2006 R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja Reserva

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.

NV Bodegas Hildalgo La Gitana Manzanilla

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?

2018 Celler Pujol Cargol El Missatger Samsó Negre

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.

2018 Oliver Conti Indispensable Negre Empordà DO

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.

2018 La Vinyeta Heus Negre. Empordà DO

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.

92 points.

2017 Poggio Anima Samael Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo

Clean as the proverbial whistle that wets the lips and pleasures the olfactory bits with bright bramble berries, spice and sweet earth. Bass riff of dark fruit chocolate. Praise for the lovely balance of whole berry fruit cut by guttural Monte tannins and brusque acidity. Extra depth of fruit to finish raises the level above the usual and gives angel wings to tomatoey pasta. Such a modern, fresh full Monty without losing the rustic underwear.

13% alcohol. Screwcap. $22.

92 points.