Up from the Cellar #7

Firstly, my apologies to you all… it has been far too long since I wrote up some of the tasting I have been doing. December was a tough month both professionally and personally with lots going on. Secondly, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and I wish you a prosperous and healthy 2024! Thirdly, you’ll be pleased to know that I did continue to taste many wines over the last month and a bit. So, fortunately I do have a lot to write up. I may get one article out a week and I may get two articles out a week. You will of course be notified if you are on the mailing list.

So… here we have an Up from The Cellar tasting that I had been looking forward to for months… we have three wines here, all blends of Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre. One from Australia, one from America and one, of course, from France. I really wanted to do a small Rhone style wine tasting and see how Australia and America were stacking up against Southern Rhone region in France. I was absolutely not disappointed.

So lets get some background on those wineries first and foremost:


Massena was established in 2000 by Jaysen Collins and Dan Standish. Both grew up in Barossa and they were inspired to collaborate and make wines of character and balance. They source grapes from growers in the deep red soils of the North Western edge of the Barossa. There is minimal intervention in the winery as the believe this helps to simplify the wines. Hand harvesting is done which allows some whole bunch inclusion and indigenous yeast is used in all ferments.

Big Basin Vineyards

Located in the Gabilan Mountains, Monterey, California. Big Basin was founded by Bradley Brown in 2000 when the first vineyard was planted. Bradley undertook a significant clean up operation when he first purchased the property. It was severely neglected as the wood around the property was sold to a timber family in 1967 who logged it several times. Once the vineyards started to be built the Bradley and his two sons went to work and they now have 24 years of creating successful, tasty wines with broad drink windows. The winery which was finished in 2003 is built from the redwoods all around the estate and vineyards.

Chateau de la Gardine

Gaston Brunel acquired the Chateau de la Gardine in Chateauneuf du Pape in 1945. The estate is now run by his two sons Patrick and Maxime, their wives, three of his grandchildren and two of his great-grandchildren… you can tell it’s a family business. Organic fertilization, biodiversity and controlled pruning/weeding are all at the heart of their mission to create sustainability at the winery. I have known this estate for quite some time and can firmly say that they make fantastic, quality and well-priced wines.

Now to the wines !

Massena The Moonlight Run 2019

Blend of Grenache, Mataro, Shiraz & a slight percentage of Cinsault. Made in a Rhone style blend, daily pump overs early in ferment with punching down towards the end of fermentation. Aged in tank and barrels.

Tasting Note – Rating 91

Damson, kirsch with redcurrants and blackberry leaves on the nose. An absolute fruit bomb from our friends down under. On the palate it is very luscious and almost creamy in texture with lots of fruit forward nuances. Lovely cherries, kirsch and a fantastic, well-rounded body. Lots of fresh red fruit here but there is depth of fruit with fine, lovely embedded tannins. Good vegetal notes with that classic Barossa Syrah nicely offering up blackcurrants and pepper. A good medium length finish to round off a great wine. This is drinking really nicely now and will continue to evolve over the next 5-8 years.

Big Basin Vineyards Gabilan Mountains GSM 2016

45% Grenache, 30% Syrah & 25% Mourvedre. An important thing to note is that the Grenache was aged in 240 gallon concrete tank, while the Syrah and Mourvedre were aged in larger neutral barrels.

Tasting Note – Rating 93

Blackcurrants, dark cherries, black raspberry and herbs on the nose. Smooth and luscious in body with great balance and lots of freshness from high acidity. Fine, embedded tannins adding great power and a good depth of flavour. This has some slight vegetal nuances with lots of fruit but it is supple and precise. A truly great wine but it certainly will evolve and hit even greater heights with some more age. It is drinking really well now but with another 5-8 years it could be outstanding.

Chateau de la Gardine Chateauneuf du Pape Tradition 2012

50% Grenache, 20% each of Syrah and Mourvedre with the rest made of up permitted grape varieties from Chateauneuf. Thorough sorting after hand harvest. The estate is one of the last ones remaining who blend their grapes before vinification. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats with it then being moved via gravity to concrete barrels for malolactic fermentation. Depending on the harvest, the wines age for 9 – 14 months in 60% in vats and 40% in 1 – 6 year old 225 litre oak barrels.

Tasting Note – Rating 93

Prunes, plums, kirsch, damsons and garrigues on the nose… lots and lots of garrigues. Exquisitely smooth in body with lots of vivacity from the fine tannins. They add really good depth of flavour with those prunes, kirsch and garrigues really rounding out the mouth. Intensity of stewed fruit is cracking as well. There is good balance here at 11 years of age (tasted at the end of 2023) and actually could really evolve for longer as well. Clearly a vin de garde this one, from a vintage that really was not lauded as great at the time. The team here at Gardine have done a superb job. I would start drinking in a year or two and then over the next 4-5 years.

So as you can see, a great tasting all round. All three wines were really fantastic, especially considering that they really were not expensive at all. I would highly recommend any of them, however if I am being honest, the Big Basin was my personal favourite.

I hope you enjoyed the article and we will back next with the second half of the Hatch Mansfield tasting!! Lots to read on that one… 😉

Harry Vernau

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