2019 Le Grand Roi Bouches du Rhône IGP

A Dan Murphy’s members’ special for $9 a bottle. Not sure what a knife wielding moose in a English gent’s hunting jacket has to do with the mouth of the mighty Rhône river? Caught the eye in a strange way though. In the words of Rob Brydon in one of those Trip to…. films with Steve Coogan, my bouche is amused. This is extraordinary for the money. A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, it opened with a bit of bubblegum but the fruit emerged in an hour or so. Very ripe plum, cherry, into raisins and fruitcake. Bit syrupy and low in acidity but persistent with Mediterranean scrub and a tasty saline tannic end of surprising plushness. Some dodgy negotiant CNdP bottlings of yore weren’t as good as this, although that may be faint praise. Really quite a decent clean glass of wine. Might well be the Carignan adding character? Maybe not.

14.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $9.

90 points.

2017 Celler Piñol Raig de Raïm Garnatxa Cariñena Terra Alta DO

Yet another one of those Catalan Grenaches with some Carignan from a DO close to the wonderful Priorat for a lot less. This was a staff pick at a good local wine shop I keep forgetting about. McCoppins on the traffic sewer that’s Johnston Street in old Fitzroy for those familiar with Melbourne. Extremely familiar for the moment due to lockdown walks with lots fewer motors clogging the asphalt. Breathe more easily. Developing smells of old leather furniture, dark cherries with a balsamic tang, roasting pan juices and, yes, the sooty old fireplace detail of that beautiful, rugged landscape. One day I’ll get there. There’s ripe plums and peanuts from Grenache to freshen a mouthful with well mingled very ripe tannin and just enough acidity. Probably as good as it will get with a little bottle age. Heartwarming wine for quiet times as we wait for better news. Went back for another masked browse and all gone. Time passes, shelves empty and fill with something new to enjoy.

14% alcohol. Cork. $20.

91 points, baby Priorat.

2018 Domaine Clos du Bagatelle Les Sentiers de Bagatelle à l’Origine Saint Chinian AOP

Many words in a name, a lot of flavour in the glass. A blend of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache in roughly equal parts. Lovely purple red colour like something from the more technical new world way of making. Smells like Languedoc though, albeit beautifully fresh and clean. Pure flavours of kirsch, soot, dark dried cherries and that Mediterranean scrub they call garrigue. Nice crunch of chalky acidity and tannin. Smatter of mocha oak seasoning. Warmth and brightness at ease with each other. Seems very polished in the technique, sort of Bordeaux gloss meets Languedoc generosity. There’s something in the rich sooty cherry flavours that bring to mind the tension of good Priorat, old vine Carignan? There’s two more bottles on the auction site. Big brave bid.

13.5% alcohol. One of those odd one plus one agglomerate stoppers, sort of Diam maybe? $29 at auction.

93 points.

2016 Xavi Pallejà Buxus de les Aubagues Priorat

Catalan labelling is far more complicated than my limited language ability can deal with. I think Xavi is the producer, Buxus seems to be a variety of boxwood and Aubagues has something to do with shade and the cooler zone of Priorat or Partida les Aubagues? The label also notes the village of Bellmunt del Priorat and that this is a village wine, vi de villa, in what seems to be the emerging Priorat classification system. There’s a good article on spanishwinelover.com which goes into fascinating detail. Annoyingly, my ageing iPad won’t let me copy and paste the link. Looking at the label, I was hoping Buxus might be a pretty good name for an elephant.

Notwithstanding the esoteric label, if ever a bottle shows just how profoundly good a Samsó, or Carignan to us non Catalans, with 25% Grenache can be, then this is the business. It even looks so good as it pours, a bright carmine with royal purple flashes. In smell and flavour, it’s soft, clean, rich and precise. All the fresh, squishy berries of summer plus a seasoning of cocoa, roast sweet goat and that Priorat sooty old fireplace thing. The next day and a couple thereafter, I found myself scribbling words like, great wine, seldom seen. So pure, deep and a perfume to haunt those places where we remember our favourite pleasures. Staring into infinity length, floating on buoyant acidity and such sweet skin tannin. Essence of grape and place. Alright, it’s a nice drink.

14.5% alcohol. Cork. Part of a mystery six pack from The Spanish Acquisition’s pandemic survival sale. Somewhat dismayed to see a RRP of over a hundred in Australian dolores. Worth a trip to Tarragona and into the hills to save a fortune.

96 points plus another point for an elephant.

2013 Can Blau Montsant

The complication of different names in Catalan and Spanish, or probably more correctly Castellano, gets very confusing. The label here says a blend of Mazuelo, aka Cariñena or Samsò or Carignan, Syrah and Garnacha, aka Garnatxa etc… Why they chose the Rioja name for Carignan, who knows? Maybe it’s because they’re trying to emulate the full whack oak barrel, very ripe Riojas popular in some markets? Despite the aspiration, there’s balsamic lifted dark cherries and sweet roasting pan juices riding soft tannin and acidity verging on the succulent. A sooty rocky depth lurks too. Somehow making it balanced despite the lemony oak and generous ripeness. Some place, some grapes.

14.5% alcohol. Cork. 724 gms of glass to impress. $30 at auction.

92 points.

2017 Domaine Benjamin Taillandier Laguzelle Minervois

A quick twiddle with google suggests this is a blend of Carignan, Cinsault and Syrah. Notwithstanding a yeasty, beery edge of the low sulphur, natural wine persuasion, it’s the Carignan that shows the way with savoury, sweet meatiness. The roast goat’s well flavoured with some clean peppery raspberries. Light on its feet for Languedoc as some crisp acid and emery tannin freshen things up. Good balance on the tightrope of low intervention. Lovely unblemished fruit.

13% alcohol. Diam. $30.

93 points.