This Week’s Wine Tasting: Spanish Wine
Imported by European Cellars (Eric Solomon)
“Herencia Altés is a project a long time in the making. For generations my family has been one of grape growers, with vineyards dispersed around the village of Batea. Now, I have decided to give these grapes their own personality in the form of these hand-crafted wines. While Terra Alta is not yet a well-known region – tucked away in the south eastern corner of Catalonia it borders Aragón and Valencia – it is one of the largest areas in Catalunya under vine. With plenty of old Garnatxa bush vines, I think it is amongst the best regions in terms of quality and authenticity.”
Herencia Altes Garnacha Blanca 2013
Terra Alta, Spain. “100% Garnatxa Blanca. We looked for a range of Garnatxa vines, some very old, others younger, to achieve complexity and balance. Of key importance was picking the grapes before the natural acidity was lost (our whites have no acidity added!). A short maceration on skins followed by pressing and fermentation. The wines spend a further 2 months on fine lees to gain texture and complexity. Very aromatic with notes of melon and white fruits on nose. On the palate it is balanced with a medium body and a nice crisp freshness. Pairs well with simple tapas and grilled squid.” $8.99
Herencia Altes Garnacha Negra 2013
Terra Alta, Spain. 100% Garnatxa Negra. “We looked for a range of Garnatxa vines, some very old, others younger, to achieve complexity and balance. Of key importance was picking with a good level ripeness but avoiding excessive alcohol. Bright crimson in colour, this wine is very expressive with notes of red fruits and minerals that leap from the glass. Plenty of fruit on the palate, a touch of complexity and sweet tannins. Pairs well with grilled meats, cabrito and lamb.” 90 Wine Advocate– “Wow! Made from vines planted in 1915, the 2013 Garnacha Negra comes from the village of Batea, where wine has been made since the 15th century. Eric Solomon partnered with Spaniard Nuria Altes to produce this remarkable, cool-climate, high-altitude Grenache with a Pinot Noir-like personality. Abundant notes of cranberries, red cherries, black currants and hints of forest floor and damp earth are followed by a medium-bodied wine with terrific fruit intensity and richness that can only be the result of these old vines. The wine also possesses a freshness, vibrancy and exuberance that are stunningly impressive.” $8.99
Palacio de Menade– “Ricardo Sanz is a sixth generation winemaker in the Rueda region and alongside his brother Marco and his sister Alejandra, launched Sitios de Bodega in 2005. They have a thoroughly modern approach to winemaking – concentrating on the native variety, Verdejo, and organic viticulture. The winery is surrounded by the estate vineyards, which total 50 hectares of ecological vines distributed between the localities of O Rueda (90%) and Pollos (10%).
The Sanz dynasty in Rueda is legendary and their importance in terms of innovation cannot be underestimated. Each generation, dating back to 1860, has pioneered some technology – from owning the first mechanical press, to producing the first fresh (non-oxidised) wines of the region, to the holistic approach to farming, incorporating organic viticulture.”
Palacio de Menade Creta Verdejo 2013
Castilla y Leon, Rueda, Spain. “100% Verdejo. Vines average 20 years old. Organic. Fermented and aged in stainless steel tank. Pale yellow color. Lemon and gooseberry fruit with great acidity and a refreshingly slight bitterness on the long finish. Pairs well with chilled shellfish, variety of tapas, warm creams and soups, salads, grilled fish, or a wide variety of cheeses, including brie and goat cheese.” 87 Wine Advocate– “The 2013 Verdejo is a clean, light, textbook inox-fermented Verdejo, with shy aromas and flavors, along with good acidity and persistence.” $12.99
“Rafael Palacios began his wine project in Valdeorras in 2004, purchasing mature vineyards of the indigenous Godello variety from older local growers. His previous experience in the area as a consultant had motivated him to try and recuperate the unique sub-zone of the Bibei Valley in the Municipality of O Bolo.
The extreme topography and the low productivity of the soil had led to the almost complete abandonment of grape production in this tiny but historic county, cultivated traditionally on terraces. The predominance of small plots is the result of inheritances drawn by lot, often out of a hat, called “Sorte” in the Galician language and the inspiration for the name As Sortes.”
Rafael Palacios Bolo Godello 2013
Valdeorras, Spain. “Viticulture: Practicing Organic. Vines averaging 14-60 years old. Aged 5 months in French oak foudre. Fragrant minerals, fennel, and white fruits lead to a creamy textured, richly fruity palate. Impeccably balanced and very lengthy, it is an outstanding value.” 89 Wine Advocate– “Long-time readers long ago learned about Spain’s white wine grape called Godello. It has now become fashionable everywhere. Godello produces a good wine that offers more concentration, texture and richness than Verdejo or Albarino. Made from 100% Godello, the tank-fermented and aged 2013 Bolo exhibits lots of Chardonnay-like character with notes of honeyed pears, poached peaches and buttery tropical fruit. Medium-bodied with stunning elegance and freshness as well as beautiful balance and equilibrium, it can be enjoyed over the next 1-2 years. To give readers an idea of just how good it was, we tasted it side-by-side with California’s 2012 Aubert Chardonnay from the Larry Hyde Vineyard, which is spectacular. The difference between that wine and this 2013 Bolo was not as dramatic as one might expect.” $13.99
Finca Villacreces– “One of the most sought-after pieces of land in Ribera del Duero, the estate of Villacreces sits next to Vega Sicilia, perhaps (historically) the most famous property in the Spanish region. There is written evidence that the first vines were planted on the estate in the 13th Century. During the 14th Century, it was run by Saint Pedro de Villacreces and, later on, with its perfect conditions for prayer and retreat, it became a monastery. In the 20th Century, the property belonged to a wealthy aristocratic family from Valladolid, who used to spend their holidays and weekends there. In the early 1970s, 100 acres of vineyard were planted, which has now been increased to 150. Including a 200-year-old forest, the estate comprises a total of 285 acres.
In 2003, the Anton family – owners of a Rioja bodega and one of Spain’s most famous Michelin starred restaurants in the Basque country – purchased the estate and invested in revitalizing both the estate and the vineyards. The property is situated at 2,300 feet above sea level on poor soils comprised of lime, gravel, sand and quartz which naturally keep yields low (the estate averages 1.6 tons per acre). The proximity to the Duero river helps protect the vines from and reduce the effects of the frosts that are common in the Ribera del Duero.”
Finca Villacreces Artevino Pruno 2012
Ribera del Duero, Spain. Tinto Fino (a.k.a. Tempranillo)-based blend. Farming- Sustainable. Aged 14 months in French oak barrels. 93 Wine Advocate– “This blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon emerges from a vineyard situated adjacent to one of the famous vineyards utilized to produce Spain’s greatest red wine, Vega Sicilia. Made from relatively old vines, the 2012 Pruno is a sexy, opulent, voluptuously textured effort that spent 12 months in two-year-old French oak barrels. Reminiscent of a baby Vega Sicilia, it possesses a dense ruby/purple color as well as notes of high-class, unsmoked cigar tobacco, creme de cassis, licorice, graphite and spice box. Full-bodied, deep, velvety textured, lush and heady, at $20 a bottle, it is another sensational bargain from Eric Solomon. Enjoy it over the next 5-6 years.” $19.99
Bodegas Castano– “Created by Ramon Castaño Santa and his 3 sons, Bodegas Castaño is not nearly as old as the vines it owns. Starting quite small, the family has nurtured old plantings and re-planted other parcels and now owns about 400 hectares (10% of the D.O.) in four prime vineyard estates.
Bodegas Castaño, as it is known today for its entrepreneurial spirit, focus and vision, really begun in the early 80’s when it slowly and carefully started to experiment with bottling and its state of the art winery facility. The family’s commitment to both quality and the Monastrell variety is unparalleled. Today, Daniel Castaño, one of Ramon’s sons, runs the winery with the help of other members of the family.”
Castano Hecula Monastrell 2012
Yecla, Spain. “100% Monastrell. Age of vines: 30–60 years. Organic. Fermented and aged in stainless steel tank. Shiny red cherry color of medium structure with purple reflections. Intense aromas of ripe red fruit (blueberry and raspberry). In the mouth it is silky, well structured and balanced. 91 Wine Advocate– “The basic offering from proprietor Ramon Castano Santa, who owns a whopping 1,000 acres in Yecla, is the 2012 Hecula, which is sourced from a non-irrigated, single vineyard planted with 100% Monastrell. Aged in both tank and French oak, it comes from 60-80-year-old vines planted in limestone soils at a relatively high elevation of over 1,600 feet. Its opaque purple color is followed by copious aromas of blueberries, black raspberries, camphor, licorice, white flowers and a chalky limestone/dusty character. Full-bodied, rich and well-balanced, it is an incredible value.” $10.99