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.
Said it before, say it again, perhaps the best value Grenache on the planet comes from around Zaragoza. This was about ten dollars from Aldi. The same price as a Tempranillo from the Ribera del Duero which was nowhere near as interesting as it just tried too hard, all extract and winemaking with not much to say by day two. This, though, was only just medium bodied with its Grenache perfume bumped up by some obvious bubblegum and banana carbonic maceration. Some decent red fruit that held on well over two days, buoyed by good natural acid. Not sure if all the whole berry maceration did all that much to improve things but still a good undercurrent of fruit kept it very drinkable, despite leaving most of the tannin out. A Dan’s own import, 2016 Tocada Garnacha, was deeper fruited, less pushed by enology, more enjoyable and is being cleared for $6! Ludicrous charity from Woolies. Two good Spaniards for $16, happy days.
14% alcohol. Cork, a particularly poor one. $10.
When you consider just how much skill and time it takes to produce a bottle of savoury, yeasty flor influenced sherry, then a half bottle for $10 is ludicrously under priced. As unique to the sun blasted dazzle of Andalusia as those from Champagne would claim for their chalky soils but a fraction of the price. The secondary and costly use of yeast to add dimension is a worthy comparison perhaps? Fair to say Barbadillo are one of the largest and most forward thinking of Sanlucar producers and this basic Manzanilla has a fresh purity that shows their seriousness. Nutty, yeasty, olive oil and seaside smells, thence a savoury mouthful of citrus soaked almonds and a touch of sulphide bitterness. Fashion has little to do with a good drink. Must hunt down a 2018 bottling.
15% alcohol, small glass of course. Screwcap, yes. $10, charity.
Another Woolworth’s direct import from a bit of Spain probably growing the world’s best value Grenache. A small amount of Tempranillo and Shiraz in this too it seems, Clinically clean red musky perfume and well extracted, perhaps a touch too much. Some herbs and a crisp end weigh well against simple rich sweet raspberries and rhubarb. The vibrancy faded by day three. Perhaps no risks in the making or complexity but for so little money a tasty mid week money saver. Doubt the supermarket behemoth is making its shareholders a fortune from a bottle of this.
14.50% alcohol. Screwcap. $11.99.
Twenty years ago Mencia was not part of the curious wine drinker’s vocabulary. Now some of the world’s most dramatic and beautiful terraced vineyards are producing piercingly pure, fresh red wine. Google the area and be gobsmacked by how hard the work must be to prune, work and harvest from these dizzying slopes. Some so steep, one slip and you’d be sliding down into the river.
This one has that typically smokey reductive nose that always make me think of the Northern Rhone. Mencia, Jancis says, is no relation to Syrah. Perhaps it’s the soil and river side? The slight pong clears to delicious raspberry freshness and a full palate of almost tart berries where the mouthwatering acidity just wins over the fine tannins. Long and lip smacking indeed. Nice layer of darker sweet jamon lurks beneath. Really, who needs oak with something this pristine?
Sometimes spending twice the usual weekday budget’s worth it.
13% alcohol. Cork. $36.
More Grenache or Garnacha in Spanish. Really do like this variety’s round honest ripeness that can still cling onto some good acidity and finish. A Dan Murphy direct import from Spain’s north east where it seems this heat loving camel of a grape thrives. Opens a little meaty and reduced but relaxes to simple but nicely ripe red fruits. A good medium to light mouthful of raspberry and herbs with some minerally cut, that from my limited experience Borja and Navarra do seem to manage. No great depth but a balanced ripeness comfortable in its own skin. Astonishing that it can be grown, picked, made and bottled and hurled half way round the world for less than a tenner. Prefer it to its more expensive sibling, Tres Picos, which gets a bit too ripe and has some unnecessary sour oak flavouring. I’m almost bullish about this.
13.50% alcohol. Screw Cap. $8.90.