2017 Hervé Souhaut Syrah

Time seems to pass so quickly, the first vintage of this quintessential natural wine that won my heart was 1999. A discovery at that Paris haven of real wine, Caves Augé. Some years later and it seems as if the wine making just gets better and the results appear finer, more perfumed and poised. There’s that floral, smoky raspberry thing typical of the Northern Rhône and perhaps also characteristic of whole grape Syrah ferments? Amazingly perfumed, that typicity plus brown baking spices, a riot of autumn berries and rocks. Rich fruit floats on supremely ripe but crisp acidity. Tannin to support, gently. The essence of flavour ripe Syrah on featherweight frame. Just so clean and focused, brilliant craft. Low alcohol too, liver approved.

12.5% alcohol. Nomacorc Green Select. $40 at auction which was good as the RRP is rising most unfairly.

2005 Domaine de l’Oratoire de Saint Martin Cairanne Haut Coustias

The domaine’s top of the range label, still at retail for less than most CNdPs, is normally a blend of 60% old vine Mourvèdre with equal parts Grenache and Syrah making up the rest. It’s always with some trepidation that I risk a bid at auction for something well past its tenth birthday but here’s a well cared for bottle. No ullage, good cork of some length, always a relative term, no leakage and no taint, phew. Starts off with those dusty old bottle of wine smells, no surprise, swirl and air, then gloriously clean plumes of old leather couches, sweet kirsch cherries, blackberries, garrigue and spice, all deep, warming and rich. The fruit power and sweetness backed by an umami glycerol blanket of game meat pan juices, all those caramelised delicious bits. An earthy bass line of clay soil broken up with chalky stones, really. Remarkably all that richness is cooled by perfect fine pixel acidity and the ripest sweet tannins. The label may not be cutting edge fashion but this is great natural wine, biodynamic, no additions apart from some sulphur, I think and so clean and pure. A smile on the face of old Bacchus and me too.

14.5% alcohol. Cork. $33.80 bid.

95 points.

2015 Domaine de l’Oratoire de Saint Martin Cairanne Réserve des Seigneurs

Château Neuf du Pape may get all the tourists and good prices but when it comes to hanging around the southern Rhône the smaller villages like Cairanne and Rasteau get my vote. This great producer has been a favourite since last century. Now biodynamic, this is the property’s entry to its range of Cairanne made up with 80% Grenache, the rest Syrah. Opens with clean aromas of balsamic infused berries, kirsch and the most attractive bits of that Mediterranean scrubby garrigue. Smoothing out with age but still crisp and for want of a better word, smooth, maybe suave even. Just a glide through with just ripe tannin and enough acidity. Real depth of fruit. Great clarity and focus. Warm and generous too. Really ripe in line with hotter and hotter Rhône summers but in no way porty or leathery. It’s entirely subjective but there does seem a better definition to organic and woo woo biodynamic wines. Maybe it’s just more time and care in the vineyard or it’s humans working with the biosphere rather than against. This result is just delicious.

14.5% alcohol. Cork. $39 at auction.

93 points.

2018 Guillaume Gonnet Le Virtuose Lirac

80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. Opened full of Blackforest cake and garrigue shrubbery. As it sucked in a breath of air, it lightened up to brighter red fruit and no small amount of sappy stalks. Good extras in the form of woody herbs, the old Mediterranean scrub and sun warmed earthy stuff. Cocoa powder tannin and enough acidity. Second day and the green chewy stems take up more room but the fruit’s there to cope, just. Could be a little out of whack for some. For me, there’s interest, good clean fun and value.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. 568 gms of glass. $23.80 in a six from Murphy’s.

92 points for whole bunch fiends, 90 for those opposed to shrubbery.

2018 Guillaume Gonnet Le Hardi Côtes du Rhône Villages

Opened ready to go, bright and clean. 80% Grenache, the rest Syrah. Overlay of peanuts, crisp red cherry, pomegranate, woody herbs on a firm bed of acidity and tannin that’s maybe a bit stalky. Medium of body, astutely avoiding over extraction. Deepened after twenty four hours, very squishy ripe raspberries and some chocolate made dark with a soupçon of bitter sulphide. Enough good fruit, particularly with food, to dream of Châteauneuf du Pape. Bit of a bargain really.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. 532 gms of glass. $17 Dan Murphy’s member special.

Solid 92 points.

2010 Les Vins de Vienne Saint Joseph L’Arzelle

Three really good wine producers of the northern Rhône, Cuilleron, Villard and Gaillard got together for this label and produced some great value. Briefly imported into Australia by Dan Murphy’s, sadly no more. Seems to have enjoyed its slumber in bottle, opens with clean, almost new worldly so, smoky red fruits, sort of those raspberry, loganberry or blackberry flavours all mixed up. There’s also brown spices, pepper, a bit of the old charcuterie and incense. Over time a waft of violet on top. Still bright and jaunty. Just so, ripe tannin and acidity are superbly tucked in. A treat on a very cold night, cockles warmed alright.

13.5% alcohol. Fancy 50mm cork. Not sure why Dan’s stopped importing but there’s always the bargain clearance pricing. Just wish I’d bought more than one.

93 points.

2017 Tardieu Laurent Les Becs Fins Côtes du Rhône Villages

Fat, rich and warm hearted Grenache. Clean and deliciously very ripe raspberries, cherry liqueur, brown spices and those woody herbs that scent the air on a warm Mediterranean afternoon. All these things impact well as it slips through like molten chocolate with just enough life giving acidity to suggest another mouthful. The sort of fruit quality you’d be happy to see in a loftier appellation. Tardieu Laurent know how to source their grapes. For once the wine stained label was not my fault but maybe from a breakage in the case in the auction house storage. The chunky looking chap on the label looks a bit miffed about it. If I drank this regularly, I’d end up with Obelix’s belly. Lush, the wine that is.

14% alcohol. Cork and not the best. $22 win at auction.

93 points.

2015 Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône

A wild but intensely delicious Grenache grown organically with some biodynamic twiddling and made with a lot of risk taking if the yeasty, low sulphur edge is an indication. It goes deep into raspberry, spice, cherry, rose perfume and single origin, exotic chocolate. Sits in the mouth and sort of implodes into something like a lump of limestone wrapped in velvet. Despite the feral complications, the extraordinary quality of the grapes here wins out, just. Some would be more technically pragmatic perhaps?

14.8% alcohol. Cork. About €35 from Lavinia in what seems a very far away Paris at the moment.

95 points, much less in a laboratory.

2017 Guillaume Gonnet Le Rêveur Côtes du Rhône

Another value direct import from Woolworths. A whiff of sulphurous reduction to start which airs away to allow flowers, cherry preserve and a slap of sweet leather to emerge. Not huge or deep but gentle and pure in flavour. Over a couple of days, things cleaned up even more and some Southern Rhône shrubbery smells popped up amongst the very ripe fruit. 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah with the former’s ability to hang on to natural acidity very much on show, refreshing and binding the fine tannin. Such value imports are becoming the best reason to visit the shelves at Dan’s. The cheerful and good natured frontline workers braving retail every day in such times are another.

14% alcohol. Screwcap. $18.10 in a six.

90 points.

2017 Cave de Tain Crozes-Hermitage

From the major and very good Northern Rhône cooperative, Cave de Tain, and a direct import by Woolworths, this is a relatively a good value intro into the home of Syrah. If you were expecting a crisp red fruited and smokily floral effort typical of a cooler latitude, then you’ll be surprised by the rich, darker fruited power of what tastes like a hot vintage. Beautifully clean, dark red fruit, spice and chewy dry skin tannin make this more typical of Languedoc or Australia than Crozes. Evolved well over three days, shaking off some sulphide reduction to sweeten nicely. Climate change sceptics need to drink more. The evidence of warmer, earlier vintages is clearly in the glass.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $33.

92 points.