Tuesday Night Wine Tasting – Spain

Ok folks…

I know some of you are requesting certain varietals for me to blog about.  First of all, I actually have to taste those specific varietals, and secondly, I need to purchase them!  The good news is, my Malbec friend will have her fill next month when my classmates and I focus on wines from South America, specifically Chili and Argentina…lots of Malbecs there!  Not to mention that I just bought a Malbec today:  blog will be forthcoming…
But for now, let’s look at Spain..a bit of an undervalued country from my perspective.  They consistently make excellent quality wines, for a fraction of the price of French wines, yet as Rodney Dangerfield would eloquently put it, “they get no respect!”
Although we tasted six wines this evening, I am only going to talk about four of them.

Let’s start with the Cava:  a sparkling wine that used to be called Spanish champagne, but under French law, only those wines produced in the region of Champagne are allowed to be referred to as Champagne.  Still produced using the traditional method (that is a blog in and of itself..perhaps when I profile an actual French Champagne, I will discuss further) these sparklings have excellent flavour, have varying levels of dryness, and have long finishes. This particular one had a mouthful of green apple and lime, was refreshing and clean on the palate, and stayed in my mouth for that long finish!  Well priced too!  Look here for more information on this gorgeous Cava!

Vina Esmerelda Torres 2006
Cataluyna, Spain

Let’s move onto the white of the evening.  A blend of Moscatel (85%) and Gewurtztraminer (15%) this wine certainly had a unique flavour.  It smelled of petrol and flint, and tasted that way too, with that “unctuous” feeling in my mouth.  A short finish, it left me feeling that I’d missed something.   Bring in the 7-layer dip. Now we had something going! Full of cheese, and sour cream, re-fried beans and guacamole, my friend and I agreed that food was necessary to bring out the flavour of this wine, and we found ourselves both pouring another serving into our glasses!

Manium Bierzo Crianza 2007
Bierzo, Spain

So, you might be wondering…what grape is this?  It’s 100% Mencia…which to be honest, I’ve never heard of before this tasting.  And it’s a Crianza.  In Spain, there are “categories” of the quality of wine, based on how long it’s aged even before it hits the shelves in your local liquor store. It’s starts with Crianza; aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak.  Next is Reserva, aged for at least 3 years with at least 1 year in oak.  And finally (but most definately NOT least) the Gran Reserva typically appear in above average vintages with the red wines requiring at least 5 years ageing, 18 months in oak and a minimum of 36 months in the bottle. And with that, a greater price tag as well!  That being said, you can still find some great tasting Crianza wines out there.  On this one, my immediate reaction to the nose was a “deli counter”.  My classmates and I seemed to all put this one to our noses at the same time.  All of us exclaiming with an “oh!”  As soon as I mentioned “deli counter”, they all agreed!  Scents of salami, proscuitto and bacon assaulted our noses.  On the palate, this wine had medium acidity and had the tast of plums and cranberries.  Quite different from the nose to be sure!  At 14.5% acohol, one can expect quite a bit of tannins, which indeed there was, but not to the point where it made it difficult to drink on its own.

1996 Prado Enea
Gran Reserva Muga Rioja
100% Tempranillo

This was to be the wine of the evening.  At $67 a bottle for what my friend James paid for it, we left it until last.  And to be honest…I expected more.  But that’s just me. Let’s just think about this for a minute:  This wine is 16 years old…older than my daughter!  The color indicates that, as it is beginning to turn a little brickish from age.  Tempranillo wines can be consumed young, but the most expensive ones are aged for several years in oak barrels. The wines are ruby red in colour, with aromas and flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather and herb.  This is what I’m supposed to smell.  What I DID smell was silage, forest floor, and mushrooms.  All typical for an older wine, but I wanted to be blown away by this wine, and I just wasn’t.  But (and if you’re reading this James – I’m sorry…) I didn’t get all those wonderful aromas and tastes.  Maybe we should’ve had this one first…Hmmm…the things I’m learning…

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