2018 Domaine Georges Vernay Les Fleurs du Mai Syrah Des Collines Rhodaniennes IGP

One of the most respected Condrieu producers who also make great Côte Rotie which I’ve been lucky enough to drink just once. This bottle appeared on the Langtons auction site. To follow the old Clive Coates maxim that you should seek the colder sites in hot years I made a bid. It seemed oddly appropriate as November is our May in the inverted Southern Hemisphere. Maybe a flowery omen? Hopefully not the Fleurs du Mal of Baudelaire to be really pretentious. My $28 bid won to my eyebrow raising surprise as googling revealed you can still buy a bottle in Melbourne for $65, lucky me. Clean and extravagantly smelly on opening. Just so ripe raspberries, exotic spice bazaar fragrances and incense, blimey. Flowers and smoke. Hints of liquorice too. Just medium bodied, it tightens across the tongue and floats off on wisps of high resolution tannin with both the flavour and acidity of really ripe and dark blood orange. Incredibly good grapes coaxed into my lucky glass with no mucking about, great lightness of touch. Two words, clarity and focus. How good is their Côte Rotie these days?

13% alcohol. Diam. $28, like winning a lottery.

93 points to start, easy 94 to 95 as the bottle went down.

2015 Innocent Bystander Syrah

When this was first released it was a cracking buy close to $20 when discounted. The very good 2015 vintage fruit looked round, poised and filled the senses with vinous joy with the whole bunch herb and woody spice adding a satisfying counterpoint. I must admit to fretting a bit about how these cooler, or should that be less hot, vineyard Shiraz progress with time in the bottle? Must admit to enjoy calling it Shiraz, it seems to add to the debate, hee hee. Let’s see. Dusty bottle age lifts to perfumed spice, stems or Shiraz spice or a bit of both? Loads of tart red fruits like an English pudding sit fat on the tongue, still fresh and bright. Some pepper and more of that spice too. The end and overall texture are drawn tight by some sour green stem tannin and acidity. Wether this is a pleasant tension or a distraction from some beautiful fruit is open to discussion for me. I found a tech sheet that says 40% whole bunch, so it’s there to some extent. I think I preferred this in its bouncy youth as I do a lot of Australian red wine. Fascinating to get the chance to compare and contemplate. Serious business this wine thing.

13.8% alcohol. Screw cap. $26 at auction.

91 to 93 points depending on whole bunch enjoyment?

2019 The Story Grampians Syrah

How big be the influence ancient Greek culture and it’s imperial Roman offshoot on us modern westerners? Apart from the politics and art stuff, what’s wrong with a low key Bacchic revel now and then? A tangle with a classics education seems to lead to the need for a drink. Heritage, that’s my excuse. The back label says the Hydra of Lerna is pictured to represent a vintage with a series of challenges to face, metaphorical heads to sever. The Romans get a look in too as the front label reverts to MMXIX for the vintage. To the drink before Monty Python jokes take over. Initial impression of rich and ripe for the label. Raspberries and blackberries in syrup, plump and dark. Holds onto freshness though and well seasoned with brown spices and what feels like woody stem flavour and tannin. Gains some energy at the end with sweet skin tannin for a bit of lush pleasure. As it opens up on the second day, things get more serious. Dark and earthy at its concentrated core. A frown that says come back in a few years and we’ll see. Hidden depths?

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $30, value.

94+ points.

2010 The Story Temperance Grampians Shiraz

The second Shiraz from the cellar for a comparison to the 2013 Pannell Jimmy Watson winner, see previous post. And another in the whole bunch, new but ancient way of making. Starts out looking much more stem influenced than the Pannell with scents of tobacco, woody herbs and some older wine leather. Must say the stems seem brown and woody rather than green and sappy. Oxygen works its changes and freshens up fruit flavours of somewhere between raspberries and blackberries, loganberry? A sweet green herb pesto underneath the bright swell of rich berries. Touch saline and savoury with age to end but the chunkiness of Grampians Shiraz still stands firm. Structure being as important as flavour in wine, once again The Story scores well with a twist of ripe skin and stem tannin and comfortable acidity to leave space for another sip. Not exactly articulate but yum.

13.5% alcohol, some sort of temperance compared to Parkerised monsters. Screw cap. $25 ten years ago I think?

93 points.

2013 S C Pannell Adelaide Hills Syrah

The 2014 Jimmy Watson Trophy winner no less and a measure of how the pendulum of Australian Shiraz fashion swung away from muscled ripeness on the limit dressed in coconut and vanilla. My memory could well be failing but perhaps this was on the shelves at King and Godfrey in Carlton before the RM show results were announced? I remember a floor stack priced at something like $26 a bottle which then went up to full RRP of $30. Not exactly profiteering. Time to open one and see if age has wearied it. Not much it seems. A waft of dusty bottle age, then fresh dark berries, spice and tarry earth come bounding from the glass. Rich in fruit held by a glide of velvet tannin. Second day and really up on its toes. Fresher dark berries and bright cherry fruit light up the middle with spice and white pepper. Perfect middle weight. The brown woody stems fit seamlessly into the settled acidity. All good things folded into each other. So neat and tidy but delicious. Syrah or Shiraz notwithstanding, it’s still one of the best new wave efforts to find its way into my glass. Glad I bought a couple.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $26 if memory serves.

Started 93 points but rose to 94 and then 95 perhaps.

2018 Fairbank Syrah

From an estate born of what seems equine wealth. Must admit never having been to a horse race, mystery to me. Victoria appears littered with horse breeding places involving considerable amounts of money. Hope it’s a bit more profitable than the struggle to make a small fortune in wine after investing a large one. Opens well after half an hour or so with clean, sweet sappy herbs and whole berry brightness. Gentle medium weighted core of savoury spices, bay leaf and red berries. Seems to isolate the good flavours in middle Victorian Shiraz without being over ripe or over oaked. The tannins are stem woody with fresh acidity tucked in nicely. Second day, the fruit gets a bit richer into plum flavours and a waft of retro nasal red fruit perfume. Touch of road tar on a warm day too. Made in a way that gets the best of the ingredients.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $25ish.

92 solid points.

2021 Eastern Laneway Vintners Grampians Shiraz

The label says a Shiraz of genuine class and elegance. Two virtues unusual to the aisles of Aldi whence comes this bargain. Loads of fresh as a new government fruit, pepper and raspberries seasoned with a whip of herby stems. Seamless glide of fine tannin and fresh acidity. Despite the advertised 14% on the label there’s a coolness to the fruit that suggests good even ripening. A burst of 30 degree warm, sunny autumn weather seems to have been a blessing to a cool, sometimes damp La Niña season. There’s maybe a young vine washy dilution through the end but Grampians beggars must be very grateful for such a sensitively made Shiraz for not much. Probably at its best now and for the next year or so. I had to buy another, the true test.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $12.

90 points.

2018 Sutton Grange Syrah

Despite the label, from Bendigo it must be Sheeerrrarrzzz. Early journeys to the wine country of Victoria in the late 1980s led to the softest of spots for the robust, sweet minty wines from Bendigo and Heathcote. Thirty years on and this is the best sort of memory aid. Spotlessly clean and pure. Waft of mint, suggestion of Oz forest, no more, dense with sweet ripe berries, somewhere between raspberries and blackberries, boysenberry perhaps? Dried cherry and a lick of fruitcake. Spiced nicely. The extraction and oak are gently applied letting the ripe fruit tannin and natural feeling acidity shape the wine. Power, not raw but softly insistent.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $38 at auction, normal RRP is about $60, think I did well.

94 points.

2020 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Shiraz

Another year, another trial bottle of a longtime favourite label. Actually three trial bottles. The first left an impression of flabby fruit and a washy unsatisfying end, oh well. The second was a happy freebie from TWE and their Cellardoor.co subscribers’ rewards program. Wouldn’t have recognised it as the same wine. Fresh, punchy and full of raspberries with a crunch of acidity sitting a little bit high as it finished. A little bemused, I thought a third in order to see if a Dan’s sourced bottle could be as good as the second? Sort of. Rich with ripe plum, berries, spice and a hint of tar. Clean but not as fresh as the second but the acidity cleans instead of rasping and the tannin’s ripe, sweet and broad. Perhaps less of the Coonawarra mineral salt than usual. Again for the money, an extraordinary example of large scale viticulture and perhaps the variability of large volumes? Life’s a bit too short but if someone were to line up most Australian Shiraz under $20 and endure a blind tasting, I’d be betting on this stalwart to place well with its quiet composure. Depending on the batch.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $13.60 on special at Murphy’s, sometimes less.

91 points.

2016 Pierre Gonon Saint Joseph

I must admit to googling this label to see what others may have thought and, gulp, noticed how Gonon prices have climbed in recent years. This was a great swap for some Wendouree and I don’t think there will be another looking at those current prices. Enjoy this one then. It doesn’t disappoint, deep reductive Rhône Syrah. Smoke, flowers and berries or as someone sensitive to sulphides noted on Winefront, like a fart in a wetsuit. Nonetheless a tour de force of squishy summer berries, sweet plum over glistening quartz like tannin and acid sparkle tightly bound together. Simply beautiful fruit, precise ripeness and careful making. You can see why the price escalates.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. Swap.

94 points, maybe 95.