Barbadillo Solear Manzanilla Sanlucar de Barremeda DO lot L20 – 329

Annoyingly the just right half bottles disappeared from Dan Murphy’s shelves for a while, thereafter on return they seemed to have grown up into full bottles. The number suggests this lot was bottled last year, so still reasonably fresh under its screwcap? Indeed, enormous wafts of flor, chamomile, yellow fruits, peach perhaps, roast nuts and sea spray stuff. Huge flavours of the same, savoury and dry but held and lifted by staunch acidity. Probably the cleanest example of Manzanillo or Fino I’ve seen for a while. No bitter sulphide to spoil and a transparent example of how flor yeast works it’s magic. On the great blog, undertheflor, written by an Englishman living in Madrid, he suggests flor acts something like a chisel, exposing the chalky bones and true flavours of the Palomino fruit and the albariza limestone soil, cuddling them in its acetaldehyde derived savoury nuttiness. If that means delicious, sophisticated and brilliant with olives, nuts and salty snacks, then I’m convinced. It’s also an incredible bargain considering the time and care in the making. Quarter of the price of anything Champagne can manage for a first drink of the day. Saludos indeed.

15% alcohol, love to taste one without the added spirit. Screw cap, suits it so well. $20 for the full 750mls, bargain.

92 points and take me to Andalusia.

2019 Adega Alma das Donas Roberto Flammini Viticultor Almanova Ribeira Sacra DO Mencia

The label’s right about the “Viticultura Heróica”, I get vertigo just looking at google images of those incredible Ribeira Sacra vineyards. Looks like Dan Murphy’s have been busy sourcing some better Spanish bottles. This one is a great example of just how fine Mencia grown on those near vertical vineyards can be. Takes a while to open up in the glass but when it does it just gets better over two or so days. So clean and pure, there’s that perfume that takes me to the Nothern Rhône rather than Galicia. Violets and other florals, smoke and very ripe raspberries. Beguiling sweet minerals. Freshness and succulent balance in shape. Long pure flavours of red fruit, purple flowers and sweetest herbs bathed in a mountain stream. Great focus and evenness of ripeness carried on perfect acidity and tannin like wiping your finger across a wet slate. A weight of peerless fruit on a cloud. As a direct import it represents great value, especially compared how much a modern N Rhône would cost. Think I’ll have to go back for more, that’s two Murphy imports in a week of quality at good prices. Goodness, what’s next?

13% alcohol. Cork, alas. $27.

94 points.

2019 Aurkitu Garnacha Viñas Viejas Baja Montana Navarra DO

Just when I think I’ve exhausted the Spanish Grenache options on the shelves of Dan Murphy’s another one appears. This one’s a softly spoken but confident. Restrained aromas of clean fruit, kirsch, peanuts, roses, lipstick kiss, very ripe strawberries, carried by just so acidity and a lick of ripe tannin. Improved over a day or two, the rose perfume became a heady faded velvet red flower, the peanuts more of a wide umami, the red fruits richer but still composed. All sitting on a bed of wet slate, er…mineral, that word again. From a warmer part of Navarra it seems and not surprisingly sits comfortably between the grunt of Borja and the airiness of Gredos. These Garnachas must be selling well as Dan’s have quite a few; this better than most, albeit $10 more. Still great value. Viva Garnacha.

13.5% Diam. $26.99, $10 to $15 cheaper than an equivalent CdR Villages.

93 quite self possessed points.

2019 Emilio Moro Finca Resalo Ribera del Duero

Tempranillo can be just the thing when you crave a decent mouthful of uncomplicated red fruit and a satisfying cut of fresh acidity and tannin grunt, particularly in the joven bottlings like this. This has that lovely dual nature of spice, cola and a good chunk of straightforward red fruit cut by tea bag tannin and firm just there ripe acidity. A little detail of strawberry and toffee prevent it being too monolithic. Curiously reminds me of Sicily’s Nero d’Avola in it’s no nonsense full red fruit. Really the sort of good value red you want when the company, food and convivial chat are more important than the drink. It happens apparently.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $20.

91 no quibbling honest points.

Well, as it’s a recent vintage, I’d assumed it was a new treat. Apparently not as I reviewed it a few months ago. Unusually consistent notes which is sort of reassuring for a dodgy old palate.

2017 Celler Piñol Raig de Raïm Garnatxa Cariñena Terra Alta DO

Yet another one of those Catalan Grenaches with some Carignan from a DO close to the wonderful Priorat for a lot less. This was a staff pick at a good local wine shop I keep forgetting about. McCoppins on the traffic sewer that’s Johnston Street in old Fitzroy for those familiar with Melbourne. Extremely familiar for the moment due to lockdown walks with lots fewer motors clogging the asphalt. Breathe more easily. Developing smells of old leather furniture, dark cherries with a balsamic tang, roasting pan juices and, yes, the sooty old fireplace detail of that beautiful, rugged landscape. One day I’ll get there. There’s ripe plums and peanuts from Grenache to freshen a mouthful with well mingled very ripe tannin and just enough acidity. Probably as good as it will get with a little bottle age. Heartwarming wine for quiet times as we wait for better news. Went back for another masked browse and all gone. Time passes, shelves empty and fill with something new to enjoy.

14% alcohol. Cork. $20.

91 points, baby Priorat.

A quick note on the Piñol next level up 2017 Sa Natura Terra Alta. Sadly one of those more expensive bottles where oak means more money. Already of the view that Grenache and oak are unhappy together, the same seems to apply to Carignan. The fruit seems about the same quality as Raig de Raïm but as it’s subdued by sooty, nutty oak to smell and the palate’s splintered by wood tannin, I definitely prefer the cheaper option. Yet another where less in the making is more in the tasting. There’s half a bottle to go too.

87 points.

2017 Navaherreros Garnacha de Bernabeleva San Martín de Valdeiglesias Vinos de Madrid DO

Well, that’s what’s on the label. My attempt at understanding is it’s Grenache made by the Bodegas Bernabeleva winery in the village of San Martín of the churches from vines along the Navaherreros road or something like that. Definitely old vines in the Madrid mountains rescued from decrepitude in the mid two thousands and yes, yet another Spanish Garnacha. And, yes, another from the mountains. A wild but pretty perfume of musky red fruits, some very low volume feral notes and some spicy stem lift. Sitting high in the palate, fragrant full flavours of more musk, roses, raspberries and general red fruitiness. Fine drying tannins of bloody stones and filigreed ripe acidity. A final goodbye of a texture that makes me think of pencil shaving grey graphite. Lots of red perfumed fruit and lots of mouth coating fine dusty but sweet astringency. Without the benefit of the label, I may have guessed somewhere between Volnay and Corton, perfume and stoney grip, or maybe Etna, or just wild mountainous Garnacha? Teetering on the precipice but hanging on by sheer fruit quality.

14% alcohol. Cork. $41.

93 points but some technocrats may baulk.

2018 Península Vinicultores Cebreros DOP Sierra de Gredos Garnacha

Seems Cebreros has only been a DOP for a few years such is the very recent appreciation of some old vineyards with altitude. I must admit to a fascination with these almost Pinot Noir like versions of good old reliable Grenache. This one is an absolute winner if you’re finding the Côte d’Or or even Mount Etna are beyond a quotidian pleasure. Light weight in appearance and oddly green, almost Sauv Blanc smelling on opening. Happily the green turns into the fragrant pine needle and menthol fresh air of those Gredos mountains. It really takes two days for the truth to emerge. The stemmy framework persists but a depth of just so ripe fruit floats like a sweet melody. There’s just picked cherries, strawberries and brown spices served as a picnic in a fresh pine forest. A good glug of blood orange juice flavour and acidity to freshen, gripped tight in granite stem tannin. Great wine, beautiful grapes squashed into a Norsca advert in the best possible way. Pure, delicious and so well made it avoids some of the more feral elements of the Gredos natural wine movement. Probably my favourite version so far and one of the best priced. Enjoy the bargain now. Didn’t take long for Etna to find its place on the wine fashion catwalk. Wine so particular to place this good are rare. There again I really like proper Lambrusco, what do I know?

14.5% alcohol and no hint of warmth. Diam, bravo. $32.

94 points.

2020 Bodegas Monte Ory Garnacha Navarra

There’s a few new French, Italian and in this case Spanish direct imports on the shelves of Dan Murphy’s barns at tempting prices. So far about one in three has been interesting and good enough to consider a review and more importantly a rebuy. Unsurprisingly Grenache has featured strongly and when it comes from Navarra it tickles my fancy. This took a while to open up, a bit surly from both recent bottling and shook up after a long sea voyage? With a little patience, smells of musk, roses, strawberries, cherries, nut paste and sweet green herbs emerge. The same sort of light to just medium bodied flavours are cinched by clean fine and ripe acidity with a lovely tug of minerality. Not the most concentrated but delicious fruit for $13. Sort of resembles a basic Gredos altitude Garnacha, no bad thing.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $12.40 in a six bottle purchase.

90 points, bonus for style and grace.

End of February 2022 and it’s a Dan’s member special, two for $13. Probably the best $6.50 bottle I’ve had for a long time, possibly the only one too. Still pretty brisk with a green edge but tart fresh fruit elbows its way through. Bit of meaty reduction in some bottles but as close to what I like in young Spanish Garnacha as you’ll get for not much. Seems Spain may have been into good Garnacha for a while? Think this sort is best cool and young, like we all were once. Goes extremely well from the fridge with a Sunday night pizza.

Now 91 points

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.