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.

2012 Purple Hands Wines Old Vine Barossa Valley Grenache

Lurking amongst the investment heavy labels on Langton’s wine auction website, you can sometimes find less coveted varieties and labels that don’t attract a bid and behold, a bargain pops up. Increasingly earlier and warmer vintages are highlighting how well the old Grenache vines are handling the warming. 2012 is perhaps seen as one of the cooler seasons since 2000 but there’s no lack of ripeness here. As the dusty bottle development clears, yes it does seem like red wine changes under a screwcap, sweet raspberry, aniseed and fruit and nut chocolate emerge. Maybe a bit of herby whole bunch pulls the fruit into line? Tasty resolved mouthful of the same fruit, spice and chocolate with just a twist of Barossa dark carbon. Perfectly ripe fruit, a swish of tannin and comfortable acidity. Probably developed as far as it’s going but still frisky as it plateaus. Worth the punt at auction in between the traded labels; this actually ended up in a glass.

13.50% alcohol. Screwcap. $14 at auction, probably about $30 on release. Happy.

92 points.

2018 Whistler ‘Get In My Belly’ Grenache

You have to like a wine with such a suitable imperative instruction and it was my belly indeed via a very satisfactory olfactory interlude! Well pitched smells of musky rose, whole berry ripe cherry and raspberry, woody stalk and dark carbon, all singing in harmony. A good depth of fruit develops and there’s a satisfying mid weight mouthful all knitted together by natural bright acidity and woody stem tannin. Good grapes grown in a place where they seem happy and made into wine in a sensitive and thoughtful way, what more do you want, eh belly?

13.50% alcohol. Screwcap. $35

94 points.

2017 4 Monos Pies Garnachus Vinos de Madrid

4 Monos or four monkeys, friends in Grenache from the Gredos mountains near Toledo, up to their business making a wild and untamed natural wine. Lighter in colour than the usual turbo charged Spanish Grenache. Low sulphur smells of whole bunch, bright red cherries, raspberries swirled with exotic spices and some yeasty farmyard. By no means spotless but neither spoilt by smells reminiscent of stables and well worn band aids. It’s just altitude crazy. Enough intense red fruit and mellifluous acidity to push the rustic bits into a seasoning role, no more. Fine iron filings tannins. Poured by the glass at the best wine bar in Madrid, La Fisna. Probably best kept cool and local, it’s alive.

14% alcohol. Cork. 13.90 euros.

93 points or a lot less if travels and gets too warm.

2013 El Escosés Volante En sus Trece

By way of explanation, El Escosés Volante means Flying Scotsman in Spanish and is Norrel Robertson, brave winemaker and MW based in Calatayud whence comes this blend of Garnacha from several different vineyards thereabouts. En sus Trece is an old Spanish term meaning to dig your heels in and not budge. Goes back to Pope Benedict XIII who refused to stop being Pope despite exile. Bit of Catholic recalcitrance there. Made outside the Denominacion regulations, this deep and stubbornly flavourful wine too didn’t move a lot over three days apart from becoming friendlier. Rich and sweet cherry, plum, woody Mediterranean herbs and something purpled black carbon. Full stature but lithe with great soft tannins and ripe acidity. The savouriness and resolved ripe tannin give support and counterpoint to the plush fruit. Great spot for a flying Scot to land.

14.50% alcohol. Cork. 17.50 euros.

94 points.