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.

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.

2018 Real Agrado Rioja

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.

2018 Tandem Bólido Navarra Tempranillo

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.

2018 Bodegas Más Que Vinos Tempranillo Joven

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.

2017 Aldi S and R Douro

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.

88 points.

2018 Félix Solis Caliza Gran Seleccíon Tempranillo

Spain’s certainly a place for great value. This is apparently hand picked, turned into wine, bottled and put on the shelf at Dan Murphy’s for a measly $10 or $9.50 in a mixed six, incredible. Clean whole berry ferment smells on opening. Medium weight flavours of sweet strawberry and toffee which I particularly like in Tempranillo. An admission, the telltale cola character is not an easy one to spot for me but lots of tasters say it’s unmistakable. There’s a good flow of flavour and some satisfying ripe acidity and firm tannin which is something recognisably good about Tempranillo. Yes, satisfying indeed. Thank Bacchus, the continuing importance of wine at the Spanish table keeps prices traditionally low despite beer now being the most popular social drink. Not sure I’d like to work in those sun blasted La Mancha vines for what they pay. Happy to enjoy the result though when it’s this delicious.

13.5% alcohol. Diam. $9.50 for good grapes, no artifice and real wine.

89 points.

2012 Pondalowie Vineyard Blend

A blend of Shiraz, Cabernet and Tempranillo from Bendigo in Central Victoria. The photo above is another shameful steal of a background from Max Allen’s great book, The Future Makers, who succinctly describes Pondalowie’s wines as having ‘exceptional sturdiness of character’, no argument here. This is the cheapest bottle in the range but it could never be described as dilute or lacking. Heaps of dark blue and black fruit, a whiff of new leather, sandalwood and menthol power through the nose and imposing mouthful. Extracted like a long stewed pot of tea without the bitterness, just loads of furry ripe tannin and settled acidity. It’s sweetly resolved rather than developing any dusty bottle age. Those tannins deserve a piece of good Victorian grass fed steak. Max goes on to tell how the maker worked in the Douro and the satisfying depth here would look at home in that dusty valley. Such a good, deep drink, probably more for carnivores than vegans.

14% alcohol. Screwcap serves this so well. $20 or thereabouts at the time.

92 points.

2006 R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja Reserva

Resolutely traditional Rioja which research suggests this vintage is 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, 10% Graciano and 10% Mazuelo or Carignan. The first day of opening it was so staunchly stoic it was frowningly unenjoyable. Second day a ray of bright but mellow strawberry and cherry fruit was poking above the battlements. Still lots of old highly polished furniture, camphor, old cupboards and indelible acidity. Only some sweet Iberico jamon greased the scaffold enough for the fruit to slide from within. Not sure if this will ever be for the hedonist. The 2005 was a lot richer but if curiosity gets the better as it did and you want to see how wine was made when it would be left in clean old oak for 5 years or more for the sulphide to waft away and the shrill ph to stop shouting, then here you doth go. The only new world equivalent that’s come close is one of those old Tahbilks from pre 1990. A pride in austerity nearly lost.

13% alcohol. Cork and a long one too. 27 euros.

93 ye olde points.