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Drinking With Purpose

August 27, 2022 Leave a comment

Drinking with purpose.

Okay, so what are we talking about here?

First of all, we are talking about wine. Usually, we drink wine for pleasure. Of course, sometimes people drink just for the buzz, to forget, to relax – there are many reasons why people use alcohol, but wine (I hope) stands a bit apart from the rest of the alcohol. Wine helps us to converse with friends, create memories, enhance our food experiences and simply derive pleasure from the simple moment of existence. Then what is this purpose I’m talking about?

Wine is the product of passion. At least this is how we, wine lovers, want to see it. Wine also enables passion. Not even passion, but passions. It solicits passions. Wine is surrounded by desire, obsession, exclusivity, mysticism, glamor, science, greed, mystery, art, and devotion, it evokes all of these and many other feelings and emotions. Wine allows everyone to find their own passion.

One such passion is collecting. Yes, some people are collecting the wine. In a lot of cases, they simply do this to feel superior to others, as they have something which other people want but can’t have. We can leave this aside, as this is a boring aspect of wine. Collecting unopened bottles is not the only thing to collect around wines.

The wine offers lots of artifacts. People collect unique bottles. People collect unique labels (hundreds of thousands of different wines are produced every year around the world – and many labels can change every year – think of an endless potential here). People collect champagne and sparkling wine bottle caps – this hobby even has an official name, placomusophilia. Peope collect corks and screwtops. I collect grapes and experiences.

Many, many, years ago I came across The Wine Century Club. No, you don’t have to be 100 years old or drink 100 years old wines. It is all about grapes. Anyone who tasted 100 different grapes (obviously, in wines) – don’t have to be individual grapes, blends are totally fine – is welcome to apply to become a member of the club. The application is honor-based (well, if you lie, your palate would be cursed forever – who would want to risk that), and you get the certificate sometime after you submit the application. Tasting the first 100 grapes was relatively easy. By the time I was done with the first 100, the club was already offering the 200 grapes level (Doppel), then 300 (Treble), 400 (Quattro), 500 (Pentavini), and now even 600 (Hexavin).

After I passed the 100 grapes level, hunting for the new grapes became an obsession, which I thoroughly documented on this very blog. I had friends reaching out and asking if I already had such and such grape. I spent countless hours looking for the grape information online, trying to figure out what grapes went into this particular wine from this particular vintage. Hunting down new grapes became drinking with purpose. I didn’t care if I would like the new wine or not – if it had the grapes I didn’t taste before, that was all I needed.

As I mentioned before, I collect not only grapes but also experiences. Wines are made in all of the 50 states in the USA. Wines are made at least in 60 countries around the world, maybe more. I have a personal goal to experience (read: taste) wines of all 50 states. I also would love to taste wines made in all the different countries around the world.

This is how I collect the grapes and experiences. And this is how drinking with purpose happens. A wine from the new state or a country – yes, please! The wine with new grapes? Yes, pretty please!

Recently, I managed to find a few wines with grapes I never had before. Not only that but one of the wines was made in the region which was new to me, so the two proverbial birds were killed with one stone – err, bottle. Here are the quick notes on these wines:

First, two wines from Eastern Europe. I never had the wines of Bosnia and Herzegovina, so this was a new country I was able to add to the list. Both wines were tasty, and Tikveš Belo was probably my favorite wine out of these 4. New grapes are marked in bold:

2015 Čitluk Winery Blatina Bosnia & Herzegovina (13% ABV,  100% Blatina)
Brickish red
Plums, dried fruits, medium intensity
Sour cherries, soft, round, medium body, good acidity, soft tannins
7+, not sure how it was stored. It is still nice, simple, and easy to drink, but probably on the decline.
8, on the second day. Interesting transformation – tertiary aromas are gone, plums, cherries and sage on the palate, nice, round, pleasant.

2020 Tikveš Belo Special Selection North Macedonia (11.5% ABV, Smederevka, Riesling, Marsanne, Roussanne)
A light greenish hue
A hint of gunflint, Whitestone fruit, medium intensity but very confident nose
Lemon, a hint of grass, salivating acidity.
8, this is a beautiful food wine, will compliment a wide range of foods.

It is my second time drinking Armenian wines. I was really looking forward to Yacoubian-Hobbs white, but the wines ended up being a disappointment. The Armenian red was quite drinkable. In any case, when you drink with a purpose, you don’t complain.

2018 Yacoubian-Hobbs Dry White Wine Aghavnadzor Vayots Dzor Armenia (14% ABV, blend of Voskehat, Khatuni, Qrdi, Garan Demak)
Golden color
Stewed fruit on the nose
The palate had some stewed plums, it was overwhelming and had no acidity. The wine was devoid of balance.
N/R, Maybe a bad bottle? Cork broke while I was opening the wine using a standard waiter corkscrew. But the wine didn’t seem oxidized, maybe heat damage?

2019 VinArdi Estate Blend Dry Red Wine Armenia (13.5% ABV, 40% Areni, 35% Haghtanak, 25% Milagh)
Dark Ruby red
Wild berries on the nose
Wild berries, dried herbs, medium+ body, good structure, good acidity, excellent balance.
8-, easy to drink

Now you know all about my wine obsessions. And I get to increase the counter you see on the top of the page from 561 to 567. Little by little…

By the way, there is no stopping in sight. While I’m trying to close on 600, there are people in The Wine Century Club discussing the 800 mark. Talk about obsessions… Enjoy your wine. Cheers!

A Refreshing Trip Around The World

August 2, 2022 Leave a comment

Have wine, will travel.

I love saying that.

Have wine, will travel.

While we might be dreaming about all those ways to instantly travel from our living room to Mount Everest, Bora Bora, or Singapore, wine has this magical ability to transpose, to let us be where we want to be in a blink of an eye. It works best with the bottle of wine you are familiar with, especially if you have had a chance to visit the winery and acquired some great memories. But even if you have never visited the winery, a bottle of wine is quite a unique product – every bottle of wine proudly advertises where it was made, right on the front label – when you see “Italy”, it is not difficult to picture Rome or Bologna. France probably would solicit the image of the Eiffel tower. Does Australia bring up an image of a boxing kangaroo? Oops, this can be just me. Anyway, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

So today, let’s take advantage of the instantaneous travel only wine can offer, and let’s go on that trip around the world.

The weather is hot in the Northern hemisphere, so today we will hop onboard of the white wine express.

Our first stop will be in Spain. Thinking about Spanish white wines, what grapes come to mind? To ease up on this question – boy, it is hot outside – what is the first Spanish white wine you can think of? While you are pondering that question, I can give you my answer – Albariño. Of course, you have Viura, Verdejo, Godello, and others, but to me the first association for the Spanish white wine is Albariño.

As you might have suspected already, our first stop is in Rias Baixas, roughly a 3,000 square kilometers region located along the Atlantic ocean’s coast in Galicia, in northwest Spain, where Albariño is the king. Pazos de Lusco winery is farming 12.5 acres of Albariño grapes in the south of the region, 40 km away from the coast. The name of the winery comprises two typical Galician words – “pazo”, which stands for home, usually in the countryside, and “lusco” which defines the beautiful moment between dusk and nightfall.

2021 Pazo de Lusco Albariño Rias Baixas DO (13% ABV, $24.95, Vegan)
Straw pale
Intense aromatics, ripe white fruit, peach, tropical fruit
Nicely restrained palate, crisp, tart, lemon, the wine makes you salivate and want food even if you are not hungry.
8, excellent. Should be great with oysters.

For our next stop, we are staying in Spain but traveling east almost to the French border, to the region called Somontano, where the wine had been produced for more than 2,000 years. In Somontano, there lies the Secastillo Valley (the valley of 7 castles), boasting 100 years old Garnacha vines at 2,100+ feet of elevation and a special Mediterranean microclimate defined by close proximity to Pyrenees mountains. This is where our next wine is coming from, Garnacha Blanca produced at the Pagos de Secastilla:

2020 La Miranda Secastilla Garnacha Blanca Somontano DO (13.5% ABV, $18, 4 months in French oak)
Straw pale
Minerality, a touch of gunflint, underripe white fruit
Beautifully playful, fresh white fruit and berries medley, crisp and clean acidity, excellent balance, delicious.
8

As I was deciding when I will taste these wines, the overarching thought came in – oysters. I want fresh oysters. Luckily, we have a new fish monger opened nearby, so procuring a few dozens of oysters was really simple. I tried Albariño and Garnacha Blanca with the fresh oysters, and while the pairing with Garnacha Blanca was not bad, the Albariño and oysters were simply a match made in heaven. Albariño was a perfect chaser, amplifying the delicious salinity of the oyster juice and if you would close your eyes, it was very easy to imagine yourself standing right next to the ocean waves and smelling the salty, fishy water. If you will have an opportunity – spoil yourself, oysters and Albariño are really tasty together.

Now that we are not hungry, we can continue our journey. We are now traveling northeast to the heart of Europe – we are going to Austria. Let me ask you the same question as before – what grape would you associate with Austria first and foremost? I hope your answer will be the same as mine, as mine is rather obvious – Grüner Veltliner.

Grüner Veltliner is unquestionably the most famous Austrian grape, with more than 37,000 acres planted. It appears to originate in Austria and as it was recently established, it is a natural cross between Traminer and St. Georgen (an almost lost grape, only recently rediscovered). Gruner is capable of a wide variety of expressions, depending on the soil types and the yield. But what sets the grape apart in the world of white grapes is rotundone, which is present in the skin of Grüner Veltliner. I only recently mentioned rotundone in the post about Syrah – rotundone is a chemical compound found in the skin of the grape that is responsible for the peppery flavors in the wine. Such peppery flavors are usually attributed to red wines – but Grüner Veltliner can happily join the “peppery family”.

The first mentions of Domäne Wachau go back to the 12th century. Today, this is one of the leading wine cooperatives in the world – 250 vintners sustainably farm about 1,000 acres of vines, and the wines are exported to 40 countries. Talk about Grüner Veltliner – Domäne Wachau produces more than 3 dozens of different Grüner Veltliner wines. As a fun historical fact, I want also to mention that in the 1930s Domäne Wachau was already producing single-vineyard Grüner Veltliner wines. And if you are a wine nerd like me, Domäne Wachau has assembled a wonderful collection of the Nerd Notes on their website, offering in-depth coverage on the terroir, soils, sustainability, cork stoppers, and lots more.

I had an opportunity to taste two of the Domäne Wachau wines – both delicious:

2020 Domäne Wachau Loess Grüner Veltliner Austria (12.5% ABV, $14 1L bottle)
Straw pale
Whitestone fruit, apple, fresh lemon – inviting and bright
Crisp, grassy notes, cut through acidity, fresh, delicious.
8, delicious and outstanding QPR

2021 Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Terrassen Wachau Austria (12.5% ABV, $18.99)
Straw pale
Tropical fruit, candied lemon, herbal undertones, generous, inviting
Crisp, fresh, lemon, a hint of grass, cleansing and vibrant, perfectly balanced.
8, I should’ve tried it with oysters too – the acidity is pronounced, it could’ve worked well.

Now we will have to travel to the Southern hemisphere for our last stop – Chile.

Chilean wines need no introduction to wine lovers. All classic grape varieties are doing extremely well in Chile, producing world-class wines. But as we are taking the white wine express, that reduces the number of available options. The spotlight today is on the Sauvignon Blanc, produced by one of my favorite, all-organic Chilean wineries – Ritual. I extensively wrote about Ritual before, so instead of regurgitating the information here, I would like to ask you to read that post. Ritual Sauvignon Blanc was exactly as one could expect – delicious:

2019 Ritual Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley (13.5% ABV, $20.99, organic grapes)
Straw pale
Open, inviting, clean, intense, a hint of freshly cut grass and currant leaf
Clean, round, full of energy, uplifting, lemon, freshly cut grass, delicious.
8, outstanding.

This concludes our wine journey around the world. Well, of course, you can continue it on your own. And if you will find something tasty, please share it with the rest of us.

 

WMC21: Day 2 Highlights

August 26, 2021 2 comments

We started the 2nd day of WMC21 with the breakout sessions, no keynotes. There were two sessions run in parallel, so you had to choose the topic which would be more of interest to you.

My first session, The Art of Storytelling for the Wine Industry, was presented by Jill Barth, a seasonal wine writer who writes for Forbes, Wine Enthusiast, Decanter, and other wine publications. Jill also won multiple awards (best wine blog 2016, Millessima wine and food pairing award, etc). Jill had a lot of good advice on how to build your story, what would make it a good story, how to pitch your story to the editors, and more.

Next, I listened to Scott Fish from 32 Digital, who was talking about taking your Instagram account to the next level. There were a lot of good information presented in the session – what are the best and worst times to post (it appears that Sunday is one of the worst days for the posts), how many tags to use, the optimal number of pictures in the gallery and so on. There were also some interesting tools recommendations, such as Answer To Public – a service that allows finding the most popular searches at the moment for a given keyword(s), all presented in an interesting format. You can see an example below of the search results for the keywords “red wine”.

You can definitely play with the tool, however, note that with the free search, you get a limited number of searches per IP address per day (I think 3 or 4), so play wisely.

Another interesting tool I learned about was Geolmgr which allows you to geotag your photos to a specific geographic location.

The next session, Digital Marketing for Wine Media, was presented by Mike Wangbickler, wine blogger, long-time WMC attendee, and owner of Balzac Communications agency. Mike started with some hard questions to the audience, such as “why do you have a wine blog” – it appears that literally no one had a wine blog to make money. Then Mike went on to talk about a plethora of tools available today to the bloggers in terms of SEO, content management, optimizing your delivery to your customer audience, and lots more.

After lunch, we had an excellent panel on Oregon sparkling wine. Before the session started we had an opportunity to taste three of the Oregon sparkling wines from the wineries participating in the panel. One of the wines was delicious sparkling Tannat from Troon Vineyards which we tasted on the first day. My other favorite was the 2017 Willamette Valley Vineyards Brut Sparkling Wine, which had all the classic Champagne traits – a touch of toasted bread on the nose, crisp, tight, and elegant on the palate.

The panel discussion was joined by Craig Camp, Troon Vineyard, Christine Clair, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Jessica Thomas, Sweet Cheeks Winery, and moderated by L.M. Archer.

It was a good discussion, starting with the history of sparkling wine in Oregon, and going through all the aspects of sparkling wine production. What was particularly interesting for me is a different approach to selecting the grapes for the sparkling wine. Willamette Valley Vineyards found out that one of the Chardonnay clones in the specific vineyard doesn’t perform well enough to be vinified into the still Chardonnay, but it happened to be well suited for the sparkling wine which requires much lesser ripeness. At the same time, the Sweet Cheek Winery harvests grapes for their sparkling wines from the same vineyard used for the still wine, but in the earlier pass, leaving the grapes for the still wines to ripen further.

Our next session was a wine discovery session where we had a choice of learning about Italian wines of Marche or Abruzzo – my choice was Marche, and we will talk about it in a separate post.

And then there were Lightning Talks. Lightning talks is an interesting concept. These are the sessions presented by fellow bloggers and wine writers. Each presenter submits a presentation with any number of slides, however, the slides change automatically and should be presented in exactly 5 minutes. This is the amount of time given to everyone – either you are done or not, but your time slot will stop exactly at 300 seconds. All the presenters did an excellent job – Gwendolyn Alley talked about being a cellar rat, Jeff Burrows spoke about starting your own blogging group, Brianne Cohen spoke about the virtual tasting business she started in 2020. My favorite talk though was the one presented by Steve Noel, who spoke about creative wine descriptors – I couldn’t stop laughing the whole 5 minutes while Steve was talking. While it will not be the same as Steve’s live presentation, he graciously allowed me to include his presentation in my post – you can find it here.

Our last session of the day, and essentially, the conference, was Wine Live Social for the red wines, which I already covered in this post.

Customary, the conference ends with the announcement of the next year’s location. Unfortunately, Zephyr folks, organizers of the conference, didn’t have a chance to work on securing the next location, as they had to operate with minimal staff, so the location will be announced later.

This was the end of the official conference, but you can probably imagine that we couldn’t let it go so easily, so after dinner, many of the attendees reconvened in the lobby to … yes, you guessed it – drink more wine and talk. There were lots of wines, but one particularly interesting for me was the 2009 Ranchita Canyon Vineyard Old Vine Cabernet Pfeffer – Cabernet Pfeffer is the grape I never tried before, and I recently saw it mentioned by someone, so it was definitely interesting to try. Not sure when this bottle was opened, so the wine was not super-enjoyable, but hey, I get to increase my grape count.

When I went to my room at around 2 am, there was still plenty of wine left, as you can see below. When I came out for breakfast the next morning, the foyer had no traces of wine bloggers partying all night.

There you are, my friends – if you missed the conference, I hope this gives you some idea as to what was going on there, and I hope next year it will be at the place and time good enough for all of us to get together.

I’m done with my report from the conference, but not with Oregon wines. I spent the next 4 days visiting wineries with Carl Giavanti, so as they say, watch this space…

Pleasures of the Obscure – New Discoveries

March 23, 2021 2 comments

If you follow this blog for some time, you might (or might not) know that I identify as an obsessed wine geek. There is definitely more than one trait that would allow such an identification, so the particular one I want to talk about here is the love of obscure grapes.

I was bitten by The Wine Century Club bug more than 15 years ago, and since then I’m on the quest to seek the most unusual wines made from the most obscure grapes. The Wine Century Club offers to wine lovers a very simple proposition – for every 100 different grapes you taste, you get to the next level in the club. With more than 1,300 grapes used in wine production today, this shouldn’t be very difficult, shouldn’t it? Yet, of course, it is, as an absolute majority of the wines readily available today in the supermarkets, wine stores, and even from the wineries direct, are made from 50–60 mainstream grapes – the rest requires quite a bit of work of procuring as most of the wines made out of the rare grapes are produced in minuscule quantities and not sold anywhere outside of the immediate area of production.

So if finding those rare and unusual wines is that difficult, why bother you may ask? I can give you a few reasons. One – I can simply tell you that I tried 555 grapes at the time of writing this post, so it kind of “mine is bigger than yours” type of reason. Yep, lame. Let’s leave it.

The better reason is the fact that every bottle of wine made from grapes one never heard of before is an opportunity to experience great pleasure. The grape is unknown, so we have no expectations whatsoever. While drinking Cabernet Sauvignon, that simple little piece of information – the name of the grape you are well familiar with – has a tremendous effect on how you perceive the wine. The level of pleasure will depend on how well the particular wine matches your expectations. It might be the best ever for you in the blind tasting, but in the non-blind setting, you are instantly influenced by your prior experience and thus your level of pleasure is limited by your expectations.

When you pour yourself a glass of Bobal, Trepat, or Hondarrabi Zuri, you are presented with a blank canvas – you can draw any conclusions you want. You will decide if you like the wine not in comparison but simply based on what is in your glass and if it gives you pleasure, or not. Simple, straightforward, easy.

Here, let me share with you my latest encounter with obscure grapes.

Let’s start with the white wine – 2017 Paşaeli Yapincak Thrace Turkey (12% ABV, 100% Yapincak). Yapincak is a native variety of Şarköy – Tekirdağ region in Northern Turkey. The grapes for this wine, produced by Paşaeli winery in Turkey, come from the single vineyard located at about 500 feet elevation, 35 years old vines. Upon opening the wine showed some oxidative notes, I even thought it might be gone already. A few hours later, it cleared up, and presented itself as a medium to full-bodied wine, with fresh lemon and a touch of honey notes, crisp, fresh, easy to drink. This can be a food wine, but it doesn’t have to be, quite enjoyable on its own. (Drinkability: 8-/8)

My rare red wine was really a special experience, as it brought back really special memories. I got this 2014 Agricola Vallecamonica Somnium Vino Rosso (12.5% ABV, 100% Ciass Negher) 4 years ago, during a press trip to the beautiful region of Franciacorta. As we were the guests of the Franciacorta consortium, we were mainly focusing on the Franciacorta sparkling wines. During one of our lunches, I noticed this wine and had to bring it home, albeit only one bottle. This wine is made out of the ancient grape called Ciass Negher in the local dialect, used in the winemaking by the Romans about 2,000 years ago, and resuscitated by Alex Belingheri in his vineyards at Agricola Vallecamonica.

This wine was absolutely unique – as you would expect considering its rare pedigree. I perceived this wine as something in a middle between Pinot Noir and Chianti/Sangiovese. A touch of Pinot Noir’s sweetness, smoke, and violets, with the undertones of leather and tobacco, and a little funk. Each sip was begging for another – easy to drink, perfectly balanced, and delightful. If this would be my everyday wine, I would be perfectly happy about it. (Drinkability: 8+)

Here you are, my friends. The wine pleasures are everywhere – you just need to look for them.

Pleasures of Obscure: Enjoying the Journey

February 6, 2020 2 comments

Many moons ago I got bit by the bug of collecting the … grape experiences. Back in 2007 or so, I discovered The Wine Century Club. The word “century” here is used for its exact meaning – a 100. In order to become a member of the Wine Century Club, one has to fill up the application and specify how many grape varieties he or she had tried – as soon as you hit the 100, you can send the application to the designated email address, and your membership certificate will be mailed to you.

The club works on the complete honor system, but there is a legend that if you will lie on your application, your palate will be cursed forever – I don’t know if anyone tried to play the system, but I definitely don’t want my palate to be cursed, so I never tried.

When I started this blog back in 2010, I was at the 200 grapes level – so-called Doppel. I carefully documented my journey to the 300 mark (a Treble Member) under the category of Treble Journey. Since that time I managed to reach the 500 level (called Pentavini) back in February of 2016 (exactly 4 years ago) – and this was the last post on the subject of The Wine Century Club – however, I continued documenting my “rare grape” discoveries throughout the posts (that is yet another category in here), and I still hope to reach the 600 mark (called Hexavini) in my lifetime, even though the process became considerably slower at this point. There are more than 1,300 grapes used in the winemaking today, but it doesn’t mean that wines made out of those grapes are readily available, easy to find, and inexpensive.

While reaching the highest possible number of grapes tasted is the goal, my main joy is in the journey itself. There are multiple fun aspects of that journey. First, you get to drink unique and different wines. When taking a sip of Kharkuna or Prunelart, you have no preconceived notions. You can’t say “ohh, it doesn’t taste like Cabernet”, because it is not Cabernet. You now have to decide if you like or don’t like this specific wine in your glass – you have nothing to compare it to and be disappointed by comparison (“ohh, this $30 Cabernet tastes like crap compared to $20 bottle I had last week”) – you have to make a simple, binary decision – 1. I like it. 2. I don’t like it.

Secondly, you get to play a part of the wine sleuth – you need to find information about the grape, you need to find out if Ull de Liebre is a new grape for you, or if it is simply another name for Tempranillo, and you need to verify and compare your sources – lots and lots of fun, I’m telling you.

Ultimately, the list of grapes you tasted is yours and only yours, and you have to make some decisions – for example, will you count clones or not? Is Sangiovese Grosso the same as Sangiovese? Is Ink de Toro identical to Tempranillo, or should it be considered a different grape? What are you going to do about all of the Pinot Noir clones, which many producers, especially the ones in Oregon, love to tell you about? The journey of every grape geek is unique and different – and fun.

As I mentioned before, my last post on the subject of The Wine Century Club was 4 years ago. At that time, my “grape count” which you can see on the top of the blog, was standing at 518. During these four years, I managed to add another 37 varieties, now reaching the 555 total.

Here is another interesting tidbit for you. Only a month ago, I managed to finally complete the original (!) Wine Century Club table, by adding Arvine Grosso (original table, which you can find on the top of the page here,  had 184 varieties listed and had both Arvine and Petite Arvine) to the roster, so this was one of the triggers to this post.

I’m honestly not a hurry, I really enjoy this journey. I have another 3-4 wines made out of unique grape varieties, waiting to be open. Will I ever reach 600? I can’t tell. But I can tell you that I’m thoroughly enjoying each and every rare grape encounter – yes, you can call me a grape geek.

In case you are wondering, below is a full list of all 37 new rare grapes added to the collection over the past 4 years. Have you ever been bitten by the grape bug? Cheers!

Read more…

Sequel in Reverse – More About Wines of Southwest France

May 18, 2018 4 comments

What’s up with the “sequel in reverse”, you ask? Easy. All we need to do is flip the timeline. This post is a continuation of the previous post about wines of Southwest France – however, the tasting I want to share with you took place almost 6 months ago, at the end of the last year 2017, hence the “reverse” notion.

Outside of the sequence of the events, the two tastings are perfectly aligned – they are both squarely dedicated to the wines of one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world – Southwest France.

I can’t explain why, but I feel that I need to make a confession. If you look through the pages of this blog – and there are a few here – I’m sure you will come to a conclusion that I primarily drink wines from California, Spain, and Italy, with an occasional sprinkle of everything else. And you will not be wrong. However, truth be told, my true love to wine started from French wines. I read the most about French wine and French wine regions. I was obsessed with trying to find an amazing Bordeaux for less than $10. Côtes du Rhône wines were a staple at the house. I spent countless hours in the France aisles of the wine stores (luckily, I was working in a close proximity of the Bottle King in New Jersey), looking for the next great experience with the wines from the Loire, Rhône, Bordeaux, Chablis, and others. French wines were “it” – unquestionably, a sacred territory. As the time was going by, and Bordeaux and Burgundy prices were going up faster than the weeds growing after the rain, the French wines moved mostly into a category of a rare encounter.

Wines of Southwest France

Last December was not the first time I participated in the virtual tasting about the French wines – but somehow, when I opened the box with these wines, something warm and fuzzy came over, and my first reaction was “ahh, I really, really want to drink these wines!”. There is nothing special about this particular set – no big names (I don’t believe Southwest France has much of “big names” anyway), no flashy, ultra-modern labels – and nevertheless, there was a promise of a great time in their simplicity and authenticity. These wines also perfectly played to my other “wine obsession” – the love to obscure and lesser-known wines, so altogether, I took a great pleasure in anticipation of the tasting.

As this was a virtual tasting, I had both the wines and time at my disposal, so unlike the previous post, here are my detailed notes in the usual format:

2016 Chateau Laulerie Bergerac AOC (12% ABV, $12, 85% Sayvignon Blanc, 15% Semillon)
C: Light gold
N: beautiful, fresh, medium+ intesnsity, honeysuckle, white flowers, peach
P: fresh, crisp, excelllent lemony acidity, white stone fruit, restrained
V: 8-, delicious, will be great with food and without, great QPR

2015 Domaine Elian Da Ros Abouriou Côtes du Marmandais AOC (12% ABV, $23.99, 90% Abouriou, 10% Merlot)
C: dark ruby
N: freshly chrushed berries, leafy notes, cherries, anis
P: ripe plums, sweet tobacco, eucalyptus, medium long sweet tobacco finish
V: 8-, would love to try it with an actual cigar. Needs a bit of time. And a new grape – Abouriou

2015 Domaine du Cros Marcillac AOP (12.5% ABV, $15.99, 100% Fer Servadou)
C: Ruby
N: earthy notes, mint, some medicinal notes (iodine?)
P: beautiful fresh pepper on the palate, tobacco, cherries – that pepper is delicious, love the wines like that
V: 8/8+, delicious, excellent QPR

2014 Château Lamartine Prestige du Malbec Cahors AOC (12.5% ABV, $17.99, 100% Cot (Malbec))
C: dark garnet
N: vegetative, tobacco, a touch of cherries
P: bright acidity, dark fruit, tart cherries and cherry pit, noticeable tannins.
V: 8-, pleasant, will work great with the steak, but needs time

2011 Château Bouscassé Grand Vin de Madiran (14.5% ABV, $17.95, 60% Tannat, 25% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon)
C: dark garnet
N: eucalyptus, forest floor, a touch of eucalyptus,
P: initial tannins attach, pepper, dark round fruit, excellent extraction, layers of flavor, firm structure
V: 8+, outstanding, powerful, balanced, needs time!

The Southwest France wines are a treasure trove for the wine lovers – they capitalize on tremendous history, experience, unique terroir and unique grapes, offering oenophiles lots of pleasure in every sip. Look for the wines of Southwest France – and you can thank me later.

The Region Which Started It All

May 15, 2018 11 comments

The wine had been made in the Southwest of France ( Sud-Ouest in French) almost forever – in terms of human life, 2,000+ years well classified as “forever”. The region is considered one of the “cradles of winemaking” in Europe, and it maintains its uniqueness and diversity today – for example, out of 300 grape varieties used in the winemaking in the region, 120 are not found anywhere else.

Of course, we know that winemaking started about 8,000 years ago, and not in the Southwest of France. So what’s up with “started it all” claim? Glad you asked! Let me explain.

We live in the times when the wine is a part of daily life of many. Drinking wine is a norm and normal, simply a part of the daily routine for many, not a luxury or a weird exception anymore. Yes, that’s how it was in Europe forever – but now I’m talking about the rest of the world, countries such the USA, and even China now heading that way. The demand for wine had been constantly increasing since the late 1990s, and even Great Recession of 2008 didn’t kill it (just shifted the “acceptable” price ranges). Is it all just a normal course of events? We can, of course, settle for this. However, I believe that on a deeper level, there are exact reasons, “tip the scale” moments for many things which seem to happen just on its own – however, sometimes it is not easy to identify those “reasons”.

Remember the impact of the movie Sideways on consumption and production of the Merlot in the USA? That movie was the reason for a huge slump after 2004, and production and interest to Merlot are still in the recovery mode even now, 14 years later.

Late in the 1980s, the world started talking about The French Paradox – French eat cheese and foie gras, cook with butter and duck fat daily, and nevertheless, the coronary disease rates are much less than in the countries with comparable living standards and much lesser fat consumption. Possible explanation? Red wine. French consume lots of red wine, and resveratrol, one of the prominent substances found in seeds and skins of the red grapes, acts as a defense against clogging of the arteries. That was the outcome of the extensive medical research study conducted in France, which became known in the world as French Paradox.

In 1991, CBS in the USA dedicated one of their popular programs, 60 Minutes, to the French Paradox, and you know how Americans are, right? We are always looking for an easy way out, so wine sounded like an easy enough cure, and I believe this became a pivotal moment which triggered a renewed interest in the wine. Almost 40 years later, it seems that the wine successfully keeps the momentum. And before you will attack me with all the facts from the latest research – yes, I’m aware of many articles pointing to the issues with the study. Whether French Paradox study conclusions were medically solid I have to leave to professionals to debate and decide on. But it was still that pivotal “tip the scale” moment which changed the perception of the wine for many in the world.

At this point, I’m sure you want to see the connection between the title, the Southwest of France, and the story of the French Paradox, right? Here it is. While attending the tasting of the wines of Southwest France, I was listening to the presentation by sommelier André Compeyre, who mentioned that Southwest France has the biggest number of centenarians in France and it was one of the main regions where the French Paradox study was conducted – here we go, now everything is connected and explained. Is it time for a glass of wine?

The tasting took place at the little store in New York called the French Cheese Board – what can be better than wine with a little cheese, right? Especially if both come from the same region, where they trained to live together for a few thousand years…

We started tasting with the sparkling wine, moved to the white and then red. As usual in such events, there was not enough time (and desire) for the formal notes, so below is the best I can offer. However, overall, the word is “outstanding” – the wines of Southwest France are well worth seeking – and you will not be disappointed.

NV Domaine du Moulin Mauzac Méthode Ancestrale Gaillac AOP (12% ABV, $15, 100% Mauzac) – very nice and simple. 7+

2017 Domaine du Tariquet Premières Grives Côtes de Gascogne IGP (11.5% ABV, $14, 100% Gros Manseng) – semi-sweet wine. It appears to be a traditional wine in the Southwest of France, which people are accustomed to drinking. It is possible that the wine was not cold enough when I tasted it, but I really didn’t appreciate it. If you like sweeter wines – this might be the one for you.

2016 Héritage Blanc Saint-Mont AOP (13% ABV, blend of Gros Manseng, Petit Courbu, Arrufiac) – excellent, bright, crisp, but very complex and thought-provoking. A touch of grass, vanilla, ta ouch of honey on the palate, green apples, wow. Excellent acidity. Great complexity. 8. And let’s not forget 2 new grapes – Petit Courbu and Arrufiac

2017 Domaine de Joy l’Eclat Côtes de Gascogne AOP (12% ABV, $7, blend of Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc)  – crisp, clean, superb. 8

2012 Château de Haute Serre Cahors AOP (13.5% ABV, $22) – superb, ripe berries, blueberries, round, delicious, acidity, vanilla, the backbone of minerality. 8+

2012 Château Montus Madiran AOP (15% ABV, $32.99, blend of Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon) – smoke, campfire, tobacco, great concentration, powerful, excellent, great acidity, outstanding. 8

2011 Jean-Luc Baldès Triguedina Clos Triguedina Cahors AOP (14.5% ABV, $40, 85% Malbec, 10% Merlot, 5% Tannat, 12 months in oak) – touch of barnyard on the nose, delicious fruit, ta ouch of funkiness on the palate, great acidity. 8

2015 Domaine de Terrisses Terre Originelle Gaillac AOP (13% ABV, $16, blend of Braucol (Fer) and Prunelart) – beautiful Cabernet nose, crisp, cassis, Bordeaux style -outstanding. 8. and a new grape – Prunelart

2015 Réserve Bélingard Côtes de Bergerac AOP ($15, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot) – beautiful, warm nose, vanilla, cassis, beautiful, soft. 8

2013 Chateau Peyros Vieilles Vignes Madiran AOP (13% ABV, $18, 80% Tannat, 20% Cabernet Franc) – excellent, soft. 8-

2017 Domaine de Joy l’Eclat Côtes de Gascogne AOP (12% ABV, $7, blend of Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc)  – crisp, clean, superb. 8

In addition tot he wines, we had an opportunity to indulge on the local cheeses of Southwest France – Ossau Iraty, Buche de Lucay, Bethmale Chèvre, Chabichou, Valencay, and Comté. Sorry, I’m not going to give you any individual notes, but all the cheese were superb. If you are like me and accustomed to the Comté cheese from Costco – that Comté in the tasting was the whole different game (go visit the store and taste, you don’t have to believe me).

There you go, my friends. Have you had wines of Southwest France lately? Any favorites you want to mention? Let’s raise the glass to many happy wine discoveries – and some red wine as a solution to all our problems. Cheers!

Hold The Pizza – I Just Want The Wine: Masciarelli Villa Gemma

October 24, 2017 4 comments

At the age of 20, Gianni Masciarelli was helping with the harvest in Champagne. At the age of 26, in 1981, he started making his own wines in the Italian region called Abruzzo. 1984 was the first release of the Villa Gemma Rosso wine, truly a different take on the Montepulciano wines.

Montepulciano is the main grape of Abruzzo (not to be confused with Montepulciano in Tuscany, which is the name of the village where the wines are made from Sangiovese grape). Late in the 20th century, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo became one of the most exported Italian wines – it was dry, it was simple, it was quaffable and, of course, good for pizza.

Masciarelli Villa Gemma wines

Gianni Masciarelli had his own, pioneer view on how the Montepulciano wines should be made. He introduced the Guyot training system for the vines in Abruzzo. He was the first to start using French oak barrels in the production of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, showing the world that Montepulciano can go way beyond just a “pizza wine” qualities. Today, Masciarelli estates are run by Marina Cvetic Masciarelli, late wife of Gianni Masciarelli; the vineyards spawn 350 acres and produce about 1.1M bottles of wine across 5 different lines.

Recently, I had an opportunity to taste a few of the wines from the Villa Gemma line, and here are my notes:

2016 Masciarelli Villa Gemma Blanco Colline Teatine IGT (13% ABV, $17.99, 80% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, 15% Cococciola, 5% Chardonnay)
C: light golden
N: a touch of fresh grass, a hint of white stone fruit, a hint of gunflint, medium intensity
P: crisp, refreshing, crunchy, touch of lemon, slightly underripe peaches, very clean, medium finish
V: 8-, craving food, excellent overall. Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and Cococciola also extended my grape hunting collection

2016 Masciarelli Villa Gemma Cerasuolo D’Abruzzo DOC (13.5% ABV, $14.99, 100% Montepulciano)
C: intense, ripe strawberry pink
N: pure strawberries, fresh, succulent strawberries
P: fresh, tart, restrained, lightweight, clean strawberry profile, good overall balance
V: 8, simply delightful. An excellent Rosé for any time of the year

Masciarelli Villa Gemma wines

2007 Masciarelli Villa Gemma Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC (14.5% ABV, $89.99, 100% Montepulciano, aged 18-24 months in oak barriques, total 36 months))
C: Dark garnet
N: fresh cherries, anis, mint, blackberries
P: soft, generous, round, fresh acidity, touch of leather, cherries and cherry pit, generous tannins on the finish.
V: 8, excellent wine, unmistakably Italian, supremely delicious.

These wines were absolutely delicious in their own right. I seriously don’t know about pizza – you can probably pair anything with pizza, from two buck chuck to the Screaming Eagle and Petrus – but you really don’t have to. These three wines from Masciarelli Villa Gemma would perfectly complement any dinner – appetizers, salads, and mains – these wines pack a serious amount of pleasure. Don’t take my word for it – try them for yourself. The pizza is entirely optional. Cheers!

Rare and Beautiful

July 11, 2015 19 comments

Wine Regions of SpainIf you read this blog even on a semi-regular basis, you probably noticed that I’m a sucker for the obscure grapes. So let me just proclaim it in the simple and direct way – I love rare grapes. The more obscure, the lesser known the grape, the better it is.

What I like about rare grapes is a complete mystery in the glass. As the grape is unknown, nothing gets in the way of perceiving it exactly for what and how it is. The closest thing to this experience is a blind tasting, but even then you have some knowledge for what you might be tasting, so instead of been focused on just what is in the glass in front of you, your brain is also trying to place it into some potential brackets, fit it into something familiar – but not in case of the unknown and rare grape. Tasting the unknown grape is an open book without any restrictions – you can write there whatever you want.

In addition to the mystery element, I have to say that most of of my “rare grape” encounters so far were quite pleasant. Of course there were some wines I didn’t care for, but still, the majority were interesting and thought provoking. If anything, my only gripe with the rare grapes is that the respective wines are equally rare – the production is usually very small, and even smaller quantities are imported (for sure in U.S.), which makes those wines very hard to find.

Now you understand that when I was asked if I would be interested to participate in the virtual tasting of rare Spanish grapes, I enthusiastically said “yes, of course!”. I’m a big fun of the Spanish wines in general, and now the rare grapes? That doubles the fun on the spot!

The wines arrived, and then the day of the tasting. The tasting was done in the virtual format, with Lucas Payà presenting over the ustream TV, and all the bloggers and media asking questions through the social media channels (Twitter, primarily). Lucas Payà is a well known figure in the wine industry – particularly, he worked for 5 years as head sommelier for acclaimed chef Ferran Adrià’s elBulli, and he was definitely a wealth of knowledge on the subject of Spain’s lesser known wine regions and rare grapes.  I will not be trying to recite here an hour long presentation – if you have a bit of time, the recording is available here. Instead, I will give you my thoughts and tasting notes on the 8 excellent wines we had an opportunity to taste.

Here we go:

2014 Baron de Ley Rioja White (12% ABV, SRP $10.99, 90% Viura, 10% Malvasia) – out of 123,000 acres of vineyards in Rioja, less than 10% is planted with white grapes (11,000 acres), so it is given that white Rioja wines are rare. This wine was simple and well quaffable.
C: pale straw
N: touch of the candied fruit, white peach, expressive
P: intense fresh white fruit, good acidity, short finish
V: dangerous wine, too easy to drink 7+

2013 A Coroa Godello Valdeorras DO (13.5% ABV, SRP $23, 100% Godello) – Valdeorras region is located in Galicia, and it is a part of so called Green Spain – a territory with wet and cool climate. Godello grape was nearly extinct with only 400 vines remaining in 1980. Today Godello is starting to compete with Albariño in popularity, and it is capable of a great depth of expression.
C: light yellow
N: white stone fruit, touch of vanilla, spices
P: fresh, light white fruit, lemon, grapefruit, clean
V: good, 7/7+, finish is a bit sweet

2013 Raventós i Blanc Silencis Xarel-lo Penedes DO (12% ABV, SRP $21, 100% Xarel-lo) – Penedes region is best known for its sparkling wines, Cava, and Raventós is the oldest producer of Cava. Xarel-lo, difficult to pronounce grape (listen to it here), is one of the main components of Cava, but increasingly it is bottled as a dry still wine, and I would say it is  worth seeking.
C: light straw, almost invisible
N: hazelnut, vanilla, touch of tropical fruit
P: creamy, intense, plump, green apple, good acidity, reach
V: 8-

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2013 Guímaro Tinto Ribeira Sacra DO (13% ABV, SRP $18, 100% Mencía) – Ribeira Sacra is another region classified as Green Spain (cool and wet), and this is second region focused on the indigenous Spanish grape called Mencía. The first region is Bierzo, where Mencía makes powerful, concentrated reds. Here in Ribeira Sacra, Mencía shows totally different, with the emphasis on fresh, fruity profile.
C: garnet red
N: bright, fresh fruit, gamay-like
P: beautiful! Pepper, dark fruit, touch of smokiness, earthy, bright, delicious
V: 8-

2013 Suertes del Marques 7 Fuentes Valle de la Orotava DO Tenerife (Canary Islands) (13% ABV, $22, blend of Listán Negro, Tintilla) – Canary Islands, and Tenerife in particular, have a lot of unique climatic zones – and unique grapes. The two grapes used in production of this wine – Listán Negro and Tintilla – are the new grapes for me, adding up to the count. The volcanic soil influence is spectacular, and this wine is a treat for any wine geek.
C: ruby red
N: smoke, mushrooms, forest, dark intensity
P: smoke, forest floor, campfire, spice, beautiful
V: 8

2012 Bodegas Margón Pricum Primeur Tierra de León DO (13.5% ABV, SRP $28, 100% Prieto Picudo) – another indigenous grape, Prieto Picudo, coming from the vineyards which are 60  – 100 years old. Truly special wine, definitely worth seeking.
C: dark garnet red
N: slightly vegetative, touch of plums, earthy, unusual, chocolate
P: texture, velvety, silky, good dark fruit, very round
V: 8, excellent

2012 Navaherreros Garnacha de Bernabeleva Viños de Madrid DO (15% ABV, SRP $25, blend of Garnacha, small quantities of Albillo, Macabeo) – Garnacha is definitely not a rare grape in Spain, but here it has yet a different expression compare to Priorat or Borsao. The grapes for this wine come from the 40 – 80 years old vineyards, and the wine itself is a perfect rendition of Garnacha.
C: bright garnet red
N: dark chocolate, fruit, open, nice, touch of blueberries
P: dark chocolate, good acidity, good fruit, clean and excellent
V: 8, excellent

Lustau Palo Cortado Península Jerez (19% ABV, SRP $22, 100% Palomino Fino) – Sherry (Jerez) is grossly under-appreciated wine as a category, which allows wine aficionados to enjoy unique taste without having to spend a fortune.
C: dark golden yellow
N: mint, herbs, caramel, hazelnuts
P: perfectly balanced, touch of salinity and expressive acidity, begging for some aged cheese
V: 8-

There you have it, my friends – a unique experience of the rare grapes and regions, and beautiful wines which I would be happy to drink every day. Are you familiar with any of these wines, grapes or regions? When presented with an opportunity to try the new and unknown grape, would you gladly go for it, or would you ask for Pinot Noir instead? Comment away! Cheers!

From Value to World-Class – Celebrating 30 Years of Spanish Wines in USA

December 28, 2014 15 comments

Glasses at the Spanish Wine TatsingI’m sure that any proud oenophile and wine aficionado is acutely aware of the high class, delicious Spanish wines. Considering that Spain has the biggest planted area under vines in the world, and that wines had been made there for thousand of years, it is a no-brainer that Spanish wines are so well known and well recognized. Right? Well, the interesting fact is that for many casual wine drinkers, Spanish wines are still largely unknown. And, to top it of, you also need to understand that measly 30 years back, the only way to talk about Spanish wines, at least in the US, was by presenting them strictly as “value wines”.

30 years doesn’t sound like a lot – but the notion of time is relative, it fully depends on what is happening during that time. Wines from Spain mission was established in New York in 1984 to increase awareness of the Spanish wines in USA. Spanish quality control system, D.O., was established in 1986. Modern Priorat wines started in 1989. The pace of success and recognition only accelerated from there,  with Parker awarding 100 points ratings to 5 Spanish wines in 2007 and Rioja named “Wine Region of the Year” by the Wine Enthusiast magazine in 2007. In 2012 Ribera del Duero became Wine Enthusiast magazine’s “Wine Region of the Year” and 2004 Cune Imperial Gram Reserva became Wine Spectator’s wine of the year in 2013.

To celebrate all the success of the Spanish wines in the USA, Wines from Spain recently conducted special tasting event in New York, called “Spain’s Great Match – wine food design”. The tasting consisted of a number of seminars and traditional walk-around tasting which included both wine and the food. The seminars were hard to get into, I only managed to attend one out of 4 (there rest was sold out almost before they were offered) – but boy, what a seminar it was!

The seminar was led by the wine educator Steve Olson, who was one of the early proponents of the Spanish wines and who was instrumental in helping Spanish wines to gain market recognition in the US.

Steve Olson presenting at Spanish Wines SeminarWe started tasting from the toast of NV Freixenet Cordón Negro DO Cava, which was surprisingly (yes, please pardon my inner snob) nice, with some toasty notes and good mousse. It turns out that Freixenet was one of the very first importers of the Spanish wines in US, starting from 1974.

Next we had two beautiful whites:

2012 Bodegas Fillaboa Selección Finca Monte Alto Albariño DO Rias Baixas ($30) – Single vineyard, hand-harvested and sorted, made to age. Beautiful complex nose, white fruit, herbal nose. On the palate – pronounced minerality and acidity, literally devoid of fruit – will be interesting to see how this wine will evolve. Extremely long finish. Needs food.

2012 Rafael Palaciós As Sortes Valdeorras DO ($30, 100% Godello) – beautiful nose, white fruit, spices, a good Burgundy-rivaling complexity. On the palate -great acidity, white fruit, perfect balance – excellent texture, minerality and finish. The wine was double decanted before serving.

And then there were [spectacular] reds. All the red wines with the exception of 1984 were double-decanted to help them open up.

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1984 Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez Tinto Pesquera DO Ribera del Duero ($30/current release, 100% Tempranillo) – 1984 was very unusual year – grapes were harvested in December(!). Nose – wow! Everything you want in the red wine – cedar box, red fruit, spice cabinet – warm, inviting. Palate – young, astringent, with very present tannins, blackberries – outstanding wine.

2010 Bodegas Muga Reserva Especial DOCa Rioja ($40)  – Beautiful, warm nose, complex, touch of rhubarb, ripe fruit. Dry, perfect acidity, blackberries, restrained, great balance, dust on the palate, firm structure.

2005 Descendientes de José Palacio Corullón San Martin, Bierzo DO ($75, 100% Mencia) – this wine was produced for the first time in 1998 at the biodynamically farmed estate. Production is tiny, about 120 cases. Ripe fruit on the nose, eucalyptus, herbs. On the palate – firm structure, great minerality and acidity, spices, great depth, textural dust. 

2007 Pago Marqués de Griñon Emeritus, DO Dominio de Valdepusa ($75, 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Syrah, 17% Petite Verdot) – wow! Amazing – would beat any California Cabernet. Green bell pepper, touch of cassis, great concentration, firm structure, great balance. Drinkability: 9

2004 Bodegas Mauduros San Román, Toro DO ($150, 100% Ink of Toro) – baking spices, concentrated dark fruit, tar, hazelnut. On the palate – delicious, complex, starts from sweetness and evolves almost to astringency. General Tempranillo traits with tremendous concentration.

2005 Clos Terrasses Clos Erasmus Priorat DOCa (~$1,000 for 2005 vintage, about $300 current vintage, 85% Garnacha, 15% Syrah, 100 points Parker) – elegant, open nose, sage, cherries, incredible palate, sweet fruit, spices, blackberries, blueberries, tight frame, impeccable balance, just beautiful. Drinkability: 9

Williams & Humbert Jalifa Amontillado  VORS Jerez DO ($35) – this wine is about 50 years old. Very complex nose with anchovy, almonds, hazelnuts. Wow – incredible complexity on the palate – leather, spices, truffle oil – wow! Craves food – and will work with variety of foods.

To say that this was a great tasting would be an understatement – I also like the fact that the wines were selected to showcase major regions and capabilities of the Spanish winemaking.

Yes, this was one and only seminar I was able to attend – but the tasting continued with the extravaganza of other Spanish wines and food. One interesting observation from the tasting was the fact that most of the big name in Spanish wines were absent in the tasting itself – La Rioja Alta, Cvne, Lopez de Heredia, Vega Sicilia, none of the great Grenache wines, like Alto Moncayo, Bodegas Gil – the list can go on and on – none of them were represented. Yes, I understand that for the most part the tasting is run through the distributors and not directly by the wineries, but still. This was the only peculiar observation I made.

And here are two more interesting observations for you (here interesting = positive). First, Godello is coming! Godello is a white grape, indigenous to Spain, which is capable of producing Chardonnay-comparable wines. There were a lot of Godello wines presented at the tasting, most of them of a very good quality. I can definitely say that Godello is squarely joining the ranks of Albariño, Viura and Verdejo, the best known Spanish white grapes. You should definitely look for Godello wines in the store if you want to try something unique and different.

And the second point: in the “inexpensive wines” category, Spain clearly kicks butt! Some of the wines priced at $10 or less were simply outstanding, but even outside of that price range, it is almost impossible to beat Spanish wines in the QPR category.

Before we we will talk about the wines, a few words about the food. There was a lot of delicious Spanish food presented at the event. First of all, there was cheese. For anyone who likes Spanish cheese, that was simply a heaven – lots of different Manchego, Iberico and other cheeses – different age, different pasteurization – a lot more options than you can find at the average store. There were also anchovy, called boquerones in Spain – white boquerones were simply delicious (yes, of course it is a personal opinion). And there was lots of tapas, masterfully prepared right in front of the desiring crowd. The tapas were made periodically, and every time that process would create a crowd of people, all hoping not to miss the new and interesting dish. Food at this event definitely commanded as much attention as the wine had. Here are a few pictures, just to attest to what I just said.

And of course, for what it worth, here are the notes from the rest of the tasting. I have to say that the tasting was organized in a bit of a strange way. My major complaint was the fact that there was no reasonable handout of any sort, so taking any notes of essence was simply impossible. Also the whole tasting was not logically organized, with packets of regional wines mixed with individual wineries and also distributors – the was no system of any sort, which made the overall tasting experience frustrating rather than productive. Anyway, below are my notes, in the usual tasting style, using “+” signs. You will not see any “+” wines, “++” only if really deserve mentioning, so most of the wines should be above “++”. On a positive side, I picked up again a few grapes, which I will mention in the notes. Here we go:

2005 Agricultura y Bodega Renacimento de Olivares Rento, Ribera del Duero ($55) – ++-|, overextracted
2011 Alejandro Fernández Tinto Pesquera, Ribera del Duero ($40) – +++, excellent
2009 Bodega Matarromera Matarromera Crianza, Ribera del Duero ($30) – +++, restrained, nice, ready
2011 Bodegas Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero ($25) – +++, delicious, round
2010 Condado de Haza, Ribera del Duero ($28) – +++, beautiful
2011 Legaris Crianza, Ribera del Duero ($27) – ++-|, not ready
2010 Bodegas Reyes Teofilo Reyes Crianza, Ribera del Duero DO ($31.50) – +++

2013 Bodegas Marqués de Vizhoja Torre La Moreira Albariño, Rias Baixas DO ($19.99) – ++
2012 Condes de Albarei Albariño, Rias Baixas DO ($15) – ++-|, nice, clean
2013 Adegas Morgadio Albariño, Risa Baixas DO ($22) – +++-|, wow! fruit, great! delicious!
2009 Bodega Prado Rey PR3 Barricas Verdejo Rueda DO ($22) – ++-|
2013 Bodegas Angel Rodriguez Martinsancho Verdejo Rueda DO ($22) – +++
NV Finca Hispana Fino DO Montilla Moriles ($8.99)- +++, unbeatable QPR!
2013 Finca Hispana Xarel.lo DO Penedés ($8.99)- +++, unbeatable QPR!
NV Finca Hispana Cava Brut Imperial Reserva Cava DO ($14.99)- +++
2013 Vitivinícola do Ribeiro Viña Costeira Ribeiro DO – +++, clean!
2013 Moure Vinos Artesans Moure Tradicion Blanco, DO Ribeira Sacra ($40) – ++-|
2013 Nivarius Rioja DOCa ($24.99, Tempranillo Blanco and Viura) – ++-| new grape!
2011 Quinta de Muradella Alanda Blanco, DO Monterrei ($35, 30% Dona Blanca, 30% Treixadura, 30% Verdello, 10% Monstruosa de Monterrei) – ++-|, new grapes!
2013 Bodegas Nivarius Nivei Rioja DOCa ($11.99) – ++-|

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2011 Losada Vinos de Finca Bierzo DO ($22) – +++, great!
2013 2013 Finca Hispana Garnacha Terra Alta DO ($8.99)- +++, unbeatable QPR
2009 Martinez Lacuesta Crianza, Rioja DOCa ($17.50) – +++
2005 Bodega de Sarria Reserva, Navarra DO ($16.95) – +++
2011 Terra de Falanis Muac! DO Montsant ($16.95) – +++, delicious, spicy!
2012 Pagos Los Balancines Crash, VT Extremadura ($10.50) – ++, mnice!
2012 Moure Vinos Artesans Moure Tradicion Barrica, DO Ribeira Sacra ($29, Merenzao) – ++-| new grape!

Here we are, my friends – a delicious Spanish wine experience with many personal discoveries (like Marqués de Griñon Emeritus – you have to taste it believe it) and the new grapes. Let me finish this post with the question – are the Spanish wines part of your regular “wine lifestyle”? Do you look at the Spanish wines only as a source of value, or do you consider them world-class and the best hidden secret of the wine world? Let me know and cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

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