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.
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.
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.
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.
Said it before, say it again, perhaps the best value Grenache on the planet comes from around Zaragoza. This was about ten dollars from Aldi. The same price as a Tempranillo from the Ribera del Duero which was nowhere near as interesting as it just tried too hard, all extract and winemaking with not much to say by day two. This, though, was only just medium bodied with its Grenache perfume bumped up by some obvious bubblegum and banana carbonic maceration. Some decent red fruit that held on well over two days, buoyed by good natural acid. Not sure if all the whole berry maceration did all that much to improve things but still a good undercurrent of fruit kept it very drinkable, despite leaving most of the tannin out. A Dan’s own import, 2016 Tocada Garnacha, was deeper fruited, less pushed by enology, more enjoyable and is being cleared for $6! Ludicrous charity from Woolies. Two good Spaniards for $16, happy days.
14% alcohol. Cork, a particularly poor one. $10.
When you consider just how much skill and time it takes to produce a bottle of savoury, yeasty flor influenced sherry, then a half bottle for $10 is ludicrously under priced. As unique to the sun blasted dazzle of Andalusia as those from Champagne would claim for their chalky soils but a fraction of the price. The secondary and costly use of yeast to add dimension is a worthy comparison perhaps? Fair to say Barbadillo are one of the largest and most forward thinking of Sanlucar producers and this basic Manzanilla has a fresh purity that shows their seriousness. Nutty, yeasty, olive oil and seaside smells, thence a savoury mouthful of citrus soaked almonds and a touch of sulphide bitterness. Fashion has little to do with a good drink. Must hunt down a 2018 bottling.
15% alcohol, small glass of course. Screwcap, yes. $10, charity.
Another Woolworth’s direct import from a bit of Spain probably growing the world’s best value Grenache. A small amount of Tempranillo and Shiraz in this too it seems, Clinically clean red musky perfume and well extracted, perhaps a touch too much. Some herbs and a crisp end weigh well against simple rich sweet raspberries and rhubarb. The vibrancy faded by day three. Perhaps no risks in the making or complexity but for so little money a tasty mid week money saver. Doubt the supermarket behemoth is making its shareholders a fortune from a bottle of this.
14.50% alcohol. Screwcap. $11.99.
Twenty years ago Mencia was not part of the curious wine drinker’s vocabulary. Now some of the world’s most dramatic and beautiful terraced vineyards are producing piercingly pure, fresh red wine. Google the area and be gobsmacked by how hard the work must be to prune, work and harvest from these dizzying slopes. Some so steep, one slip and you’d be sliding down into the river.
This one has that typically smokey reductive nose that always make me think of the Northern Rhone. Mencia, Jancis says, is no relation to Syrah. Perhaps it’s the soil and river side? The slight pong clears to delicious raspberry freshness and a full palate of almost tart berries where the mouthwatering acidity just wins over the fine tannins. Long and lip smacking indeed. Nice layer of darker sweet jamon lurks beneath. Really, who needs oak with something this pristine?
Sometimes spending twice the usual weekday budget’s worth it.
13% alcohol. Cork. $36.
More Grenache or Garnacha in Spanish. Really do like this variety’s round honest ripeness that can still cling onto some good acidity and finish. A Dan Murphy direct import from Spain’s north east where it seems this heat loving camel of a grape thrives. Opens a little meaty and reduced but relaxes to simple but nicely ripe red fruits. A good medium to light mouthful of raspberry and herbs with some minerally cut, that from my limited experience Borja and Navarra do seem to manage. No great depth but a balanced ripeness comfortable in its own skin. Astonishing that it can be grown, picked, made and bottled and hurled half way round the world for less than a tenner. Prefer it to its more expensive sibling, Tres Picos, which gets a bit too ripe and has some unnecessary sour oak flavouring. I’m almost bullish about this.
13.50% alcohol. Screw Cap. $8.90.