of heat. Cork? What a thoughtful dinner guest to bring such treats.

94 points plus a bit for quiet deliciousness.

2008 Vietti Castiglione Barolo

Enjoyed over the dinner table without a proper note but so good, it’s maybe worth a comment? Opened with a lush, clean and modern edge with perhaps a waft of dusty oak. Given half an hour in the decanter after a vigorous double decant and it seemed to lose weight but gained perfume and focus. Rose oil, sweet and tart cherry, darker red fruit and a hallelujah chorus of bright Castiglione dirt carried on tongue coating tannins so sweet they melt and last a very long time. So fresh and bright after its slumber. There was tar and maybe porcini too. All the unfettered flavours of Barolo suavely poised in a perfect Armani suit. One of my first 2008s and there’s a balance of ripeness and zing which had me checking the cellar list for more. No rush though.

14.5% alcohol but no sign of warmth. Cork. Think it was a very thoughtful gift.

95 points, easy.

2018 Davide Carlone Colline Novaresi Nebbiolo

On the way between Milan and Turin as the high speed train thundered through the town of Novara, I did idly think a stop would be interesting. Gazing north to Lake Maggiore, the country looked gently hilly and quietly inviting for wine exploration, one day. Seems I’m not alone as those Mondo Import lads from Boccaccio Cellars have been bringing in Davide Carlone’s wines for a few years now at direct prices that are very tempting. This bottle opened with a health spa blast of bitter herbs which quickly evened out into rose oil, crisp red cherry buffed with granite dust tannin and well mingled ripe acidity. Over three days, the fruit darkened to maraschino cherry and some roasted nuttiness. The true nuttiness though would be to drink this without good Ital stylee food. Swishing a sip after a mouthful of a Sunday night pizza treat isolated all that sweet Nebbiolo tang into pure delicious pleasure. And that was after three days of oxygen exposure, more reason for slow food. The thought occurred this is sort of between the power of Barolo and the mountain crispness of the Valtellina, geographically obvious really, duh.

13.5% alcohol. Diam, good. $38 in Neb terms, value.

92 points to start, 93 to finish, plus plus for pizza appropriateness.

2016 Tenuta La Viola Il Colombarone Romagna Sangiovese Superiore

Emilia Romagna is a favourite bit of Italy. Beautiful old cities and great food and a delightful paradox of wealth and a tendency to vote for socialist councils. Champagne communism, health, education and fresh truffles for all. Interesting local wine too, from unfashionably delicious Lambrusco to Sangiovese further down the Po that sit so well on the table. This one seems made with care from quality grapes. Clean and fresh with both smells and flavours of distinctive Sangiovese that suggest cherries, leather and roast nuts. Medium bodied and that singularity of tannin and acidity that Italy does, all as a whole. The tannins bristle with delicious grape skin ripeness. The twenty percent new oak virtually invisible such is Sangiovese’s affinity to a bit of judicious barrel. Le tagliatelle al ragù and this wins my vote.

14% alcohol. Nomacorc. $39.

93 points

2019 Tasca d’Almerita Tenuta Regaleali Lamùri Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC

From a Sicilian family estate traditionally spacious in the possession of dirt and a first review of Nero d’Avola hereabouts. Fresh cherry red and cherry flavours to match. Tang of cherry juice and a sweetness of dried cherry too. Light dusting of spice. A fragrant overlay of dried herbs, sage and almost oregano, appropriate for Sicily. Touch of clove and dusty wood. Only just ripe enough with a pucker of perky acidity and fresh tea tannin. The data sheet says 20% new oak but it’s not imposing as it wafts in and out and tickles the tannins as it closes. Bright and cheerful the first day. Perhaps my palate wobbled the second day or the fruit is a touch under ripe and green as there’s a lurking bitter end. Bit of sulphide or green, not sure. Could be just failing faculties as I thought it tasty at first.

13.5% alcohol. Nomacorc. $24 Dan’s member’s special.

91 points day one, 87 day two or palate aberration? Probably not on the list to buy again, so I may never know.

This isn’t turning out to be the most inspiring monthly Dan’s six imports. A longtime interest in things Portuguese and a not exactly overwhelming choice at Dan’s meant another look at the Coutada Velha Signature from the Monte da Ravasqueira estate. Must admit to trying the 2019 version which didn’t excite enough to heartily recommend. Too much in the ripe unctuous style for me. No doubt others would enjoy the rich fruit more. The 2020 has appeared on the shelves. Running out of new options, I reckoned it worth a look as the Alentejo can be a happy place for bright, rich and good value wine. Quite developed for its age, sweet dried berries, orange skin oil, soy and dashi savoury to season. Quite old school Australian in shape with a burst of up the front fruit that tapers to a tangy end that sits a little outside the flavours. Second day, there’s a bit of lift and some of that Iberian rocky cut emerges. A blend of Aragonez or Tempranillo, Trincadeira and Touriga Nacional. Google research, is there any other sort, suggests there’s an Australian chief winemaker at Ravasqueira. I remember reading about David Baverstock overhauling old dirty winery practices in the early 1990s in the Alentejo. Still going strong it seems with bottles of wide appeal. At the price they make a strong claim.

13.5% alcohol. Diam. $18.10 in a six.

89 solid points.

Well, that wasn’t the best six from Dan’s. The last bottle a 2018 Frescobaldi Nipozanno Chianti Rufina Riserva was very disappointing, especially as their Montesodi bottling has been amongst my best Tuscans ever. Opened smelling of horse farts and got worse. Clean your barrels you wealthy Frescobaldi aristocrats, you can afford it.

13.5% alcohol and you’d be desperate. Diam. $32 member’s special.

No score, thought I’d offer a view to help avoidance.

2010 Ca’ Rome Maria di Brün Barbaresco

Having opened a leaden, malty and hulking 2010 Barolo recently and read alarming reports of disappointments with the vintage, thought it time to see if money and patience had been wasted, a familiar sensation to Burgundy fiends especially. Seems this is named for the winemaker’s mum and comes from a special bit of the special Rabaja cru planted to the Michet clone. Important info thanks to importers Trembath and Taylor and their detailed website. The first small pour wasn’t encouraging, looking a bit rusty and tired but air brought a sense of relief as the colour brightened and darkened, if that makes sense? Black cherry, deep tarry earth flavours and a flicker of juicy red fruit to bring a twinkle of chiara to the profound scuro. More air and interminable swirling bring liquorice root and fennel to saturate the retro nasal canyons, intense. Ripe acidity sluices it all through the mouth. The tannins, and what tannins, throb and build and take no prisoners. Brilliant but don’t think it’s possible for wine to be any more positively tannic. Couldn’t imagine trying to drink this without something full of protein and fat to eat. Monumental antioxidant Nebbiolo. Seems there’s another in the cellar to wrestle should bottle variation and cork be kind.

14% alcohol. Cork. Was possibly about $100 or so of recklessly optimistic spending.

95 points and no arguing with those tannins.

2020 Cavallotto Dolcetto d’Alba Vigna Scot

Location indeed. Not the beautiful, politically sensible bit of the British Isles but between Bricco Boschis and Monprivato as they buttress the rise to Castiglione Falletto. To find Dolcetto in such real estate is good. To have it then grown and turned into wine by Cavallotto is better. I’ve read they make it in roughly the same way as Nebbiolo to extract good tannin and avoid the reduction which can afflict Dolcetto. It surely presents thus in the glass. Austere smells of rocks, sweet earth and those Piemontese cherries. All quite strict and quiet until the end where there’s a pleasing dance of pure sweet fruit, firm but melted skin tannin and acidity of perfect ripeness. No lush fruit explosion just confident refreshment, sort of like old school claret. Second day and it changes gear with a purr like an old Alpha. Fresher, richer and deeper but paradoxically more severe. Uncompromising tannin and ripe acidity blast through the beautifully detailed, tartly sweet depth of fruit. Challenging you to find something deliciously Italian to eat. Then the structure makes perfect sense. Probably not as good with haggis but I haven’t tried.

13% alcohol and such poise. Cork albeit a first grade sort. $50 and value still. Think I’ll have to buy another.

93 points but I wouldn’t argue with 94 the second day.

2016 Paitin Sori’ Paitin Dolcetto d’Alba

Probably said it many times but The Winefront is probably the most useful resource for we who chase honest pleasure from our purchases. When this scrolled up on a Langton’s auction, the fine review made a bid obligatory really. Spot on the review is too. Goodness I love good Dolcetto, sort of austerely sophisticated yet generous and yum at the same time. Here be dark, tartly ripe cherries, sweeter blackberry, the tang and depth of blood oranges, aniseed and an anchor of good Langhe dirt. The fruit’s so good, it’s freshness frozen in time, just smoothed a little by age. I wish. So delicious with umami rich veggies and tomato sugo. Great surge of chocolate ripe furry tannin and a lick of acidity to finally clear up my dribble. Seems those Piemontese take pleasure at the table very seriously. Take your time, chew thoughtfully, sip and reflect. Sloowww fooodddd.

13.5% alcohol. Diam. $40 at auction.

93 points.

2020 Cantine Settesoli Mandrarossa Frappato Costadune Terre Siciliane IGT

Another of Dan’s July budget savers. A close up bottle image rather than repeat the seven bottle line up again. Pretty colour label. Italy’s heritage of what seems like thousands of grape varieties is great territory for the nerd, guilty. I just about remember a tasty Planeta bottle of Frappato in purezza and a Cerasuolo di Vittoria where it’s blended with stodgy old Nero d’Avola to bring perfume and life. Not to be confused with Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo of course which is a rosato made from Montepulciano. Love Italian convolution. Good to see this on Dan’s shelves then. Settesoli I also remember were a major player in Sicilian imports in the nineties. Judging from their website, they’re still commercially powerful. Well, this is nothing like the Planeta version I remember, it’s light of weight and took a hour or two to open up after seeming washy and a bit dilute at first. With air it’s seventies disco perfume time. Fragrant with musky rose water, raspberries, almost like a red version of one of those Muscat variations. Bit challenging and odd to the red wine drinker’s expectations. Second day and the perfume’s toned down a notch, more red fruit, sort of New World Pinot Noir in shape and texture but uniquely Frappato in flavour. Spice and volcanic rocks push against the perfume. Good smear of drying skin tannin and an incoming tide of firm acidity. It finally dawned that if you were to drink this fridge cooled with one of those western Sicily seafood couscous, then it would make sense, obvious really. The thought did also occur that if I had tasted this from one of those black Riedel tasting glasses, I think I might of thought it a white made with skin contact such is the surprise awaiting here. Warning, Australian Shiraz it is not.

13% alcohol. One of those odd conglomerate corks with a disc of cork glued each end, why bother? $17.10

Started 87 points but warmed up to an open minded 91. What’s Italian for vive la difference?

2020 Combe St Jean Bourgogne Gamay and 2019 Tenuta Santodeno Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore

Two direct imports from Dan Murphy’s or Pinnacle Drinks or whichever brand one of the three big supermarkets who bypass the usual wholesale call themselves. Australia’s appalling wine taxation seems to make us wine freaks seek some import value wherever we can. I’ve noticed that the most viewed posts on this sporadic blog seem to be for cheap imports, glad to know I’m not alone in my ache to find a gem that helps the budget. The exploration has been entirely Dan Murphy’s and Aldi. One day I’ll brave Vintage Cellars or the other versions of Coles booze outlets again but their silly pricing and lack of spark still look pretty discouraging. Dan’s and on rare occasion, Aldi offer the odd one good enough to raise the enthusiasm for a recommendation. Often the shiny new French, Italian or Spaniard on the shelf turns out to be not exactly a disaster but something that’s just acceptable, certainly not worth bothering a reader about. Maybe it’s worth the time to point out those that are OK if you’re desperate for a latin fandango but not much more. I’ve certainly laboured my way through a few over two or three nights. Don’t think a little disparaging here is exactly going to worry the megastores. It’s only opinion anyway. So….things to maybe avoid if you want to make every bottle count.

The Bourgogne Gamay. Impossible to nail down a producer. Googling just leads to opaque branding and a suggestion the Gamay in question comes from “Beaujolais Crus”, who knows where the Combe St Jean makes wine? Light to medium weight, sappy cherries, sweet green herbs and nuts, good firm 2020 acidity but dilute through the end just when you’d prefer some weight and clipped with what tastes like a heavy hand with safety first sulphur flinging. The Mommessin from Dan’s versions are much better value and often delicious. Enough here to go back to see if there’s more to come but ultimately there’s not.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $23.80 in a six.

87 or 88 points and a nice gold medal sticker too.

The Sangiovese. Must admit to a long time love of Emilia Romagna, Champagne socialists, food, red brick ancient cities, delightfully out of fashion Lambrusco and the occasional great Sangiovese. Whenever a new Sangio import appears, the lure is siren. Flashy heavy bottle here, filled by a winery that’s part of one of those large conglomerate Italian businesses. Industrially clean, heavily extracted from just OK, just ripe enough grapes. Loads of furry tannin and reasonably mouth friendly acidity. Sadly, the fruit decides to take a holiday as that structure flexes. Not sure I could say it were Sangiovese were it not on the label. Again, no faults but not much joy. it’s very difficult to find proper Sangiovese under $30. Suggestions welcome.

14% alcohol. Diam. $17.80 in a six.

87 points.