The warm Mediterranean climate of the Southern Rhône Valley, combined with high-quality grapes such as grenache, syrah, marsanne and roussanne, produces enigmatic wines, particularly near the towns of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas.
2017 Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, France, A$215
From the highly fancied stony La Crau plateau, this is a classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape in a modern and slick style. It is very concentrated with ripe and muscular fruit. Blackberry and licorice allsorts are lifted by meaty, baked earth, tarry and dried herb complexity. Dense and ripe on the palate. Exuberant fruits beautifully balanced with significant tannins to provide long ageing potential.
2017 Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, France, A$110
A great example of the more traditional Châteauneuf-du-Pape style partially aged in concrete. Superb purity of grenache fruit, with raspberry, earth and leather aromas that are subtle and detailed. The palate is dry, robust, brooding and reserved, showing great concentration and length of fruit that is well matched with well-integrated tannins. Wonderful balance will see this wine drink well for a decade if not two.
2016 Domaine La Barroche Liberty, Rhône, France, A$61
Fantastic value here made from a vineyard close to Châteauneuf-du-Pape that is similar to the soils found on the La Crau plateau. The wine shows great character and personality, immediately rustic and savoury with layers of baked earth, iron, spice and bay leaf. Dry and firm with chewy tannins well matched to powerful fruit. Delicious now but will reward medium-term cellaring.
2017 Château Mont-Redon Lirac, Rhône, France, A$56
Delicious from start to finish, this Lirac is ripe and generous with layers of dark cherry, earth, dried herb and spicy fruit. It is dry and quite luscious; its powerful flavours are well matched with old oak and supple tannins, providing great drinkability.
2017 Domaine les Pallières Gigondas Les Racines, Rhône, France, A$95
A very youthful and understated Gigondas made largely from old-vine grenache blended with syrah, cinsault and clairette. It has savoury and rustic aromas of pepper, aged meat, baked earth and licorice fruits, although remains a little closed. It’s dry, compact and firm on the palate with its fruit well matched by significant well-integrated tannins.
2016 Guigal Côtes du Rhône, Rhône, France, A$26
Guigal’s Côtes du Rhône remains the regional benchmark with its particularly generous style. The 2016 vintage is ripe and bold with powerful blackberry plus an attractive touch of meat and spice. It’s full-bodied and rich with flavours of dark cherry and white pepper in an open knit style underpinned by some significant savoury tannins, and finishing with significant power and length.
2017 JL Chave Selection Côtes du Rhône Mon Coeur, Rhône, France, A$42
From the highly revered Chave name comes this syrah, grenache and mourvèdre blend. It is deeply coloured and concentrated, with blackberry, spice, aged meat, and old oak aromas with a granitic edge. It’s then firm and dense on a spicy, gamey palate, with good fruit intensity and length on a drying finish.
2017 Domaine de Beaurenard Rasteau, Rhône, France, A$49
An immediately attractive and open-knit Rhône style that shows layers of ripe cherry fruit lifted by dried herbs and spicy complexity. Then fleshy and full-bodied with good fruit impact on the palate, finishing supple and long.
2017 Domaine du Seminaire Côtes du Rhône, France, A$25
A very honest and generous Côtes du Rhône made from organically managed grenache, syrah and carignan vineyards. Layers of ripe raspberry lifted by some very attractive bacon fat, bay leaf and spicy complexity. It’s mid-weight, but concentrated. Generous finishing with supple tannins.
2016 Famille Perrin Réserve Côtes du Rhône Blanc, France, A$26
This blend of grenache blanc, marsanne, roussanne and viognier is a deliciously exotic style, with lifted aromas of apricot, honeydew and citrus fruit, plus a touch of spicy oak. Fresh and bright in quite a full-bodied style, the ripe fruit is well balanced with tangy acidity and a lingering finish.
2018 Cellier des Dauphins Côtes du Rhône, France, A$20
This is a mix of grenache and syrah, and it is bursting with juicy red fruits. Layers of pure cherry and cranberry are matched with a mix of spice, meat and dried herbs. Mid-weight, supple and made for early drinking.
2019 La Vieille Ferme Rosé, Rhône, France, A$18
A pretty and bright rosé with pale salmon colour, showing elegant spicy, wild strawberry fruit and a touch a savoury earth complexity. The wine is dry on the palate, with acid and fruit well balanced.
Argentina has come a long way since it first burst on the international wine scene 30 years ago. Building on its reputation for dense malbec, Argentina is now home to many fine wines across a wide range of styles and grape varieties.
2017 Bodega Colomé Auténtico Malbec, Calchaquí Valley, Argentina, A$85
Argentina’s oldest winery, Bodega Colomé was founded in Salta and the Autentico is made from 100-year-old vineyards planted at over 2,000m. Fermented with wild yeasts, it is incredibly expressive, with bright mulberry, spicy, meaty, rocky fruit aromas. Dry and explosive on the palate with a well-balanced blend of powerful fruit, tannins and acid that drives a long, juicy finish.
2016 Catena Zapata Catena Alta Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, A$105
Nicolás Catena Zapata was a key player in putting Argentina on the global wine map. An immensely concentrated wine with aromas of blackberry, blueberry, violets and dried herbs well matched with quality oak. Well structured on the palate, with reserved and savoury fruit underpinned by firm tannins, but also shows incredible detail and a long, firm finish. A fantastic cellaring proposition over the next 10-15 years.
2018 Bodega Chacra Mainqué Chardonnay, Rio Negro, Argentina, A$110
A uniquely Argentinian collaboration between Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, grandson of the man behind Sassicaia, and renowned Burgundian winemaker Jean-Marc Roulot. The Patagonian climate radiates through this wine, with citrus and guava fruits lifted by wild barrel ferment aromas of lanolin and praline. Savoury and Burgundian, with a delicate frame and pristine acidity that powerfully drives the palate towards a long and fine finish.
2018 Passionate Wine Esperando a los Bárbaros Malbec, Gualtallary, Argentina, A$35
From the Uco Valley and vineyards planted at 1,300m comes this thought-provoking version of Argentinian malbec. Biodynamically grown fruit fermented in concrete eggs provides rustic aromas of slate, spice and violets. The palate is deliciously dry, fleshy, energetic and textural with blueberry. Floral fruits supported by well-integrated tannins. Delicious in an early drinking style.
2018 Familia Cassone Finca La Florencia Malbec, Mendoza,
Made from vines up to 90 years old, located in the prime Luján de Cuyo region of southern Mendoza, this wine shows the benefits of vine age with its significant complexity. It has the typical array of blueberry and inky fruit, with layers underneath of baked earth and spice plus some quality oak. It is fleshy and rich with well-integrated tannins to provide a fantastic backbone to the ripe fruit profile.
2018 Argento Esquinas de Argento Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, A$22
From the Argentinian powerhouse of Bodega Argento comes this powerful and fleshy malbec. The fruit is immediately generous and attractive, with blueberry, violet and inky fruits that are dense and ripe. It leads to a dry and full-bodied palate that is plump with luscious juicy dark berried fruit plus layers of dried herbs and old oak. With healthy concentration and length this is a crowd-pleaser for early drinking.
While nebbiolo and amarone often steal the limelight in Northern Italy, its cool climate is also home to a variety of elegantly styled Italian wines, made from both local and international grape varieties.
2017 Pieropan La Rocca Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy, A$65
Pieropan is among the finest Soave producers, with La Rocca this estate’s greatest wine. The 2017 vintage is exotic and rich, with guava, floral and acacia aromas thanks to long-ripened fruit. Ageing in large oak for 15 months has provided a full-bodied and creamy texture with powerful yet savoury fruit and fine acidity. Lovely now but it can also drink well up to 10 years.
2018 Poderi Luigi Einaudi Dolcetto di Dogliani DOCG, Piedmont, Italy, A$36
Dolcetto is often thought of as a lesser grape of Piedmont, but in the commune of Dogliani, south of Alba, it creates hearty, food-friendly reds, not unlike barbera. This delicious example has generous dark cherry and dried herb fruit aromas backed up by a concentrated palate supported by crisp acid and fine tannins.
2017 La Spinetta Bricco Quaglia, Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Italy, A$40
Not all moscatos are created equal and this is one of the best, which will come as no surprise to fans of La Spinetta. It is delightfully bright and fresh, with complex grapey, floral and musky fruits, and a light-bodied palate where sweetness, acidity and low alcohol are very well balanced. The finish is also fine, detailed and long, rounding out the package.
2018 Mezzacorona Rosé Dolomiti IGT, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy, A$20
Made from lagrein grown in Trentino-Alto Adige near the Dolomites, this is a serious rosé style. Aromatically it is shy and savoury, with very pure raspberry fruit and a touch of green herbs. It is then dry and quite textural on the palate, with supple tannins and lagrein’s renowned acid backbone driving a long, fine finish.
2018 Allegrini Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy, A$32
Amarone Valpolicella is one of Italy’s most coveted wines, crafted from semi-dried corvina, rondinella and molinara, with Allegrini one of the market leaders. Their standard Valpolicella is also delicious for everyday drinking with its energetic cherry pip, spice and dried herb fruits supported by crisp acidity and supple tannins. Beaujolais fans will love this.
2018 Alois Lageder Riff Pinot Grigio, delle Venezie, Italy, A$23
From sixth-generation winemakers and one of the finest producers of dry whites in Northern Italy comes this attractive pinot grigio. It shows layers of spicy, smoky pear and citrus fruits on a light-bodied and crisp palate with a touch of savoury, almond-like complexity. It is well suited to drinking young with delicately flavoured seafood.