2018 La Chapelle de Mayran Côtes du Rhône Villages Lautan

There seems to be an increasing number of bio or organic wines on French supermarché shelves including this one from Monoprix for less than 8 euros. Sometimes Grenache seems at its most delicious when it’s only just been in a bottle for a few months. This is all clean, pungent and musky red fruit in a good way with oodles of spice and flowers. Sort of thing you’d love in a carafe in one of those imaginary Gallic bistros. Actually improved over 24 hours, beyond which it wasn’t going to last. Sweet Grenache given legs and some depth by the usual suspects of Syrah and Mourvèdre. Looks like it may be an own brand bottling as there’s not much more info available than what’s on the label. Makes trudging round the stupor market almost a pleasure.

13.50% alcohol. Cork. 8 euros.

90 points

2015 Bodegas Augusta Bilibis Segeda Garnacha Syrah Calatayud

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.

94 points.

2014 Locos por el Vino Gruñón Garnacha Shiraz Campo de Borja

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.

94 points.

2016 Adaras Aldea Garnacha Syrah

From the Spanish DO of Almansa on the south east edge of the La Mancha plateau. Looks like another bit of Spain where Grenache or at least its progeny thrive in dry harsh conditions. It seems this is roughly 80% Garnacha Tintorera or Alicante Bou(s)chet which Jancis’ indispensable Wine Grape bible reports is a cross between Grenache and Petit Bouschet, itself a cross between the notorious Aramon and a Tenturier which gets a bit lost in ampelographical obscurity, phew. The rest is boring old Syrah. Notwithstanding any anorak grape obsession, this is simply clean, deeply flavoured and rich yet balanced. Bright rich raspberries, plums, sweet spices and a rocky drag. Stayed amazingly fresh and unoxidised over four days. Terrific poise between fruit, acidity and just ripe tannin. Not fantastically subtle but so drinkable. In such a dry climate organic viticulture must be an economic proposition, as this is not much more than $20 imported into Australia with all those ludicrous ad valorem taxes. About the same price as mineral water in Spain perhaps?

13% alcohol. Cork. $22.

92 points

2018 Gravity Dark Star Heathcote Grenache Shiraz

Forty four years after John Carpenter’s whacky space film and a bit longer since the Grateful Dead’s epic psychedelic inner universe exploration comes a flavour adventure with its feet firmly planted in the southern granite soils of Heathcote. Mint, sage, Australian bush after rain and bright red fruits blast off into a balanced orbit of settled acidity and fine graphite flavoured tannin. Nicely medium weight, it gains from gathering oxygen from our terrestrial atmosphere over 72 hours. Perhaps one of those blends that’s more than the sum of parts? Grenache looking good for landing on Metcalfe’s little bit of Heathcote? One small step for right grapes, right place…

13.20% alcohol. Screwcap. $28.

93 points.

2018 Yangarra Noir

Nothing noir or darkly foreboding about this bright, fresh and dashingly red fruited bottle of joy. 40% Grenache, 21% Mourvèdre, 14% Shiraz, 12% Cinsaut, 11% Carignan and 2% Counoise proudly listed on the back label with acknowledgement how well they combine in their Mistral swept valley home. Here they all meld to make a seamless mix of raspberries, plums, tar, dark bitter chocolate swept along by startling natural settled acidity and fine tannin. Would have been fascinating to be around as the blend was worked out, bit of this or that? What a delicious direction for local warm climate grape growing and wine making ideas. Sort of a quantum leap, organic too, excited.

14% alcohol. Screwcap. $28.

92 thoughtful and clever points.

2017 Blai Ferré i Just Billo Priorat

40% Garnatxa, 40% Syrah and 20% Carinyena. Catalan names but close enough that you can work it out? Very ripe, dry grape skins but a glorious freshness. Cherries and raspberries ripened under a hot sun without losing their juicy tang are counterweights to an extraordinary perfume of warm slate and dry scrub. Savoury caramelised pan juices too. Acid etched rocky tannin sweeps clean. So this is what Priorat can do when it’s not over cooked or oaked? Dense fruit and a refreshing austerity. Oh Billo.

14% alcohol. Cork. $45.

93 points.