David 10 December 2015
At this time of year there’s a need for a few no fuss, affordable reds. These wines from warmer regions have a generosity that only sunshine can bring. Here are some of our faves - one from the south of Italy, three from the south of France, and something new from the Barossa. Enjoy.
1. Massena ‘Moonlight Run’ 2014
Who can resist a bit of South Australian sunshine at their table?
We think of the south of France as warm, but Adelaide sits almost 10 degrees, or 1100km closer to the equator than Avignon in the southern Rhône. This explains why the wines here are so ripe and juicy.
Massena’s Dan Standish and Jaysen Collins are a couple of young dudes making wines in the Barossa. These schoolmates have had time at some of the region’s most respected wineries, Dan most recently as winemaker at Torbreck and Jaysen as general manager at Turkey Flat.
Authentic is a good word to describe the wines of Massena. They focus on old, dry farmed (ie. not irrigated), low yielding vines. The fruit is handpicked and crafted into wine using traditional techniques such as basket pressing and wild yeast ferments. A non-interventionist philosophy is favoured and unlike many in the Barossa, they stick entirely to French oak (more subtle and spicy, as well as more expensive) rather than American oak (imparting stronger, sweeter flavours of coconut and vanilla).
“…their wines’ gutsy, intense personalities pay homage to their proud region ...these two talented Barossans produce wines of great drinkability and freshness …the results are always captivating.” Bibendum Wine Co.
Halliday rates the winery 5 stars. Massena make several terrific wines, but I particularly like this one, a familiar southern Rhône style blend at just the right price.
This wine is 58% Mataro (Mourvèdre), 22% Grenache and 20% Shiraz - an Australian version of the classic Châteauneuf du Pape blend, and it’s a beauty.
‘The Moonlight Run’ takes its name from the nightly drive between the Barossa and Clare that Dan and Jaysen did during vintage in 1999. “During the drive home, we would often crave a soft, slurpy wine to wash down a hard night’s work. Out of this ideal we decided to make a Grenache-based wine to be enjoyed whenever the mood takes hold.”
The fruit was sourced from old-vine, dry grown vineyards and the three varieties were vinified separately and aged in old French oak hogsheads for 12 months.
Dark, velvety red, on the nose you’ll find lush berry fruit, winegums and prosciutto. The first sip reveals raspberries, pomegranate, sweet and sundrenched with hints of violets, liquorice and spice. Its finish is savoury, earthy and delicious.
“Dense and brooding with delicate notes of black cherries and brambly fruits, the Moonlight Run has already proven itself a favourite. Gentle and very approachable with underlying flavours of black cherries, gamey Grenache flavours, and wild berries with a backbone of Mataro tannins, this vintage is truly a step up from previous releases.” Winemaker notes.
"It is intense and powerful, yet supple, its fragrant bouquet is replicated by the rippling cascade of spices, cherry, raspberry and delicately balanced tannins that help extend the long palate. An object lesson in containing the alcohol." 96 points, James Halliday.
“Earthen and spicy but loaded with dark, substantial fruit. Sweet and dry. Complex flavours but a simple, straightforward appeal. It feels as though it’s been forged in a hot, dry, sandy landscape, the berries soaked in sun. No complaints whatsoever.” 92 points, Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front.
You’ll find it in smaller places like Firedoor (Surry hills), Pallisade (The Rocks), Drake (Bondi), Farmhouse (Kings Cross) and Fei Jei (Potts Point).
I can offer it for $26 a bottle. Click here to order new vintage.
2. A Mano Primitivo 2012
Southern Italy is known for big, ripe and often oxidised reds but in the last decade or so the same sundrenched fruit is being used differently. Wines are characterised by the same delicious fruit and Italian savouriness, but they’re brighter, cleaner, fresher and more subtle.
One estate that exemplifies this change is A Mano, which combines the charm, rusticity and flavour of Puglia with freshness and modernity.
Just a year after the estate was established, the 1998 vintage of A Mano Primitivo was awarded the gold medal at the International Wine Challenge in London and was named Red Wine of the Year in 2000 - wow!
The fruit for this wine comes from several local growers with 70 to 100-year-old vines. The ferment was kept cool (16°C) and continued for several weeks in the immaculate, state-of-the-art winery. The resulting wine was left to settle over the cold winter months. No oak was used and only a very light (10 micron) filtration was given prior to bottling.
The wine is a crystal clear, dark plum colour with a slightly bricky edge. On the nose it’s aromatic with plenty of sweet fruit, cherries, strawberries and that typical Italian savouriness. It impresses with its smooth mouthfeel. Notes of bright, fresh forest fruits - cranberry, raspberry and cherry are balanced by good acid and a subtle earthy finish. The tannins are very fine and while it increases in weight and flavour as it opens up, it’s very much a medium-bodied and elegant wine. There’s plenty of punch though at 13.5% alcohol.
The leaner style, the perfect vintage conditions and the combination of traditional and modern techniques, have created a refined wine not usually associated with rough-hewn Primitivo. Read more about this wine.
I can offer it for $22 a bottle. SOLD OUT.
3. Château de la Négly ‘La Côte’ 2012
Château de La Négly, is one of the best estates in Languedoc, southwest France. The estate has 50ha of vines in the stunning appellation of La Clape. Within the increasingly complex classification system of Languedoc, La Clape is designated as one of only 10 Grand Cru and produces both excellent reds and whites.
A blend of 50% Carignan, 20% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre & 10% Syrah, the fruit for this wine is handpicked in the estate’s vineyards from 15-30 year old vines. Interestingly the Carignan was vinified using carbonic maceration, where fermentation takes place within the uncrushed grapes in a sealed carbon dioxide rich environment. This technique enhances the fruit aromatics while giving softer tannins. The rest of the blend was traditionally fermented with yeast, crushed grapes and skin contact. This portion was aged in oak.
The wine is fresh, juicy, and round. A deft balance of aromatic, delicious sweet fruit with savouriness and spice - very Rhône-like and very drinkable. You’ll find blueberries, dried herbs and liquorice. It’s mid-weight, has generous soft, silky tannins and a lovely long finish.
“Fabulously ripe fruit here, while retaining classic French savoury earth character. Beautiful - they have really got the best out of Carignan! Sweet chocolate. Lovely length. Sophisticated but unassuming. Lovely spicy pepper on the finish.” 17+, Jancis Robinson MW (a very good score from her).
“Fresh, elegant and beautifully textured, with medium-bodied richness and depth, it offers pretty notes of creme de cassis, raspberry, licorice and spice to go with a delicious, easy-drinking feel. Aged half in oak tanks and half in concrete, it should drink nicely for 3-4 years.”88-90 Points, Jeb Dunnuck, eRobertParker #212 (a great score for a wine of this price). Read more about this wine.
I can offer it for $27 a bottle. SOLD OUT.
4. Domaine la Sarabande Misterioso 2012
“Domaine la Sarabande is a terrific, organically farmed estate...” Jeb Dunnuck, The Wine Advocate #218, April 2015.
Jeb Dunnuck’s 90 point review (below) for a sub-$30 wine is a huge achievement for a couple of blow-ins on a small, recently established estate in Languedoc, France. But through hard work, determination and a real love for what they do, Paul and Isla Gordon are living the wine dream.
This is a delicious blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. The grapes were harvested by hand, crushed, de-stemmed and placed in small (1,000L) open-top fermenters. Natural yeasts were used to initiate fermentation, which was then left to complete over 10 days. The two varieties were fermented separately and blended just prior to bottling. There’s no fining, no filtering and just enough sulphur dioxide to stop oxidation.
The wine is translucent and a deep purply plum colour. Interestingly, it sees no oak, which accounts for the fresh lush fruit on the nose and palate. Notes of raspberries, plums and roses are offset by savoury, spice and liquorice characters. Yummy and fresh! The tannins are soft, smooth and fine, yet still provide plenty of grip. It’s typically European mid-weight with firm acidity, while still viscous and velvety in texture. The result is a wine that's generous but delicately balanced.
“It gives up lots of jammy blackberry, licorice, graphite and crushed rock nuances in its medium to full-bodied, rounded, supple and pure profile. It’s already hard to resist and will drink nicely for 4-5 years, possibly longer.”90 points, Jeb Dunnuck, eRobertParkerdotcom #218, April 2015. I can't stress enough what an outstanding score this is for a wine of this price.
“This seductive red blend of Grenache and Syrah comes from currently Languedoc’s hottest wine region - Faugères. With cherries on the nose, beautiful soft tannins and a palate of dark fruits, this is good value as a special treat.”Matthew Nugent, The Irish Sun, 9th May 2015, Top 10 Languedoc wines.
“Succulent and ripe, filled with dark cherry fruits dusted with spices.”Top 100 Wines of Ireland, John Wilson, The Irish Times.
This is the perfect combination of generous Australian warmth and drinkability, with the spicy savouriness of the south of France. Enjoy it any night of the week. Read more about this wine.
I can offer it for $29 a bottle. SOLD OUT.
5. Château Pegau Côtes du Rhône Villages - Cuvée Setier 2012
Red Côtes du Rhône is, at heart, a pretty informal wine - not too structured, usually mid-weight, fruity, fragrant and easy to drink. Most is enjoyed young and offers terrific value. Wine writer Andrew Jefford:“Delicious, and supremely drinkable red wine, almost nowhere in the world can match the Côtes du Rhône at its best.”
This is one of the most popular reds this year and with good reason. It’s the first release in a more affordable range of wines from top Châteauneuf-du-Pape (CNDP) producer Domaine du Pegau.
Domaine du Pegau produces some of the most highly sought after and expensive wines in the southern Rhône. Robert Parker has been a fan for many years and not surprisingly gives the domaine his highest rating, 5 stars (outstanding). In 2012 Domaine Pegau bought an established 100 acre estate just a few kilometres from the southernmost border of CNDP, renaming it Château Pegau.
An established and highly regarded producer bringing out a more affordable range like this is a rarity. In order to maintain their stellar reputation, they’re bound to over-deliver and this wine does exactly that. This is a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Mourvèdre, from 35 to 60-year-old vines, planted in stony soil, similar to CNDP.
“Aged in enamel tanks... fresh and focused, with medium-bodied richness, loads of cracked pepper, black fruits and herb aromas and flavours, and chewy tannin on the finish. It too has outstanding potential and should have upward of a decade of longevity.”88-90 points, The Wine Advocate #209, Robert Parker. A great review, given the modest price of the wine.
This wine is crimson in colour, a little darker and denser than your average Côtes du Rhône. On the nose it reveals redcurrants and spice and is cedar city. On the palate, ripe blackberry flavours mingle with cranberry astringency - a wonderful combination, interspersed with rich notes of cedar (a typical CNDP characteristic) and chinotto. Structurally it has fine, dry, chewy tannins and a typical French savoury acidity on the finish. Definitely firmer and more structured red than a Côtes du Rhône of the same price. Read more about this wine.
This is a real treat.
I can offer it for $25 a bottle. Click here to order.