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.

2019 KÁRMÁN Rioja

A few weeks without a post. Laziness most likely but the release from pandemic lockdown was a curtain lifted on a forgotten world of friends across the table, modest travel and a bit of discombobulation with the whole thing. There was also an accumulation of bottles that were good enough the first time round to warrant a repeat, often just as good as the first review suggested. Maybe the best measure of how good something tastes is best calibrated by how keenly another bottle is sought. This one almost gets there. Well, it is mostly Grenache grown in Rioja of which there should be more. A bit of Tempranillo too. It’s fresh, bright and clean. Pot pourri, red fruits and peanuts. Rich but only medium bodied with whole berry brewing lift. Warming pepper, cut with a touch of meat and smoke reduction all nicely bound together with juicy acidity and fine grape skin texture. The Kármán line is the theoretical boundary between the earth’s atmosphere and space, funny what you learn on back labels these days. The front label cheerfully reminds me of the spaced out adventures available in Spain these days.

14.5% alcohol. Diam. Probably not stratospherically priced.

90 points but joyful.

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.

2019 Heredade Rocim Mariana Vinho Regional Alentejano

The back label tells the story of a lovelorn nun called Mariana, not sure about the relevance to a secular drinker, perhaps marketing to the devout. Personally more impressed by those interesting Portuguese varieties, in this case 40% Touriga Nacional, 30% Aragonez or Tempranillo, 20% Alicante Bouschet and 10% Trincadeira or Tinta Amarela. Not sure just how indigenous are the middle two but they do like a bit of warmth which the Alentejo can provide. This was one of those bottles which failed to inspire initially and had me grumbling about over ripe, contrived wine making, only to prove me entirely wrong after twenty four hours. Started off with leathery, dried grape skin, lacking a bit of freshness and bounce. Lots of chewy dry skin tannin and a wide clunk of acid. Considerable surprise the next day to find loads of bright spiced plums, dark blackberry, sweet dark quality chocolate mixed with dried fruit and nuts. A twist of baked earth and a bloody, iron tang. Touriga comes good again. Tannin and ripe acidity in place. Another lesson in not jumping too quickly to judge. Wine’s so much fun. Books and covers.

14% alcohol. Diam. $29.

89 completely misjudged points to start, 92/93 thereafter.

2017 Bodegas Costers del Sió Petit Siós Costers del Segre

Costers del Segre is a fairly recent addition to the DO scheme of things Spanish. Spread over two or three main areas, it sort of borders the more famous Priorat and is firmly Catalan it seems. This bottle contains a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon. Opened with a whiff of smoky sulphury reduction. As it quickly cleared, some clean medium weight dark cherry and berry, pretty suave really, all modulated well across a balanced mesh of settled acidity and firm ripe tannin. I scribbled, won’t frighten the horses but has an easy charm. Quite a surprise three and four days later to find it not only hanging on but more interesting. Sweet, round and ripe but not overly so. Almost Australian sunshine ripeness over the firm push of Spanish geology. Sweet damson which I think I remember from childhood, dried fig, sage and something rocky like wet concrete. Such lovely acidity. Tempranillo from a humble bottle does it again.

13.5% alcohol. Diam, good. $13.92 at auction, pat myself on the back, if I could.

Started a solid 91 points, pushing 92/93 later.

2017 Casa da Passarella A Descoberta Dão Tinto

Memory is a curious thing. On holiday in Lisbon a few years ago, the encyclopaedic wine shop the Garrafeira Nacional recommended a red or tinto from the high hills of Dão. It was a beacon shone bright, lighting up the flavours of grape and place. Forgetful, I left my notebook of wine ramblings on a meal table somewhere, never to be seen again. All that was left was a memory of a really good wine but no name. When an email from a favourite importer appeared offering this, it provoked an odd stirring in the cobwebbed recesses of recognition. Double checking the Garrafeira website, it could indeed be that forgotten label. There’s certainly the purity of flavour and aroma I remember. A blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz aka Tempranillo, Alfrocheiro and Jaen aka Mencia, so very Portuguese. There’s a spicy aroma and flavour I associate with Northern Portugal. It’s here wrapped up in rich plum and red berries, a little clove, aniseed and cinnamon, maybe a contribution from some clean oak and Touriga’s dark blackberry jam. No lack of backbone, a shining blade of bright acid and really firm tannin push austerely against the sweet spice and fruit. Warm but granite mountain fresh. Very much for the table and something meaty. Nearly forgot, it’s delicious.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $30 rrp.

93 points and muito bom.

August 2021 and another pandemic lockdown, cool grey days and another bottle to cheer the patient resignation. Perhaps not quite as fruit laden as the first but does have that quartz like sparkle of austerity and curranty warmth that brings thoughts of that rugged country up those Portuguese rivers. Oddly like old school Clare Valley firmness with Portuguese spice replacing bush scents of mint and gum trees. The coffee oak touch often common to both too.

92 points.

2019 Emilio Moro Finca Resalso Ribera del Duero Tempranillo

Along the Ribera del Duero it’s Tinta del Pais, one of the many names for the grape we all know as Tempranillo. Sensible, or for wine nuts into bad puns, a Cencibel decision to stick the name we all know and enjoy. Sorry, don’t think puns work well in obscurity. Nonetheless a Tempranillo as I do like it, joven as the Spanish say, not over done with oak. This one’s a tasty smack on the nose of sarsaparilla, cherry, pepper and strawberry. Straight ahead fresh and crisp. Such is the volume of flavour Tempranillo can cram into a sip, there’s toffee, lavender and sage too. As it sits, some extra ripeness in leather and tar. No complications in shape, just a good bump of firm tannin and acidity. Flavours enough to dream of Spain again and a cool glass and a tapa in one of those cheerful bars where there’s always a Tempranillo or two.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $19 in a six at Dan’s, value.

91 points. It wavered between 90 and 92.