2020 Bodegas Monte Ory Garnacha Navarra

There’s a few new French, Italian and in this case, Spanish direct imports on the shelves of Dan Murphy’s barns at tempting prices. So far about one in three has been interesting and good enough to consider a review and more importantly a rebuy. Unsurprisingly Grenache has featured strongly and when it comes from Navarra it tickles my fancy. This took a while to open up, a bit surly from both recent bottling and shook up after a long sea voyage? With a little patience, smells of musk, roses, strawberries, cherries, nut paste and sweet green herbs emerge. The same sort of light to just medium bodied flavours are cinched by clean fine and ripe acidity with a lovely tug of minerality. Not the most concentrated but delicious fruit for $13. Sort of resembles a basic Gredos altitude Garnacha, no bad thing.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $12.40 in a six bottle purchase.

90 points, bonus for style.

2020 Vinatero Old Vine McLaren Vale Grenache

At the prices Aldi sell their wine, this is indeed a pauper’s Pinot. Initially shows that bubblegum like whole berry carbonic ferment thing, roses, lipstick, cherry juice heading toward kirsch, maybe some sappy stem to cut the fruit sweetness. Grenache suits the Vale so well, naturally hanging onto mouthwatering ripe acidity and a brush of tannin to slice the sweet fruit. Light to barely medium bodied. Really nicely made, a cute wine! Does get a little washy and dilute through the mouth but the perfume resonates and it did hang on over a couple of days without falling apart. Does make you wonder how long bargains like this will continue as McLaren Vale Grenache gets increasingly popular? These relatively small makes of regional specialties may not build a long term brand but they do suit the Aldi way, opportunistically snaffling and putting on the shelf at a price until all gone. Just don’t expect it to be there next time. Good fun for the jaded wine nut.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $11.99.

90 points.

2019 Pájaro de Buen Agüero Garnacha Cariñena

Is there better value than an authentic, firmly of the place Garnacha from Aragón? Sure, there’s attractive prices for Bordeaux grapes transplanted to the new world but do they have the natural balance, detail and unadorned charm of tough old Grenache? This is much more in the medium weight, rich in extracted bits than recent vintages. Disappointingly it was stinky with reductive smokiness when opened but patience really paid off a day later. So much more open, there was a little balsamic lift to a summer berry sweetness, a spring breeze of roses, darker just picked cherries and plums in the middle. Firmly put in place by genuinely ripe skin tannin grip. Fresh and mouthwatering to finish. Admittedly, not the most lingering of ends and a bit washy but for less than $10 it’s bargain of the year so far. Great effort from those old sun blasted, windswept vines.

Forgot to note the alcohol, denial probably. Screw cap. $9 from Aldi.

91 points.

2019 Scala Dei Garnatxa Priorat DOQ

Stairway to Grenache heaven from up in the hills of God’s Priorat staircase. Electric, pristine and without blemish. Such a different expression than the rich and full versions from lower down the beautiful, wild slopes of Priorat. Crackles with just medium bodied energy. Perfumed with red fruits, roses and other flowery things, wet slate and sweet exotic mountain herbs and shrubs. Drives through on mouthwatering acidity and a rasp of cool skin tannin. No idea how it will go with time in the bottle but how could you wait when it’s so delicious now? God’s stair looks a great place to grow Grenache. Maybe the price could be more humble?

14% alcohol. Diam. $48.50 RRP.

94 points for immediate pleasure.

2018 Comando G La Bruja de Rozas Garnacha Vinos de Madrid DOP

There’s a lot of geographical and geological info on the label. From the Sierra de Gredos near Madrid, in particular the valley of Tiétar where lies the village of Rozas de Puerto Real at 850 meters altitude on granite soils, phew. On first sniff and taste, it surely looks like one of those edgy, minimal intervention Madrid Garnachas. Reduced and yeasty, eventually smells of roses, fennel, cherries and warm smoky rocks. In the mouth, things get really interesting, challenging perhaps. Balancing the crisp red fruit and herbs is an indelible line of finest tannin and a sweep of granite acidity, whilst still keeping the warm yeasty breath. Feathery lightness but full of flavour. Natural wine in essence, would a touch more sulphur calm it down or muffle the purity? Quite a mountain adventure, bewitching perhaps.

14.5% alcohol, never would have guessed, so cool. Cork. $42.

94 points if you like vino natural, less if you’re a wine scientist.

2013 Bodegas Marañones Treintamil Maravedíes Garnacha Madrid

More Garnacha from the Gredos mountains around Madrid. A few bottles from auction with badly water damaged labels but good levels were worth a risk as I tried a bottle from this producer during a wine soaked fortnight in Madrid and was impressed enough to remember the name. This is 90% Garnacha and 10% otros locals, nice. It opened a bit armpit smelly and reduced which eventually cleared. Vivid and just ripe red fruit with a perfume of old roses and musk like smoke rising from incense burning on a slab of smoky granite. Flavours of cherry essence, red currant and sweet green herbs float on high pitched fine acidity and a lick of cool stoney tannin. Quite a mouthful of mountain crispness. Alimentaria, the Australian importer’s website includes a review by Ned Goodwin MW. Beautifully written as usual, you can see why he’s a MW and this is a just a blog, it suggests that there’s an almost Burgundy like detail and poise to this Garnacha, exactly. Recommended reading.

14% on my damaged label, 14.5% on the advertised image used here? Cork. $20 at auction, bit cheaper than Volnay.

93 points.

2019 Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards Grenache

From one of the long term quality grape farmers in McLaren Vale with over a 100 hectares, the old bush vines have triumphed here. Looked a little uncoordinated at first, musky, handbags and a meaty sulphidic edge. Seemed too big and clunky. Just needed a good deep breath, the second day and the fruit flexed considerable toned muscle. Deep red fruits, a glorious top note like walking into a winery in full autumn ferment, sweet ferrous earth, salty mushroom and fine chocolate. Generous and contained by the sort of skin tannin and acidity that keeps you coming back for another sip. The back label says it’s a mushrooming walk in a pine forest and suggests firing up the pizza oven, nice words. Quality grapes, no wonder they’re on Penfolds’ list of growers for something called Grange.

14%. Screw cap. $30.

93 points.

2018 Viñadores de Gredos Garnacha La Escalera Cebreros DOP

More Grenache, not bored yet, this time from the Gredos ranges near Madrid, home of some very fashionable wine choices these days. Opens with a fair waft of ethyl acetate lift from maybe some dry, shriveled grapes in the bunches. Then it’s nutty with smells of old canvas tennis shoes on a dusty warm day, well, that’s what came to mind. Tart, red berry juice, darker dried cherry skin all washed in mountain fresh mineral water. Gains composure later, deep essence of red berries again and cherry touched with sage, bay and rosemary, all floating on that tang. Not your usual Grenache, like it’s been to cool school. Nervous and a bit on the edge but there’s some great fruit there.

14.5% alcohol and it’s not noticeable. Dodgy cork. $50 ish RRP.

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.

2017 Bodegas Costers del Sió Petit Siós Costers del Segre

Costers del Segre is a fairly recent addition to the DO scheme of things Spanish. Spread over two or three main areas, it sort of borders the more famous Priorat and is firmly Catalan it seems. This bottle contains a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon. Opened with a whiff of smoky sulphury reduction. As it quickly cleared, some clean medium weight dark cherry and berry, pretty suave really, all modulated well across a balanced mesh of settled acidity and firm ripe tannin. I scribbled, won’t frighten the horses but has an easy charm. Quite a surprise three and four days later to find it not only hanging on but more interesting. Sweet, round and ripe but not overly so. Almost Australian sunshine ripeness over the firm push of Spanish geology. Sweet damson which I think I remember from childhood, dried fig, sage and something rocky like wet concrete. Such lovely acidity. Tempranillo from a humble bottle does it again.

13.5% alcohol. Diam, good. $13.92 at auction, pat myself on the back, if I could.

Started a solid 91 points, pushing 92/93 later.