Friday, 19 June 2015

Algueira Merenzao 2009

Algueira Merenzao 2009
Grape variety: Merenzao
Geographical origin: D.O. Ribeira Sacra
Producer: Adega Algueira

Algueira Merenzao 2009 shows us exactly what critics mean when they refer to terroir. By this, I mean that you can feel the influence of the rocky soils and Atlantic breezes of the Ribeira Sacra region in every drop. What’s more, it’s made from a local grape variety – Merenzao – which possesses wonderful potential for ageing.

This wine is never full-on. Instead, it’s so layered with subtle complexities that I could make notes all day – different hints come out with every sip.

The nose is lined with damp slate that’s covered in crushed raw blackcurrants. These are joined by a smattering of raspberries as the wine opens up. In the glass, meanwhile, there are signs of the delicate palate to come – Alguiera Merenzao is pale, almost translucent, with a touch of bricking at the edge.

And what about the afore-mentioned palate? Well, it’s a lesson in the use of oak that many winemakers would benefit from learning. The barrels never shout out above the wine – they simply lend it extra depth and texture. An enormous acidity – very much a sign of a long life ahead of this Algueira Merenzao – combines with gloriously silky tannins.  Fresh and very, very long at the same time, it disappears from the bottle way too quickly. There are more tart fruits of the forest and a hint of smoke alongside austere minerality, while the aftertaste gently nods at spice and toast.

This Algueira Merenzao 2009 is a fabulous example of what can be achieved in the Riberia Sacra. Although I’m very tempted to use the term Burgundian to sum up its qualities, that would be lazy shorthand. Algueira is capable of standing alone in the world of fine wines.

It’s not a wine to be scored, nor is it flashy enough to show well at tastings. Instead, it’s a wine to be savoured again and again.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Avanthia Rosé 2011

Avanthia Rosé 2011
Grape variety: Mencía
Geographical origin: D.O. Valdeorras
Producer: Bodegas Avanthia

Avanthia Rosé 2011 is a highly unusual wine. Spanish rosados are normally meant to be consumed young. In fact, only a few rare, old-fashioned examples such as Viña Tondonia are barrel-aged and made to last. Avanthia, however, is a barrel-aged Rosado in a modern style.

By this, I mean that it maintains a moreish freshness. Layers of delicious fruit are balanced with extra complexity from those barrels.

A Mencía from Valdeorras in Galicia, Avanthia offers us fresh strawberries on the nose and a hint of freshly baked sponge-cakes. The palate, meanwhile, follows through on those initial sensations with a well-integrated, crisp yet never intrusive acidity, backed up by a mineral core. All this is overlaid by a hint of creaminess and spice on the aftertaste.

This Rosado is made by Jorge Ordoñez with mainly the U.S. market in mind. I’d hazard a guess it would also be pretty popular with other nationalities – Avanthia is one of the best Spanish Rosados I’ve ever tasted.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Artadi Pagos Viejos 2009

Artadi Pagos Viejos 2009
Grape varieties: Tempranillo
Geographical Origin: D.O. Rioja
Producer: Bodegas y Viñedos Artadi

Okay, so I know it’s infanticide, but just for investigative purposes I opened my first bottle of Artadi Pagos Viejos 2009 last week.

The wine is a dark, deep, impenetrable purple colour, indicating that it’s a long way from being open for business. Its nose, meanwhile, is also intense and tightly wound. There are hints of roasted coffee, cedar wood and pure fruit on the nose, but it doesn’t open up fully – this will evolve into something far more giving over the next few years.

As for the mouth feel, there are still inevitable rough edges to the tannins on entry, but the mid-palate fills out silkily and the finish goes on and on. This Pagos Viejos combines intense (never jammy or acidic) fruits of the forest with liquorice, a spot of yoghurt and then toffee on the aftertaste.

The fruit and oak are already knitting together, but this wine will continue to grow, flesh out and build its complexities. It’s too well-balanced to be a flabby fruit bomb, but it’s certainly a hedonistic expression of Rioja in a modern idiom. Enjoy now. Enjoy more in the future!

Sunday, 30 June 2013

As Sortes 2010

As Sortes 2010
Grape variety: Godello
Geographical Origin: D.O. Valdeorras
Producer: Bodegas Rafael Palacios

If Godello is fast gaining a name as a top grape for white wines and D.O. Valdeorras as a key region for growing it, so Bodegas Rafael Palacios is perhaps its most renowned exponent. As Sortes has been its flagship wine for some years now, although a new top cuvee is also coming out this year at a stratospheric level (both in terms of winemaking and price!).

As we swirl a glass of this As Sortes, there’s plenty of slightly tart stone fruit on the nose – swathes of apricots and peaches - with a citrus note sat alongside, all this accompanied by a delicate mineral overlay. On the palate, meanwhile, the 2010 vintage is only just beginning to open up for business, thus showing Godello’s ageing potential, especially in the nimble hands of Rafael Palacios. An enormous yet integrated acidity combines with an unctuous and tongue-covering texture. This is serious stuff!

A creaminess and slight toast also come though, especially in the aftertaste, a sign of the well-judged (never overpowering) oak-ageing of this wine. As Sortes 2010 is already top notch, but will definitely improve and gain in complexity over the coming 2/3 years.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Ostatu 2011

Ostatu 2011
Grape varieties: Temp, Mazuelo, Graciano, Viura
Geographical Origin: D.O. Rioja
Producer: Ostatu

With this wine, Ostatu have not only produced an excellent Maceración Carbónica, but they’ve also given it a personal twist. The first hint is the grape varieties that have been used: apart from the typical Tempranillo and Viura, Mazuelo and Graciano are present. Both are grapes that possess excellent acidity and are thus more commonly associated with wines that are to be aged.

In this case there’s an explosively perfumed nose along with the expected (but nonetheless delightful) bubble gum, touch of yoghurt and tingly spritz on the tongue. Meanwhile, a delicious fresh cherry bite runs through the fruit. Together with the wine’s deep colour and violet rim, this tells us we’ve encountered the wild beauty of youth.

The Graciano and Mazuelo definitely lend it more acidity and seriousness than is normally expected of a Maceración Carbónica, but I love this Ostatu for its reinvention of the genre. To be lingered over rather than guzzled, it invites food. I’ll be taking up the offer.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Losada 2008

Losada 2008
Grape varieties: 100% Mencía
Geographical Origin: D.O. Bierzo
Producer: Losada Vinos de Finca

Mencía is a fragrant grape variety with fruit that can offer gorgeous freshness, yet these qualities are too often blitzed by new oak. Losada 2008 is a lovely example of what can be achieved in Bierzo so long as that use of oak is controlled.

It offers us fresh cherries on the nose with just a hint of toast from the oak and a definite menthol lift that’s so characteristic of good-quality Mencía. In the glass it shows a deep, dark core with a youthful, purple rim.

On that palate those cherries provide a definite crunch that looks towards the Atlantic rather than the warm, jammy fruit of other more Mediterranean-oriented Mencías. The mouth-feel is very compact, with a rustic hint to the tannins.

Losada 2008 might be slightly two-dimensional in its effort to preserve fruit and a full body, but it does highlight varietal typicity and dodges that afore-mentioned oaky bullet. This is excellent midweek drinking. Be warned: it does throw a fair old amount of sediment.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Viña Real Gran Reserva 1991

Viña Real Gran Reserva 1991

Grape varieties: Graciano, Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Garnacha

Geographical Origin: D.O. Rioja

Producer: Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CUNE)

On opening this Viña Real, the first impression is that it needs a good decant. Cedar wood and cigar box dominate on an initial sniff – a typical indicator of classical Rioja. Fruit is itching to get out from behind; time and air will facilitate the process.

A Gran Reserva that might be over twenty years old, it still shows a dark core with only slight bricking at the edge. In other words, it’s here for the long haul. Following the afore-mentioned decant, an elegant, dagger-like thrust of ethereal fruit emerges. Never a mouth-filling fruit bomb, its tart purity dances over the tongue.

This is high-class stuff, layer upon layer of complexity building on the palate. There are hints of orange peel and savoury, meaty notes of beef stock, all combined with grippy tannins that just beg for a steak alongside. As for the length, well I can still taste it a couple of days later!

The 1991 vintage is obviously slap-bang in the middle of its drinking window, although that window’s going to be open for a fair time yet, say 30 years! If you can’t wait so long, it’s terrific right now.