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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The back label says Agrado means “Feeling of happiness or pleasure when doing something one loves.” Like sipping a glass of this. So good, glad to have a six pack to share. Mostly Garnacha, Rioja old style, with some Tempranillo, whole berry fermented for brightness and crunch. Bright as the proverbial button, glossy sweet pomegranate syrup, all sorts of red berries, perfume of rose, touch of almost musk, jamon, olé. Some of those mineral stony flavours that wine bores bang on about. A scythe of fine grit tannin and mouthwatering acid rises up to meet the fruit, carries it long and stops any hint of mawkish nonsense. The fruit quality is such that a sweet perfume lingers long. Exemplifies the fascinating ying and yang of dry ripe fruit and savoury so typical of the best of Spain. Saw some Joselito Jamon Iberico at the market this morning for a measly $485 a kilo. How thin a slice?
14% alcohol. One of those agglomerate things with a disc of real cork on each end, they seem to be improving but why, really? 394 gms of glass. $35 rrp.
93 gobsmackingly delicious points.
One of those bottles that confounds first and even second impressions. Over three days it started with slightly dull cola, red cherry and toffee with a little bitter sulphide to finish. Good Tempranillo grip and acid though. It then swerved to show a green herby edge souring the end. Not so keen. Didn’t quite give up, back in the fridge and upon the third day ripe cherry and plum flavours appeared with a good smear of savoury almond paste on a strong finish. Even at this budget level, it seems grunty robust Tempranillo needs a lot of oxygen. Glad I waited.
13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. 410 gms of glass. $13.30 in a direct import six from Dan Murphy’s.
Started 88, sunk to 86 and finished 91.
From near the beautiful city of Toledo, Tempranillo vineyards found on La Mesa de Ocaña at some altitude. I must admit to most liking Grenache and Mencía in things Español but it would be impossible to love Spain and not indulge in the reliably sturdy Tempranillo. So many interpretations, some overwrought, the unoaked young one is a great place to start. It’s oft said there’s one flavour in Tempranillo that gives it away, cola. Having avoided Atlanta’s favourite sweet fizzy drink for more than thirty years, its main flavour lurks here maybe? Without the nose tingling fizz or sugar. Slabs of cherry and strawberry, drizzled with dark burnt caramel. Large grains of sweet ripe tannin dragged along on settled firm acidity. Didn’t budge over a couple of days. Brawny, perhaps a bit chunky, but satisfying. As an introduction to Spanish wine, Tempranillo is the place to start for sure.
13.5% alcohol. Diam. $21.
90 solid points.
It’s not all Grand Cru Burgundy around here, sadly. This $10 from Portugal was about the only thing to tweak some interest on Aldi’s shelves. From the very ambitious Duorum project investment, this is a blend of Tourigas, both Franca and Nacional, and Tinta Roriz aka Tempranillo. A spectacular train journey up the rugged Douro from old Porto in 2017 reinforced the idea that some grape varieties are well suited to their traditional homes. By the 20th September it hadn’t rained for three months said the locals and the temperature was still 30 degrees. Nonetheless the vines, especially Touriga Nacional, were still green and the grapes coming in had a reasonable amount of juice. Incredible resilience. The season shows even in this humble offering. Opening reduction clears to thick blackberry jam fruit, dark licorice, dry dusty roads and a touch of blue steel, no, not Zoolander but like hot rail lines and ballast on a warm afternoon. Over time the dense dry grape skin tannins start to take over, saved by a tug of nicely tucked in acidity. More than a hint of the dry extract scaffolding that makes Vintage Port so long lived, though with this cheapie the frame will be there long after the fruit has faded. Nonetheless, well made and a real sense of place for not much. Carry on up the Douro.
13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $9.99.