March 28, 2011

9 Spanish Wines with New Wine Club, Part 3

Time to finally wrap up the Spanish wines! I've already written about the Monastrell from Jumilla last week, which was the final wine of the evening. But before that, we had three wines made from Tempranillo - what you think of when you hear Spanish Wine. I put together three very different styles of wine to show the range of wine making practices and regional characteristics, two Rioja's and one Ribera Del Duero.

I love the wines of Rioja because they offer a great diversity of styles, based primarily on one grape: Tempranillo. Though some of the young, or joven, wines are made from Garnacha, the one I selected was 100% Tempranillo. These are the wines being poured in Tapas bars for 75¢ a glass; bright, fruity and usually lively with acidity. Much of what I cam across I the cafés and bars while in Spain were these joven wines, but the reputation of Rioja is built on the quality and character of Crianzas or Reservas, and the grand-daddy wine of them all are the Gran Reservas. What makes these so special is the long aging period both in oak barrels and in bottles. Indeed, what makes Spain such an interesting wine producing country is the tradition of long aging of wines before release, and Rioja, as a DOCa, has more stringent aging requirements than the rest of Spain.

Unfortunately, there has been a shift in style with some houses in Rioja. Complaints have been issued that producers are pandering to critics and internationals tastes, instead of making more traditional styles. Catavino recently wrote a lament to the change in tone of Reservas. I avoided this mine-field by choosing a wine from a benchmark producer - the oldest continuous producer in Haro - known for exceptional wines. I am always surprised that wines like these, showing impressive secondary and tertiary characteristics due to aging on the part of these producers, sell for less than $20.

Imagine for a moment if Bordeaux, instead of selling their wine before its even done, would hold their wines back, age them in bottle until after the wines mellow and drop their rip-your-face-off tannins. Imagine further if they didn't sell for rip-you-off prices. Lets hope that the love for Tempranillo does not corrupt the long held practices of Spanish bodegas in to the insanity of Bordeaux.

The final bottle of Tempranillo came from Ribera Del Duero. The Duero river flows into Portugal, where its known as the Douro and boasts a hot climate to make Port. But while in Spain, the banks of the Duero are more moderate and can be challenging due to their altitude. Still, some of the greatest wines in Spain, Vega Secilia among them, hail from here. Riper fruit and stronger tannins prevail in these wines which show us the brawny side of the grape. I had to grab my decanter and try to wake this wine up, but I suspect that it could have used another 5 years of sleeping in the bottle.

(+) Mencos, Rioja Joven 2008 $16.50
Straightforward, fruity with a touch of pepper and spice. A classic youthful wine for quaffing and conversation at a boisterous bar. Worth picking up a couple of bottles for a fun evening with friends. Available at Cork, imported by De Maison Selections.

(++) Marqués de Riscal, Rioja Riserva 2005 $18
A true benchmark Rioja. 5+ years aging shows on the nose with some blue cheese funk, but beautiful soft fruit underlying it all. Amazing value at under $20, and a chance to see what patience can do for tannins - why don't more people by old Rioja instead of cabernets? Available at Liner & Elsen and Fred Meyer, Imported by Shaw-Ross International

(+) Torrederos, Ribera Del Duero Reserva 2004 $29
The most obvious contrast between this wine and the Riscal is the structure - this wine is loaded with tannins, and more expressive fruit. Could have used more time in the decanter, or in the bottle. A big wine for sure with a dark fruit and present oak - use with meat! Available at Storyteller Wines, imported by Estelle Imports.


  1. I've got a photo of the exact same sign! Had a great night in Logroño!

  2. Those wines are amazing. I would love to try them all. Cheers!