It’s time for a slate of amazing wines for outdoor sipping (or outdoor gulping, I don’t know what kind of day you’ve had), this time in both reds and whites. I didn’t plan on including white wines in a Deckbusters email, but nor did I imagine that my own deck would reach 42C, so here we are, adaptable and thirsty. We begin with the Reds.
Kathryn Hall “Darwin” Syrah 2014, Napa Valley, USA. Ok ok yes, you’re not used to Syrah from Napa and yes, the only dude who reviewed it was Wilfred Wong (wine.com) and he’s weird, but if I’ve built up any trust with you, believe me when I tell you that this is INSANE value – it’s basically Shafer Relentless with less grip and far less price. Prizing power over subtlety, I had presumed that this bruiser earned its name in honour of all the other Syrahs it had to kill to achieve species dominance, but in fact it’s named for the northern Australian town where Kathryn Hall’s private plane had to make an emergency landing (winemakers: they’re just like us!). She and her husband Craig were so taken with the Shirazes they tasted that night that they resolved to pay tribute when they returned home with this gorgeously floral, opaque Syrah that burns villages and slays all enemies. Violets and blackberries rule the roost, with cassis, black pepper and pencil shavings leading towards a classically tempered body and a surprisingly elegant, long finish. Nothing but purple smiles when I tried it - a joyful find. 94 points Wilfred “Weirdo” Wong, 5 cases available, $59.99 +tax
Comando G “La Bruja de Rozas” 2019, Sierra de Gredos, Spain. A returning champion to these pages, an elegant, fresh, eminently drinkable Garnacha from the hills surrounding Madrid. At the front of the pack of young winemakers seeking to redefine Garnacha for a new generation, Daniel Landi and Fernando Garcia treat the grape more like a Pinot Noir, prizing acidity and beauty over the oxidatively rustic styles Spain has been flooding the world with for decades. Quite floral and herbal on the nose, Bruja starts to show gamey, mineral notes on palate, reflecting the sandy, granitic soils in the vineyard. Medium bodied and perfectly balanced, this can handle most of what your grill throws at you. 93 points Robert Parker, 2 cases available, $52.98 +tax.
Coudoulet de Beaucastel 2018, Cotes-du-Rhône, France. Another returning champion, this time representing the superlative 2018 Chateauneuf-du-Pape vintage (and only 2 Parky-points lower than their Grand Vin). Essentially a geographically inconvenienced Chateauneuf-du-Pape sitting across the street (and outside the appellation) from Chateau Beaucastel, the 2018 Coudoulet is a Prince wearing the King’s clothes: denser and darker than usual (more Mourvèdre in the mix than other years), showing bright red fruits, sage and white pepper before tumbling into a medium-full body with great freshness and a long, satisfyingly grippy finish. I’ve long gone on and on about the value of Coudoulet, nothing has changed. 93 points Robert Parker, 93 points Decanter, 3 cases available, Reg Price $39.98, Sale Price $37.98 +tax
Finca Ygay Marqués de Murrieta Reserva 2016, Rioja, Spain. Enjoying quite a moment right now (the top wine from this house won Wine of the Year last year), Ygay builds on their momentum with this iconic 2016 Reserva, boasting its best scores in well over a decade. Sourced from a single estate at the bottom edge of Rioja Alta, this Tempranillo (with drinking buddies Graciano, Mazuelo and Garnacha) shows intense red and black fruit over a bed of crushed rocks (I can see someone blind tasting this as a Supertuscan). Full and generous in the mouth, the finish tightens up nicely with good acidity and fine tannins before lingering elegantly for well over a minute. Great now, great in 5 years. 95 points Guis Proensa*, 94 points Robert Parker, 4 cases available, $49.98 +tax
Wittmann Westhofener Riesling Trocken 2018, Rheinhessen, Germany. There is so much Riesling Hesitancy in the world today that I’ve largely abandoned the argument. If you’ve decided not to get a Riesling for yourself then there’s nothing I can say to change your mind, but I implore you: think of the sausages. Right now, all over this province, defenceless sausages are being grilled with no access to proper wine pairings – in fact, cases of grilled sausages being paired with Yellow Tail are dangerously on the rise. You can help by grabbing one of these sublimely delicious offerings from the Wittmann family, who’ve farmed around the old market town of Westhofen since 1663. The nose is an aromatic blast of tropical fruit and pastry, but the palate and finish are dry and focused, expertly suited to cut the fat of those helpless sausages. This is crackerjack stuff for the price, and pairs with Bratwurst like a key in a lock. 95 points James Suckling, 4 6-packs available, $59.98 +tax
Sartori Marani 2018, Veronese Bianco, Italy. Returning in fine form, the unofficial White Amarone from the esteemed Amarone house Sartori shows the strength of the 2018 vintage in its long, persistent finish, full of minerality and glycerine. Holy cow, this wine is a lot. Garganega grapes from the Soave appellation (but declassified because of the process) are dried like Amarone grapes for a couple months before pressing, concentrating everything to produce a luscious, honeyed nose of peaches, melon and jasmine. A large footprint in the mouth, indeed, but not inelegant, with a balanced body and the aforementioned eternal finish. No ratings found. 4 6-packs available, $39.98 +tax
Domaine Delaporte Sancerre Les Monts Damnés 2018, Loire Valley, France. There is, of course, nothing wrong with simple, linear Sancerre, but this ain’t that. Sourced from arguably the best vineyard in Sancerre, Delaporte’s take on Les Monts Damnes (the “damned hills”, to give you a feel for the amount of direct sun it gets) is a round but piercing blast of citrus and stones, softened with herbal and apple notes. It still starts and finishes with beautifully crisp austerity, it just has a nice fat middle: if Sancerre is a snake, the Les Monts Damnes is a snake that just ate a racoon. Brilliant stuff, doesn’t need food. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 3 6-packs available, $76.98 +tax
Venusa Bianco 2018, Mazzorbo, Venice, Italy. A millennium ago, the wines that the Venetian empire used to ship around the Mediterranean were actually grown right in Venice, in fact the area where the Piazza San Marco sits today used to be a vineyard, likely growing the ancient white grape Dorona di Venezia. Tourism, rising waters and urban growth pushed viticulture out to just a handful of islands in the Venetian lagoon, but as recently as 60 years ago Dorona was grown on Mazzorbo, Burano and Torcello, otherwise known as Native Venice. The flood of 1966 put the nail in the coffin of Venetian viticulture, and Dorona became nearly extinct. I say nearly because the Bisol family (Prosecco makers) discovered some Dorona in a private garden in 2002 and replanted it in their ancient walled vineyard on Mazzorbo (connected to the more populous Burano by a footbridge). The variety is perfectly suited for the salty, silty soils of the lagoon, which stress the vines and produce a wine – called Venusa – with an ethereal minerality aside the stone fruits and quince that dance lithely on the nose and palate. The short period of skin contact adds both golden pigment and some citrus rind astringency on the finish, wickedly unique, I’ve never quite had anything like this. If you only take one chance this year on a new, strange white wine, it should obviously be this. Not rated (production is too small). 4 6-packs available, $107.98 +tax