93

2010 Lavinyeta Punt i apart, Empordà

( E12, 14.5%, El Celler Petit )

There’s no mistaking the main grape here (Cabernet Sauvignon, to the tune of 85%), but it doesn’t taste like a Cab made anywhere else. The closest affinity would be with Tuscany (Bolgheri), but even that doesn’t quite express the wine’s personality. It’s a very polished wine, with well integrated, smoky oak, toasty, great structure, fresh acidity, dark fruits and a fine, savoury, minty finish. The Samsó adds a wild, appealingly rustic note. A bit of rough perhaps? 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-18Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Spain, Red, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan
92

2007 Marti Fabra Masia Carreras, Empordà

( E18, 15%, El Celler Petit )

The first thing you notice about this wine on the nose is the oak. And the impression doesn’t change on the palate. And yet there is a lot of wine behind the staves: a wild, herby, spicy, minerally red based on Samsó with a bit of Merlot for extra padding. I’d be tempted to give this some time in bottle, because it’s got wonderful freshness and minerality and a dense, complex finish. You don’t notice the high alcohol, although this is certainly a ripe style. 

BuyDrinking window: 2013-17Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Spain, Red, Carignan, Merlot
93

2008 Vinyes dels Aspres S'Alou, Empordà

( E24, 15%, El Celler Petit )

Sourced from the oldest vines on the property, David Molas’ Grenache-based red is strongly marked by Syrah on the nose and palate. The granite soils and high altitude give the wine real freshness and minerality, despite the high alcohol. Perfumed, with violets and liquorice on the nose, sweet blackberry fruit, supple, grainy tannins and a lift of herbal spice. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-17Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Spain, Red, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz
91

2007 Arché Pagès Bonfill, Empordà

( E18, 15%, El Celler Petit )

A blend of Grenache, Samsó and Cabernet Sauvignon from Bonfill Pagès’ vineyards in Capmany, with lots of oak and a dense, concentrated palate. The wine is a little too marked by alcohol perhaps, but the tannins are sweet and well managed here. Wild, sweet, herby and minerally with impressiv freshness and a lift of volatility. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-14Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Spain, Red, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Grenache
91

2009 Hugas de Batlle Coma Fredosa, Empordà

( E15, 15%, El Celler Petit )

Edu de Batlle farms some of the most picturesque vines in Empordà. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with some spicy Garnacha adding a layer of complexity. The wildness of the vineyard is there in the wine, too: feral, wind-blown, sun-baked. It’s high in alcohol, with a hint of volatility, but the wine is dense and complex with sweet, fig and ripe plum fruit. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-15Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Spain, Red, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache
87

2010 Espelt Terres Negres, Empordà

( E13, 14%, El Celler Petit )

Espelt is the second biggest winery in Empordà after Perellada. This Carignan-dominated blend from old vines in Rabós is marked by volatility, but it works in a wild, herby Medieterranean sort of way. Medium bodied and fresh, with sweet red fruits, some liquorice, slightly baked fruit and a lifted finish. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-14Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Spain, Red, Carignan
90

2007 Castillo Perelada Finca La Garriga, Empordà

( E19, 15%, El Celler Petit )

Sweet, oaky, concentrated Samsó that still demonstrates the variety’s characteristic freshness and wildness. The oak is a little too obvious (some might call it seductive), but this is a big, dense, stylish, modern wine with notes of sweet Mediterranean herbs and Angostura bitters. Needs food. The volatility might be too high for some. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-16Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Spain, Red, Carignan
92

2007 Roig Parals Camí de Cormes, Empordà

( E20, 15%, El Celler Petit )

If you want to taste really old vine Samsó (and we’re talking 120 years here), try this. Dense, complex, minerally and wild with freshness to balance the concentration and high alcohol. This comes from the plain, but tastes like a mountain wine, with sweet red fruits, a touch of volatility and appealing minerality. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-15Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Spain, Red, Carignan
95

2008 Vinyes d'Olivardots 2.08, Empordà

( E35, 15%, El Celler Petit )

Sandy soils, low production, 100-year-old vines: essence of Samsó. Wow! Super dense, very complex, savoury, spicy, lovely fruit sweetness, fine tannins, subtle oak and a finish that lingers on the palate. Wild, Mediterranean herbs, some wood smoke, fresh acidity, liquorice and red and black fruits. A superb wine. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-18Similar Wines: £30-£50, 91-95, Spain, Red, Carignan
93

2008 Terra Remota Clos Adrien, Empordà

( E40, 14.5%, El Celler Petit )

Low-production, Syrah-based red  with 10% Garnacha from one of the  region’s outstanding producers. Herbal, still youthful nose, with sweet, savoury, liquorice and blackberry fruit, fresh acidity, medium weight tannins and a tarry smoky finish. Syrah, but with minerality underpinning the fruit. Complex and long. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-18Similar Wines: £30-£50, 91-95, Spain, Red, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz
93

2005 Castillo Perelada Finca Garbet, Empordà

( E100, 14%, El Celler Petit )

Unusually for Finca Garbet, this is made from 100% Syrah (normally it contains some Cabernet). It’s a very impressive wine: wild and smoky, with freshness and minerality, well integrated tannins and a long, balanced finish. Very Syrah, with notes of iodine and liquorice and a firm finish. The only question mark is over the price. 

BuySimilar Wines: £50-£100, 91-95, Spain, Red, Syrah/Shiraz
93

2007 Mas Romeu Finca Malesa, Empordà

( E18, 14%, El Celler Petit )

Thia is the personal project of Delfi Sanahuja, who makes the wine at nearby Castillo de Perelada. It’s an ambitious modern style with quite a bit of oak, but real freshness, vivacity and length. Minerally, zesty and well balanced with notes of spice, wild herbs, plum and red cherry fruit and medium weight tannins. Very stylish. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-17Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Spain, Red, Grenache, Merlot