NV Bodegas Hildalgo La Gitana Manzanilla

Floundering around the flavour memory bank trying to recognise the complex flavours here, nuts, lemon rind, seaside iodine came to mind and then, chamomile tea, of course. Next day in the local Spanish supermercado on a search for mint tea, the boxes of chamomile tea nearby were labelled..er..Manazanilla, well who would have thought! Language inadequacy can be fun. This bottle was also tingly fresh and spotlessly clean with none of the sulphide bitterness that sherry shows on occasion. The code on the back label included a 19, thus bottled this year perhaps? Oily green olives a must.

15% alcohol. Diam. Charity status at 6.20 euros for a full bottle of considerable care and work.

92 points, who can argue with the label?

2018 Celler Pujol Cargol El Missatger Samsó Negre

Carignan on its best behaviour. Dense, fresh and perfectly ripe. Unencumbered by woody flavour and full of black and blue berries, bruised plums, licorice, all firmly disciplined by ripe tannin and acidity. So good it unravelled effortlessly over three days with some profound weighty fruit. Some of those Carignan roasting pan juices and severe Catalan rocky frowns too. So good, the empty bottle went blithely to the recycling bin before it posed for a photo. The image above got nicked from some web images, apologies for copyright crime. Good thing few will look too hard…

13.50% alcohol. Cork. 10.75 euros for a great wine.

94 points plus kudos for pure deliciousness.

2018 Oliver Conti Indispensable Negre Empordà DO

Another Grenache Carignan blend with a small addition of Cabernet Sauvignon this time. Medium bodied, clean and indeed indispensable for the table without too much analysis, except for around here of course. Red crunchy fruits backed up by woody herbs and that serious faced tug of Catalan stoney resolution. Impressive how the ripeness pushes into sweet Grenache warm pleasure but still holds a cut of cool glistening acid. Just like the beach weather today, languid 26 degrees of late summer sun freshened by the cool Tramontane breeze blowing down from the Pyrenees.

13.50% alcohol. Cork. Good wine for all at 7 euros in the local supermarket.

90 points of assured pleasure.

2018 La Vinyeta Heus Negre. Empordà DO

From the Catalan hills close to Dali’s Figueres this is the red or negre from La Vinyeta’s basic range. It seems this particular vintage is mostly Cabernet Franc and Grenache Noir with a little bit of Carignan or Samsò as it goes locally. Past vintages appear to have been mostly Grenache and Carignan, more typical of the hills on both sides of the arbitrary Catalan frontier as the Spanish side view it. Nonetheless this is a delicious bargain. Fresh but full clean aromas of dark raspberries, dried cherries, hints of rosemary and an austere rocky cut from the wind and sun blasted hills where grape growing’s a tough game. The initial reductive surliness airs and there’s a mouthful of truthful fruit carrying all those dark berries and gnarled country flavours. Catalan for red wine is Vi Negre it seems. Tried to pronounce it and it came out sounding like vinegar, nothing could be further from the truth as this stayed rich and staunch over three days.

14% alcohol. Cork. An astonishing 6.70 euros in the local beach side Costa Brava supermarket.

92 points.

2016 Adaras Aldea Garnacha Syrah

From the Spanish DO of Almansa on the south east edge of the La Mancha plateau. Looks like another bit of Spain where Grenache or at least its progeny thrive in dry harsh conditions. It seems this is roughly 80% Garnacha Tintorera or Alicante Bou(s)chet which Jancis’ indispensable Wine Grape bible reports is a cross between Grenache and Petit Bouschet, itself a cross between the notorious Aramon and a Tenturier which gets a bit lost in ampelographical obscurity, phew. The rest is boring old Syrah. Notwithstanding any anorak grape obsession, this is simply clean, deeply flavoured and rich yet balanced. Bright rich raspberries, plums, sweet spices and a rocky drag. Stayed amazingly fresh and unoxidised over four days. Terrific poise between fruit, acidity and just ripe tannin. Not fantastically subtle but so drinkable. In such a dry climate organic viticulture must be an economic proposition, as this is not much more than $20 imported into Australia with all those ludicrous ad valorem taxes. About the same price as mineral water in Spain perhaps?

13% alcohol. Cork. $22.

92 points

2017 Borsao Classico Garnacha

Pretty label for a pretty good value Grenache. A variety that seems to thrive in the Campo de Borja which looks dry, sun blasted and windswept. Going to travel that way soon, so hope it’s hospitable to this Grenache aficionado. This is medium bodied, clean, fragrant with sweetly floral fruit. Good focus of evenly ripened red fruits and a drag of fine tannin and acid. That’s the thing about Garnacha from this bit of Spain, fine flavour ripeness and the preservation of natural, mineral acidity. There’s no great complexity or concentration but there is character and place. Puts many $20 to $30 Rhônes to shame. Mucho delicious.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. Amazing under $10 worth of value from Dan Murphy’s direct imports.

90 delicious Grenache ponits.

2017 Blai Ferré i Just Billo Priorat

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.

93 points.