Bilibis refers to the Roman town that imposed itself in Aragón around the time mighty Caesar Augustus clobbered the locals and thence led them to ask in a Life of Brian way, “what has the Pax Romana done for us?” Perhaps viticultural techniques that led to this beautifully polished wine. Very ripe but so suave red and black fruits lifted by a blackberry and violet mouth perfume. Verging on the extra deep. Judiciously inserted toast and mocha oak with no visible seams showing. Tannins are soft and ripe but still firmed by comfortable acidity. Crafted more than engineered perhaps. In vino veritably delicious.
14.50% alcohol. Cork. 8.50 euros of great value from the extra knowledgeable Alberto at Enoteca Khantaros in Zaragoza.
Casa Perdiguer is an authentically local bodega in Zaragoza whose main business appears to be locals bringing in their recycled two litre PET bottles to be refilled with fresh nearly zero km Garnacha. Doesn’t look like much money changes hands either. Their bottled red wine selection extends from Aragón as far as Rioja and Duero but no further. Keen to indulge more locally, this ten year old was a special at 8 euros, Ecce, a bargain by heck. Despite a dodgy cork, a Spanish specialty, the contents poured bright and clean. Developing aromas of rich cherry, almost cassis, chocolate and mocha, all mingling together. Rich mouthful of the same, just at its zenith and just holding up. For all the riches, that life enhancing acidity of the Campo keeps it bright and crimson. As former northern English compatriots used to exclaim, Ecky thump, that’s champion.
14% alcohol. Cork. 8 euros.
An everyday range from those crazies for wine includes this affordable clown. Nothing silly about the wine though, bright and clean as countryside after rain, fresh red cherries, touch of flowery perfume, spices and some gritty soil. The crunch brought forward by some uncrushed berries in the making and finished off with a satisfying smack of acidity and a brush of tannin. Nowhere near the density of their Gruñón or the Alto Moncayo gear but all the easier at the table for that. Extreme bargain territory, no joke.
14% alcohol. Diam, hooray. 4.75 euros!
90 value points.
Gruñón means something like grumpy old man in Spanish, the perfect wine for this blog then. More Garnacha from the hills around Borja, this time blended with some whole bunch Shiraz planted thereabouts from old Barossa clones it seems. This is apparently a side project for some of the Bodegas Alto Moncayo team. One of their members being the very patient and generous with both time and knowledge, Chris Ringland who has more than some experience in handling very ripe old vine fruit. The Gruñón in the bottle opened with a woody herb whole bunch savour with ripe cherry, blackberry and a touch of anise under scored by that rocky cut of Aragón. Second and especially third days of oxygen exposure and the whole bunch sank into the rich dark fruit and luxurious texture. The oak hardly poked its head above the fruit and bunchyness particularly compared to the serious Alto Moncayo threesome. One common thread being still fresh fruit and settled natural acidity at such rich levels of ripeness and alcohol. No sign of dried Christmas cake fruit and dullness here. If you’re interested in place and grape, notwithstanding any previous prejudices about ripeness and alcohol, present yourself in old Borja with an open mind and, crikey, will they look after you. Bit less grumpy after this.
15.50% alcohol. Cork. 16.90 euros.
Very old vine Grenache from the hills west of Zaragoza in the ancient kingdom of Aragón. An venerable resource of Garnacha, now increasingly appreciated for the depth and V8 power of its fruit. If you’re after the fragrant lighter Pinot of the south you won’t find it here. Clean fresh oak hits first. Swirling the glass a bit more and black cherries, kirsch and something dark, scrubby herb and sun baked earthy compete and then merge. Big mouthful of the same very black cherries and as ripe a raspberry as there could be. Dark carbon and that sun warmed earth too. A peppery alcoholic burst gets put back in its place by some very soft melting ripe tannin and surprisingly mouthwatering settled acidity. It’s a hell of a big mouthful but it all seems to fit together.
15.50% alcohol! Cork. 27 euros in the local bodega but this one was an extremely kind gift from the amazingly generous crew at Borsao and Alto Moncayo.
Resolutely traditional Rioja which research suggests this vintage is 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, 10% Graciano and 10% Mazuelo or Carignan. The first day of opening it was so staunchly stoic it was frowningly unenjoyable. Second day a ray of bright but mellow strawberry and cherry fruit was poking above the battlements. Still lots of old highly polished furniture, camphor, old cupboards and indelible acidity. Only some sweet Iberico jamon greased the scaffold enough for the fruit to slide from within. Not sure if this will ever be for the hedonist. The 2005 was a lot richer but if curiosity gets the better as it did and you want to see how wine was made when it would be left in clean old oak for 5 years or more for the sulphide to waft away and the shrill ph to stop shouting, then here you doth go. The only new world equivalent that’s come close is one of those old Tahbilks from pre 1990. A pride in austerity nearly lost.
13% alcohol. Cork and a long one too. 27 euros.
93 ye olde points.
Floundering around the flavour memory bank trying to recognise the complex flavours here, nuts, lemon rind, seaside iodine came to mind and then, chamomile tea, of course. Next day in the local Spanish supermercado on a search for mint tea, the boxes of chamomile tea nearby were labelled..er..Manazanilla, well who would have thought! Language inadequacy can be fun. This bottle was also tingly fresh and spotlessly clean with none of the sulphide bitterness that sherry shows on occasion. The code on the back label included a 19, thus bottled this year perhaps? Oily green olives a must.
15% alcohol. Diam. Charity status at 6.20 euros for a full bottle of considerable care and work.
92 points, who can argue with the label?
Carignan on its best behaviour. Dense, fresh and perfectly ripe. Unencumbered by woody flavour and full of black and blue berries, bruised plums, licorice, all firmly disciplined by ripe tannin and acidity. So good it unravelled effortlessly over three days with some profound weighty fruit. Some of those Carignan roasting pan juices and severe Catalan rocky frowns too. So good, the empty bottle went blithely to the recycling bin before it posed for a photo. The image above got nicked from some web images, apologies for copyright crime. Good thing few will look too hard…
13.50% alcohol. Cork. 10.75 euros for a great wine.
94 points plus kudos for pure deliciousness.
Another Grenache Carignan blend with a small addition of Cabernet Sauvignon this time. Medium bodied, clean and indeed indispensable for the table without too much analysis, except for around here of course. Red crunchy fruits backed up by woody herbs and that serious faced tug of Catalan stoney resolution. Impressive how the ripeness pushes into sweet Grenache warm pleasure but still holds a cut of cool glistening acid. Just like the beach weather today, languid 26 degrees of late summer sun freshened by the cool Tramontane breeze blowing down from the Pyrenees.
13.50% alcohol. Cork. Good wine for all at 7 euros in the local supermarket.
90 points of assured pleasure.
From the Catalan hills close to Dali’s Figueres this is the red or negre from La Vinyeta’s basic range. It seems this particular vintage is mostly Cabernet Franc and Grenache Noir with a little bit of Carignan or Samsò as it goes locally. Past vintages appear to have been mostly Grenache and Carignan, more typical of the hills on both sides of the arbitrary Catalan frontier as the Spanish side view it. Nonetheless this is a delicious bargain. Fresh but full clean aromas of dark raspberries, dried cherries, hints of rosemary and an austere rocky cut from the wind and sun blasted hills where grape growing’s a tough game. The initial reductive surliness airs and there’s a mouthful of truthful fruit carrying all those dark berries and gnarled country flavours. Catalan for red wine is Vi Negre it seems. Tried to pronounce it and it came out sounding like vinegar, nothing could be further from the truth as this stayed rich and staunch over three days.
14% alcohol. Cork. An astonishing 6.70 euros in the local beach side Costa Brava supermarket.