2018 Tandem Inmune Navarra Garnacha and 2018 Bodegas Frontonio El Casetero Campo de Borja Garnacha

Two new direct imports from Dan Murphy’s booze barn. Yet more evidence of the value Spain and Grenache offer to the discerning drinker, and this blog as well. Ripe, buoyant and cheerful, Grenache that is.

First the Navarra version from an area just to the north of the dry plains of Aragón. Cool valleys maybe but still warm enough to ripen heat loving Garnacha. Just ripe red berries pumped up by some whole berry ferment. Soft, sweet green herbs. Spice and a ferrous, earthy bloody cut to reign in the boisterous berries. Light body but plenty of good clean flavour fun. Mouthwatering acidity finishes off.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $13.99.

90 points.

Something from the sun bleached plain of the Campo de Borja made by the intriguing Bodegas Frontonio run by a very smart MW. How I managed to miss them despite spending two weeks hanging around Zaragoza is annoying and through no lack of enthusiasm for the local wine bars. Warm lift of perfumed roses, musk, raspberry and sweet brown spices, so fragrant, not sure it shouldn’t be dabbed behind the ears. Whole berry fermented again, must be, it’s so smelly. Calms down in the mouth with those red fruits floating on toffee soft tannin and acidity. Again that bloody, ferric savouriness stops the sweet fruit getting out of hand. Olé.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $13.90.

90 points.

2019 Cirillo The Vincent Grenache

Another vintage of The Vincent and it’s proving to be a stalwart in value and quality. Opens quietly with gentle scents of musk, rose oil and then gains some traction with raspberry liqueur, toffee, spice and carbon. Twenty four patient hours later and there’s more spice and fine detail. Wide perfumed lift of rose and red fruit. The acidity and tannin buffered by a washy haze that’s floats the fruit so well. Warm pleasure on a cold night but detailed and thought provoking too. Cracking.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $22.

93 points.

2010 Adelina Grenache

A winery with an address on Wendouree Road East which could be an indication of grape quality, especially as it seems the vines are eighty years of age. Here the Clare Valley puts its stamp on a Grenache, making it less plump and generous, more sinewy and lithe. Starts with the instantly recognisable smell of doing dusty bottle time, then breathes some faded rose, mint and cherry. Despite a pale colour for Clare, it builds well with these flavours sweetened with age. Finest of satin tannin and delicious twist of Campari acidity. Bony structure but flesh too. Made by gentle infusion more than rough extraction perhaps and better for it. The relatively high alcohol had more effect on the drinker than the flavours.

14.8% alcohol. Screw cap. Lucky auction win for $25.

92 points.

2014 Cirillo The Vincent Grenache

Enjoyed this on release so much that three bottles found their way into the stack of cardboard loosely described as a cellar. Some of the early musky exuberance has gone to be replaced by a soft detailed deliciousness. Dried rose petals, sweet raspberries and a graphite tug to finish. No bombast but a quiet sense of right grape in the right place. It’s the calm balance of properly flavour-ripe berries, earthy undertones, fine satin tannin and gentle acidity that has you back for another sip. Beautiful growing and sensitive in the making. Great generosity in the pricing too.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. About $21 on release, bargain for wine from 80 year old vines.

93 points.

2016 Celler Aixalà Alcait Pardelasses Priorat

Pardelasses, for the donkeys it seems and this ass thought this 50/50 blend of Garnatxa and Samsó close to the one of the most enthralling drinks so far this year. Despite opening a bit sulphur stinky, a quick decant revealed dark balsamic cherries, a beguiling scent of sweet smoky pimenton, olé, and liquorice earthiness. There’s also kirsch, morello cherries and a finish where that sweet smoked paprika taste pops up again. Like a lot of great red wine, there’s an incredible freshness and a paradoxically firm but soft textured end gently brushing things clean to a mouthwatering conclusion. A very special expression of grape growing and place. Just as good on the second day. Samsó or Carignan as it’s better known can be so special in old vines and low yields. So soft and luscious. This old donkey is smitten by Priorat now.

14.50%. Cork. Another from The Spanish Acquisition’s wonderful mystery packs.

96 points.

Lot 5/2017 Celler Aixalà Alcait DeStrankis Priorat

There’s no clear vintage year on the label apart from lot 5/2017 in small print tucked away on one side. So, 2017? A little research on the importer’s website says 2017 and the fact that Destrankis is a Catalan term for assets that were hidden from the Franco dictatorship. Ah, hence the bottle hidden under the coat on the label. Opens cleanly, lots of dried cherry skin, ethyl acetate balsamic, sweet roasting pan juices and a richness of fresh red fruit. Grapes left to ripen until they just started to shrivel a bit. Instead of dried fruit cake flavours, there’s still an extraordinary sweet swell of fresh ripe berries and then the thing that perhaps marks Garnatxa and Samsó (or Carignan) from Priorat, a smooth wall of polished rocky tannin and acidity. An amazing expression of grapes and place. Finally it’s dawned on me why there’s all the fuss about Priorat. Delicious ripeness that seems to glide on such a fine bedrock of the local llicorella stone. Paradoxically soft rocks? The blend’s 80% Grenache and 20% Carignan, beautiful wine.

14.50% alcohol. Cork. Enormous thanks to the importers, The Spanish Acquisition, for offering mystery six packs for $90 and included this and another Celler Aixalà Alcait bottle with RRPs well north of $60. Really hope they keep their heads above the dreadful Covid financial waters. Saludos.

93 points.

2015 Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône

A wild but intensely delicious Grenache grown organically with some biodynamic twiddling and made with a lot of risk taking if the yeasty, low sulphur edge is an indication. It goes deep into raspberry, spice, cherry, rose perfume and single origin, exotic chocolate. Sits in the mouth and sort of implodes into something like a lump of limestone wrapped in velvet. Despite the feral complications, the extraordinary quality of the grapes here wins out, just. Some would be more technically pragmatic perhaps?

14.8% alcohol. Cork. About €35 from Lavinia in what seems a very far away Paris at the moment.

95 points, much less in a laboratory.

2018 Robert Oatley Signature Series G18 Grenache

Musical metaphors or analogies are maybe one of the ways to communicate smells and tastes. If you were alive in the seventies and were a bit offended by punk, then the safe melodies of Christopher Cross or Loggins and Messina would have floated your boat or yacht more appropriately. This is yacht rock Grenache inasmuch as it’s polished to a gleaming sheen, bright raspberry and cherry with a backbeat of McLaren Vale chocolate and old fireplace dust. Sweetly ripe fruit swells up in the middle and nicely swept up on a wave of mouthwatering acidity and a tug of canvas tannin. Completely delicious. Easy FM listening but enough authenticity to keep the Grenache nut on course.

14.1% alcohol. Screwcap. $16.50 on the Oatley owned Sippery website.

92 points.

A 2019 version was equally tasty. Perhaps darker fruited, more spice and earth complexity. Sweetly fruited, technically spotless perhaps but still shows how good Grenache and the McLaren Vale can be together.

2017 Península Viticultores Vino de Montaña

Old vine Grenache from vineyards in the mountains near Madrid blended with a couple of obscurities in Rufete and Piñuela. The Jancis grape bible says Rufete is Portuguese in origin but has no entry for Piñuela, so it remains mysterious. Having spent time in Madrid and surrounds seeking out these mountain versions, it’s fair to say it was hard to find one that really scratched that Grenache as altitude Pinot itch. Sadly a bottle of Commando G has proven too elusive. It’s therefore a nice surprise to find a well priced, clean and fresh example. Just medium weight and increasingly delicious after a few hours airing, there’s tart cherry, a touch of almost musky incense and that sensation of licking a lump of granite. It’s already been pointed out a few times this might be a silly thing to do but I can’t think of a better explanation. Structurally there’s some fine pixel tannin and ripe but mouth watering acidity. Mountain wine! A little more mid mouth fruit weight and the bargain would be a steal. Some good olive oily Spaniard in the works food, mucho bueno.

14.5% alcohol but it doesn’t show. Diam I think. $26 but it can be found for as little as $20.

92 points but a strong shout for style and place.

2019 Ochota Barrels Fugazi McLaren Vale Grenache

Auto suggestion seems unavoidable when the back label says the vineyard whence comes the fruit is planted on ironstone in 1947. This just medium bodied, only just bottled Grenache has an extraordinary fresh depth and complexity including a ferrous note a bit like the taste of a recent bloody cut. A bit of low sulphur fresh bread, deep cherry flavour, maybe blueberries and a deep sweet earthy backbeat. Deliciously pristine fruit indeed. The acidity is totally natural feeling and sits well with the fine skin and what seem to be ripe stem tannins. Ochota Barrels is a surfing reference and this hangs like a perfect hundred metre shoulder. Whoohoo…

13.20% alcohol. Cork. $42.

95 points.