To Spain (for the evening)

To Spain (for the evening)

A fair, warm summer evening seemed a fitting time to take a stroll into town and indulge in some of Spain’s finer wines. Now, regulars may remember that Spain is not a country that is well-represented in my wine cellar… so my contributions are limited compared to a few of the lauded bottles to be opened tonight. I was never a fan of the ‘Gran Reserva’ style Riojas – particularly in the end of the last century when I lived in Europe. When I relocated to New Zealand, I kind of left the world of Spanish wine  (sherry excepted) behind. I’ve kept my hand in with French and Italian vino, but with so much ‘new world’ wine on offer in my new home, I didn’t keep the cellar stocked with bottles that, to my mind, I didn’t really rate anyway?

There have been some eye-opening evenings in the last couple of years, that have caused me to re-assess this position. This tasting of Tempranillo last year for example > was excellent, featuring some of the ‘modern’ style of Spanish reds that I do enjoy. The Aalto PS was a revelation. I’m keen on other styles that I’ve been tasting from Spain in the last few months – things from producers like Alfredo Maestro in Ribera del Duero, who makes ‘natural’ wines quite far removed from the traditionalists. Or, I brought along a bottle of El Escoces Volante Dos Dedos de Frente 2010 – a Syrah made by a Scottish MW in Catalayud.

I won’t go through all of the wines that were tasted tonight, but it is worth commenting that with a night of Spanish wines, you do get the opportunity to have a range of styles. The first thing that crosses my mind when I think of Spain, is sherry. So, you could easily begin your journey with a dry sherry – tonight was a Tio Pepe Fino En Rama Gonzalez Byass. That bone dry, zesty, saline and prickly style is such a good appetite stimulant, and goes with entrées very well – we had squid, duck rillette and pork paté. In the wine bar I manage, I offer a small ‘sherry platter’ of salted nuts, olives and salami for customers who order a glass of sherry. To me, sherry is THE wine of Spain.

If you scratch beneath the surface of many wine regions, you’ll often find wines that are superb, but outside the norm of what that region is best-known for. White wines from Bordeaux are one example of excellent drinking, that many people don’t recognise or try. Here, we have two whites from Spain – a white Rioja – Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Blanc 2001, and a Torres Fransola Sauvignon Blanc 2002. To be fair, I’m told that the Gran Reserva is ‘hundreds of dollars’ worth of wine – so maybe it’s no surprise that many (me included) haven’t discovered this! Both of these whites were sensational. The Sauvignon had an interesting tickle of ‘cheese rind’ flavour to it – again, slightly saline and juicy The Gran Reserva was richer and more generous – akin to a great Rhone white (another super style of wine) with a texture that coated the mouth. Made of Viura and 10% Malvasía, it isn’t a wine you’ll find every day.

My Syrah was followed by a couple of Riojas – Cune Rioja Reserva 2004 and a Sierra Cantabria Gran Reserva Rioja 2005. At that Tempranillo tasting, the same vintage of Sierra Cantabria was brought along, and I recall quite enjoying it – compared to many Gran Reserva I’ve had. But tonight this was a less-pleasurable bottle. It seems disjointed and unbalanced – quite woody. The Cune was excellent, very fresh and spicy, filled with cassis, plum and redcurrant flavours. I enjoyed a glass of my Catalayud Syrah too – quite bright and crunchy, with good varietal flavours.

The other two reds were a Vinedos de Paganos El Puntido Rioja 2003 and a Artadi Pagos Viejos 2001. The El Puntido presents as quite modern – with a funky black label, and was filled with those classic ripe Tempranillo flavours, but fruit-forward and had a lightness across the palate. The last wine was more concentrated and powerful. At over twenty years old, this was however still climbing towards its peak – still primal and intense. Comments around the table suggested that this could last sixty years!

To accompany dessert, there was another rare find – a Telmo Rodriguez MR Mountain wine Moscatel 2006 is from the Malaga region. An area I know, as I had an Uncle who had a property in Malaga (when I lived in Europe), and I’ve loved the “Malaga” fortified wines that are like a cross between sherry and port. Honey, white balsamic, fig and melon. A great match to a creme brulée to finish the evening.

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