2015 Vietti Barbera d’Asti La Crena

Early one Saturday morning a friend rang and said he was standing next to a six pack of this at the importer’s wholesale bin end sale. Shame it’s only from Asti and not one of the Alba versions I said, thinking I knew something about these things. Well, wrong, as this vineyard has plantings going back to 1932 and is as much treasured by the Vietti as anything closer to Alba and similarly priced, alas. Hooray for bin end sales. Opens as cleanly and impeccably fragrant as Viettis always seem to do. Rich dark blue and black fruit, sort of cherry and a hint of blueberry, classic Piemonte earth and licorice. At first there’s that very ripe fluidity that suggests it’s a bit too slick but over a day or two the fruit gets fresher and carries further on that superb Barbera acidity. Refreshment and authenticity. The oak’s only a nutty hint hiding behind the weight and drive of some deeply generous fruit. Great craft in the growing and the making. Vietti, authority writ large. Don’t think I can resist opening one of my tiny collection of their Baroli soon.

14.50% alcohol. Cork. Bargain thanks to the wine frenzy sale.

94 points.

2015 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

The 60th vintage of a most reliably true to its roots Cabernet which is produced in what could be described as substantial quantity. For the last 25 years or so the same remarkable team of wine maker and viticulturist have been coaxing possibly the planet’s best value Cabernet into the bottle from vineyards where the machine does most of the work. Cost input relative to genuine product seems amazing. This vintage is a wonder. Not in a blockbuster way but just perfectly even ripeness showing the reserve and grace of good Cabernet. Sure, there’s cassis and berries and a hint of green leaf but there’s a gravelly, menthol finesse, all naturally settled into good fine ripe tannin and acidity. Only medium bodied at first, a thicker richness develops over a day or three with a touch of deeper earthy flavour and that saline, almost oyster shell Coonawarra reserve. Professorial authority in a bottle. Best maybe since 1986 or 1991?

13.8% alcohol. Screwcap. $25 when super discounted but a RRP of $45, happily Treasury Wine Estates don’t treasure this enough.

94 points.

2012 Ashton Hills Riesling

Three Rieslings in a week and not a dud. It’s possibly the only variety that appears on auction sites that consistently sells for less than the original retail, Grosset from great years excepted, of course. This is another ageing with some grace, still a pale colour and hanging on to the aromas of youth. Yes, lime and citrus naturally but again more in the way of mandarin, apples and something that brings to mind those spice notes of Alsatian versions. Beautiful flavours immaculately controlled by svelte acidity and a fruit sweetness born of flavour or a scintilla of residual, hard to tell. Softly autumnal untrammelled by coarse phenolic extract. Over many seasons, a deeply thoughtful producer of great craft. Those of us who visited the cellar door high in the hills were always in for a treat and stunning bargains in the form of those Galahs!

13% alcohol. Screwcap. $24.50 at auction.

94 points.

2011 Frankland Estate Netley Road Riesling

It’s still February, thus it’s more Riesling. This one from the stack of cardboard boxes that passes for a cellar. From a producer who has done a lot to promote the wonders of the grape loved by wine geeks and largely ignored by the rest of drinkers, this one’s shrugging off the effects of age with aplomb. Still pale and fresh smelling. Limes, of course, but lots more in the form of apple pie, almost a touch of vanilla bean, mandarins, waxy candles and sweet green herby notes. Nice line of texture through the mouth, lithe, no real skin grip, just gentle acidity and perhaps a whisper of sweetness to balance impeccably. No shouting but a confidential wink of authenticity for those of us who love the charm of proper Riesling. As old football wisdom has it, form is temporary, class is permanent.

12% alcohol. Screwcap. Was about $25?

94 points.

2006 Poonawatta “The Eden” Eden Valley Riesling

February really is the best time to enjoy the majesty of one of the world’s best white varieties should you abide south of the equator, notwithstanding Melbourne’s summer, currently even more than usually fickle. It does seem that the quality of viticulture has improved a lot in the relatively warm growing climate of most Australian Riesling regions. Keeping fruit shaded by better canopy care has perhaps avoided the once too prevalent early appearance of those broad kerosene flavours. This old fellow is still sprite of colour and has the mellow, waxy, old incense calm of age but still hasn’t forgotten its lime and sweet young herb flavours of youth. Natural feeling acidity has settled well and there’s the slightest brush of phenolic skin and counterpoint fruit sweetness. Gentle but not lacking impact. Some kind people bring the best things to share over my attempts to make a mess in the kitchen, chiz!

12% alcohol. Screwcap once again takes the utter lottery out of opening an old white wine. A generous share.

93 points.

2012 Red Edge Heathcote Shiraz

From a vineyard planted on the very old Cambrian volcanic red soils of Heathcote proper in 1971 says the helpful back label. It also says the maker is Peter Dredge. There’s a man by the same name making wine in Tasmania which makes me wonder if he’s extremely busy or there’s two of them? Nonetheless time has been kind to this bottle, producing a lovely sweet roundness to the black cherry and blackberry fruit with the dark char of mocha oak now seasoning nicely. There’s also some background savour in spice and bay leaf. Acid and sweet ripe tannin have settled any differences and sit calmly together. The fruit’s so good that the advertised alcohol really doesn’t breathe heat at all. A few years of bottle rest seems a good test of fruit quality and this passes with ease and no little grace. Heathcote showing just what it can do, tasty.

14.6% alcohol. Screwcap. Lucky auction win again for $24. Normal retail closer to $40, clever me.

94 points.

2017 Giuseppe Cortese Barbera d’Alba

Another lucky win on the addictive on line auction site, this is fantastically bright, spotlessly clean and full of a spankingly fresh essence of Barbera from the mighty Langhe. Rich cherry and dark raspberry fruit with a touch of aniseed, spice and that wonderful stony mineral thing that those Piemonte hills do so well. One of the distinctive joys of good Barbera is its ability to cut even the ripest fruit with a pure crunch of mouthwatering acidity, making it almost essential for a nicely oily and tomato rich pizza. Not sure how this may develop as it disappeared with alarming haste as did said pizza. Joy.

14% alcohol. Cork. $23 auction bid, probably nearer $40 full retail. Lucky.

93 punti deliciosi.