there are some new reviews oozing though here, but we're not deckin em up all pretty til we work out an otherwise unborn style for this sleazy rube we call drankster


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that's a George Grainger Aldridge cartoon ... obviously a pre-screwcap man



13 February 2009

GRENACHE

Greenock Creek Cornerstone Grenache 2008
$29: 16% alcohol; cork; tasted over a week in August 09; 94+++ points
As grenache generally enjoys a new wave of interest and attention in Australia, and the inevitable accompanying price hike, the general quality of this variety, across the board, is taking a turn for the better: the top end of the South Australian grenache cabinet now contains some very smart wines. And this staunch beauty from the merciless mica, siltstone and quartz of Roennfeldt’s, is foremost among them. One percent stronger than the magnificent 2007, this wine also seems more feminine, and although its form is sinewy and its acidity about as supple and pliable as fifty metres of trainline, it’s more triple-X adults-only lollyshop than the blood, meat, and old steamtrains that marked the 07. This smells immediately like panforte and nougat, with perfectly subtle oak hovering quietly in the background. Its persistent tannins and acidity draw the mouth to dribbling point, as does a shot of Cherry Heering liqueur. But this is sublimely finer, with incredible composure and determined direction. Over a day or two, the fruity bits of this bouquet – raspberry, maraschino cherry, and prune – seem to grow fresher and more dominant, until the blanched almond and cooked fruits of the nougat and panforte return on day three. So while you can wait years for it to mellow, like ten, if you must get it into your blood now, it’s best after a good slosh in the decanter and an hour or two of fresh air.

Yangarra High Sands McLaren Vale Grenache 2006
$80; 15.5% alcohol; cork(!); 94+++ points
The big dune of greyish aeolian Semaphore sand at Yangarra’s covered with ancient grenache bush vines that are the envy of grenache aficionados the world over. While this sand seems devoid of nutrient and organic material, it miraculously produces aromas and flavours reminiscent of carbon, peat and swamp – in other words, nutrient and organic material. To add to the unlikeliness of this, it also produces top notes that are as sweet and pink as raspberry and roses. This vintage is the perfect example. It’s at once tarry, glowering, and dark, yet pretty and floral. Then, another surprise: the flavours are more elegant and fine than any of those aromas would indicate. Tight and intense, yet willowy and slender, then furry with velvet tannins, these unlikelihoods all stack up to an absolutely ravishing wine that looks nothing like 15.5% alcohol. And it proves that grenache can indeed be a noble variety. This wine will smooth out beautifully, and probably put on a little puppy fat, with five to ten years in the cellar. So. Where are all the trophies? Who judges these wine shows? 7 DEC 08


Greenock Creek Cornerstone Grenache 2007
($29; 15% alcohol; cork; 94++ points)
Aromas: milk chocolate, raspberry fruit gum, fresh blood, red roses, metwurst, Iberian ham, blood pudding, wet leather, saddle soap, peat. Flavours: milk chocolate, raspberry gum, peat. Texture: viscous, sinuous, extremely fine dry tannins, steely acidity. Aftertaste: very firm protective acidity, lingering raspberry gum, faint chocolate chips. Summary: The great war between Waugh and his grenache, which Michael regards with magnificent disdain, continues a bit like the Wars of the Roses. The grenache from Hopeless Hill on Roennfeldt’s usually reeks of red roses and blood. Plenty of red roses and blood in this potage: magnificent, intense and powerful, yet perfectly balanced, with that rapier of steel acidity giving it a very firm, but supple, chassis. Which is the opposite of the gossip about Richard III, who is cruelly alleged to have been a hunchback. Otherwise, this bouquet smells pretty much along Richard’s lines, with some wet harness, sweaty flesh and peat reek adding to the stuff mentioned above. You may even detect a whiff of the old hawthorn bush. If there is fruit, it’s raspberry, but right royal raspberry it be, mark my word. And while it may not quite reach the new King through the fray, it certainly has the tenacity and power to battle on unhorsed, and topple the odd standard-bearer. After thirty years of warfare it may even resolve.


d’Arenberg The Ironstone Pressings McLaren Vale Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2006
$65; 15% alcohol; screw cap; 94++ points
Some mechanics smell like this. The female 6’2” blonde spanner wranglers from the Crimea who specialise in v-12 Mercs and wear the bri-nylon bib overalls with no tee shirt but sport a greasy yellow rag in the hip pocket and the polished Glock in the chest one, where my Mississippi bro-in-law carried his Bible, before he was mowed down by a drunk, who I reckon was the sheriff’s best friend. Preachers always get shit. You can view ’em on the ’net. The Crimeans, I mean, not the Free Presbyterians. But you make one call; give one detail of your ID and you’re in as much trouble as you are if you stupidly let a dribble of this wickedness slip into you. Just smell it, for Bacchus’s sake, then back off. Devil Juice. You don’t need anything more sensual or sensuous or slithery than the sniff. She’ll be getting off the plane any minute, and then your children will arrange to have you murdered. So, bugger it, you drink a great gulp of it. You can also do this with Krug: just sink a tumbler of the stuff. Use thirst as an excuse. Remi Krug called this “getting Krugged” last time he was game enough to ask me out for a drink, but that was back before the war, and the Krugs are German, and now they got took over by them damn Frog handbag factory people. Getting ironstoned or pressed doesn’t sound quite so good as getting Krugged, but it sure sounds better than getting handbagged. If you know d’Arry, you wouldn’t want to be getting darenburgered – he always whinges about the price. So swallow your pride, swallow a great greedy guzzle of this and wait for the plane. Count backwards from a hundred, leaving out all the prime numbers and the multiples of seven. I hate seven. Pretend you’re a v-12 and polish your shifter. How you say? Enjoy! Tee-hee! Get her to lock you in the cellar. And it does taste like ironstone. Ain’t that what they make shifter spanners outa? Mercs? Glocks? Bubba, whatever did happen to your arm?


S. C. Pannell McLaren Vale Grenache 2006
$??; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94++ points
Steve Pannell’s style is set in ironstone: tight, almost impenetrable reds when young; tight, slightly less impenetrable reds when mature ... this one is so tight and dark and glinting in the night that it’s hard to appreciate that it’s made from the same grape that most folks make into rosy, raspberry clairettes, which they need to bolster with overt toasted oak and great dollops of shiraz, or other black stuff. Which is not to say this wine hasn’t got lots of oak: there’s plenty, and it’s smart and in balance at this menacing youthful stage, but I wonder whether any fruit, even of this remarkable intensity, will ever grow sufficiently soft at heart to open up and let it in ... twenty years’ cellar may answer my query. This is like ground-up cannon guns. And their heavy oaken carriages. Amazing!


La Curio Reserve McLaren Vale Bush Vine Grenache 2007
$24 direct; 15.3% alcohol; cork; 94+ points
This smells like the best new-dressed leather. Almost plasticy, but forget that. I shouldna said it. That’s royal grenache when it’s lively. Sicko junketty fruits gradually shove through, and an incredible shopful of dark, acrid spices and powders, known and not. It’s gradually, but irresistably seductive in its sultry mood, operatic in the size of its natural live fruit miasma, and really dry and slender, like fine latté coffee texture if not sniff. Bone dry. Like the ground-up stuff they turn into bone china in the furnace. (Another blow to the rest: McLaren Vale bush vine grenache is walloping all other regions. Unless you get the 2009 torch, when the Vales grenache was in veraison, and largely perished.) This gradually opens to reveal a gentle, fresh fruit syrup, and the wine seems to want to take you by the slow hand and show you around itself, and I mean its own house, it's own insides, but only if you’re patient and compliant. Be. Be. Three dry-grown grenache vineyards are in here, averaging eighty years of age. That’s laps of the Sun, completed. Ridiculous price! MAR 09


Gomersal Barossa GSM 2005
$48; 15.9% alcohol; screw cap; 93+++ points
Made by Ben Glaetzer, this is Gomersal’s flagship red, showing off the fruits of Baz White’s heroic mataro and grenache bush vines to the max. These were planted six years ago in hard schist ground, and as if low yields weren’t low enough, Baz bunch-thins to concentrate what’s left. It’s the true spirit of the Barossa: an intense essence of the past and the future; proud, sullen, tannic and sobering in its potential to bust out of your cellar. All truth; no sophistry. Have it with Charles Villiers Stanford’s Blue Bird, Opus 119 No. 3, and some well-larded bambi. www.gomersalwines.com.au


Penfolds Bin 138 Barossa Valley Grenache Mourvedre Shiraz 2007
$33.90; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 20 FEB 09; 1 MAY 10; 93+++ points
Rather than mindlessly build another GSM, Peter Gago has judiciously blended 66% grenache with 21% mourvedre, or mataro, and 13% shiraz, to make this lovely, lush chocolaty Barossa red. Max would love it. It’s not jammy, but has that lovely stewy conserve character, with whole fruits till intact in the morass. Black cherries and blackberry fruits abound, but in a lovely nutty realm of flavours: almonds and cashews and walnut tannins abound, perhaps from its fourteen months in old French and American hogsheads. It’ll last a decade without drawing a breath.


Yangarra Estate Vineyard McLaren Vale Cadenzia 2010
$28; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 30 October to 2 November 2011; 93+++ points
Blends are the future.  This is very good wine.  The hardest thing you can do to it is whack it with an extreme chilli dish, like ghost chillies,  and what happens? You get a creamy bowl of mulberry, blackberry and blueberry, and a drink that seems like a divine, fleeting cordial.  Have it with less life-threatening food, and it’s a sublimely rewarding, complex, maybe a little brooding, drink of great live dry red.  Drink it alone, and you have a friend that never threatens, but constantly entertains with its complexity and intelligent cheek. It grows more figgy after a day or two open, but everything else hangs in there as if they’re surprised that you’re still looking. This wine will stun many as it grows through the years.  I love its see-saw of dense syrupy fruits and bone dry, red dust tannins.  It’s far too young to properly evaluate.

Yangarra Estate Vineyard McLaren Vale Old Vine Grenache 2010
$28; 14% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 30th October to 2nd November 2011; 93+++ points
Over the three days I kept this wine open, it went from an awkward juvenile, all jello and jambon, to a highly-complex, intense, glowering beauty.  As the infant fruits gave way to the complex hints of licorice, chicory and tomato leaf, and the puppy fat went from squishy white mortadella to harder, dark capocollo, the wine gave just a glimpse of how it will evolve over the next decade.  It has remarkable intensity, and yet always retains just enough of that audacious primary fruit to remain cheeky and tantalizing.  The acidity is sinuous and tapers perfectly, gradually letting those dark juniper and chicory tannins dry the finish.  What a pity to release it so early!  93+++ points

Borie de Maurel Belle du Nuit Vin du Minervois 2007
$50; 14.5% alcohol; cork; tasted 04-06JUN10; 93++ points
Minervois, down near Sete on France's Mediterranean coast beside the Spanish border, is about as hot and dry as France can get. So if you were aiming at an Australian style of Grenache in France, this would surely be your place. So. Take a look: the numbers are all there: 14.5% alcohol, for Bacchus' sake! And yet, while this mysterious woman of the night has all that dark intensity boasted of on the label - even Gauloise gets a hint - and all that queenie polished leather and whatnot, the damned thing is elegant, supple and whip slender. So why can't Australia do this? It's syrupy, sure, but slender. You can drink it without being whipped or drowned in unctuous concentrate. It makes me hungry, not yearning for bitter chocolate like I would at the end of a meal, but starving for warm black olives and chorizos, or that Greek sausage with the orange peel in it ... the beginning of a meal, see? Elegance is not necessarily precluded from ripe Grenache,see? This is a damn fine drink, and well-priced. I'd like to see Clarendon Hills match this at the price! Uh-huh.

Rudderless McLaren Vale Grenache 2005
$??; 14.8% alcohol; screw cap; drunk APR 09; 93++ points
Chocolate lollies. Typical of the blue-eyed boy. Smuggles em in under the gunpowder quilts. No women on this ship yet – just that little tiny light on the amp. Sweat and tar. Jesus! Aniseed balls! A stretchy gel of all the above. Iron. Ancient stuff. Yet slurp a gill, and you’ll have to agree that McLaren Vale grenache rarely gets this wickedly slippery and sinful. It reminds me of mussels. Now that’s something I’ve never said of a red wine before. Big bucket a Belgian-style mussels, or the Greco-Irish Burnley and Richmond brew, or the mussels you’d find being cooked by swaggies in tins beneath the bridges on the Yarra when I was a kid, and you’re on Carlton beer, sweet white, moonshine, or port. This is really juicy warm alcohol, no doubt about that. It makes people like me write shit like this, a drink like this. Jeez, it’s juicy. There’s a bit of blackcurrant cordial about it, but you know, it’s mainly fresh acidulous berries, that’s what it is. And then you swallow it, and you examine your exhalation, and you are happy and well. Peace in the valley. Think: that’s not ordnance. That’s Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.


Yangarra McLaren Vale Cadenzia 2008
$28; 14.8% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 25FEB10; 24-25MAY10; 93++ points
Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre here, just like they used to make ’em in the ’eighties. The 1880s. This seems a better-formed wine than Yangarra’s straight Grenache, and so it should be: it has had some intelligent human blending intervention, where the 100% Grenache involved a lot more of God’s work. It’s tighter, and more tantalizing to sniff. It has all the blacksmith’s hot anvil and swarf, the hot exhaust manifold, and the potpourri of berries dark and beets red and blue; kalamata, as one smells in the best of Clare; even the turnip greens sometimes evident in this vineyard’s Grenache. But it also has a swathe of deep dessert and confectionary aromas, and expensive cosmetics. I recall Guerlain had a product called Nutrix: long ago, when my skin actually responded to such applications, three or four decades back, when my exotic Pied Noir lover afforded such luxuries, and left them laying about. This smells like that unction. But blacker. This has more melanin. The palate’s tight, and elegant. Lithe, like a long-distance runner from Ethiopia. Beautiful. The Frogs will be twitchy.


La Curio The Nubile McLaren Vale Grenache Shiraz 2007
$25; 15% alcohol; cork; 93+ points (see below)
Dried figs, dates and prunes wallow about in this deep essence. Adam Hooper determinedly wrings every drop of anything vaguely resembling water from his wine. It’s like Giuseppi Rizzardi’s majestic Verona amarone valpolicellas, made from raisins: a thick, opulent, sumptuous syrup of royal breeding, with long, furry tannins. Put more simply: a trifle made from Christmas pudding, distilled mammoth’s blood, and a jelly of well-boiled ground-up thorns. It’s essential nature hides its dusty podsol-and-ironstone edge: there be plenty of earth and stone beneath this Devilish layer cake. Adam won a Decanter trophy with his 05; I reckon this one’s better. And I need to remind you that my average points for grenache recently tasted is around 76/100. www.lacuriowines.com FEB 09 ... TWO DAYS LATER: More sensual top notes have begun to ring, but they’re still fruity, not floral. Some spice, yeah, from the oak. But not in the least bit intrusive. It’s just that the fruit’s got younger since the bottle was opened. Musk is here. The palate has better amalgamated: the bits that looked disparate, or sounded disparate, two days back, have stopped lying separately. It still shows that wicked boiled thorns vegetal stuff, but there are many more thick wallops of incredibly dense, furry fruits gradually emerging. 93+++ this evening. MAR 09


Gemtree McLaren Vale Cadenzia 2006
$25; 15% alcohol; screw cap; 93+ points


La Curio Reserve McLaren Vale Grenache 2005
$24; 15% alcohol; cork; 93+ points
Tearaways Adam Hooper and sweetheart, Elena Golokova, made a bucket of this at Redheads Studio in McLaren Vale. It’s exemplary Vales grenache from eighty-year-old Blewett Springs Sands bush vines. Wild cherry, black tea, bitter chocolate and Dutch licorice aromas jam the glass; the palate comes as soothing essence after that complex and savoury onslaught. At such sublime quality, the wine’s very cheap. Stewed venison haunch. www.lacuriowines.com

Yangarra Estate McLaren Vale Cadenzia 2006
$28; 15% alcohol; screw cap; 93+ points


d’Arenberg The Custodian McLaren Vale Grenache 2006
$20; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points
One of the loveliest memories I have of Hobart is the smell of the Cadbury’s factory over the Derwent, back in the days when not quite so much leftover vintage skins, pips and stuff went into the chocolate. Beautifully processed, of course. Vegetable gum. This is a bit like it smelled before that. Eating dark chilli chocolate it in a railway station with a steam train pulling in, and being stunned to discover it tastes even better than it smells. Clean, lean, never fat and jammy like too many Barossa models, and perfectly tannic after that athletic prowess. Wicked. Voom! Chilli chocolate. www.darenbergwines.com.au

NEW!
Old Plains Terreno Old Vine Grenache 2009
 
$25; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 26JUL12; 93 points
The day may eventually come when I fail to be impressed by any of the wines touched by the Barossa Hills Angel, Dominic Torzi, but it seems unlikely.  But their honest, earthy  quality is one thing; their modest pricing is another.  It’s almost embarrassingly meek.  This Adelaide Plains Grenache, made with Dominic’s mate Tim Freeland, is from the hottest helluva year, but it’s masterly.  It has some pretty musky perfume, and some dark cherries, but mainly it’s mellow and meaty, and sometimes surly to sniff, but with the dust of those old plains always blowin across the top. It smells powerfully like dark cured meats after a day in the decanter.  The palate is rich and syrupy: more silk than velvet, but with extremely fine tannins drawing the finish out for yonks.  Think of the soloist’s last long exhale through that baritone sax, gradually fading as the drummer slows the brushes on his kettle.  It’s really sensual in an in-your-face kinda way.  Another thing: the way Grenache reacts to its source country is astounding: this could be neither McLaren Vale nor Barossa, and it’s certainly nothing like Clare Grenache. It’s a good example of why Max Schubert loved old vine fruit from this embattled region: now it’s mainly houses.  It’s one to drink with richer beefy stews and powerful reductions: it’ll harmonise rather than offer a leafy counterpoint or contrast, as Cabernet would.



Oliver's Taranga Vineyards Cadenzia Grenache 2008
$30; 14% alcohol; screw cap; TASTED 04-06JUN10; 92++ points
This is Grenache essence of the verging-on-dessert mode. It's ultra slick and silky, with that gossamer sheen that ripe McLaren Vale Grenache seems expert at producing. It has a whiff of chocolate about it, but that is filled with a liqueur of raspberry and wild black cherry, and then it's been spiced up with really savoury nutmeg and clove oak. It is scary in its slick texture: verging on syrup, disarmingly wholesome and reassuring (don't believe a word of it), and then, finally, ever-so-reluctantly, it turns on a tiny dash of focussing tannin. Like nearly all McLaren Vale Grenache, I reckon I'd like it more if it was picked earlier, but I've always been a touch one-eyed about that, haven't I. Yes.

Penfolds Bin 138 Barossa Valley Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre 2010
 $35; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92++ points
Old fashioned blends of these three varieties can powerfully evoke memories of barnyards from my childhood in the ’fifties, when a proper household always had a grange where all sorts of fruits and roots were kept for eating later.  This smells like the grange after the cherry harvest, when there are still a few sacks of onions and spuds around, adding earthy piquancy to the mellow nuttiness of the cherries. The palate’s slick and snaky, whiprod thin, and more than a touch pruny and figgy, rather than offering your usual bola simple red berries.  It is an agricultural wine from a more agricultural time, when things were slower, less sanitized, and a lot more fun.  Rabbit stew.



Tapestry McLaren Vale Cadenzia 2006
$25; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 92++ points


Yangarra Estate Vineyard McLaren Vale Cadenzia 2007
49% grenache, 36% shiraz, 15% mourvedre; $??; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted blind APR 09; 92++ points
Fans of Guigal’s La Turque should relish this creamy, silken wallow of a drink: maybe the ironstone-rich geology of parts of Yangarra produces flavours like that sunkissed ferruginous slope on the Côte Brune. As slinky as a black panther, this is beautiful, seamless wine: polished and smooth: complex, furry, opulent, rich, fine, elegant, balanced, ALIVE. It will bloom in the cellar, but would go swimmingly with finer veal dishes right now: the lighter cream of saltimbocca would offset its warm alcohol perfectly; some capers would be good, too.


d’Arenberg The Derelict Vineyard McLaren Vale Grenache 2006
$30; 15% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points
Chester Osborne was one of the very first modern-day winemakers to appreciate the importance and distinction of McLaren Vale grenache. This led him to purchase the Derelict Vineyard, which had, for two thirds of its thirty years, been left unpruned and unpicked amongst the weeds and grasses of a horse paddock. Take a look at her now: complex and brooding, with sexy walnut and spice from well-chosen and seasoned oak, and supple, willowy fruit below, her 06 produce is more complex than most of the jammy, simple stews many Australians make of grenache. Spare ribs and chilli, on charcoal. www.darenberg.com.au


Domaine les Ondines Vacqueyras 2006
$25; 14.5% alcohol; cork; drunk 13-14 OCT 09; 92+ points
Grenache, mourvedre and shiraz are the components of this spunk from the rocky slopes of the sunny south of France. The aromas are beetroot, prune, blanched almond, dried apple and coal dust. The palate's juicy and slick, intense and merry. It has keen twists of fennel and anise. It's fresh, clean wine, without all the bretty nonsense of so much of the neighbouring Chateauneuf, and never cloys or clings, despite that alcohol number. There's a lovely aftertaste of tannic black cherries, and a savoury tilt which reminds me of chicory and peppery watercress. It's perfect for almost any dish in Richard Olney's Provence cookbook; it doesn't need big food, but those warm bean and porkstock stews, even with artichoke heart, would do it beautifully.


La Curio McLaren Vale Grenache Shiraz 2005
$19; 15% alcohol; cork; 92+ points
Salty seabreeze, fresh, blows at first off this racy feral, whose label features Harry Houdini’s manacles, empty, indicating the intent of makers Adam Hooper and Elena Golokova. The wine settles, far from salty, other than in its saucy, piquant, flip-’em-the-bird attitude. Bone dry, perfectly tannic, with wisps of ultra raspberry and wild cherry cutting in, then smoothing, at various points along the whole madly cheap adventure. Smoked tapas.


Maximus McLaren Vale Old Vine Grenache 2007
$??; 15.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points
Alcohol is indeed a wicked thing. The heat of this alcohol makes the wine seem slightly risky, or at least tricky, from the start. It's not bad, mind you: it's a nice thing, using nice as Wellington did to Thomas Creevey, explaining the detail of Waterloo while the stink of the battle still hung fresh: "It has been a damned serious business, Creevey. Blucher and I have lost 30,000 men. It has been a damned nice thing -- the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life". There's blood in this, and salt, and a whiff of cordite. And the cooked remnants of black cherry and raspberry, as if the iron pot got quickly hot on the griddle. Then comes the breathy heat of that 15.5 plus calibre round going very quickly past your ear, taking a little breath away, leaving you in a shocked vacuum with your ringing tinnitus. Maybe the raspberries were cooked on a cannon. I dunno. I like this drink. It's lean, and clean, and as rakish as the Iron Duke himself, but I've got it half way down the label now, and I'm scared. I can see the Scots Heavies coming down the slope. I'm on the wrong side. I wanna go and cook chooks for Napoleon. At least he poured gallons of Guerlain's Imperiale lavendar on himself as he watched his men go down to lose. This drink would be more Wello's bevvy, and he scares me. Nice, though. Dry, and long, sinuous and strapping. Turpene, like harness rubbing. Alcohol. And then very fine dry tannin as the alcohol gradually removes your breath. Boeuf Bourguignon, with wood fungus on the side.


Yangarra McLaren Vale Old Vine Grenache 2008
$38; 14.8% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 25FEB10; 24-25MAY10; 92+ points
This is a sicko wine: it’s getting bigger. It’s too humanly fleshy, rude, and ripe to go on a respectable table. Which means it’ll always be welcome on mine, whether it’s just the two of us slopping about there, or a whole damned gang. It has that classic Yangarra iron, even hot iron here, like a smithy, but it’s soused in a hearty wash of prune, fig, mulberry, beetroot, dried apple, almond, lipstick, cosmetics, and summer dust. The palate’s big and fluffy, and sticks out its mighty paw and gurgles “’Lo. The name’s Bubba.” Then you realize it could be a girl, which in my case will render the table business more enjoyable. The finish is firm, but not stiff with steely acidity. Think of a truck spring. And then there’s that velvet curtain of tannin, which means she doesn’t quite have to shave that top lip, but it might soon be essential.


Dog Ridge McLaren Vale Cadenzia 2005
$22; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points
d’Arenberg McLaren Vale Cadenzia 2006
Grenache shiraz mourvedre; $??; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted blind APR 09; 91+ points
Chester’s changed his style here: not only is it the oldest Cadenzia, but it’s the most lively. It had a lovely cheeky sooty lift at first opening; now, after a day’s air, it’s more of the same, but more seductively intense and bright: nothing sullen about it. Minty, swarfy and bright, the wine has brilliant focus and elegance, a great tapering palate, and leaves the sort of vacuum in your gustatories that has them hanging out for more. It’s one of the more Spanish in style, being far too clean and shiny for most of the south of France. Clean and shiny like Zorro’s grosgrain-lined boots. Tapas; mezes; antipasto; hors d’oeu-vres, or another year or two cellar.


Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards McLaren Vale Cadenzia 2007
100% grenache; $??; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted blind APR 09; 91+ points
Spicy oak adds some piquancy to the plum pudding here; but it’s not too big or thick: its topnotes of raspberry and musk, and bass tones of baby beetroot bring pinot to mind, or gamay vin de guarde from Fleurie; perhaps more Moulin-à-vent-ish with that oak. It most certainly is evocative of fruits from that magic transition from the limestone of Burgundy to the granite of Beaujolais. And then, it’s deep and black enough to contemplate the possibility of it including a dollop of shiraz, which both the above regions have been known to include in the darker hours, if not the darker ages. The palate’s a lush syrup with more tannin than gamay, and quite stern acidity. It’s pretty, aromatic, highly entertaining grenache that slips away solicitously now, but will do so even more wickedly in a few more years.


d’Arenberg Stump Jump McLaren Vale Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2006
$12; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 91 points
I’d dine out more if this was on the wine lists; buy it in a wine shop and there’s little reason to eat out. Juicy fresh berries slide across its top; below lies a ballast of grainy tannins with a dash of the boiler-stoker’s apron: sweat, leather, hot iron, coal dust. This sets juvenile judges yelling “Brett! Brett!”, seeing a pernicious yeast that’s popular to decry. Whatever it is grows whiskers on this cheapy, drying the finish, adding sage grandeur to the juicy fruit. Old vines, basket press, a year of oak – what more do you want? Food? Backstrap, marinaded, barbecued on coals.


Maximus Premium McLaren Vale GSM 2007
$??; 15% alcohol; screw cap; 91 points
Fragrant iron, like a hot cannonball in the violets, always says mataro to me. This back label calls it mourvedre, which I suppose is forgiveable. There's musk, and plush raspberry from the grenache, too, and the rude smell of half-finished charcuterie meats, maybe even undercooked chook. Coal dust. The palate's fat and fluffy, with tannins as velvety as the stage curtain, and I never knew til now that this was a stage -- I though this was real! And real it is, when you get the first big slug into your blood, and realise that this is not only real, but good gutsy wine with some finesse, which soon subsides beneath the macho heat and afterbreath of that warrior hero alcohol. And then the berries return, fresh as a fruiterer, and then the alcohol, and then the berries and then the alcohol ... Long and neat and naughty, requiring a thick reduced duck or beefstock. With onion.


Gemtree Vineyards McLaren Vale Cadenzia 2007
60% grenache, 20% tempranillo, 20% shiraz; $??; screw cap; tasted blind APR 09; 90++ points
The tempranillo is immediately obvious in this tight athlete: “Spanish” is written in the first line of my notes, underlined thrice. There’s precise perfumed oak, too, with those lignin-rich twists of cinnamon and clove enhancing the bootpolish/turpene-like aroma of the tempranillo. The palate’s slender, tight, and wiry - acidulous more than tannic - and sets the palate a hungerin’ for sizzling chorizos and warm black olives. This is one of the new Cadenzias that will benefit from a year or three in the cellar, but as I’ve said, it would work perfectly now with tapas or mezes. It has obviously been most intelligently blended and thought through: this blend is no accident, and adds great depth and interest to the whole Cadenzia array.


Neagle’s Rock Misery Clare Valley Grenache Shiraz 2007
$20; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 90++ points
Fresh-hewn jarrah and nutmeg, some from oak, some from the powerful lignins of these dry-grown vineyards, add a sharp resinous edge to this Clare blend. The grenache is forty years old. There are dark cherries and Dutch licorice aromas, too, and maybe some quince poached in pinot and cloves. The palate’s lithe and supple, dribbling with all the above, with that hardwood tannin carrying right through it. Forget the “fruit-driven early-drinking” spin on the back. It’s better than that. It’ll be dead serious cassoulet lubricant in five years. I’d have it with osso bucco now, plenty of black olives.

NEW!
Château Tanunda Medley Barossa Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2010
$18; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 09 AUG 12; 90 points
“Since its inception in 1840 Château Tanunda has always been an export-focussed company. However, with the current exchange rates we have been encouraged to look a little closer to home for sales growth” Matthew McCulloch, general manager, wrote.  In fountain pen.  His note came with this wine, which you may find selling for closer to the $15 mark at Dan Murphy’s, which is Woolworths.  It’s the first release I’ve poured from the new Barossa proprietary bottle, which is a handsome and sensible initiative.  And the wine?  Made to a price by the brilliant Tim Smith, who’s too old to be an enfant terrible, but far too punkish to be mainstream industrialist as far as winemaking goes, it’s a sensual ooze of a thing.  It’s a Goth.  It has a piquant prickle of pepper, but other than that, it’s pretty much plush and lush silky and pat me down please Morticia.  After that, it’s velvety.  Simple, see?  Really good value for money!  


Louis Barruol Chateau de Saint Cosme Gigondas 2006
$50; 14.5% alcohol; cork; tasted 02-06JUN10; 86++ points
Perhaps most of the elegance displayed by these 14.5% south-of-Francers is the result of brettanomycaes yeast in the barrels. This is where you have trouble with the technocrats. Brett eats fruit and removes syrup and spits out increasingly dry skeletal remains of what was in the wine to begin. I am certain some of the barrels involved in this assemblage have thriving brett. 67 % Grenache; 20% Syrah; 12% Mourvedre and 1% Cinsault, co-fermented, looks like a dream of wholesome flesh to me, but this is just bretty enough for me to begin to wonder. The wine may last really well for a few years - I'm sure it shall - but it's already getting that saddle stuffing dry dust and salty sweat where once was obviously prime Gigondas fruit. I tasted a range of Barruol with Joëlle Marty Javelle, Louis Barruol's offsider recently, and there were much better wines than this in the line. It reminds me of Cabernet tasting in Clare a year or so back when the winemaker from Taylors in Clare put on a bretty Cabernet and said he deliberately incorporated some bretty barrels in the blend to please the English. A little more fresh Gigondas fruit, please Saint Cosme! I am not English.

Tapestry McLaren Vale Cadenzia 2007
100% grenache; $??; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted blind APR 09; 86++ points
When I suggest that tasting these Cadenzias is like touring the loop from Burgundy through Beaujolais down the Rhone to the right-hand-turn and across through the Spanish backblocks, this contribution is from the left hand side of the road near the corner you take to head west through Nimes, Montpelier and Toulouse: it takes me straight to Vacqueyras. It’s really big hearty country wine: the juicy, rich soul of grenache. It has tarry, charry oak, with maybe the slightest complexing sprinkle of brett coal dust, but there’s fleshy rude fruit, too, with the unctuous perfume of all sorts of cosmetics swilling around in their heady way. Its clean acid counteracts its murky, muddy tannins, both providing the go for a few years dungeon. Good for hearty field mushroom dishes, confit of wild duck, black boar cassoulet, haunch of beef.


Samuel’s Gorge McLaren Vale Cadenzia 2007
100% grenache; 14.5% alcohol; cork; tasted blind APR 09; 85+++ points
Pleasantly spicy oak adds aromatic piquancy to the chocolate, strawberries, shiitake and soy of this glowering, silky brute. While I thought it may have had a little tempranillo in it, Choco McNamee, the maker, assures me that his 2007 tempranillo was so powerful that just the slightest touch would have overwhelmed the grenache. Considering that I thought it already tastes like there’s a little tempranillo in it, there’s obviously no need to add any! All that aside, this is more along the lines of your Rioja Baja garnacha, and is another Cadenzia that oozes lust for spicy, warm, tapas, and maybe some tart sheep or goat cheese. Better in three years. It has really good preserving, natural-looking, appetising acid.


d’Arenberg McLaren Vale Cadenzia 2005
$25; 15% alcohol; zork; 85 points


Domaine Les Ondines Plan de Dieu 2006
$18; 15% alcohol; cork(!); 83 points
Cork, fifteen per cent, grenache (plus 20% shiraz) … this all begins fairly quickly to sound like your ordinary Barossa cheapy of about ten years back. The wine does have some charm, if only for its proximity to Vacqueyras, about seven kays north on the south Rhone delta. And you could probably pay five or six times this price for a modern Barossa equivalent, especially if it was made by a young artisan. Which of course means an artificer, or manufacturing copyist, a contrivor. Which is what they are, and this is what they copy. Coal, sweat, jam. If you make an acronym of the label, it says DLOPDD. Cool. Vintage Cellars


Dog Ridge McLaren Vale Cadenzia 2007
96% grenache, 4% shiraz; unfinished wine; second sample; tasted blind APR 09; 84 points
Much more piquant; better. Nice focus; lighter style ... smooth and velvety, prunes and mulberries; dried fig; black tea tin, black pepper; lovely modest syrupy texture; more raspberry and blood orange flavours, a tiny bit like orange chocolate ... simpler style. Côtes du Rhône ... lovely juicy fruitsweet wine: rabbit, spatchcock, salt’n’pepper quail, salmon confit ... soft velvet finish ... but unfinished, so anything can happen between here and the bottle.


Veronique Old Vine Barossa Grenache Mataro Shiraz 2007
$??; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 82 points
14.5% alcohol? All Australia’s red cannot possibly be 14.5% alcohol. Can it. No. This one’s a bit jammy and old wet carpets, but gradually the former spills over the latter and a drink begins to emerge. It’s thick, but, and I can see the ancient pizzas dribbling down the front of the telly. Then the fruit gets stronger, and we get a feeling like prune juice, and some sooty, peaty fireplace. The wine’s thick and claggy in the mouth, and doesn’t make me feel like any more pizza. Then the acid begins to peel the layers off the tired old tongue, and it makes me feel like forgiving everything that went before and have another schlück, throw another handful of 30-30s in the fire and sit back and see if any of ’em hit me. As long as I stay alive, there’s always the possibility of another pizza arriving. More chilli please, Ratsack. (Ratsack was my uncle Robert’s memorable pizza girl, but after she got glassed she drank only metho. Stabbed a trick to death in St. Kilda by dancing on his chest with her stilettos, dear old Ratsack.)


l’Enclave Des Papes Côtes du Rhône 2008
$15; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; drunk 4-7MAY10; 78 points
Grenache, Shiraz and Carignan are the singers in this trio; the bottle is the first ever crested Côtes du Rhône appellation release with a screw cap! Hallelujah Coles’ Vintage Cellars for their persistence: Grant Ramage and Jeremy Stockman walked into this humungous south-of-France co-op, blended this to accentuate the Shiraz, and then demanded screwies, or the order went in the bin. Make no mistake, this is NOT La Chappelle. It’s a cheeky, saucy, flushed in the cheeks sort of a lass from the sunny south, simple but duplicitous and tricky if you let her walk all over you. Very dry, too, and a little sweaty in that bri-nylon.


Dog Ridge McLaren Vale Cadenzia 2007
98% grenache, 2% shiraz; unfinished wine; tated blind APR 09; 60 points
Cuddly, juicy, plush, warm and slippery, this unfinished wine suffered a little as this week-old barrel sample was no longer fresh at the time of tasting – it fell asleep rather quickly on exposure to air..

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