2015 Oliver's Taranga Vineyards 'Chica' Mencia Rosé

Mencia is a red variety that reigns supreme in the Bierzo appellation of the Galicia region in Spain's north-west corner. Once thought to be genetically linked to Cabernet Franc, research now suggests it is identical to the Portuguese variety Jaen from the Dao region, brought to Spain it seems by religious pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. Previously a variety of minor importance, Mencia has now started to gain serious attention both within Spain and abroad for its potential to make quality wine. 

Oliver's Taranga Vineyards grow the only commercial plantings of Mencia in Australia and this hand-picked and foot-trodden Mencia Rosé is their second go at it after the success of the 2014 vintage. Made by the chicas at the cellar door, winemaker Corrina Wright says that "We are still learning every year, and while the vines are still juvenile, we decided to get our whole cellar door team on board to learn more about the winemaking process - and as such the ‘Chica’ Mencia Rosé was born!" 

A very attractive crimson purple colour in the glass. Don't be deceived by its colour. It may say 'fruit bomb' but it's quite the opposite. Fresh floral, strawberry and redcurrant aromas. Some bramble and mineral hints, which give the wine a likeable wild dry earthiness.

Lively and tasty palate of cranberry, pomegranate and watermelon flavours. Light-bodied, marked by a nice balance of crisp acid and dusty, fruity tannins. Delicious to drink with a great spicy sweet sour tension going on all the way to the finish. Dry, flavoursome and easy to drink. With more vine age, it'll be interesting to see how this turns out in a few years. It's got the potential to be one of our best rosés. 

I really liked this wine. With the Rosé Revolution in some sort of holding pattern at the moment and needing a shoot in the arm with warmer weather ahead, you'd be bonkers not to give this a go for an enjoyable and intriguing take on rosé wines, Recommended chilled.   

Source: Sample. ABV: 11.5%. Closure: Screw Cap. Price: $24.00. Rating: 92 Points. 
Website: http://www.oliverstaranga.com/

2014 Amato Vino Margaret River Bastardo !

Bastardo ! You can't help but love the name and sound of this variety. It could be a marketer's dream in the competitive Australian wine environment but the issue is that little of this red grape is grown here and what does usually is blended away. Regions such as Margaret River, South Australia's Barossa Valley and Riverland are its main growing areas.      

In another less 'flamboyant' guise the variety is known as Trousseau. An ancient variety native to the Jura region in eastern France, it has more recently made its mark in Portugal particularly Madeira, the Dao and the Douro Valley as a grape permitted in the production of Port wine. It has a somewhat checked reputation with irregular yields and suspect grape quality and I was amused reading Oz Clarke's paraphrase of an old Portuguese adage, which said that to plant Bastardo is an excellent way to make a grower poor. Perhaps the utterances of frustrated growers all over Portugal after unsatisfactory vintages of the variety saw their curses catch on as the variety's name !      

In the glass this wine has deep cherry red colours. Initially stinky then after considerable swirling the nose's boldly redolent aromas send out dark red fruit, geranium, cough medicine, black pepper and wet earthy notes. This was Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side with the coloured girls going do da do da do da do do do ... Apologies to those with a p c inclination but the bouquet was not what you could call perfumed. Different, challenging, compelling, yes. 

What can you expect from a natural wine that has had no filtration, added preservatives, matured on skins for six months and has been fermented in clay amphora vessels ? Brad Wehr, the winemaker behind amongst others, the Amato Vino label has a reputation for doing quirky and expressive wines of quality. With only 300 bottles produced of the Bastardo in 640 ml craft beer bottles, this is surely one Australian rarity. 

The quite different palate delivers sour dark cherry, pipe tobacco, gamey flavours and licorice, which gives it a light sweetness. Generous, sweet and savoury mid-palate qualities. Tight structure wrapped around medium tannins and a sour acidity almost a slight bitter, mineral twang to it as well. A little high on the heat however. Light-to-mid weight wine with a decent length. Enjoyable, yes. 

From an unfamiliar, left field variety produced in an avant-garde way, this fascinating wine should reward the adventurous oenophile.  

Postscript. The 2015 Amato Vino vintage of the variety resorts to the name Trousseau.

Source: Retail Purchase. ABV: 14.2%. Closure: Crown Seal. Price: $30.00. Rating: 89 Points. 

2014 Vinteloper Project V Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso

Another left-of-cantre variety and as rare as hen's teeth in Oz is the Refosco, Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso (of the red stem) to be precise as this is what distinguishes it from other sub-varieties of the species. A dark-skinned grape indigenous to north-east Italy since Caesar was in nappies, Refosco is known for its slow ripening, prominent acidity and full-bodied, robust structure with the best examples coming from the Colli Orientali (DOC) region of Friuli. 

There was a Refosco produced by the Daylesford Wine Company in Victoria some years back named The Moonchaser but Bacchus knows where that is now. Dark side of the moon ? Now perhaps unique in Oz, the 2014 VNTLPR in its funky 500ml brown glass bottle could mistakenly be construed for a Welsh beer, given that language's propensity to lose vowels. It's an unusual marketing ploy for the production of only 408 bottles of the stuff. Still, can't get my head around the labelling as a vote getter.  

It is interesting to note that there were always theories that similarities with the French variety Mondeuse Noir made it and Refosco one and the same but recent DNA profiling put paid to that.

Zero intervention and as close to a natural wine as Adelaide Hills' Vinteloper has ever made, tells me that this is going to be an intriguing drop. From a single vineyard in the Murray Darling Region, probably the Chalmers, the wine is an intense ruby red in the glass. 

Warm aromas of violets, grassy notes and plums on the nose. Slight hints of almond and bramble add complexity. Plum jam, red currants and wild red berries. Really impressive fruit intensity with peppery spice. Robust yet polished, Palate is mid-weight, smoothly textured, fine tannins with prominent acid, which peaks midway tailing off to a sweet and persistent red berry finish.

There's a real drinkability factor to this wine that I didn't expect at all. No airs and graces, just plain enjoyment and more-ishness in a beer bottle. Surprisingly good.  

Source: Retail Purchase. ABV: 11.0%. Closure: Crown Seal. Price: $24.00. Rating: 90 Points.