93

2019 Altolandon Mil Historias Bobal Organic Wine, Manchuela

( £10.99-£12.95, 14%, Bush Vines, Cambridge Wine Merchants, Hay Wines, Kwoff, other stockists from Alliance Wine )

Here’s a paradox: Bobal is Spain’s second most planted red grape, but doesn’t have much of an image outside the country. Maybe that’s starting to change, thanks to wines like this one from the talented Roselia Molina in the high-altitude Manchuela appellation, where she makes a range of low-intervention reds and whites from organically farmed vineyards at 1,100 metres. Wonderfully peppery, juicy and fresh with amazing vibrancy, plum, wild strawberry and black cherry fruit and a long, zingy finish. Stunning value at around £12.

BuyDrinking window: 2021-26Similar Wines: £10-15, 90-94, Spain, Red, Bobal

How Democratic Is Rioja?

by Tim Atkin
Imagine being a voter in Liverpool Walton or South Holland and the Deepings. In the first of these constituencies, the Labour Party received 86% of the ballot in the last...
94

2019 Verum Las Tinadas Airén de Pie Franco, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla

( £25, 12%, The Great Wine Co )

Grown on its own roots, organically farmed and fermented and aged in traditional clay pots, or tinadas, this is an old-vine wine that could almost give the normally bland, good-for-distillation-but-not-a-lot-else Airén a good name. It’s a brilliant white from Elías López Montero, the subject of one my recent #corktalk podcasts incidentally,  showing notes of pear, orange zest and citrus, with creamy lees, wonderful texture and a taut, refreshing finish.

BuyDrinking window: 2021-26Similar Wines: £25-30, 90-94, Spain, White, Airén

The Wisdom Of Age

by Tim Atkin
Call it serendipity, call it fate, but there are times when events and conversations seem to align. You go for months without thinking about something and then it’s everywhere, filling...
90

2019 Artuke Rioja, Rioja

( £12.50; £10.95 by the case, 13.5%, Lea & Sandeman )

Always one of Rioja’s great bargains, this wonderfully juicy cuvée of Tempranillo and 5% Viura from brothers Arturo and Kike de Miguel is a classic carbonic maceration style that dates back to the 19th century and was popularised by the so-called “cosecheros”. Showing masses of perfume, it’s a tangy, crunchy, cement-fermented delight that combines perfume with vibrant summer berry fruit. Unwooded Rioja at its individual best.

BuyDrinking window: 2021-24Similar Wines: £10-15, 90-94, Spain, Red, Tempranillo, Viura
97

2016 Scala Dei Masdeu, Priorat

( €75, 14.5%, Available from the winery )

Mas Deu comes from a single vineyard at 800 metres planted on clay and limestone soils and is a stunning expression of Mediterranean Garnacha. Floral and alluring, with notes of thyme, rosemary and white pepper, chalky minerality, redcurrant and raspberry flavours and a long, tapering finish. One of the best wines in Catalunya.

BuyDrinking window: 2021-32Similar Wines: €75-100, 95-100, Spain, Red, Garnacha
94

2017 Scala Dei Heretge, Priorat

( €50, 15%, Available from the winery )

Called Heretge (heretic) because it’s made, unusually for Priorat, with just Cariñena, this is produced with grapes from two vineyards, planted in 1908 and 1918, that face north and south-east respectively on classic slate soils. Grippier and more savoury than the other Scala Dei wines, but this is still refreshing, stony and red-fruited, with some underlying grip and tannin and notes of bramble and red cherry. A stairway to hell rather than heaven perhaps?

BuyDrinking window: 2022-30Similar Wines: €50-60, 90-94, Spain, Red, Cariñena
96

2016 Scala Dei St. Antoni, Priorat

( £79.50, 14.5%, Available from the winery )

St. Antoni is on of the oldest vineyards at Scala Dei, dating back to the late 17th century and planted in a natural amphitheatre at 600 metres. First made as a single release in 2010, it’s the essence of higher altitude Priorat Garnacha, justifying the variety’s name as the “Pinot Noir of the south”. Fermented with 100% whole bunches before ageing in founders, it’s a refined, delicate red, despite its 14.5% alcohol, with raspberry and wild strawberry fruit, graceful tannins and a stony flourish.

BuyDrinking window: 2021-30Similar Wines: £75-80, 95-100, Spain, Red, Garnacha
94

2017 Scala Dei Prior, Priorat

( £33, 14.5%, Great Wine Co )

Based on Garnacha, with the remaining 35% made up of Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Prior is what Ricard Rofes calls a “key in the door of Priorat”, in that it introduces you to the different zones of the denominación. Wild, savoury and intense, with floral black cherry and damson fruit, a herbal undertone, pithy minerality and some clove spice from 30% whole bunch fermentation. One of the most structured wines in the range.

BuyDrinking window: 2021-28Similar Wines: £30-35, 90-94, Spain, Red, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cariñena, Garnacha, Merlot
95

2016 Scale Dei Cartoixa, Priorat

( £39.50, 14.5%, Great Wine Co )

“I love stems,” says Ricard Rofes of this marriage of Garnacha with 20% Cariñena, fermented with 60% whole bunches and sourced from the best sites in the northern part of the estate. This historic red, first made in 1974 and marking the rebirth of the area, is taut, spicy and complex, with refreshing acidity, classic Priorat minerality and some tobacco spice. The tannins are savoury and granular framing the scented red berry fruit.

BuyDrinking window: 2021-28Similar Wines: £35-40, 95-100, Spain, Red, Cariñena, Garnacha
93

2018 Massipa de Scala Dei, Priorat

( €58, 13%, Available from the winery )

Formerly sold as plainer Blanc de Scala Dei, this rare and unusual white hails from an east-facing site at 700 metres, planted with Garnacha Blanca and Chenin Blanc in the late 1960s and 1980s, when the idea of climate change was unheard of. Co-fermented in cement tanks, before ageing in wooden foudres, this 80/20 blend is taut, refreshing and leesy, with stony intensity, citrus and wild flower notes, a drizzle of beeswax and a long intense finish. Should age well too.

BuyDrinking window: 2021-26Similar Wines: €50-70, 90-94, Spain, White, Chenin Blanc, Garnacha Blanca
90

2019 Scale Dei Garnatxa, Priorat

( £15.50, 14%, Great Wine Company )

Sourced from parcels on slate and red clay soils, this entry-point Garnacha is all about what Ricard Rofes calls “fruit, freshness and easy drinkability”. Fermented with 15% whole bunches, it’s a juicy, bouncy, unoaked delight, with stony minerality, cranberry and raspberry flavours and a whiff of wild Mediterranean herbs.

BuyDrinking window: 2021-24Similar Wines: £15-20, 90-94, Spain, Red, Garnacha