2020 Gran Sasso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

For not much money we may be getting something a nudge up from the bottom of the quality pyramid. I think it’s from a clever operation buying good grapes in quite a few regions and looking for something safe and clean but properly whence it comes too. In the days when friends would let me tell them what to put on their restaurants’ wine lists, this often helped financially and slid the pasta go down nicely. A decade later and it’s still helping with the illusion that the wine budget’s OK. Maybe one of the better recent years? Vivid purple and red, clean, a punch of bramble fruit, fresh and preserved. Not that deep but the boisterous Monty skin tannin and crunchy acid are well under control, nipping the fruit but not imposing. There’s a volcanic smell and salami savoury lick that adds interest. Really well made. Bouncy fun.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $15 well spent.

89 for sure, easily persuaded 90.

2021 Michele Chiarlo Palás Barbera d’Asti

The 2019 was such a good, straightforward bright and light crunchy fruit effort. This new vintage is even better. First day and it looked as simply delicious as the 2019 but given 24 hours of oxygen and there’s good indication of how 2021 may justify the early praise. Such a pretty red purple colour in appearance and flavour if you can taste colours? Freshly squished berries, bramble jelly, wine gums and that sort of gently caramelised jam Barbera brings to mind. Not much tannin but a whoosh of tart and ripe acidity cleans out the mouth and leaves it watering for more. Such a good foil for pizza that it’s far too easy to eat and drink and repeat till it’s all gone. Simple pleasure indeed.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $19 in a Murphy’s six.

91 points.

Of the others in this month’s Murphy trials….

2019 Cantina di Montalcino Rosso di Montalcino

Volcanic amount of sulphury reduction that didn’t really let go over two days. Underneath the smoke and bitter swell there’s some good acidity and Sangio tannin but it would have been good to actually taste it

14% alcohol. Diam. $26.60

87 points.

2018 Guillaume Gonnet Monsieur Grenache VdT

Oh dear, this is what happens when a lot of H2S turns into mercaptan. Filthy and undrinkable.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $13 member’s special.

N R

2019 Pala i fiori Cannonau di Sardegna

A friend who’s much more energetic when it comes to battling those free retail tastings thoughtfully emailed his view of a Prince Wine Store event in deepest South Melbourne. The theme was wine from the European islands. What about Grenache from Sardinia I demanded? Seems there was some Cannonau as it is called thereabouts I was corrected. They included a not too bad one from a maker named Pala. New one for me I, my failing memory blanked. That’s two memory lapses about very important wine things. I should also pay more attention to bids at auction. Amongst them was this bottle from Pala, a welcome sort of coincidental memory fart for once. Just medium weight, a little developed, there were cherry syrup and red fruit things. A good clean crunch of, here we go again, rocky earthy minerals. I’m heartened proper describers of wine sometimes resort to those vague words. The earthy combination of flavour and texture seemed nicely sweet too. Lower acidity and glycerol smooth gave the feeling of gentle but still strong fruit quality. Nonetheless, a savoury tilt and those rocks made me think more of Spain than the Rhone or South Australia. Time for more Grenache journeys.

13.5% alcohol. Nomacorc sugar cane seeking closure. $22 at auction which is a bit less than retail. Phew.

91 points.

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.

Yikes, another one that got reviewed before, almost exactly a year ago. Seems blushes are spared as both similar and same points. Good fun if you don’t check before posting.

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.