2016 Domaine la Soumade Rasteau Cuvée Confiance

In the early 2000s, I fell for the warm, rich and fruity embrace of Grenache blends from the villages just east of Orange. The deeply ripe summer pudding fruit in Marcel Richaud’s Cairannes was love at first sniff thanks to a wine shop in Avignon not letting me leave without a 1998 version. An inevitable holiday pilgrimage luckily led to a pretty bed and breakfast in Rasteau, just up the road from M. Richaud. Soumade was a recommendation from the list in a local bistro. Too late sadly to fit in a visit but a lasting impression. When this came up at auction, a relatively modest bid led to a happy meander down the retronasal lane of memory. 80% Grenache, the rest Syrah. A little reduction was quick to clear, leaving fresh liqueur cherry, sappy mint to freshen with a dusting of fine cocoa dryness. Of a whole but many parts, fennel turning to aniseed anchored by carbon darkness and meaty pan juices. Traditionally dry tannin, just enough acid to balance and meticulously clean. Love the simple old elegance of the label too.

14.5% alcohol but not hot. Cork. About $40 at auction.

94 points.

2020 M & C Lapierre Morgon

One of the original Gang of Four Chauvet disciples and the first from the legendary Lapierre for me. Opens with that unmistakable nutty, yeasty breath of a very low sulphur natural wine. The rush of pristine fresh berries and granite glistening across the whole olfactory equipment push the funk well and truly into a mere seasoning. Essence of cherries, strawberries and earth. Dense but so light on its feet. Mouthwatering acidity and high definition fine tannin in a just medium sized body only make me wish it was a magnum. The sort of dedicated grape growing that’s probably good for our Earth and a way of making wine that’s changed our perception of fermented grapes for ever. It’s alive I tell yer.

13.5%. Cork. A well chosen swap, thanks Fish.

93 points.

2019 Trediberri Dogliani Bricco Mollea

Another of those beautiful Gallina labels. Dolcetto from one of two DOCGs especially given for Piemonte’s under rated quotidian joy. Spicy cherry compote, stones, fresh and crisply mouthwatering. Not as rich as some Dogliani but suave and nuanced with that bramble caramelised jam note that maybe whispers Dolcetto? Lovely structure but perhaps a little washy verging on dilute compared to the best. For the modest tariff, no complaints here just sad to see the bottle empty.

13% alcohol. Diam. About $30.

91 points.

2019 KÁRMÁN Rioja

A few weeks without a post. Laziness most likely but the release from pandemic lockdown was a curtain lifted on a forgotten world of friends across the table, modest travel and a bit of discombobulation with the whole thing. There was also an accumulation of bottles that were good enough the first time round to warrant a repeat, often just as good as the first review suggested. Maybe the best measure of how good something tastes is best calibrated by how keenly another bottle is sought. This one almost gets there. Well, it is mostly Grenache grown in Rioja of which there should be more. A bit of Tempranillo too. It’s fresh, bright and clean. Pot pourri, red fruits and peanuts. Rich but only medium bodied with whole berry brewing lift. Warming pepper, cut with a touch of meat and smoke reduction all nicely bound together with juicy acidity and fine grape skin texture. The Kármán line is the theoretical boundary between the earth’s atmosphere and space, funny what you learn on back labels these days. The front label cheerfully reminds me of the spaced out adventures available in Spain these days.

14.5% alcohol. Diam. Probably not stratospherically priced.

90 points but joyful.

2021 Leo Buring Clare Valley Riesling

A new vintage with very good early words. Despite coming to the conclusion that Clare Rieslings only start to taste something like wine in the new year after vintage rather than yeasty fermented grape juice, a 95 point review from an eminence gris of Australian wine writing persuaded me to crack the cap. Oh well, what do I know, this is an inscrutable mess of yeasty smells, not much else, maybe something like Sauvignon Blanc. Nice even flow across the tongue though, fine mouthwatering acidity. Beyond that I’m not much wiser. The second day brings more. Big swell of elemental lime juice and herbs, still a lurking green Sauvignon B ending. Noticed the 11% alcohol but not a huge amount, if any, of residual sugar which does make me wonder if the fashion for picking everything a little less ripe has spread to Riesling in Australia? The weight of fruit and fine acidity are alone more than enough to put a couple away for warmer summer days. Hope the critics are right, crystal balls on the line as it were. A warm dreamy summer evening and a cold glass of mountain stream fresh Riesling are one of life’s affordable joys.

11% alcohol. Screw cap. $14.50 in a six at Dan’s.

Pick a number between 90 and 94 and hope sort of score.

2016 Frédéric Mabileau Les Roullières Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil

Cabernet Franc from a modern producer who made wine still with a great sense of place. Sadly, Frédéric was killed in microlight plane crash last year. This was made, I think, just using stainless steel to ferment and rest, none of the dodgy old oak which can so often mar Loire red wine. Terrific freshness, there’s scents of crushed sweet green leaves, raspberries and sweet strawberry juice. So fresh, it seems like a season frozen in time. Only just medium bodied but rich in the mouth with loads of just ripe red fruit, focused well by mouthwatering acidity and a brush of just so skin tannin. Focus and precision. Lovely Loire.

12.5% alcohol. Cork. $32 from auction.

93 points.

2017 Benjamin Laroche La Manufacture Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre Pinot Noir

The Chablis from Laroche were always a very good and reliable choice but don’t seem as common on retail shelves these days. They also were among the first French producers to use screw caps. When this lonely bottle appeared on the auction website, a quick check confirmed the family connection to the Chablis producer. Happily for me, not many bids. Spotlessly clean but not sterile. Fragrant and flowery. Top note of dew fresh raspberries with wild strawberry and cranberry crisp harmonies. Succulent acidity and fine limestone tannin bring things to a long and refined close. Considering the theoretically humble appellation there’s quite a swell of just ripe fruit. Looks like it comes from a fancy Côte d’Or address.

12.5% but just so ripeness. Diam, nice. $36 at auction. Current vintage about $44 on the importer’s, Airioldi Wines, website.

93 points.

2017 Derwent Estate Riesling

Don’t often buy Tasmanian Riesling but when I do, I always think I should pay more attention. Longer days ripening and cooler places do seem to coax more flavour. Opening with some developed scents of green pineapple, touch of vanilla and sort of petrol but not quite the deep kerosene of sun burnt skins. Rich in extract and flavour in the mouth, limes, honey and more of those exotic developing tropicals. The sort of sliding weight Alsace seems to do. Ends well too. Sweetly ripe acidity and a lingering perfume. Maybe a smudge of residual sugar or just deep sweet fruit weight, not sure. There’s the trick.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $18.30 from auction, nicely done for once.

93 points.

2018 Mommessin Morgon Côte du Py

Having convinced myself 2018 Beaujolais is largely over ripe and far too chunky, I saw a Dan Murphy’s member’s special of $20 for what looked like a new vintage 2019 on the shelf and quickly grabbed one. Opened it and thought it good and fresh but very ripe, only to look at the label to realise I’d ended up with 2018. Attempting to objectively look at what’s poured, there is a dark, purple red colour more like N Rhône Syrah than BJ and lots of currant and plum. Ripe cherry flavour too with a follow up of fruit and nut chocolate. Glossy and sweet like something from a newer world. The richness cut by chunky ripe acid and dry grape skin tannin. Not the perfume, life and grace of cooler years but still delicious and proof of a site hanging on well in the heat. Must go back and find a 2019 with my reading glasses on.

13.5%. Cork. $20 bargain.

92 points.

2019 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Siding Cabernet Sauvignon

Thank goodness for Winefront. An Australian Cabernet for $12.95 would not normally rate high on the scale of potential buys but a good review and a discount at Dan Murphy’s which makes a mockery of the letters RRP and why not? Proper savoury and tart fruited Cabernet here. Opens a bit sweaty, clears to earth and gravel, black olive and iodine, leaf and tart red berries. Almost that come hither savoury invitation of dare you say, Bordeaux. Over three days it looks far more Australian, particularly Coonawarra as scents of minty Australian shrubbery and that distinct smoky salinity emerge. Shouldering their way through the savoury are just ripe red fruit and hints of black currant. Good even brush of ripe acid and sandy tannin. Yet more evidence of Wynns producing large amounts of commercially important wine that still resonate place and season. Might just have to upgrade to a bottle of the 2019 Black Label which would be the 34th vintage to find its way into my glass. Creak.

13.6% alcohol. Screw cap. $12.95.

91 points for me, 92 for the more accurate Winefront.