Navarro López Tierracalar Tempranillo 2006

It seems to me the turf war at the lower end of the wine market is, in a lot of ways, more interesting than any perceived battle of the premiums. Burgundy is no substitute for Central Otago Pinot; I’ll take both, thanks very much. If I take a more functional view of wine, though, one wine becomes more or less interchangeable with others of a similar style and price. Hence the availability of large numbers of inexpensive red and white wines the variety and region of which is of less import than, say, price point or style. On this view, I might easily substitute a local flavoursome red for a similarly priced import, so long as it meets my broad requirements of a tasty red wine.

This Spanish Tempranillo has me questioning what it might take for local red wine drinkers to switch en masse to an imported product. Certainly, the horse has bolted when it comes to white wine, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc having captured the palate (and wallet) of many an Australian consumer. This wine (and others like it) is in some ways a parallel case study — it’s just different enough, just cheap enough and just bland enough to represent an attractive alternative to a lot of local wines. 
None of which is meant as a compliment in particular. In fact, I wasn’t going to write this up as I am finding it quite uninspiring. But then, so are many wines at the $A15-20 mark, so it’s no failure of this wine in particular. The nose is moderately aromatic, showing woody spices alongside red dried fruits and a hint of cured meats. Quite easygoing, with just enough of a twist to raise an eyebrow and differentiate itself from the mainstream of mid-priced fruit bombs. The palate is very much more of the same, and to its credit is quite perfectly balanced for immediate consumption. Tasty sour red fruits and rough vanilla oak run the length of the tongue. And, well, not much else, really. A bit of meaty complexity, perhaps, and a pleasingly textured mouthfeel that is the highlight of the wine for me. Reasonable finish. Again, it’s only one step away from the generic mainstream of value-oriented industrial red wine, but that discernible step means a lot in this context.
Whether I’d personally choose this over a local wine of similar price is a moot point; the fact is, this is a real alternative and one I cannot fault as an everyday drinking wine. At $A12 or so, it would fly off the shelves.

Navarro López
Price: $A16.15
Closure: Cork

Vina Ginesa Reservas Granrojo Rojo Garnacha 2006

I went from a Great Western Shiraz to this in the space of a few sips and, if nothing else, the exercise served to reinforce how instructive comparative tasting can be. I thought this wine quite horrid at first; Eurotrash to the Great Western’s laconic charm. Improved through the evening, though.

I should note the comically short cork keeping the wine inside, as I don’t believe I’ve seen one so small before. A robust aroma consisting of dried flowers, bright spices and aggressively sour-edged red fruit. There are also funkier smells that remind me of cured pork sausages. In the mouth, bright and brash with coarsely textured acid and brisk, raspy tannins. There are flashes of intensely sweet, confected fruit in amongst all the butchers’ shop smells. Pepper, spice and rusticity add interest. The whole is light to medium bodied and sufficiently cleansing, though I could never describe a wine like this as easy drinking (in the “brain off” sense) because it’s just so angular. 

I kept wanting chewy bread and tangy cheese while drinking this wine, and suspect it would go down a treat at a picnic or other casual dining circumstance. 

Vina Ginesa Reservas
Price: $A18.95
Closure: Cork