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.
Far too much Italian wine recently but the craving for tannin and acidity with rich winter grub and some lucky wins at auction means no let up yet. From the same maker as the bravely commercial Il Bastardo, this is a traditional DOCG Rufina. Sangiovese with a slug of Colorino. Dark semi dried sour cherries, tobacco, licorice and some well controlled sooty oak. Really drying firm tannins and a smack of ripe acidity. Dark, serious, desiccated skin flavour and texture point toward a hot dry vintage, perhaps? Not quite the cool, red fruit calm that used to mark Rufina. Nonetheless a clean, delicious Sangio that comes into sharp focus with warming oily, cheesy pasta. E basta.
13.50% alcohol. Cork. $20 lucky win at Langton’s, don’t you dare bid on the other two bottles!
Vino da taglio was, or maybe still is, a naughty way for higher alcohol wine from mainly Puglia and Sicily to find its way into under powered Tuscan and other northern producers’ wine. Bravo for this good Chianti Rufina producer playing with the idea and then cheekily calling it The Bastard. Seems it’s good Rufina Sangiovese “cut” with some warming Sicilian Shiraz. Whilst the thought of bastardising the purity of good Sangio is at first horrible, this turns out to be a delicious drink for not a lot of cash. Starts a bit reduced as the screwcap cracks but then opens cleanly with Sangiovese cherries and walnuts warmed by spice and darker berries. Still has that lovely pull of Chianti acid and fine tannin grabbing at some chocolate richness. If you were looking for an easy but genuine intro to Ital wine, stop here and get acquainted. Best thing is the pure Chianti accent can still be heard above the Mezzogiorno’s warm chatter.
13% alcohol. Screwcap on an Italian, bravo. $10 bargain from a Langton’s auction.
89 pizza friendly points.
Somehow Iggy Pop and the Wild One spring to mind drinking this. Dark and growling, terrific energy, some bits flying off at odd angles but compelling. Lifted new leather, walnut and sour cherry Sangiovese, vividly fresh and vibrant, some cedar oak, a bit of wild game verging on not perfectly clean, mouth clearing acid and tannin. Didn’t notice the alcohol percentage until uploading the photo. There’s also some sweeter blackcurrant fruit which may be explained by a percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Rampolla was a star in the early 90s for its Cabernet blends. The fruit sang a rugged harmony to a good pizza. Kept my shirt on though.
14.50% alcohol. Cork. $50.
93 points depending on your acceptance of wild things.
Perhaps a first Sangiovese from those relentlessly great value and energetic Hoddles Creek chaps? Clean, fresh, bright, just medium weighted, cherry scented with a twist of mint and eucalypt forest. Really has that lip smacking, cheek flapping twang of the juicy blood of Jove. One for those who value fruit over extraction. The ripe acidity positively takes it up a notch with some simple pizza or pasta. Bravissimo ragazzi!
13.50% alcohol. Screw cap. $20.
90 deliciosi punti.
A favourite for many years, it’s always been so well made from what tastes like beautifully tended fruit. This is no exception albeit at the very ripe, tannic end of the San Giusto scale. Very clean dark cherry fruit buried in deep dark Valrhona chocolate tannins and firm acidity. Dusty herb gardens. Muscular but poised. Sort of like one of those uncompromising but sure of touch Italian defenders, Georgio Chiellini or Leonardo Bonucci in a bottle. Delicioso with food but a well defended scoreless draw without.
14.50% alcohol. Cork. 20 euros.
The first attempt to drink this was horribly thwarted by a foul cork. Trudging back to the friendly enoteca in Ferrara whence it came for a replacement and the second try was stymied by there being no more in the shop, no chance. So, third time lucky. Eating out in the riches of Emilia-Romagna it’s often worth asking for some advice if you fancy something local, even Lambrusco so close to home is really good, honest. Funny and great to see this again recommended and what a bottle of wine. Screamingly proper, clean, deep and meaningful Sangiovese. Extravagant savoury perfume and a profound depth of maraschino cherries, walnut, earth, almonds, bitter chocolate and almost pomegranate flood the brain. Alive, fresh and clean. Rich and ripe tannins meshed to mouthwatering acidity. Fantastic balance. Well positioned in this year’s greatest hits. Bravissimo indeed. Biodynamic too.
Think about 14% alcohol. Cork prone to disgrace. Unbelievable 24 euros on the wine list, 13 retail! Still rarely possible to find great wine at an amazing price.
96 punti deliciosi.
A very belated post from some time spent in ancient and timeless Perugia that this ancient but sadly not timeless blog forgot to write, oops. After going on about avoiding high alcohols this largely Sangiovese from the long term cult of Bea was going to be interesting. A lot has been written about this fastidious, hard to find producer but I’ve only quickly tasted two of their Sagrantinos at a trade do. Autumnal bottle age and kirsch soaked leathery cherries in a rich and full body. Wham and thump. The ending does seem thinned and hot in a chocolate and fortified way. Some acidity still waves in vain as it sinks below the swell of fumes. Some old oak and clean too. Perhaps this style better suits the broad heft of Sagrantino than Sangiovese. Needs those full jammy blackberries. Coughing up the extra euros may have been worth it? Nonetheless, great to taste something made in an uncompromising and individual way.
15% alcohol. Cork. 30 euros.
Sort of 93 points in a stand back and admire way.
Another label going back to the eighties with fond memories of crisp, mouthwatering high altitude red fruits. This is the first dabble in the ever expanding Antinori repertoire for some time. Quite dark and ripe compared to those of distant memory and a bit just Italian red winey maybe. Nonetheless cleanish, woody spice and cherries and good settled acidity. Only the last glass of a bottle that disappeared too quickly over a meal started to show some walnutty leather of proper Tuscan Sangiovese. Warm rich year, warmer climate, different vines or a dodgy memory the difference?
13.50% alcohol. Cork. 11.90 euros.
Sometimes simple, fresh and crunchy is just what the table needs. Straightforward red cherries with some considerable bracing acidity. Spotlessly clean and perfumed, it’s great to see low alcohol and strict acid grip in a modern version of what good basic Chianti was in rose tinted hindsight. A recent 2015 vintage from an osteria wine list was richer, more delicious and led to a reflexive grab for this from the shelf. Despite being a bit washy, a touch dilute and maybe young viney, this disappeared deliciously quickly with the inevitable Ital carbs and veg.
12.50% alcohol and Diam, good combination. 8 euros in the lovely Perugia superdeli of Umbró.