While the focus here at Australian Wine and Drinks Review is getting on top of the sample pile before I head off to Italy to taste Prosecco (more on that later), this week is also a great excuse just to get out and see some interesting wines, kicking off with this dinner at the king of local BYO Italian, Chiosco:
Again, I can’t give enough praise to the Felton Road Calvert Pinot Noir 2021. The epitome of Central Otago Pinot, it was delicious in this wonderfully ethereal way, with this perfect flow of red and purple Pinot Noir fruit seamlessness. Up there with the best Pinot Noir of 2023. I loved the Domaine Weinbach Schlossberg Grand Cru Riesling 2019, too, with that unique Alsace Riesling mode where it can feel taut and contained yet an expressive mouthful of stonefruit flavour. I love great Alsace Riesling so much and wish I had more. A final shout-out to the Estate Argyros Cuvee Monsignori Assyrtiko 2018, which certainly didn’t look five years old. There’s this magical crystalline saline purity in that wine which feels like you’re drinking it fresh from the ocean, reminding that grand Assyrtiko can live and live.
Speaking of crystalline wines, I had a brief run-through of the new Bindi 2022 releases at a trade tasting this week, and again they reminded me why I enjoy these Macedon wines so much. As Michael Dhillon explained, these 2022s are the product of another low-yielding, challenging vintage (as was 2023, FWIW), but they certainly don’t look lesser. In fact, the only challenge is how unready the Bindi Kostas Rind Chardonnay 2022 looked, with acidity, oak, and fruit swirled around in an unformed way. The Quartz Chardonnay 2022 was slightly more composed but also so backwards. The quality is there with both – there is a groundswell of intensity behind the first impressions – so we just need to wait. The 2022 Dixon Pinot is a shy beast too, unlike the Bindi Block 8 Pinot Noir 2021, which is a majestic superstar Pinot of irresistible form. Understated, svelte and finely detailed, but with such perfectly ripe red fruit to be generous too. Wow. It’s just a picture-perfect Macedon Pinot – the sort of thing where I was involuntarily saying, ‘That’s a great wine’. A fascinating contrast to that Felton Road above and a wonderful wine. We’re talking 96-point Pinot Noir for both if scores are your arbiter.
At the same tasting, I drifted away from Michael Dhillon’s stand (and his excellent shirt), to peruse the latest Mac Forbes releases (with Mac himself pouring). I can never keep up with the impressive array of Yarra wines under this label, with the whole spread of typically fine-boned 2022 Village wines open to taste here. The Mac Forbes Gembrook Village Pinot Noir 2022 was my pick of the lineup (closely followed by the Mac Forbes Gladysdale Pinot Noir 2022), with Mac explaining how the granitic quartz soils of Gembrook make this such a different Pinot Noir. Easily the most charismatic wine in the range for my tastes, too – delicacy writ large, but with this earthen raspberry compote fruit that was pretty compelling.
Finally, just a metre away from Mac’s selection, the king of esoteric European wines, Andrew Guard, had a table full of incredibly unique and often beguiling wines that felt like a showstopper. The Domaine Lajibe/ Mansengs et Compagnia Marcel 2021 (pictured above) was a sublime Jurancon Sec of irresistible saline tang, showcasing the unmistakeable intrigue of Petit & Gros Manseng in an exotic, fantastically mineral package. I hate the word mineral, but it’s the only way to describe this gleaming, bejewelled tang overlaid by pineapple juiciness. I want some.
Alongside Marcel was something even further down the rabbit hole – a Hungarian Jufark. Sourced from the tiny Somló appellation (which centres around an extinct volcano) and crafted by the ‘Grand Old Man’ of Somló, Fekete Béla, this Fekete Pince Somló Juhfark 2019 is a fascinating textured white of flavour and massive anorak interest. Juhfark (sheep’s tail, named after the cylindrical grapes) is found almost exclusively in Somló, where, according to the Wine Grapes bible, it makes ‘relatively neutral, high acid, sometimes rustic but ageworthy wines’. This Fekete didn’t look rustic, but the layers of white flesh fruit contrasting by a cutting, but not harsh acid line were v. intriguing.
Next up in this motorcade of wonderful oddities was one sensational Muscadet – the Domaine de Belle‐Vue Gaia Muscadet 2020. So often, Muscadet gets treated like a simple wine when the best examples are profound, profoundly lively white wines of unquestioned delight. Aged in concrete eggs, Andrew Guard suggests this has a ‘marine tension’ that I can’t deny – it’s so lively, yet with ripples of yellow fruit flesh that feels more Chablis than classic Muscadet.
My final highlight of this selection was a lofi northern Rhone Syrah of vivacity, the La Ferme de L’Arbre Jamais Malade Syrah 2021. From the same natural mode as Dard & Ribo or Herve Souhaut, this 100% Syrah comes from Saint Joseph (but not the hillside, so it falls out of the appellation). What a beautiful, utterly smashable Rhone Syrah it is too. Do you want garrigue and black pepper Syrah character, with brightness? This is it. An earlyish drinker, maybe, but charisma in droves.
Now, back to the sample pile…