Welcome to the weekend! Here is your new wine quiz you’ve been waiting for so hard (yeah, okay, I know I’m pushing it, but may be at least a bit?)
And yes, we are continuing the grape trivia subject – by the way, if you are tired of it, do tell me – I will come up with something else. Just to let you know, we have two more red grapes to go through, and then we will switch to the whites for may be 8 different white grapes – then will see where we will end up.
Today’s subject is – Tempranillo! Just saying the word Tempranillo makes me very excited, as Rioja, one of the most well-known wines made out of Tempranillo grapes, are some of my all time favorites.
Tempranillo is indigenous grape originating in Spain, with more than 2000 years of history. It is black, thick-skinned grape, capable of surviving temperature swings of Mediterranean climate, with very hot days and cool nights. Tempranillo grapes are naturally low in acid and sugar content, so they often rely on blending partners to complement on both. Flavor profile of Tempranillo typically includes berries, leather (so famous in Rioja wines) and tobacco. Most famous Tempranillo wines come from Spain, from Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions, but Tempranillo is successfullygrowing in many other regions, including Portugal, California, Texas (up and coming star), South Africa, Australia and others.
And now, to the quiz!
Q1: What is the meaning of the name Tempranillo?
Q2: Name 3 grapes, traditional blending partners of Tempranillo
Q3: What is common between Bodegas Muga, La Rioja Alta, Lopez de Heredia and Vina Real outside of the fact that all four are very famous Rioja producers and of course make wines out of Tempranillo?
Q4: Tempranillo is used in production of the wine outside of Spain, which is at least equally famous to Rioja. Do you know what wine is that?
Q5: Name two producers of Tempranillo wines – one is the most famous and another one is probably the most expensive.
Enjoy the weekend and good luck with the quiz. And don’t forget to celebrate Dad tomorrow – Father’s Day, yay! Cheers!
And the Best Picture Award goes to … what, do you really think I know? Even if I do, I’m not telling… But – I know what you should be sipping while watching all the glitz and glamor – Rioja!
Why Rioja? May be because this is one of my all time most favorite wines? Okay, yeah, never mind. Then may be because Rioja is ready for the big Oscar celebration?
Yep, here is tons of information about Rioja and your favorite actors – all courtesy of Vibrant Rioja!
You can also mark your winners in advance and play the game of “Told you so!” later on with your friends:
Here is the link if you want to download an actual PDF file.
So, what are you going to open? I heard that 1996 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia White Reserva should be able to help you to get through the opening ceremony, and 2001 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial will pair perfectly with the “Best Movie” award, but then again, it is your choice.
No matter what you will end up doing, I hope you got my point – Rioja is always appropriate, no matter what the occasion. Open the bottle and enjoy! Cheers!
I guess you are wondering what is the relation between Tempranillo and Do-It-Yorself, and if I started making my own wine. Rest assured – there are no plans for “Chateau Talk-a-Vino” in foreseeable future, no need to be scared. But – my “successful DIY experience” has direct relationship with wine, so let me tell you about it first, despite the fact that today is International Tempranillo Day and we actually have to be talking about Tempranillo wines.
About a week ago I noticed strange clicking sound in the kitchen. Something clicks, not too loud. Few minutes later, another click, and then again – I think you got the picture. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like any unexplained sounds in the house. If you hear something which you are not supposed to hear, that often means trouble. And somehow this clicking sound is associated in my mind with electricity, which I like even less.
Next day – the same story. I’m puzzled, but still, I have to let it go, as I have no idea what this can be.
Then, while sitting at the table, my eyesight stops at the wine fridge, and I see the temperature. Big red sign reads “75”.
75! Do you know the proper storage temperature for the wine? Yes, it is 55, not 75 at all! Do you want to guess the first word which comes to my mind? Yes, you are absolutely correct, that one and you are right about the second one too.
I unplug the fridge, wait a few minutes, plug it back – no effect, and then I hear the clicking sound. Okay, so as it always goes in life, I just got good news and bad news at the same time. Good news – the source of the clicking noise is discovered. Bad news – my wine fridge is busted. It is not new, okay, but it holds about 60 bottles of wine… And new fridge is definitely not budgeted
Okay, google to the rescue. Fridge is unloaded, and I start trying different suggestions from internet. I even found an official troubleshooting guide for my Vinotemp VT-60, and went step by step as recommended. No, it is not the control card, and it seems that the next suggestion from the troubleshooting guide simply recommends replacing the compressor, which not only requires a new compressor, but also some good welding skills and equipment, which is definitely out of my league. Not good. Need better advice, please!
I decided to start looking for just troubleshooting around different parts. LG compressor. Found full spec and the manual – no help. Okay, what is this little cover on the side? I guess it is the relay some people referred to in the posts I saw. I see the part number (P6R8MC), put it in google, and… this blog post comes up, where someone named Chad Munkers is talking exactly about my fridge! Okay, step by step, similar to what I did, yes, the relay and overload protector, and if I will disassemble this small part, take a little disk out, flip, put it back it will magically work? Seriously? Another 15 minutes, put the plug back in – ahh, I love that sound! This is how working wine fridge sounds like! Here are some pictures for you – these are just random, and all the actually useful pictures can be found in the blog post shown above:
Sorry for sharing in such a detail – a lot of my DIY, or may be rather FIY (Fix-It-Yourself) projects are not so successful – for instance, I fully disassembled our Nintendo Wii (twice), cleaned it up and then even replaced the laser head – only to throw it out later, still not working. So you can see how successful revitalization of the wine fridge made me happy.
And now – to the wine! My Tempranillo wine for today’s International Tempranillo Day was 2004 Bodegas Ondarre Rioja Reserva DOC ($16.98, 13.5% ABV). 2004 was outstanding year for Rioja, one of the best vintages ever. This wine was perfectly drinkable from the get go – nice dark fruit on the nose, the same on the palate with some cherries, raspberries, touch of plums and cedar box notes, perfect acidity and soft tannins. Very balanced and enjoyable. The wine was practically unchanged on the second day, so I’m sure it will last quite well in the cellar. Drinkability: 8-.
That’s all for today, folks. Hope your Tempranillo Day experience was great, and I would love to hear about it. Cheers!
During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed, but I still like the posts I wrote, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.
Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…
Secrets have special place in our lives. Secret is a hope. Hope, anticipation and promise of unique experience. Humans always hope to find secrets – of health, wealth, attraction, eternal life. When you know a secret, you feel good – you possess something which nobody else does. Or at least nobody from the people you know. And this is when it becomes difficult. We are social creatures, and we want to share. When we share a secret, we feel special, we feel high above, as we share something which a moment ago was unique and exclusively ours. Then we regret we shared – ahh, that moment of weakness. And yes, you are right, there are evil secrets, those which bring death and destruction – but nothing like that belongs to this blog.
Okay, fine, I hear you. This is not a philosophical blog – this is the blog about wine and experience. But – the preamble was necessary, as we will continue from here on. Secrets (sometimes referred to as “know-how”) are everywhere, and world of wine is no exception. Are they really such a secrety secrets? Of course they are not, and you don’t need a special clearance to learn them. However, secrets are personable, and if secrets I plan to share will only make you yawn, please make sure to tell me so.
So what can be so secret about something which is available in abundance literally everywhere? Of course it would be nice to discover a secret of buying a bottle of Chateau Petrus for $100 instead of $3,500, but this is something which I don’t know myself (hey, if by any chance you do, can you PLEASE share that special knowledge with the rest of us?).
So my secrets will be about wines which will give you a lot of pleasure without the need to refinance the house. And they will be about the wines you probably never heard of. I promise you will learn some secrets, and I’m certain you are not going to regret.
Bored, tired, lost my chain of thoughts and need a drink? And even if you like it so far, it might still be a time for a drink. Get your bottle opener and reach out for that Spanish wine called Rioja. Why Rioja? Rioja is a well known wine from Spain – what makes it a “secret”? I truly believe that Rioja is under-appreciated by the wine lovers, despite two very essential characteristics: value and ability to age. Let’s start from aging: Rioja will rival best Bordeaux and Burgundies in its ability to age. Just to give you an example, I recently had an opportunity to try 1964 Monte Real Rioja Gran Reserva (the wine was exactly 45 years old when I had it) – and the wine was still youthful, with bright fruit, very round and polished, and was not over the peak at all. Now, talking about value: how much do you think this 1964 Rioja costs today? Before we get to the numbers, you need to take into consideration that 1964 was one of the most exceptional years for Rioja in the past century. Essentially, best Riojas had being produced in 1964, 1973 and 2001. So if you would take a parallel with great Bordeaux of 1982, a bottle of wine from that vintage would easily cost you thousands of dollars. Yet that 1964 Monte Real Gran Reserva can be bought today for $220 (if you are in US, you can find it at PJ Wine store in New York) – this is an outstanding QPR (quality price ratio).
Rioja wines are typically aged in the oak barrels, and then still can be aged in the bottle before they are released. You can see all that information on the label of Rioja wine. If the wine just called Rioja, it means that it was aged in oak less than a year. If the wine is called Rioja Crianza, it means that it had being aged for two years total – 1 year in the oak, and another year in the bottle. Rioja Reserva had being aged for a minimum of 3 years – 1 in the oak, 2 in the bottle. And the Rioja Gran Reserva is aged for a minimum of two years in oak and 3 years in bottle. Also, Reserva and Gran Reserva is produced only in good years, not always. Why all the classification? Let’s take a look at couple of Rioja wines readily available today.
First, 2001 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial. Just to make things more complicated, here is additional designation of Rioja wines – Reserva Especial. “Good” thing is, you are not going to find too many wines like that, because Reserva Especial is assigned only in the best of the best years – again, repeating from above – 1964, 1973 and 2001. La Rioja Alta is a very good producer with wide variety of great Rioja wines, and one can make a few blog posts talking just specifically about them. This 2001 Reserva Especial is outstanding – when you take a sip, it becomes a fiesta of flavor in your mouth – cherries, plums, cigar box, chocolate notes, all bright but not overpowering at all, with silky smooth tannins and long finish. This is the great wine, and will continue to evolve for many years to come. The price of the pleasure – $29.95!
Here is another example – 1996 CVNE “Vina Real” Rioja Gran Reserva. This is Gran Reserva in all meanings – while this wine is 15 years old, it needs time like great Barolo to be enjoyed fully. In the first half an hour of breathing, only tannins opened up to the point of completely puckering the mouth, and the fruit appeared after another half an hour of time. After an hour and a half of breathing, this became a nice and gentle wine with the cherry and eucalyptus notes. Great wine, again at a great price – $31.99! Considering that this is a Gran Reserva, comparable Bordeaux or Burgundy wine would cost probably ten-fold, if not more.
I did my best to share the great secret of Rioja – don’t know if I managed to convince you, but I hope at least you feel encouraged to give Rioja a try. I truly believe you will not be disappointed. In any case, there are many more secrets we are going to share – rare grapes, little known wine regions, and many other wine pleasures to be discovered along the way. Cheers!
The title for this post didn’t come up easily. I was back and forth with myself many times. The reason? Tasting these Rioja wines was a phenomenal experience, something which doesn’t happen often during one’s lifetime. The brightness and openness of the 65-years old Rioja was nothing but stunning – but I think I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s go back to the beginning.
I happened to fall in love with Rioja wines about 4 years ago, after attending a Rioja seminar at PJ Wine store (the owner, Peter, is anything but fanatical about Spanish wines – of which PJ Wines houses an amazing selection all the time). At that seminar I was lucky enough to try 1964 Monte Real Gran Reserva Rioja and that was a revelation – the wine was fresh and bright, as it would’ve been may be 5 years old, not 40+. After that tasting I became Rioja fan for life. I have to also mention that even today, you can buy 1964 Rioja starting from less than $300 – for comparison, a bottle of 1966 DRC will set you back for about $10,000. I rest my case.
When my friend Zak told me that we can get a bottle of 1947 Rioja directly from the winery for less than $400, the decision was instantaneous – this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it is worth it (don’t remember how many bottles were still available, but surely there were not that many). So we got that 1947 bottle and after a little while, were able to set the date for the tasting.
To make sure our 1947 Rioja will not feel lonely, we got a few more bottles to keep it company. You can see the full line up on the picture above, and here is an exact list:
2008 Raventos & Blanc Reserva Brut Cava
1993 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco
1947 Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja
1976 Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja
1995 Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja
Pinord Moscatel NV
There is one more bottle in the picture – Jorge Ordonez Malaga – but, guess what – we never opened that, being quite overwhelmed by the desert time (it is a great bottle of desert wine, but – oh well, there is always a next time).
We started with Cava, of course. It was fresh, round and pleasant – not necessarily hugely distinguishable, but definitely a nice bottle of wine to have before dinner starts.
The first foray into magnificent world of Rioja was with the 1993 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rioja Blanco. I will gladly challenge you to find a bottle of 19 years old white wine which will taste as fresh as this 1993 Rioja. May be you will have some luck with white Hermitage, Chablis or some of the white Burgundies, or may be some of the really obscure grapes like Romorantin – but in any case I’m sure it will not be easy. This wine was fresh and complex, with mineral notes, hint of white apple, perfect mid-palate weight and still bright acidity. Definitely a ”wow” introduction into the ”wow” lineup of reds.
Needless to say that we started with 1947 Rioja. Considering the tender age of 65 years, the first challenge of course was to get the cork out. I wish we had one of those glass cutting devices described in the PJ Wine blog post, which simply allows you to cut the whole neck of the bottle with the cork in it, and not worry about cork crumbling into your wine – well, we don’t drink wines of that age often enough, so we had to stick with more conventional tools, like the two-prong cork puller.
It almost worked.. and then not. It took two people and good 5 minutes of time to get cork our, little by little, piece by piece – but we managed to do it almost clean, with may be one or two tiny pieces falling back into the bottle.
Cork is out, and wine goes into the glasses. First thing to note is color, which is still red and not brown – of course it is not purple, but it is dark garnet red. And for the taste… Should I simply tell you that wine was magnificent and leave it at that? Well, okay, it wouldn’t be fair. Let’s continue. On the nose – coco powder, cedar dust, hint of cinnamon, smoked paprika. On the palate – good amount of red fruit, wine comes in bright and youthful, with good acidity. Then second wave came in as wine opened up a bit, with more sweet fruit and then tannins kicking in. I don’t want to bring in exotic animals to describe this wine, as Joe Roberts did with a black panther, so my description will be simple – grace and elegance. I can only wish to have the same grace and elegance myself when I will reach that age.
Moving along, it is now time for the 1976 Rioja. 29 years younger than the previous wine and… ahh, so different! Barnyard on the nose, very pungent, savory, with hint of the same barnyard on the palate, dried cherries, earthiness. If umami is a part of the wine tasting profile, this wine definitely had it.
And for the 1995, we decided to give it a little breathing time – it spent 2 hours in the decanter. The wine was fresh, with beautiful garnet color, bright fruit, very good acidity and soft tannins, touch of eucalyptus and cedar box. Very youthful and upbeat, if you will.
After tasting this line up of the magnificent Rioja wines from the same producer, the most interesting question in my mind is ”how will these wines evolve?”. Even the 1947 didn’t reach the end of life considering the way it was showing, never mind 1976 and 1995. Will pungency of 1976 stay, or will it evolve to something akin to 1947 in 29 years? How will 1995 taste in 48 years, and will it even last that long? These are all great questions I will not get an answer to – but this is part of the wine connoisseurship game – think about the future but definitely appreciate and enjoy what you have right now (huh – feel free to beat me up in the comments for banalities).
So far we I didn’t tell you about the food – there was a lot of great food. While you can’t taste it anyway, here is at least a picture of one of the dishes – roasted potato encrusted striped Bass:
We also had “death by chocolate” desert which perfectly paired with Pinord Moscatel, which happened to be well aged (the bottle simply got lost under the shelf and was “discovered” many years later).
Overall, this was a great experience, which will stay in memory for a very long time. To tell you honestly, I think it will not be easy to top off this experience, but as the very least I can promise to share all that with you. Wish you all great fun with wines – cheers!
Of course time had being here forever, always moving, and always in one direction (someone, please prove me wrong!). Wine had being around for about 8,000 years, first appearing in the ancient Georgia (no, not the one down south, but the one from the Caucus region, on another continent). Wine is one of the few products literally not changed for such a long time in its form and its production methods – sans reverse osmosis machines, electrical presses and micro-oxygenation boxes. Considering such a long history, you can imagine that relationship between wine and time is very complex, and you would be right.
First, time is a necessary part and an attribute of the wine making process. For the vast majority of wines, if you read winery’s description of the wine, you will see something like “aged for so many month in …”. Sometimes the wine is aged in stainless steel tanks. Sometimes the wine is aged in clay vessels (very popular in Georgia now, the vessels are called Kvevri and produce very distinct wines). Lots of red wines are aged in oak barrels – American oak, French oak, Hungarian Oak, new oak, old oak – variations are endless. For many wines, duration and the type of the aging is a sole decision of winemaker (no pressure, but this decision will greatly affect quality and the taste of wine, and will define success and failure for it). For some of the wines, aging in a specific type of barrels is mandatory before the wine can be released – Rioja Gran Reserva should be aged for a minimum of 2 years in oak barrel and 3 years in the bottle to be officially designated as Rioja Gran Reserva. Barolo must be aged for 3 years, at least two of them in the oak barrel, and Barolo Riserva should be aged at least for 5 years. During the aging process, the wine is changing. Oak imparts very specific flavor, which we, humans, tend to like. Oak aging also acts as a preservative and helps wines to live long life.
Once all the aging is complete (in the tanks, barrels and bottles – whatever the aging was), wine is released – and this is when the second phase of the wine and time relationship kicks in.
This second phase is as tricky, if not trickier, as the first. Have you heard the phrase “needs time” in relation to the particular bottle of wine? If you will look at the wine reviews in Wine Spectator or any other publication which provides wine reviews, you would often see one of the phrases “Drink now”, “Best 2014-2020”, “Best after 2013” – these are the suggestions for how long the wine should be kept in the cellar before it should be consumed.
Why is that? What with all this aging? Why not open the bottle right away and just drink the wine? What was discovered at some point (don’t ask me when, but it was long time ago) is that wine actually changes its taste as it spends time in the bottle (the aging). And it doesn’t just change the taste arbitrarily, it tastes better. Young wines are often sharp, or somewhat single-toned in their taste – you might get pronounced acidity, or only sweetness, or lots of white apples – but only white apples. During aging, trace amounts of air are making its way into he bottle, and they lead to the wine changing its taste, improving to the better in majority of the cases – it becomes complex, bite softens up, bright and diverse fruit tones compensate for the pronounced acidity and the wine brings a lot more pleasure compare to the young wines. Mature wines deliver more pleasure – this is the whole philosophy behind wine aging.
Simple and easy, right? Well, this is were everything becomes complicated and confusing – as not all the wines should be aged (do not try to age Beaujolais Noveau, please) and also it is very tricky to make sure you would drink the wine at its peak – as whatever comes up, goes down in mother nature. This is where time transforms from the friend to the foe – and as a foe, it is merciless. After reaching maturity and staying there for a while, the wines are typically starting their decline in the taste (wine loses fruit, become very acidic, may be oxidized – and it stops delivering pleasure). Different wines made in the different styles will have different peak times and different lifespans. Some of the Jerez, Madeira and similar wines can go on literally for the hundreds of years. Good Rioja, Barolo or Bordeaux can be perfectly aged for 50 years or longer. Simple Cote du Rhone might only last for 3-5 years, same would be true for many of the Chardonnay wines. There is not crystal ball telling you precisely how long the wine will last and when will it taste the best – human trial and error is the best way to find that out. Of course there are many factors which might help you to decide whether to age the wine and if yes, for how long – the winery, the winemaker, the region’s wine style, success of the vintage and many others – but in the end of the day you would need to do the work (err, I meant the wine drinking) as the wine ages to find out when it tastes best to you.
So, does it worth to age wines if you don’t know what will happen to them in the end? For anyone who is into wines, and who had an opportunity to try a mature wine, the wine which reached its optimum taste, I’m sure this is a no-brainer question – yes, of course, and please, please give me more.
How one can experience aged wines? You got a few options. First, you can age it in your own cellar. Second, you can buy aged wines, either in a good wine store, such as Cost Less Wines in Stamford or Benchmark Wine Company. Note that you have to buy aged wines only from the trusted source – not aging the wines in the right conditions will simply ruin them, so you have to trust your source. Third option is to attend a wine tasting, such as PJ Wine Grand Tasting, where you can taste really amazing wines. However, you don’t have to wait of the Grand tasting, which takes place only once a year. If you live in a close proximity to Stamford, CT, you can attend a wine tasting at the Franklin Street Works gallery on Thursday, January 19th at 5:30 pm (here is the link for RSVP). The event is free and open to all. Here are the wines which will be presented in the tasting (the list might change at any time):
2003 Riesling, Mosel Saar River, Germany
1998 Merlot, Italy
2009 Stag’s Leap Hands of Time, Napa Valley
2009 Stag’s Leap Hands of Time, hyper-decanted using Nathan Myhrvold’s methodology.
So you should come and experience the relationship between time and wine for yourself – there is a good chance that you will even enjoy it! Cheers!
Once again, we got together with the group of friends to play a fun game of blind wine tasting. This time the subject was Spain (in the past we had a lot of fun blind tasting Pinot Noir and Sparkling wines – you can read the posts here and here).
Why Spain? Spanish wines are getting a lot of recognition among wine lovers of all walks. On average, they deliver the best quality for the price (QPR) among most of other wine regions, and in the end end of the day they simply taste great and deliver lots of pleasure. So the theme was set, the bottles wrapped (every participant have to bring a bottle wrapped in paper bag) and opened, and the numbers are randomly assigned to the bottles.
We had total of six wines, all red. The idea would be may be to identify the grape (an added bonus, of course), but mainly to see a consensus as to which wine would be the most favorite of the group – blind tasting has a great leveling effect – you are not intimidated by the price or a label, so you can stay true to your taste buds. Just to set the stage as to what are the most popular Spanish grapes, I prepared the following cheat sheet, which I’m including here in its entirety:
Off we went, so for what it worth, here are my notes as I took them during tasting – no corrections afterwards:
1 brick dust on the nose, good acidity, pepper – tempranillo
2 young wine, good fruit, open – mencia, monastrell?
3 earthy, tame fruit, age, good fruit, dark color, great acidity, pomegranate, smokiness
4 feels like it is corked, but I hope it is not. Fruit at the bottom. Final verdict – corked.
5 beautiful, most balanced, good fruit, plums- Grenache?
6 classic Rioja, cherries, acidity, best of tasting.
So, reading the descriptions, what do you think those wines are? This is always not an easy guess, as your mind is racing trying to pinpoint taste, texture and any other sensations you are experiencing at the moment against your mental database of the wines you tasted (that database is either resisting and says “nothing found” or goes all the way and says “it is similar to all 10 of these”).
And here are the actual wines:
1. 2004 Bodegas Muga Rioja Selection Especiale
2. 2009 D. Ventura Vina Caneiro Ribeira Sacra DO
3. 2005 Arrayan Syrah, Mentrida DO
4. 2004 Bodegas Ondarre Rioja
5. 2009 Emilio Moro Finca Resalso, Ribero del Duero
6. 1994 Campillo Rioja Gran Reserva
Now for the popularity vote, here is how it works. Everybody can vote for up to two wines (but don’t have to). If there will be one wine which will receive a majority of the votes, it will be declared a winner. If two bottles will receive the same number of votes, we would vote again for the one favorite out of the two.
Can you guess which wine won? If you guessed “Bodegas Campillo” (as the very least judging by the label to the left), you are correct. It won by the unanimous vote – everybody liked it. Distant second was Arrayan Syrah (half of the group voted for it). Bodegas Campillo was classic and pure Rioja, with all the clean flavors of cherries and cedar box, great acidity and very fresh, not even a hint of 17 years of age. Arrayan Syrah was probably the most unusual and unexpected wine in the group – beautiful, balanced, and very pleasant to drink. But just to give due respect to all 6 wines we tasted, all except the corked bottle were very good wines, worthy of being in the competition.
If you feel encouraged to try blind tasting on your own, I would suggest to avoid doing it for the whole country. Single region or a single grape (or a stable blend, such as GSM or Bordeaux) would work much better to showcase the range of possibilities. But other than this remark, I think blind tasting is the best way to learn about your wine preferences, to have great experience and to have fun! If you got blind tasting experiences of your own – please share them here! Cheers!
Celebrate Two Noble Grapes in One Day – What Are You Drinking Tonight? #CabernetDay and #TempranilloDay
I’m honestly puzzled, but somehow September 1st had being declared an international #CabernetDay and #TempranilloDay – it feels like there are not enough days in the calendar to properly celebrate all the grapes? Anyway, it is what it is, right? And the celebration is on, which means … oh boy… you have a reason to have a glass (or two or …) of wine tonight!
To celebrate Cabernet Day, all you need to do is to open a bottle of your favorite (or better yet, the one you never had) Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc wine (and of course Cabernet blend will do quite well too), and then tell the world how great it was (if you will only tell your neighbor, that will also count). With abundance of choices from Bordeaux, California, New York, Washington, Australia, Canada, Italy, Argentina, Chile, Spain, Israel and pretty much everywhere else, you will have no problems finding a good bottle of Cabernet to enjoy. And instead of giving you any particular recommendations, I would like to simply reflect on some of the past experiences:
Next, we definitely should acknowledge Tempranillo, a noble grape of Spain. While this grape is slowly trickling into other winemaking regions, it is a true star in Spain, where it shines in Rioja and Ribero del Duero regions, making some of the most beautiful (and age-worthy) wines in the world. You can also find it producing good results in Portugal, however, under the names of Aragonez and Tinta Roriz. Again, no particular recommendations as to what wine to open, just some reflections here for you:
Whatever bottle you will end up opening, the routine is not new – all you need to do is to enjoy it. And if you will be kind enough to leave a comment here, I will be glad to enjoy it together with you. Cheers!
About 10 days ago, I attended Spanish Wine Festival, organized by PJ Wine in New York. I can give you a summary of the event using only one word: Overwhelming. It is challenging to produce any kind of detailed summary, because there are literally no bad wines in such a well organized tasting event. There are some wines which will leave you indifferent, then there are some which are great, but not ready, and then there is great amount of wines where you go from “wow” to “wow, this is great” and to “wow” again. Therefore, I will simply give you a report in pictures. No, I didn’t get a picture of each and every wine I tried. All the wines shown below are personal favorites, and they are all highly recommended. And the good thing is that PJ Wine regularly carries most of them.
Well, let’s go.
1999 Vega Sicilia Unico and 2000 Vega Sicilia Unico, from Ribera del Duero. These are the wines to be experienced – balanced and luscious:
2006 Clos Mogador, Priorat – powerful and balanced:
Lopez de Heredia Vino Tondonia Rioja – 1976 Gran Reserva, 2000 Rosado and 1993 Blanco: 18 years old White Rioja and 11 years old Rioja Rosado – both are fresh and vibrant. Wow! And Gran Reserva – beautiful and mature wine, which will still keep going for a while.
Bodegas El Nido line, including flagship 2006 El Nido – gorgeous layered and balanced, and requiring another 10 years to really blossom:
Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero, including full Malleolus line – wines of incredible balance and elegance:
More Rioja – Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva 1995 and 1999, as well as CVNE Vina Real Gran Reserva 2001 -
1997 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904, 1995 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890 and 2001 Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial – probably the best Rioja wines. Period. Classic and amazing.
Representing Toro: 2007 Numanthia and 2007 Termanthia, silky smooth, balanced and powerful:
More Rioja – 2004 Martinez Lacuesta Reserva, great wine from the great year:
Starring Garnacha from Campo de Borja – 2008 Alto Moncayo and 2007 Aquilon – beautiful, soft and spicy:
Jerez, a.k.a. Sherry is coming back – take a note of it. All Barbadillo wines were simply delicious, and Colosia Amontillado was also right in the league:
I would like to thank PJ Wine folks profusely for arranging such an amazing line up of wines for the event. And if I can make a suggestion, myself (and I’m sure, hundreds of other wine lovers) would really enjoy PJ Wine Grand Tasting event in the Fall – we can only hope that PJ Wine will be kind enough to organize one…
As you know by now, PJ Wine is one of my favorite wine stores (you can find some of my impressions here). It is not just due to the great selection of wines, with Rioja being a superstar. It is also based on the fact that PJ Wine is a great source of education and experience (double-winner – education is free most of the time). Store runs great seminar program, where (if you are fast enough to get on the list) you can experience many great wines of the world.
Few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be able to get into the seminar about wines of Sierra Cantabria and Teso La Monja (the event was sold out in a matter of hours). Both Sierra Cantabria and Teso La Monja wines are produced by Eguren family (you can find complete information here), and of course you already figured out that both are produced in Spain.
Sierra Cantabria wines come from Rioja. In addition to producing full line up of traditional Rioja wines ( Crianza/Reserva/Gran Reserva), of course made out of Tempranillo ( for more information about Rioja wines you can click here), Sierra Cantabria also produced the series called Collection Privada, with each wine being made only in exceptional years. Currently, it includes wines made in 1996 ( first ever vintage for Sierra Cantabria), 1999 and 2000. Tasting the Collection Privada wines, the first one from 1996 was very nice, with good bouquet of spices, acidic and bright. There were only 300 cases produced in 1996, so this wine is not easy to find. While 1996 was drinking well already, both 1999 and 2000 were simply not ready and needed more time in the cellar. These wines are produced from 55-60 years old vines, and made with the focus on quality, not quantity.
Second group of wines presented at the seminar were also made by the same Eguren family, but come from another region in Spain called Toro. Teso la Monja is the latest project for the winemaker Marcos Eguren. Toro wines are made out of the grape called Tinta de Toro. If you would look in Wikipedia, you would see that Toro is designated as another name for Tempranillo. In reality, it is actually a clone of the Tempranillo grape, which has it’s own characteristics and is different from Tempranillo itself – same as famous Brunello, made out of Sangiovese Grosso grapes, tastes totally different from regular Sangiovese-based wines, Chianti.
Three wines from Teso la Monja had being represented in the tasting. First was 2007 Teso La Monja Almirez Toro – the wine had nice balance and lots of dark fruit – blackberries, black currant and spicy oak. Next wine was 2007 Teso la Monja Victorino Toro – beautiful, round with plums and blackberries, showing nice minerality. This wine is produced from 65+ year old vines and aged for about 18 month in oak.
Last but not least in the tasting was 2007 Teso la Monja Alabaster Toro. This wine was simply outstanding. Very dense, very big , with lots of fruit and in the need of time. Just to give you an example of care which goes into the making of this wine – the grapes are de-stemmed by hand, and then pressed with the feet. This wine definitely needs time before it will show off in its true beauty. The only challenge with this wine is related to the fact that at $156, it is not a bargain, and essentially QPR is becoming more of an issue, at least for me. Of course, if we will compare Alabaster with El Nido or Vega Sicilia wines, QPR might be on par – nevertheless, I think some time is needed before Alabaster has enough recognition to demand such a price.
All in all, it was a great experience with 6 exciting wines and lots of information – and I can’t thank folks from PJ Wine enough for continuing bringing great events to the wine lovers. And while on the subject of great experience, I can’t help to note that PJ Wine is organizing Spanish Wine Festival, which will take place on Friday, June 17th at 6 PM in Metropolitan Pavilion, 123 West 18th Street in New York City (please click here for more information). This event is not free, but for $99.99 I think it constitutes a great value – you will be able to experience wines of Vega Sicilia (keep in mind that typical bottle of Vega Sicilia costs in excess of $400, plus, it is very difficult to find), El Nido, La Rioja Alta, Clos Mogador and hundreds of others. The Festival will also include food from many good places in New York. I believe Spanish Wine Festival is a great value and shouldn’t be missed.
And as this was the post about Spanish wines, I think we need to finish it appropriately: Salud!