2016 Ritme Celler Ritme Priorat

You have to like Priorat. It seems it can produce wine that’s both lush, rich and full but still holds an almost paradoxical freshness. The landscape looks similarly rugged but hospitable. Wines and their places again. That makes it fascinating to some of us but it isn’t cheap. This one’s imported by Langton’s into Australia and ended up their auction site in some quantity. Maybe they couldn’t sell it in their online store? This one is laboratory clean and bright. Sour dark cherries, sooty fireplaces, cocoa and a balsamic edge. A waft of alcohol warmth gets sternly reprimanded by some gruff acidity and silty texture. Bit too tart(aric). Both elements seem big and biffy, close to overdoing it but sort of balanced like elephants on a seesaw. In time, there’s roast meat pan juices you seem to get with good Carignan. Maybe not the softness of the best Grenache and Carignan Priorat blends but the oak interferes not and the price was right. Not quite enough enthusiasm to bid for more in the next auction but still, nice.

15% alcohol, hic. Cork. $20.64.

91 to start, got enthusiastic at 93, then more a 92.

2020 Borsao Clásico Garnacha

November, another month and another six bottles from the empire of Dan. One old shop in the inner Melbourne suburb of Prahran that became a nationwide stupor market. Escaped this time with six bottles for $96. Immediately ready to go, nuts, spice and sweet cherry and berries with a swell of perfumed ripe fruit to finish. Just medium bodied and gently washy. Countered with a meaty and rocky drying skin tannin and firm acidity. Second day the meaty element becomes a more sulphide driven bitterness. Borsao have some great fruit of immense ripeness and a little sulphide can add a savoury note to stop the surge of sweet berries from overwhelming. Some will find this an attractive balance. For me just too bitter and recent Borsao bottles have just got more reductive over a couple of years. The sort of nitrogen deficit that can be fixed with a bit of winery fiddling. Or work in the vineyard a better option? It was a delicious drink when first opened and great value. Bit silly to over analyse such simple cheap pleasure at the table really.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $8.95 in a six.

90 points day one, 88 day two.

2021 Bodegas Biurko Rioja Tempranillo Biurko

My inbox gets a bit clogged by all the retail wine shops, wholesalers, reviewers and wineries I seemed to have invited to send emails. A favourite importer, The Spanish Acquisition, happily offer some irresistible, and perhaps Monty Python inspired, unexpected discount clearances. Six packs of your choice of colour for $90 was too good to miss. Thanks to a good friend and fellow wine nut some good things landed on his veranda to share. This is just the sort of energetic blast of clean fresh joven that scratches that need for red wine itch. Tempranillo seems to cover the soft spice and aroma of things like Shiraz with the grunt of Cabernet all in one go. Bursts forth with just picked red berries, very ripe strawberries and a bit of blueberry. Flicker of nutmeg spice. Lots of extract and some depth. Richness cut by mountain sparkling acidity and bristling skin tannins. A lick of savoury sulphide bitterness too that might get a bit too noticeable with time in the bottle but so good for now, why wait? Yet another dream of one of those Spanish bars, a glass of this and a tapa of Iberico, one day.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. Normally about $26 to $30 but for $15 brilliant.

91 points.

2020 Castillo de Aresan Tempranillo Toro Vino de la Tierra de Castilla

Another six bottles from Dan Murphy’s. Trying to find something untested is getting difficult. Time to resort to a Tempranillo from Spain as there’s no new Mencia or Garnacha. Very clean, quite extracted with chunky ripe strawberry into plum fruit. Made in the technical text take no risks way. The shape carries the method with a good thunk of Greek coffee like silty tannins and firm acidity with no room for anything wild. There’s grace in the way of some well grown fruit quality flickering in the making. Certainly a notch up from the $12 or thereabouts basic Tempranillo imports. The sort of Joven you’d be happy about served cool in the glass in one of those much missed Spanish bars. Maybe a bit like some of those Nero d’Avola made in the same way. Good mouthful of simple fruit, a firm bit of muscle but not a lot of complication. Could be an unmerited quibble. What was I expecting for $15 on special? Happy to finish the bottle, a recommendation perhaps. Five more bottles to go.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $15.20 member’s special.

89 points.

CVC Artelan Rioja

After five different bottles from Bodega Badiola, all of them delicious and beautifully made, it’s time to try the last available. A blend of two different vintages which the label says was a common decision in times long gone. I googled to see which vintages and thought I saw a reference to 2017 and 2018. Tried checking but nothing pops up, maybe I imagined it? Details aside, this Conjunto de Varias Consechas appears to be another clean and nicely understated expression of just so Alavesa Tempranillo. A little rounder than the 2018 white label, rich but in no way jammy strawberry and cherry fruit fits neatly into an even flow of mouthwatering acidity mingling seamlessly with fine crisp tannin. Savoury notes of spice and chalky earth. Gentle but satisfying. Softly voiced but speaks a clear authenticity. Of all the value imports on Dan’s heterogeneous shelves, Badiola and Mommessin stand out for consistent quality. Hope there’s some new vintages to explore next month as I think I’ve exhausted the current options. Always cheered by new shiny things to buy. Silly really.

14% alcohol. Diam. $19.

91 points.

2018 Bodega Badiola Artelan Rioja

Another month and another six random import bottles from Dan Murphy’s chosen on the basis of a bit of prior knowledge and member’s special prices. Must admit to gazing at this bottle on the shelves for a while but have shied away as basic supermarket Rioja can be a little too engineered with American oak and extraction for my precious taste. I should have got my glasses out and looked at the back label to see it’s made by Badiola whose more expensive bottles have been exemplary in terms of gently expressive winemaking, see previous reviews, particularly the blancos. This stays true to the model. Just medium bodied, perfumed strawberries, toffee and chalky length. Some would say cola? Not having indulged in a cola drink for years, I suppose my strawberry and toffee is close to the US’s gift to the world. Light touch in the making again. Gentle infusion compresses those clean, precise flavours well into an end of refreshing ripe acidity and ripe tannin of silky poise. Cool fruit from up on the Alavesa and Rioja of character not caricature. There’s a black label version of two vintages blended, I’m in.

13% alcohol. Diam. $18.10 in a six.

91 points but so elegant as Iggy would say.

Well, the Rioja was good but the squat bottle of 2019 Tinazzi Ca’ de’ Rocchi Valpolicella pictured in the six was very much less so. Opened with a reductive pong that cleared to a washy lift of spearmint and vague red berries sprinkled with a sort of cooked brown sugar coating. Fades quickly into some unappealing green acidity. Left a day and not much improved. Most of the bottle ended up cleaning the plug hole. Looking at Tinazzi’s glamorous website, they say the Ca’ de’ Rocchi range is made for those not used to the sharpness of traditional Valpol, the tech sheet says it’s got nearly 5 grams of RS. Don’t think Quintarelli or Allegrini ever needed make up to make their stuff drinkable?

13% alcohol. Diam in a very narrow necked bottle, struggle to remove, impossible to put back in. $23 down the drain.

85 points but subjectively less.

At the end of the last century, Potensac was a reliable and good value taste of Bordeaux as prices were starting to rise dramatically. Now it has a second wine it seems. So a 2017 Chapelle de Potensac which was $30 on special, down from $40. Oh well, Domaines Delon have a good portfolio it seems from the back label, so I decided to risk a Bordeaux from what seems an uneven vintage. Mostly Merlot for immediacy perhaps? Reductive with a smell like those old cap guns us kids in sixties UK used to shoot each other. They’re probably as rare as good value Bordeaux these days. Nice shape to the wine in terms of gentle just OK acidity and fine gravel tannin. The flavours dilute with cooked red berry and mulberry flickering in and out. Sweet green herb and leaf. Finally a small nudge of the sort of earthy richness that I’ve enjoyed in a limited experience of more celebrated Bordeaux. Oh well, I enjoyed the Rioja so much more and it’s much cheaper. This is so careful and polished as to be anodyne. At least there was enough to make it through the bottle. Anodyne can mean boring, dull or insipid or pain numbing. At least a few glasses were anodyne in the sense of taking off the edge off spending $30.

13% alcohol. Diam again. $30 on special.

90 points, maybe in a blind line up 88, it’s a classic label and I’m a snob at heart.

2020 Bodegas Rectoral de Amandi Matilda Nieves Mencia Ribeira Sacra DOP

Another of July’s Dan Murphy seven. There’s a sticker on the neck boasting 97 points from Decanter for a simple unoaked red from a relatively large Galician conglomerate of five wineries. What room is there left on the points scale for a DJP La Faraona? Who knows? It opens with a bit of sulphury reduction, as Ribeira Sacras often do. Left to catch its breath and there’s typical cool, tart red fruit. Even ripeness, no jammy flavour nor any green tones. Savoury texture being a huge part of the Spanish wine experience, a rise of silty tannin and saliva drooling acidity carries that crisp fruit. It seems strictly made. Just medium bodied as Ribeira Sacra should be, there’s little if any of the smoky wildness of a deeply complex Guimaro version. Probably made in much larger quantities with an eye on the balance sheet. Nonetheless finding a very enjoyable Galician Mencia for $20 is something. Probably could be persuaded to try another when it’s had a chance to settle in a month or two.

There was a glass left after four days, the bottle kept in the fridge apart from being sloshed around in an esky on a two hour drive. Barely oxidised, that evenly ripe fruit is even more mouthwateringly delicious. I’ll try and find a couple more now. There’s something about Mencia I really like. Probably getting closer to the Decanter score.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $19.90

90 points to start, rocketed up to 91 after a day or two. Maybe it’s a Decanter typo?

2020 Bodegas Borsao Vina Borgia Organic Garnacha

Another from the July Dan’s import selection. This one is first one on the left in the photo. Spanish Grenache is always a good place to find value but recently there’s been more sulphide reduction and this is already showing that box of spent matches smell. Hope it doesn’t go the way of Borsao’s recent vintage Tres Lagunas. If it does, it’ll be clearance special at a giveaway price too. Happily the reduction clears and it’s crisp Spanish Garnacha as we know it. Mid weight, tart dark berries and a rocky cut of fine skin tannin. The difference to good clean Rhône versions is noticeable. More sharp red fruit compôt, less Rhône sweet jammy berries. More austere cut, less soft chocolate tannin perhaps. Enjoy the freshness now maybe before it gets too volcanic? Nonetheless a sense of good fruit and place for not much, although there’s no reference to Borja on the label. A rebuy, maybe, probably not.

14.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $12.

88 points but needs air now.

2019 Callejuela Las Mercedes de Callejuela

An extraordinary bottle I forgot to post. Reading the Australian importer’s passionate notes about the Callejuela brothers’ and Jamie Goode’s enthusiasm for the nothing short of a revolution in Sherry world makes me think a quick copy and paste will say it all. But no. The flavours and texture here just make me want to blether on too. Sophisticated tang of slight oxidation adds richness to chamomile, almost straw and muesli and yellow peach on a grand scale. The flavours would almost be overwhelming on the slippery viscosity were it not for the flow of pure mouthwatering acidity and a pleasing bitterness from what may be flor, just make you go back and see if the flavours were as dense and interesting as they seemed. Yes. Challenging and rewarding. All at 12 percent alcohol. What was nearly lost in the bulk industrial fortifications of mass Sherry seems to be clawing its way back into the world of good wine. It would be great to go back to the margins of land and ocean influence, feel the contrast of east and west winds and stand in the bright reflection of light from the chalk, sand and clay. And drink these single pagos without need of added alcohol.

12% alcohol. Cork. $66 RRP but savagely discounted last year as the pandemic hit hard. Wouldn’t have strayed here otherwise. So, thanks TSA.

95 points, mundane as they are.

2018 Bodega Badiola Las Parcelas Rioja Viura

There’s been some good things in the glass for the past weeks and I’ve been far too lazy to post anything apart from the odd added comment to bottles worth another look. Mainly thanks to Dan Murphy’s quitting loads of Spanish Grenache as a two for one members’ special. Yes, Navarra Garnacha for $6.50 a bottle, just wonderful for the budget. This, however, is so incredibly good it would be silly not to share with those daft enough to read this. Initially tense with flowers, sort of chamomile, a Spanish thing perhaps, yellow stone fruit and a serious depth of stone and perfect acidity; the second day it took off on a wave of controlled power. It’s odd but there was something in the energy and mineral power that bought to mind fruit from limestone or chalk, faint memories of white Burgundy or proper Sancerre? Looking up the maker’s web pages and it is indeed from grapes grown on such rocks. I know science suggests grapes tasting of the earth whence they come is nonsense at best, but… Whatever or wherever, this is still the most exciting white I’ve been lucky enough to drink for some time. A couple for the cellar. Alas, it seems I’m not alone as there wasn’t any left on the shelves when I last checked. Blown away by Viura, who would think it? One day, a Lopez de Heredia blanco perhaps?

13% alcohol. Diam. $37.00

96 points.