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.

2016 Decendientes de J Palacios Pétalos Bierzo

Like a vulture perched on the crumbling edges of physical retail, you had to be quick to spot a bargain in David Jones’ city centre rationalisation, a word for weasels. More Mencia the merrier from this great producer. A wee hint of development, dark preserved cherries, plum, fine dark chocolate, sage, perhaps lavender, mineral cut lick the spark of two flints smacked together, sweet ripe tannin and mouthwatering acidity. It’s the thrust of fruit, then the slash of structure that’s so good.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $35 in DJ’s sale, normally about $50.

93 points.

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.

2018 Guímaro Mencia Ribeira Sacra DOP

From the most vertigo inducing vineyards I’ve ever teetered upon, it seems 2018 was particularly good in north west Spain for getting Mencia nicely ripe. This is wild but clean, so smoky, nutty and dark sour cherried. Blood orange both in flavour and mouthwatering acidity. Backing chorus of sweet dried fruit and fine dark chocolate. Gets a bit balsamic after twenty four hours but such is the natural wild edge, it all gets pulled back into delicious shape by that mineral acidity. Worth risking your neck to pick grapes this good. I think this is what terroir and natural wine means, done proper.

13% alcohol, perfect. Cork, not so perfect. $40 RRP.

93, perhaps subjective 94 points.

2019 Bodegas Pirineos Principio Moristel Somontana DOP

Moristel seems a rare one, indigenous and limited to Catalonia and a tiny bit of Aragon. It’s also becoming popular around here. Well, this is the second bottle of Moristel reviewed, coming from the cool foothills of the Pyrenees, the other from the dry hot plateau around Catalyud. This one shows it’s cooler abode in pristine hedgerow berries and brambles as England summers would make, cherries and some sweet earth. Sparkling tart but ripe acidity and a brush of sweet grape skin tannin. Sort of cru Beaujolais from a fresh cool year, maybe a comparison? Just got better over two days, impeccable balance and making, just the essence of grape, summer in a bottle. The label also carries the Barbadillo brand. For such a large enterprise, they’re increasingly producing wine of place and heritage, all the way from Jerez to the mountains now. Moristel might be difficult to find but not so rare as a Pinot Gris or Viognier review here.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $30 RRP.

93 points.

2017 Mas Doix Les Crestes Priorat

When something from Priorat pops up at auction, there’s got to be an optimistic bid. Sometimes you win. This one opened well and just kept getting better. 80% Grenache, the rest equal bits of Carignan and Syrah. Rich, bright, soft, perfectly ripe dark berries, that quintessential sooty, warm rocks Priorat thing. Dry furry plum skins. Undertones of dark exotic chocolate and the flavour of those caramelised bits round the edges of sweet roast lamb which would be an impressive food match. Spotlessly clean, luscious but sculpted into shape by dribblingly good acid and velvet tannin. Ying and yang. Pretty much at the top of the list for areas to visit next, so far for the moment but so close in the glass. It’s going to be worth the brain aching language confusion of Catalunya.

14.5% alcohol. Cork. $46.60 auction.

94 points.

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.

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.