1999 Domaine de Montille Volnay 1er cru Les Mitans

A spoil for a very quiet dark Saturday night in Melbourne under curfew. For once the cork was still firm, taut and came out in one piece. Good omen. The contents of the bottle? Very ripe wild strawberries like they sell in those small punnets in French markets. Some rich cherry extract and a good amount of sweet autumnal leaf litter from the twenty years slumber. All very of the essence with no sweetness, each sip leaving a haunting perfume in the retro nasal canyons. Sometimes a good sized nose is a blessing. Great adult flavours built on a firm but lithe backbone of austere chalky acidity and powder fine tannin. Just beautiful.

12.50% alcohol, size it not everything. Cork. 593 gms of glass. Maybe about €40 years ago in Paris.

96 points.

1999 Domaine Perrot Minot Charmes Chambertin

There’s not many 1999s left now in the cellar. This one from the shelves of Lavinia on Boulevard Madeleine. Happy days. Still red in colour and oaky in smell. Lots of new oak does seem to lead to strong colours and a sanitary outcome, lots of furry tannin disrupting the finish too. As well as the oak which it must be admitted is very good, those Burgundians know how to choose being so close to the best coopers, there’s loads of other evocative smells and flavours. Something like an old English pub, worn leather, a smoky open fire and a background of warm alcoholic haze. Buried under the oak and extraction are deeply meaningful notes of kirsch, strawberry liqueur, dark blood orange juice, cocoa powder and an indescribable essence of a fine autumn evening. So pure, dense and achingly sweet. Amazing fruit from a vineyard a road width’s away from Chambertin itself. The nineties were a time when maximum extraction seemed the goal all the way from Central Otago to the Côte d’Or. Some grapes survived the thrashing better than others.

13% alcohol. Cork which broke and crumbled of course. Need more practice with old Burgundy! Memory fails about price but I can remember a €100 limit.

95 points.

2017 St Hubert’s Pinot Noir

St Hubert’s has been a confused brand in the TWE empire of labels for quite a while now. When their friends and family direct sale website had a mystery six pack for $75, I must admit I jumped in. When six bottles of St Hubert’s turned up, they stirred some early memories of Yarra Valley joy before the Penfolds marketing department got their hands on one of the valley’s originals. This bottle was a bit subdued on opening, stalky, brown sugar and spice. As the air got to it, dried strawberry and raspberry preserves with a fleeting whiff of rose oil amongst the woody stalks. Nice use of whole bunches to lift what seems a little awkward ripeness. Although 2017 was thought a later, cooler year, the ripeness here does provoke thought about climate change and just how Pinot Noir will cope in the warmer valley floor sites. Looking forward to some Grenache grafting perhaps?

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $12.50 in a six pack!

90 points for some deft winemaking.

1999 Domaine Alain Burguet Gevrey Chambertin 1er cru Les Champeaux

Not much left in the cellar from the last millennium, now there’s one less. Opened a little red brick coloured but gained a deeper garnet as it aired and rid itself of some still residual sulphur. Still fresh and fragrant. Wild strawberry, perfumed geranium, clove, aniseed and freshly dug sweet loam. Cherry liqueur and chocolate. Weirdly reminiscent of a Bass Phillip when on form in smell and an unfiltered cloudiness. A little smoky reduction still drifts in and out after twenty years of age. Delicious tang of blood orange juice acidity and those so cultured Côte d’Or tannins, now soft and mellow. Les Champeaux is up on the Combe in Gevrey and should be a bit cooler in theory than the lower burly crus. Well, true enough if the wine’s so beautifully fresh and supports the idea as it does here. What is undeniable is the lingering fragrance of a superbly decadent old Burgundy. Another of those hand luggage bottles before the world changed in 2001. Now the idea of any luggage at all seems exotic.

13% alcohol. Long squishy cork just doing the job. Was about €40 from old Caves Augé.

95 points.

2012 Mac Forbes Pinot Noir

Mac Forbes’ wines with their early picked lower alcohols and gentle extraction always make me think of those Yarra Valley Pinots and Cabernets from the 1980s and 1990s, before the boom in planting and warmer seasons. Mac being a Mount Mary alumnus does a lot to focus that impression. This is just what I like in Yarra Pinot, still a bright red, perfumed with ferny undergrowth, herbs and wild strawberries grown in a wild wood. Tart raspberries expand as it ends with a wash of still keen acidity, fine tannins and a hint of lemony oak, all more water coloured than alcohol warmed. The whole thing nicely sweetened by bottle age. The fruit weight may not be loaded enough for some but this is about perfume and focus and all the better for it.

13% alcohol which is almost extreme for a Mac Forbes Pinot. Screwcap. Was about $30 on release.

93 points.

2017 Blackstone Paddock Limited Release Pinot Noir

If you google map Blackstone Paddock, the closest you get is a suburb in Launceston Tasmania called Blackstone Heights. Marketers do love to invent hills, gullies and now paddocks. The back label reveals more, a blend of grapes from Pipers River, sort of near Blackstone Heights, and from Coal River, down south near Hobart. Whatever the source, it’s a convincing effort for well under $20. Smells of Pinot Noir, thus strawberries, cherries, wet green undergrowth, rhubarb and a sprinkle of oak spice. Nicely light to medium weight, not trying too much. The only reservation on day one was a lifted waft of something like feline Sauvignon Blanc, some mint, pine needles and a note of sour green acidity jarring against the warm red fruit. Some over and under ripeness in the blend? Happily, after a day left to compose itself, the blended parts got a lot more comfortable in each others’ company and the acid softened. In fact it carried the flavours to a nice fresh end, tickled by a titchy bit of tannin. Bit cobbled together maybe but it avoids being overwrought, unlike this review.

13.5% alcohol. Screwcap. $15.95 I think from those oddly arranged Aldi shelves.

89 points, sort of 87 first day, 90 second, rounding up the average.

2018 Stoney Rise Pinot Noir

A favourite Tasmanian Pinot producer who seems to get proper flavour ripeness whilst keeping a good freshness. This one does just that with poached strawberries, cherries and a bit of aniseed. A terrific tug of cool acid and fine tannin gives the end a succulence trimmed by that stone like character that seems to be both flavour and texture. It seems to avoid those mint and pine needle flavours of under ripeness and the dark over extraction of the too ambitious. The label provides some good advice about accompanying things, including hare, doo wop, and lovers. Cheers.

12.5% alcohol. Screwcap. $29.

93 points.

2005 Domaine Roblet Monnot Volnay 1er cru Brouillards

Older bottles of Burgundy can certainly be a test of your patience, even after they’ve been carefully left somewhere cool and dark for over a decade, waiting. First the cork was a dreadful piece of tree bark. Carefully turning a good quality corkscrew only led to the middle of the cork collapsing into fine particles and dust. Fifteen minutes of patient digging got most bits out, leaving a small plug that dropped into the neck. Good thing it was so reductive it needed a double decant through a strainer to get the last bits. The first sniff and sip after leaving it to air was, as Billy Connolly once said, like a fart in a space suit, a particularly sulphurous one too. Quite a bit of spritz as well from dissolved CO2. Oh well, not tonight then. Twenty four hours of more breathing and then muttered expletives. Still a little smoky but an incredible density of warm ripe Pinot Noir heaven. Intense, fresh wild strawberries, cherries, liquorice, and chalky earth that bounce around the olfactory bits for what seems a very long time. Like a stairway to heaven, it made me wonder. The sheer concentration coats the mouth with flavour and what flavour. It’s as if the best summer fruit at its most perfectly ripe has been preserved with precision until now. The tannin and acidity were, of course, the perfect foil to carry and then freshen. Once in a while a bottle makes you remember how Burgundy can touch the sublime. Even if it means even more patience.

13% alcohol. Cork, foul but did its job, just. The cost forgotten.

96 points, could have gone 97 if less recalcitrant, the wine not I.

2005 Domaine Jean Claude Bachelet et Fils Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru La Boudriotte

Goodness, maybe that’s the first long French name I’ve carefully typed without a single accent or circumflex. It’s red wine too despite the deluxe Chardy address. Seems Chassagne was prime Pinot soil before vine eating bugs arrived and the world’s infatuation with white Burgundy took hold. This is deeply coloured, just starting to lose some saturation. Good fruit density with smells and tastes of wild strawberry, kirsch cherries and quality chocolate earth. Builds well as it rests in the palate before ending with fine and still fresh acidity and cocoa tannin. The only unwelcome guest in the flavour party is some oak which grates as if it’s been badly seasoned perhaps and tastes a bit of old nuts and stale spice. Delicious grapes though, les gars Bachelet.

13% alcohol. Cork. Was about $45 pre arrival direct import.

93 points.

2016 Ziereisen Blauer Spätburgunder

A Pinot Noir from a far corner of Baden near the Alsace and Swiss border. Deeply coloured for Pinot and dark, sour cherry and plum ripeness too. It’s focused though with no over or under traits, just pure dark fruit and then a liquid rock finish sweeps in, a wild shock for those used to the evenly ploughed earth of Burgundy. Over a couple of days the geology recedes and the gentle purity of fruit gains traction. A pinch of herb seasoning and ripe acidity bring freshness and there’s just a brush of the softest velvet. Cool and calm too. Worth being patient and letting the flavours unfurl. Fastidiously clean and showing great care in the growing and making. Organic too. Nice choice, Randall, the now veteran wine merchant.

12.50% alcohol but ripe. One of those good Gualia screwcaps. $38.

93 points.