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.

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.

2018 Pierre et Rodolfe Gauthier Jour du Soif Bourgueil

Maybe jour du soif is French for an AFD, whatever that may be? This is far too good to just quench a simple thirst. Stainless steel only I think and it’s so clean and pure bar a little reduction in the first small glass. Ripe and dark for a Loire red, there’s bright raspberries, sour cherries, almost plum and a satisfying build up of gravelly earth as it slips away. Just as it does, a waft of that sweet green leafiness pops up to remind us it’s Cabernet of the Franc sort. These fleshy evenly ripe flavours have great support from silky ripe skin tannin and comfortable acidity. It proved its worth by staying much more than just thirst slaking over three days. At last, a Loire red wine not spoiled by a dirty barrel.

Following a bit of a google, it seems the producer is also more widely known a Domaine du Bel Air, Gauthier Père at Fils and have been certified organic since 2000. The back label on my bottle was just Pierre et Rodolfe Gauthier. Their more expensive cuvées are finished in oak, hmmm.

13% alcohol. Cork. Think it was about $36?

92 points.

2018 Marquis de Surblet Chinon

To be truthful, I’ve found it difficult to find versions of Loire Cabernet Franc which are technically well made and not blighted by dodgy old oak or bitter sulphide reduction. It’s a beautifully expressive variety, an ancient parent of the assertively tough Cabernet Sauvignon and extremely disappointing when it ends up down the drain. A recent, acclaimed version from the famous Saumur Champigny Les Poyeux vineyard was filthy with both brett, sulphide and a lingering mousiness. Sad really that the most enjoyable efforts have been the more mass produced and commercial. This is a supermarket chain direct import from the cooperative, La Cave des Vins de Rabelais, who it seems enjoyed a good glass of wine himself. Probably made in an all stainless steel, safe yeast and whole berry ferment way for brightness but deliciously glossy from a pretty warm season. There’s bright red fruits, a touch of bubblegum and a sweet green herby drag of ruffled acidity. The first day, there was a balsamic breath to finish that raised doubts about its ability not to collapse by day two. Happily, it actually got better, more fruit weight, more even length and structure. When the Loire’s not being decimated by increasingly common spring frost, it seems global warming is certainly helping with ripening the fruit destined for the everyday table. Just about qualifies as being typical of place and grape which is impressive for the price.

13.50% alcohol, lush. Screwcap, quelle horreur. $13.99.

90 points.

2016 Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur Champigny

Another clean, svelte and tasty red from the Loire. Cabernet Franc in all its raspberry leaf and bright red fruit. Tangy berries and some sweet green herbals show just over the line ripeness. There’s no sourness to the green flavours and the well mingled tannin and acid are mouth-wateringly ripe. A lovely compact palate, fruit and texture held tight and more interesting after three days of oxygen exposure. Great pedigree.

13% alcohol. Cork. $48.

93 points

2016 Jean-François Mérieau Cent Visages Touraine Côt

100% Malbec or Côt as they say in the Loire Valley. Pungently clean perfume of Turkish delight, woody spices veering into star anise, startlingly so. Below are some bright cherries and berries. Terrific flow of spiced fruit with silky tannin and acidity. Floats in the mouth, leaving a gentle waft to linger. Fine and whistle clean. Those lovely obsessives at the City Wine Store certainly know how to tickle my fancy.

12.50% alcohol. Cork. $41.

93 points.

2009 Domaine Coteau de la Biche Vouvray Sec

Smells of rich exotic honey, cut apple and old Catholic Church candles. Chenin can be unbearably large and hefty but this just stays on the side of polite and charming due to some ripe acidity that cuts against the richness. Almost so much that the whole may seem a bit attenuated. Not so, that fruit keeps nagging its presence and builds so well as it slides through. It says sec but there’s a cushion. A terrific tension that seems so typical of the Loire’s douceur…the luxury Stelvin screwcap may help…

12.50%. Screwcap! Was about $30.

92 points but more for sense of place and clean poise.

2016 Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Blanc

Chenin Blanc with a lot of spit and polish. Opens with a bit of spritzy CO2 reduction and noticeable oak. A quick double decant accidentally losing a mouthful down the sink, careful, and the fruit came swimming to the surface as the finest bubbles faded. None of those broad, brassy sulphide yellow flavours of careless Loire Chenin but delicious apples, yellow stone fruit and gin and tonic freshness. Extremely classy fruit, perfect high level acidity and a touch of oak savouriness are so poised it’s almost impossible to say if it’s dry or there’s a touch of residual. Really, who cares, it counterpointed sushi and sashimi so well. Oishhhiii…..hai.

13.50%. Cork. About $100, alas, could drink this more often.

96 points.