The label looks like all of Melbourne’s bars at the moment sadly, so many empty chairs. This blend of mostly Merlot with some Cabernet Franc from a vineyard north of Pomerol avoids the appellation naming and conventional oaky way of Bordeaux with organic growing, low intervention making and a basic Vin de France label. Rich, ripe and clean with a juicy freshness to lift. Loads of ripe raspberries, cherries and leaf flood the nose and mouth, wrapped up in that Bordeaux gravel and clay mineral thing. In fact I must confess that characteristic reminds me of pulling off a new gum boot caked in clay and soil after a winter walk in the damp English countryside. Weird how our sense of smell can evoke time and place. Succulent and soothing tannin and acidity to end. Perhaps not the cool just ripe claret of old but a delicious clean and glossy natural wine from a warm vintage.
13% alcohol. Diam. $32 but seems it’s available for $24 on some on line stores which make it good value Bordeaux,
92 to 93 after a day or two.
A Dan Murphy’s members’ special for $9 a bottle. Not sure what a knife wielding moose in a English gent’s hunting jacket has to do with the mouth of the mighty Rhône river? Caught the eye in a strange way though. In the words of Rob Brydon in one of those Trip to…. films with Steve Coogan, my bouche is amused. This is extraordinary for the money. A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, it opened with a bit of bubblegum but the fruit emerged in an hour or so. Very ripe plum, cherry, into raisins and fruitcake. Bit syrupy and low in acidity but persistent with Mediterranean scrub and a tasty saline tannic end of surprising plushness. Some dodgy negotiant CNdP bottlings of yore weren’t as good as this, although that may be faint praise. Really quite a decent clean glass of wine. Might well be the Carignan adding character? Maybe not.
14.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $9.
A GSM with a bit of C for Cinsault and from a favourite recent vintage. Unlike a less than sanitary 2012 version the invitation to sniff and drink here is clean and full of summer berries, dark chocolate with a cloud of Rhone violets and smoke. Deepens in the glass but never teeters into over ripeness. Blueberries, particularly their chewy skins and deep cherry liqueur emerge, touched with those old Mediterranean woody herbs. The shape is pushing the heroic with fresh acidity despite the ripeness and solid velvet tannin. Good enough to be confused with a good CNdP with a good rocky crunch. Very satisfying notwithstanding the last mouthful of sediment and bits. Teach me to drain the glass without looking.
13.5% alcohol. Cork. $32 at auction, sad there was only one bottle.
Confounding bloody Burgundy. The first bottle of this was drunk fairly quickly over a meal and didn’t really excite, the layer of coffee and cedar oak a little strident to smell and gummy in the finishing shape. The second attempt looked a little more settled but still felt like it was good to open, drink, enjoy and leave the better bottles for a more special occasion, er..like opening a special bottle. Well, that was day one. As something more enjoyable was open, this languished on the table and over half a bottle went in the fridge for the next day. Utterly gobsmacked, the oak still there but now had to compete with that mid to back palate depth of fresh red fruit that Pinot from the Côte d’Or hangs onto over the years. A fine and beautiful swell of wild strawberries, kirsch cherry and something between dark cocoa and clay soil. Detailed acidity and some skin texture fight the oak to the end. Really didn’t expect a fifteen year old Pinot Noir to need twenty four hours to explain itself. There again Chassagne was originally a red grape place and this a premier cru where it’s still worth hanging on to some Pinot vines. Not sure I’ll ever learn.
13% alcohol. Cork. About $45 pre arrival in 2007, those were the days.
90 points day one, 94 day two, who’d a thought.
Sort of not so petit with large framed flavour and shape. Maybe it’s the warmer vintages? Thankfully this hangs on to some typical Chablis smells and tastes despite the rich and ripe feel. Lots of ripe lime, other sweet citrus verging into almost melon. Viscous glide full of creamy glycerol texture. Nevertheless for us Chablis fanciers there’s sea breezy saline, a hint of crustacean shell and a cut of yoghurt tangy acidity that still manage to scratch the insistent itches for which there’s only one treatment. A little broad in the beam but anchored to its sea shell bed. Lacks the detail of a premier cru in a cooler vintage but delicious and honest. Beggars and choosers as the old cliche goes.
12.5% alcohol the label says but… Diam, yes. $30 pre arrival offer from Randall the Winemerchant, nice selection.
91 but so much more for Chablis truth.
Each year this gets better. No longer do Vajra list varieties on the back label but I’d guess it’s the same Nebbiolo dominant blend with bits of Dolcetto, Barbera, Freisa and something else as past vintages. The ability to taste well enough to say for sure would be good though. Starts with a lift of that dirty, dusty old road Langhe Nebbiolo thing but it’s no more than a savoury seasoning like some of those better low sulphur natural brews. At its core is a panoply of red summer fruits, rose petals and the most mouthwatering of acidities and fresh tannin. It sparkles with life. That dirty road becomes calm and macadamed in time. Improved over three days. Probably rather drink this than more bulky aspirations of extraction. In a word, delicious, burp.
13% alcohol. Screw cap. $30 at best, normally $35 but still a relative bargain the way Barolo prices are going.
94 points influenced by sheer pleasure.
The back label pays homage to the Sugar Loaf vineyard, both its viticulturist and grapes. Good to see praise going where it’s due. I think it’s the large vineyard Best’s bought in 2018 as a mitigation against climate change. A reliable source of precious water and altitude to combat the increasing frost risk. From a good three days of sipping, the grape quality is obvious. It all starts off quietly with the energy of whole bunch infusion rather than crushing extraction. As the oxygen gets to it, colour, aromas and flavours deepen. At first a whiff of sappy stalk, then sweet red fruit takes over with stewed raspberries verging on sweet strawberry juice. Spice and earth baking in the sun. Then back to stems and the delicious cycle returns. Some regional tar and darker fruit rumble along with natural feeling acidity and sweet drying stem tannin. You could say knife edge balance perhaps? It bears repeating that a young generation of clever producers with little capital but a lot of passion are making the most interesting interpretations of a special place. And they’re getting better at it. Not often a return to the mid eighties could be taken as a compliment. Wine balance not haircuts of course.
13.6% alcohol. Screw cap. $30.
Just when I think I’ve exhausted the Spanish Grenache options on the shelves of Dan Murphy’s another one appears. This one’s a softly spoken but confident. Restrained aromas of clean fruit, kirsch, peanuts, roses, lipstick kiss, very ripe strawberries, carried by just so acidity and a lick of ripe tannin. Improved over a day or two, the rose perfume became a heady faded velvet red flower, the peanuts more of a wide umami, the red fruits richer but still composed. All sitting on a bed of wet slate, er…mineral, that word again. From a warmer part of Navarra it seems and not surprisingly sits comfortably between the grunt of Borja and the airiness of Gredos. These Garnachas must be selling well as Dan’s have quite a few; this better than most, albeit $10 more. Still great value. Viva Garnacha.
13.5% Diam. $26.99, $10 to $15 cheaper than an equivalent CdR Villages.
93 quite self possessed points.
Tempranillo can be just the thing when you crave a decent mouthful of uncomplicated red fruit and a satisfying cut of fresh acidity and tannin grunt, particularly in the joven bottlings like this. This has that lovely dual nature of spice, cola and a good chunk of straightforward red fruit cut by tea bag tannin and firm just there ripe acidity. A little detail of strawberry and toffee prevent it being too monolithic. Curiously reminds me of Sicily’s Nero d’Avola in it’s no nonsense full red fruit. Really the sort of good value red you want when the company, food and convivial chat are more important than the drink. It happens apparently.
14% alcohol. Screw cap. $20.
91 no quibbling honest points.
Well, as it’s a recent vintage, I’d assumed it was a new treat. Apparently not as I reviewed it a few months ago. Unusually consistent notes which is sort of reassuring for a dodgy old palate.
Yet another one of those Catalan Grenaches with some Carignan from a DO close to the wonderful Priorat for a lot less. This was a staff pick at a good local wine shop I keep forgetting about. McCoppins on the traffic sewer that’s Johnston Street in old Fitzroy for those familiar with Melbourne. Extremely familiar for the moment due to lockdown walks with lots fewer motors clogging the asphalt. Breathe more easily. Developing smells of old leather furniture, dark cherries with a balsamic tang, roasting pan juices and, yes, the sooty old fireplace detail of that beautiful, rugged landscape. One day I’ll get there. There’s ripe plums and peanuts from Grenache to freshen a mouthful with well mingled very ripe tannin and just enough acidity. Probably as good as it will get with a little bottle age. Heartwarming wine for quiet times as we wait for better news. Went back for another masked browse and all gone. Time passes, shelves empty and fill with something new to enjoy.
14% alcohol. Cork. $20.
91 points, baby Priorat.