Rich, wild, slightly volatile notes on the nose, with sweet red and black fruits and a warm, palate-coating finish: it could only be Grenache. Or rather Garnatxa (along with Merlot, Cabernet and a few other things). Aromatic, very primary, with notes of liquorice and blackberry, smooth tannins and a long finish. Needs time.
Food Match: Lamb
2010 Terra Remota Camino, Empordà( E14, 14.5%, El Celler Petit )
A fruit salad blend (if that doesn’t sound pejorative) of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, Tempranillo and other varieties, this is another delicious release from this brilliant winery. It’s like a cross between a red Burgundy, a new wave Rioja and a Châteauneuf, with silky tannins, sweet raspberry and wild strawberry fruit, lovely oak integration and a lift of acidity and white pepper. Superb winemaking with noticeable French flair and finesse.
2009 Mas Vida 32 Merlot, Empordà( E11, 14.5%, El Celler Petit )
Merlot from Empordà? At 14.5%? It doesn’t sound promising. And yet this is a more than decent red showing the slight grassiness of the variety, even at higher alcohol levels. The finish is a little dry and hot, but there’s a freshness beneath it, with grainy tannins and textured, fruitcake notes.
2011 Finest Côtes Catalanes Carignan, Roussillon( £6.99, 13.5%, Tesco )
I sometimes feel as if I’m the president, founder and only member of the Carignan appreciation society, which is strange, given how good this grape can taste, especially when its vines are old. That’s the case here in this chunky Roussillon red, sourced from bush vines close to the Pyrenees. It’s a big, bold, appropriately rustic number with notes of thyme, rosemary and pepper spice, a touch of sweetness, bags of black fruits and a volatile lift. In short, classic Carignan.
2005 CVNE Viña Real Gran Reserva, Alavesa, Rioja( £21.49, 13.5%, Majestic )
A much more modern style than we’ve grown accustomed to from CVNE in recent years, this is youthful and vigorous for a Gran Reserva, with the emphasis on vibrant Tempranillo fruit. The freshness of the Alavesa vineyards is really evident on the palate. This is refreshing and fine, with sweet oak, medium weight tannins and nuanced red and black fruits flavours. An interesting change of tack by CVNE.
2008 Marimar Estate Pinot Noir La Masía Don Miguel Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California( US$39, 14.5%, Contact the winery for details )
This doesn’t quite scale the same heights as this winery’s recent Chardonnay release, but it’s still an impressive West Coast Pinot, appealingly priced by the standards of some California reds. It’s a full bodied style with flavours of ripe red fruits and sweet vanilla oak and a touch of leafy forest floor. The alcohol is a little intrusive on the finish perhaps, but this is still a Pinot with depth and flavour.
2010 All Saints Estate Durif, Victoria( £16.00, 14%, Cockburn & Campbell )
Made from the comparatively rare Durif (aka Petite Sirah) grape variety, this carries its 14% alcohol with ease and seems much ligher than that on the palate. The All Saints hallmarks of freshenss and balance are attractively expressed here. There’s plum, some nutmeg spice, a nip of dry tannin and bright, almost Italianate acidity.
2010 Thymiopoulos Jeunes Vignes de Xinomavro, Naoussa( £10.50, 13.5%, The Wine Society, Theatre of Wine )
This is only the young vines version, but it gives you an idea of how classy Xinomavro can be as a grape. It’s part Nebbiolo, part Pinot Noir, part Nerello Mascalese, but also has a savoury note that is all its own. Scented red fruits, mid weight tannins, a whisper of oak and pine resin. Not many countries can deliver quality like this at just over a tenner.
2008 Château Trillol Corbières, Corbières, Languedoc( £8.95, 14%, From Vineyards Direct, The Wine Society )
If you’re a fan of wild, Medieterranean herb-scented reds from the hills of the Corbières, this should be right up your grande rue. The oak is subtly done here, allowing the spicy, heady fruit to express itself. The tannins are svelte and nicely integrated, the fruit dense yet supple, the finish long and refreshing. The altitude of the vineyards is what gives the wine its balance and length.
2009 Louis Max, Clos de Vougeot, Burgundy( ££££, 13.5%, Fine + Rare )
Very light in colour, although there’s nothing wrong with that in Burgundy. Leafy, balanced and aromatic with summer pudding and wild strawberry fruit. The palate is very different, showing more oak, slightly firm extracted tannins, medium acidity and not quite enough fruit to balance the dryness. This may oopen up over the next two or three years.
2010 Taste the Difference Crozes-Hermitage, Rhône Valley( £8.99, 13%, Sainsbury's )
It was a smart move by Sainsbury’s to source their Crozes from the biodynamic wild child of the Rhône Valley, Michel Chapoutier. Sourced from three different terroirs in this comparatively large appellation, it’s a classis example of a cooler climate Syrah, albeit an unoaked one. Blackberry spice and smoked meat are the dominant aromas and flavours here, underpinned by good structure and supple tannins. Try chilling it slightly.
2010 Catena Malbec, Mendoza( £12.49, 13.9%, Waitrose )
This may be the best mid-priced Malbec yet from Argentina’s leading producer. It’s perfumed and stylish, with notes of violets and fresh plums on the nose, followed by ripe, but not over-ripe blackberry fruit, subtle vanilla oak, textured, grainy tannins and refreshing minerality and zip. The oak is better integrated than in previous releases and there’s welcome finesse here. Great now, but will develop in the bottle for another three to five years.