Queen of the Earth is Stuart Pym’s top drop, a cabernet sauvignon sourced from an old vineyard in Wilyabrup. It shows all of the subregion’s characters with an abundance of blackcurrant and sour cherry, mocha and cedarwood aromas and a whiff of the region’s tell-tale seaweed. The palate is tightly coiled and responds to some air to reveal wild blackberry and boysenberry, cedary tannins an everlasting finale. Will happily cellar until 2030 and beyond.
Pierre Gaillard’s eponymous brand dates back to 1985 following his apprenticeship at Vidal Fleury and E. Guigal. Clos de Cuminaille is a three-hectare east-facing, walled vineyard in Chavanay. The syrah vines are almost 30 years old with 30% new oak introduced in the élevage. Precision is the key with an amazing vitality and energy. The fruits are blackberry and Damson plum with cinnamon, clove and star anise. The tannins bring a plush textural richness to the elegant, fine-boned palate.
Bernard Metrat presides over 10 hectares of vines, predominantly in the prestigious area of Fleurie called La Roilette. Metrat’s splendid Chiroubles comes from a plot of 60-year-old vines facing full south on a sandy granitic patch of soil. 2017 was a small hail-affected vintage but the few grapes harvested were superb. Bright crimson red set the scene with perfumes of red cherry and raspberry and succulent flavours to match. The finish is bright and breezy driven by a spark of juicy acidity.
The Phantom returns – for the ninth time. Mike Brown makes this elusive red each year, the blend crafted to evoke the best of the vintage. The inaugural Blend One, from the challenging 2009 season, was a Bordeaux-style red while the Blend Nine, from the more benign 2018 vintage, is mourvèdre’s turn in the limelight. It’s a surprisingly elegant wine with gorgeous red fruit aromas, hints of clove and aniseed. Medium weight with juicy mulberry flavours and a fine, energetic finish.
It’s terrific to see the Mitchelton wines back on top form, and the value-packed Preece range is a winner. The Crescent is a characterful blend of shiraz, mourvèdre and grenache. Lifted dark cherry and plum aromas meld with plumcake spices and hints of sun-baked bricks. The flavours are ripe and juicy with good depth and richness with fully resolved tannins extending the finish. A joy now but will happily cellar for 3-5 years.
This is a rare gem – an easy drinking yet characterful red with a Spanish flair. La La Land is a standalone brand from the Wingara Wine Group, which boasts a solid portfolio of Australian vineyards and brands with Katnook Estate at the apex. Vermentino, tempranillo and a savoury rosé are just part of the La La Land range with this luscious Garnacha the headline act. Ripe cherry and raspberry aromas morph to cinnamon and paprika spices. Generous red fruit favours fill the mouth with a raft of fine tannins sealing the deal.
Yarra Yering Dry Red No.1 and No.2 are legendary Australian reds created by founder Dr Bailey Carrodus in 1973. However, his No.3 Dry Red flies well under the vinous radar. It’s sourced from a hillside block of Portuguese varieties. Current custodian Sarah Crowe, foot pressed the grapes in the Portuguese lagar way. Aromas of dark berry fruits vie with earthy and smoked meats. The palate is initially subdued, opening up to reveal a sinewy yet enticing red with length.
Maison Louis Jadot is one of the big players in Burgundy, founded in 1859. This terrific Savigny-les-Beaune is from the stellar 2015 vintage. La Dominode smells more earthy than fruity with truffles and moist undergrowth in the mix. The palate is tight with lots of umami flavours spiced by some cedary oak. The finish is long driven by fine pumice-like tannins with an echo of refreshing acidity.
The wines from Domaine de Marcoux are compelling – all have a special brightness and energy that biodynamic disciple Sophie Armenier brings to her wines. Grenache and syrah lead the way in this rouge, with a splash of carignan and the obscure caladoc. Buoyant aromatics of ripe cherry, dark plum and sandalwood give way to a juicy, fruit-fresh palate with underlying elements of star-anise and clove. Medium weight and unencumbered by oak, this is a delightful, all occasions red.
David Freschi keeps delivering quality wines. Take his latest La Signora, made from 70% Nebbiolo with the balance equal parts of shiraz and malbec from the Langhorne Creek vineyard, planted in 1972. Nebbiolo was a later planting and, while it may seem too hot for the variety, La Signora proves it’s not. Dried sour cherry, fading rose petal and exotic spices dominate the nose with gently persistent tannins driving the palate. The flavours are classic Nebbiolo with the shiraz and malbec adding depth.
Bring back the ‘goon’ and I don’t mean the Uni student’s best friend, the ‘goon bag’ but the original glass flagon. There’s something immensely pleasing about pouring a big drop of scarlet. I spied this splendid ‘goon’ on the bottom shelf at a wine store in the Southern Highlands. It’s a long way from home but it turns out both the Angelicus vineyard and the wine store are under the same ownership. And the wine – just what it purports to be, and easy drinking red with a Spanish twist. Ole!
Brian Freeman has done it again – well, with the help of his winemaking daughter, Xanthe. Their love and respect for the Veneto grapes, rondinella and corvina is palpable. This gorgeously slurpable Rosso, a blend of corvina and rondinella, fermented in stainless steel and matured in old oak for a year. The result is a fresh, breezy red with sweet, red berry fruits and savoury spices. The bright acidity and modest tannins combine to energise the finish.