After a good run of wines I finally hit the wall last night. I opened three wines, none of which really worked for me, and all of which disappointed to a degree. Banrock Station Sparkling Shiraz ought to be more fun than it is: all I got was some sweet fruit with a bit of CO2 prickle. Cape Mentelle's Cabernet Merlot 2004 didn't deliver what you'd expect from one of Australia's top wineries. It tastes a bit like a Chilean wine with its sweet blackcurrant fruit riven through with a green streak. 14.5% alcohol provides a bit of heat to what is really an average mid-weight new world red. The last one hurt a bit, because I've been such a fan of this winery and know the people involved: Tagus Creek is making some very smart £5 wines from Portugal's Ribatejo region, but its attempt to move upmarket with the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Touriga Nacional 2005 seems to have faltered a bit: it tastes a bit dried out on the palate, with the vibrant fruit receding a little in the face of a rather dry, dusty structure. OK, they haven't made a fake, overly sweet sort of wine in the mould of so much of today's commercial winemaking, but - I'm guessing here - they may have overdone the microoxygenation in an attempt to build structure, and they may have just pushed the extraction a little too far. It's not a bad wine, but it's missing something.
Tonight, I retried these wines before passing judgement. Then I opened something that works for me - Yalumba's Hand-Picked Mourvedre Grenache Shiraz 2004 Barossa. You know, Mourvedre and Grenache may be the Barossa's two best grape varieties. This wine doesn't knock your block off, but instead charms with elegant ripe, sweetly spiced red fruits. There's something of the southern Rhone about it. It seems absurd to liken Grenache to Pinot Noir, but I really think - as Dave Powell of Torbreck suggested to me - that Grenache is the Pinot Noir of the south. Mourvedre adds to the pepperiness and sweet fruit of Grenache a lovely spiciness and savouriness. And I reckon the Shiraz fills in the gaps. This is quite a convincing wine, albeit at a price (around £18 retail). A wine that I'd love to try in a decade.