2017 La Vinyeta Llavors Empordà

An odd blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Samsó or Carignan. Llavors means some thing like then or formerly in Catalan it seems. The ‘then’ referenced was September 2017 and the referendum for Catalan independence. Two years on and there are crowds again massing on the streets of Barcelona and Girona. Choosing the local granite kitchen splash back as a background makes my eyes go a bit funny and the 2017 pro independence crowd photo on the label hard to see, oh well, perhaps the Madrid government would approve? The wine’s a typical Empordà mix of sweet ripe dark berry and chocolate fruit gripped firmly by those iron and granite tannins. Touch of oak seasons nicely. Clean and well made without losing the sense of place or it’s rustic grunt. On the basis of a brief flirtation involving two bottles, La Vinyeta could be a producer to pursue further if you’re lucky enough to find yourself Catalunya bound.

14.50% alcohol. Cork. 12 euro worth of value.

90 points.

2017 Raúl Pérez La Clave Bierzo

Recommended by La Cuvée de la Plaça in genteel but rebellious Girona. Again a smoky, perfumed and red fruited Mencia. Treads a narrow path between fresh tartness and ripe sweetness, keeping its balance all the way to a crisp and flavorful end. The main impression is clean and richly ripe but there’s a rocky cut. When in Spain it’s hard to ignore this star of a variety. Tempranillo’s quietly interesting neighbour.

14% alcohol. Cork. 11 euros for another bargain.

93 points.

2015 Casar de Burbia Bierzo

From the shelves of a large Carrefour supermarket in Madrid from a good ripe vintage and just under 10 euros, alright, go on then. Opens cleanly with bright dark red fruit, smoke, spice and a dash of mocha. Delicious swell of even ripeness gives width and sweet tannins drag long on buried acidity. Sort of has the class of a sculptured Franc from a famous right bank. Warm for Mencia and just maybe shows the way summers are getting hotter and longer across Europe? Certainly this lacks the marked tart tang of some cooler mountain Mencia. Nonetheless still gently warm and ripe and extreme value. Did it satisfy the craving for a wild mountain adventure, not sure.

14% alcohol. Cork. 9.95 euros of great value.

93 points like it says on the bottle.

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.

2018 Adegas Moure Abadía da Cova Ribeira Sacra

Very pretty label that bears no relation to the info on the back of the bottle. Don’t remember seeing many pink flamingos on those frighteningly steep terraces either. Nonetheless a crisp translucent Mencia. Only just medium stature. Tart red fruits, purple florals, smoking dark rocks and a pinch of spice. Takes a while to shake the just bottled disjointed flow but by day three, it breathes freely, ridding itself of surly reduction and a suggestion of something not quite hygienic. Fresh mountain acidity and a cat’s tongue lick of tannin fit well. Long way from Aragón in distance and weight. Still Spain but less sunburned.

12.50% alcohol. Cork. 9 euros.

92 points.

2017 Decendientes de J Palacios Pétalos Bierzo

Entry level Mencia from this prestigious producer. Dark red berries, a smear of blueberry, spicy peppered granite and pencil sharpener smells. Rich and ripe feeling for a mountain Mencia with sooty cocoa tannins and good freshening acidity. Perfumed with that floral smokiness that looks a bit North end Rhône. There’s some real power as the fruit swells in flavour before the texture sweeps in. Quite a statement for the bottom of the range. A spare thousand euros or so and you can taste the top end.

13.50% alcohol. Cork. 16 euros.

93 points like the Guia Penin sticker says.

2018 Bodegas Martin Codax Marieta Albariño Rias Baixas

Fish for lunch at a Galician taberna in beautiful and much visited Toledo and the wine list had the magic name Zarate. Sorry, none left. Perhaps the house Albariño? Why not and out came this cheerful package, gloriously topped by a Stelvin Luxe and glistening with condensation. Opened a bit affected by recent fermentation but settled to a clean, fresh modern, stainless steel made white wine. Just a bit of Albariño’s exotic perfume creeping in. A good mouthful and that’s better. Rich yellow peach and a lick of papaya, seasoned with sweet green shrubbery all put firmly in line by that Galician acidity. Add a mouthful of fresh flatfish bathed in garlicky olive oil and all is well. Amazing how white wine goes with food, often better than red! Quite rich for a basic and perhaps shows a warm concentrated vintage. Wasn’t expecting to see the industrial sized producer’s name on the back label. Much better than the supermarket Codax brand. Toledo’s not very close to the Rias Baixas but wine, fish and me travelled well.

12.50% alcohol. Beautiful back and white striped Stelvin! 12 euros on the list.

91 points.