Tasting No. 212 – July 29, 2019 – Spain – Not Only Tempranillo

Club del Vino

 

Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

Montsant

Tasting Overview  

Spain produced 44,400 hl. of wine in 2018 and was the third in volume after Italy and France. However, it is first in terms of surface planted with grapevines with a 13 percent of the world planted surface followed by France and Italy. Spainsh wines have been known internationally mostly through wines from Rioja  and Rivera del Duero (made essentially with the Tempranillo variety), the sparkling Cava from Catalonia and the Jerez from the Cadiz  and Jerez de la Frontera Region in Andalucia.

Some records estimate that there are over 600 grape varieties planted throughout Spain but 80% of the country’s wine production is focused on only 20 grape varieties. The most widely planted is the white wine grape Airén, prized for its hardiness and resistance to drought. The red wine grape Tempranillo is the second most planted variety, surpassing Garnacha in 2004. It is known throughout Spain under a variety of synonyms that may appear on Spanish wine labels-including Cencibel, Tinto Fino and Ull de Llebre. Both Tempranillo and Garnacha are used to make the full-bodied red wines associated with the Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Penedès with Garnacha being the main grape of the Priorat region. In the Levante region, Monastrell and Bobal have significant plantings, being used for both dark red wines and dry rosé.

In the northwest, the white wine varieties of Albariño and Verdejo are popular plantings in the Rías Baixas and Rueda respectively. In the Cava producing regions of Catalonia and elsewhere in Spain, the principal grapes of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarello are used for sparkling wine production as well as still white wines. In the southern Sherry (Cadiz and Jerez de la Frontera) and Malaga producing regions of Andalucia, the principal grapes are Palomino and Pedro Ximénez. As the Spanish wine industry modernized, there has been a larger presence of international grape varieties appearing in both blends and varietal forms-most notably Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Other Spanish grape varieties that have significant plantings  include Cariñena, Godello, Graciano, Mencia, Loureira, and Treixadura.

The  main objective of this tasting is to explore wines from four regions of Spain made from varieties different from Tempranillo.  The presenters have selected wines from Bierzo (based on the Mencía variety), Jumilla (based on Monastrel blended with Granache and Syrah), Priorat and Montsant (both blends of several varieties produced in these two wine regions in Cataluña).

Type of Tasting: Open

Wines presenters: Orlando Mason and Alfonso Sanchez

These are the wines:

  1. 2017 Bodegas Raul Perez,  Ultreia, St. Jacques, Mencía, Bierzo
  2. 2015 Casa Castillo, Las Gravas, Jumilla
  3. 2011  La Conreria d’Scala Dei, Les Notes Iugiter, Priorat
  4. 2005 Baronia del Montsant, Clos Englora AV 14

This is the menu:

  1. Mushroom risotto
  2. Mushrooms and meat tortellini  in aurora sauce
  3. Cesar salad
  4. Grilled lamb with potatoes and vegetables
  5. Desert/Coffee

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Avrebug, Clara Estrada, Jorge García-García, Orlando Mason, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Ricardo Santiago, German Zincke.

Guests: Marilda Averbug, José Brakarz

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources)

2017 Bodegas Raul Perez,  Ultreia, St. Jacques, Mencía, Bierzo

The Wine: Winemaker Notes: Floral, spicy aromas with hints of underbrush. Juicy, well-structured red fruit with great vibrancy and length on the palate. A long finish is marked by hints of herbs, coffee bean, and tomato leaf.

Decanter: A field blend of Mencia, Alicante Bouschet, Pan y Carne and some white varieties, fermented with natural yeast in old oak tanks using 100% stems and no temperature control. It undergoes malo in tank and then spends one year in old barrels. There’s no remontage or pigeage, and he works without sulphites. This has bright, fresh blueberry and cranberry fruit with a rasp of tannin and a savoury, saline sign-off. Drinking Window 2020 – 2024.

RP: The clean, floral and 2017 Ultreia Saint Jacques comes mostly from old vineyards from different soils in Valtuille and Villadecanes. Fermented in stainless steel and oak vats with part of full clusters and matured in used barriques for one year. It’s produced in a fresh and very drinkable way. This is one of the best values from Bierzo and Spain, and a great introduction to Bierzo. It’s a more serious wine than what the wine was when it was first produced, fresh and elegant. It’s very reliable and a great value.

Mencía: Wine.com.Calling the far western appellations of the Iberian Peninsula home, Mencia was once only deemed capable of producing simple and light red wines. But post-phylloxera growers only planted this variety on low, fertile plains, which produced high yields and uncomplicated finished wines. The recent rediscovery of the ancient, abandoned vines planted on rugged hillsides of deep schist has unveiled the potential of Mencia and added discredit to its old reputation. Primarily found in the Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras regions of Spain and in the Dão of Portugal (where it is called Jaen), Mencia is an early ripening, low acid grape that can produce wines of great concentration, complexity and ageability.

In the Glass: The best Mencia possess characters such as raspberry, red currant, boysenberry, pomegranate, black licorice, spice cake, black pepper, Asian spice and crushed gravel. Some styles remain light and fruit dominant while the more serious versions, aged in new oak, will be more complex and concentrated.

Food Pairings:Excellent with all manner of meat dishes: Steak au Poivre, corned beef, charcuterie, game, carne asada, etc, Mencia will also work with many vegetarian dishes such as grilled portabello, mushroom risotto, wild rice pilaf and smoked tofu.

Sommelier Secret: Never had Mencia? Well if you like Pinot Noir and other aromatic reds (like Gamay), definitely investigate Mencia. Many affordable options abound as well as higher-end, more complex versions. Often the latter contain other varieties for adding depth and complexity, or come from the extremely old vines.

The Winery:  One of the few northwestern Spanish regions with a focus on a red variety, Bierzo, part of Castilla y León, is home to the flowery and fruity Mencia grape. Mencia produces balanced and bright red wines full of strawberry, raspberry, pomegranate, baking spice, pepper and black licorice. The well-drained soils of Bierzo are slate and granite. Raul Perez was born into a winemaking family, Bodegas Castro Ventosa, the largest owner of Mencia plantings in Bierzo. Raul grew up developing his ideals and worked at the family winery until 2003. His reluctance to compromise has made him both controversial and popular. Bodegas Raul Perez produces extra limited, handcrafted, artisinal wines from varieties such as Albarino, Mencia, Bastardo and Godello from northwestern Spain.

Villegas is one of the vineyards most appreciated by Raúl Pérez. It is located in Valtuille de Abajo,, cradle of the winery in El Bierzo. It has a nascent orientation to the south and peculiar soils for the area. If El Bierzo has an abundance of clay soils, in Villegas we find a sandy soil. The vineyard is around 600 meters high, and dates back 130 years. The largest profusion of grapes is of the mencía variety, although we also find vineyards of garnacha tintorera and bastardo.

Read more at: https://www.raulperez.com/en/

2015 Casa Castillo, Las Gravas, Jumilla

The Wine: Winemaker Notes. Not surprising Las Gravas comes from a profoundly rocky, single vineyard of the same name. You’d also be hard pressed to call it soil since before you can get to anything resembling dirt you have to go through a foot of stones. While the other cuvées from the estate show the unique expression of site and variety, Las Gravas is a broader lesson in terroir and the varieties that thrive here. Las Gravas is harvested by hand and fermented in underground stone tanks with manual pigeage. Once primary fermentation is complete the wine is aged in 500 liter French oak demi-muids for 18 months. In most vintages only 20% of the barrels are new.

Robert Parker’s Wine AdvocateThe 2015 Las Gravas is a classic Mediterranean blend of Monastrell with 15% each Garnacha and Syrah, with 15% alcohol after fermenting with part of full clusters and indigenous grapes and aging in used oak barrels for 19 months. 2015 is the last vintage that Las Gravas has some Syrah, as it adds some sweet fruit he wants to avoid. However, it shows fresh within the balsamic profile, with plenty of rosemary and thyme notes combined with floral undertones and the character of the esparto grass and tree bark that are textbook descriptors of the variety.

The Monastrel grape is found in abundance in Central Spain and Southern France (where it’s known as Mourvèdre).  Thought to have originated in Spain, it is now grown extensively throughout the Iberian Peninsula, southern France, California and South Australia. Spanish Monastrell wines tend to be rich, dark affairs, frequently showing flavors of blackberry and black cherry. Depending on the blend these wines are reminiscent of those of Laguedoc and Southern Rhone.

Monastrel’s meaty, herby aromas are very distinctive, as are its strong tannins. These qualities make it a potent ingredient for blending, most often with vibrant, rich Grenache and structured, spicy Syrah. Other classic southern French varieties such as Carignan and Cinsaut are also frequent blending partners for Mourvedre, more because of tradition and convenience (they grow in similar places and ripen almost simultaneously) than flavor or aroma. Single-variety Mourvedre or Monastrell wines are not particularly common, but as the curiosity of the average wine consumer increases, so more and more producers are experimenting with making wines from 100 percent Mourvedre. In France, Mourvedre is a key variety in both Provence and the southern Rhone Valley, where it is a regular compenent in Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape blends.

The Winery: Wine.com Casa Castillo in the region of Jumilla is a property that has been producing wine since 1874. This tradition continued with a winery built by a French company in 1910 when phylloxera forced them out of their vineyards in France. Jumilla is one of the few places in Spain that has successfully resisted the infestation of phylloxera, hence making it an ideal place for this new winery. Like many Rhone wine merchants, they were interested in Monastrell (Mourvedre) based wine.

The Roch family acquired the property in 1941. Julia Roch and her grandson, José Maria Vicente, have been recovering the artesanal origins of this estate, making significant strides in the integrity and quality of wine making.

2005 Baronia del Montsant Clos Englora AV 14 – Montsant

The Wine: The Clos Englora’s name comes from about one of the emblematic tops of the Montsant’s range, which tops highs more than 1000 mts above sea level. The logotype is an abstract and personal representation of the mentioned top. The AV14 nomenclature means that the grapes we have used come from “aged vineyards”, and the number 14, is approximately the time that wine remains in barrels. The wine is blend of Red Grenache (37%), Carignan (21%), Merlot (14%), Cabernet Sauvignon (12%), Syrah (8%), Cabernet Franc (4%), Monastrell (2%) and Tempranillo (2%).

RP: Wine Advocate-Montsant, Spain- “It offers up a perfume of crushed stone, smoke, espresso, Asian spices, black cherry, and blackberry leading to a rich, opulent, layered wine with tons of fruit, plenty of spice.

The Winery: In Montsant area we principally elaborate red wine, and among the different varieties we can point up Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo), Samsó (Cariñena) and purple Garnacha. We have to mention the velvety, complex and meaty characteristics of these wines, which predispose them to a long maturing in wood. Among the varieties used for the elaboration of white vines, we can point out the white Garnacha which produces aromatic and silky wines. There are few hectares of vineyards under this mark of origin. The average is about 2,500 stocks of vine per hectare and they produce an average of 2 kg. per stock.

The characteristic orography of the region, with sharp slopes, makes difficult and hard the work of the farmers, but the fruits that grow have a unique personality (see technical notes below) . The soils of the region of Priorat come from a first extract of sediments formed during the Palaeozoic. Later, during the Mesozoic, this first disposition was followed by a series of violent granite eruptions, which became the base of the present shape of the region. The granite transformed the Palaeozoic sediments into the typical “licorelles” (zones of slaty aspect, of dark colour) and “codols” (rolling stones).

There is a Mediterranean weather that is slightly changed by the common northeastern winds. The temperature is moderate, with an annual average of 16º C. In the cold season, frosts are strange and there is an average of three days of snow per year. The rainy days are of 500 mm per year, and the daily sunshine average is of 7.3 hours.

Read more about  here: http://www.baronia-m.com/lliure/null/1?lang=en

2011  La Conreria d’Scala Dei, Les Notes Iugiter, Priorat

The Wine: Indicative blend: Garnatxa negra, Samsó (Carignan) and Cabernet Sauvignon. intense, dark plum and rich, jammy fruit aromas combined with notes of cassis and tobacco. rich and smooth with juicy fruit on the palate, plenty of mineral seasoning and rounded with silky tannins.  The wine is aged for 14 months in Allier French oak barrels and followed by another 18 months of rest in the bottle.  Drink now-2025.

WE: Despite showing some heat and raisiny character up front, this compact Priorat smells schisty and Port-like in the best way. A full-bodied, wall-to-wall palate manages to stay smooth, while this tastes not only of ripe blackberry and dark plum, but also of Priorat’s minerally soils. A silky feel cuddles complex flavors of dark fruits and hot stones on a fine finish.

The Winery:  Read about this winery at: http://www.vinslaconreria.com/index.php/10-english/39-home

 CV Members Rating

View full evaluation here: 212 Summary of Tasting Scores

Best Rated Wine: 2017 Bodegas Raul Perez,  Ultreia, St. Jacques, Mencía, Bierzo

Best Buy: 2017 Bodegas Raul Perez,  Ultreia, St. Jacques, Mencía, Bierzo

Technical Notes 

Summary notes about the regions included in this tasting

Maps Author: Té y kriptonita – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6641680

 Bierzo

The Bierzo is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) for wines located in the northwest of the province of León (Castile and León, Spain) and covers about 3,000 km². It borders on the provinces of Ourense, Lugo and Asturias in the north and in the south on areas of La Montaña, la Cabrera and La Meseta, in Léon.  The first written reference to the Bierzo region, whose name derives from the pre-Roman city of Bergidum, is from Pliny the Elder. The Romans developed agriculture, introduced new crops including Vitis vinifera vines, and new technology such as the Roman plough. However, the greatest expansion of viticulture was related to the growth of the monasteries, especially the Cistercian order, during the Middle Ages. After centuries of production and after having achieved a good reputation in the markets of Galicia and Asturias, the Bierzo vineyards suffered a terrible blow in the 19th century when the phylloxera plague practically wiped them out. There was a severe economic crisis which forced many people to emigrate. Production was slowly re-established thanks to the technique of grafting onto new world root stocks and wine production gradually recovered to assume the significant economic role it had played in the past. In 1989 the Bierzo Denominación de Origen was officially recognized.

TBierzohe wines produced under the Bierzo DO must be made only with the varieties that are authorized by the Consejo Regulador (Regulatory Council).

  • Red grapes: Mencia, Alicante Bouschet (Garnacha Tintorera), (experimental: Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • White grapes: Doña Blanca, Godello, Palomino, (experimental: Malvasía, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer)

The Bierzo is a land of many things. It is a place of passage of the Camino de Santiago, which makes its last stop through these lands before crossing to Galicia. It is a place of mining, a trade that comes from ancient, as the incredible Roman mines of the Marrows, which are World Heritage Sites. It’s a land of chestnuts, maybe the best in Spain. And it’s a land of wine. To say wine for these lioness lands is to say Mencía. A grape considered until very recently as inferior. Along with the Tempranillo, Grenache, Bobal and Monastrell it is one of the five majority varieties of the native Spanish red grape.

As with Grenache or Monastrell,the Mencía grape has long been relegated. But fortunately for our palates, the time has come to rediscover it. And as is often the matter, the problem was not with the grape, but of how to treat it.

The Romans introduced the cultivation of vines in this area. Later, during the Middle Ages, Cistercian monks spread their cultivation throughout much of the region. But beyond growing the grapes in the area, Bierzo’s wines were not valued. They were held for rough table wines.

The best grapes grow on the slopes of the Bercian sun. In that Appellation of Origin, a new generation of young winemakers ignored the Mencías growing vigorously in the fertile Sil Valley and preferred instead those growing in the harsh mountains of the Bercian basin (now known as the wine belt of El Bierzo). As with wine, the strains that grow in the most difficult conditions are the most sought after.The centuries-old hillside vines that were still scattered here and there and the slate soils were the ideal raw materials material of a new generation of modern and quality wines. These were vines plated at relatively high altitude, with little water and low yield that unknown until then, with an extraordinary aging capacity and evolution.

Alvaro Palacios soon joined this generation of new winemakers”. As he had done with the resurgence of Priorat, in Catalonia, he thought that this area had much potential to exploit its wines in a more delicate and professional way. There he installed in 1999 the winery “Descendientes de J. Palacios”, in which you can find wines such as the popular Pétalos del Bierzo, which in 2014 was rated by Robert Parker as the best wine in Spain for its value for money. Another example is the Corullon. Located in a higher price range, it is a wine of power and energy, but a lot of freshness, it is what is given in the mouth.

High quality wines. Usually, the wines of this Mencía produced in the surrounding mountains, which is how it began to be produced in Roman times, are light and fresh. His key is on the ground. Unlike the grapes grown until then in the fertile Bierzo Valley, they grow in poor soils, on slopes located at altitudes of around 800 meters.

Jumilla 

(Taken from wine-searcher.com) 

Jumilla is a wine DO title of Murcia, a small region on the Mediterranean coast of southeastern Spain. The Jumilla viticultural area, which is sandwiched between Yecla in the north and Bullas in the south, is considered to be Murcia’s most important in terms of quantity and quality. It is also the region’s oldest, established in 1966.

Like other wine regions of the area, Jumilla specializes in wines based on the Monastrell grape variety, which accounts for around 80 percent of vines. It is well suited to the harsh conditions here, and the best wines demonstrate a varied flavor profile. This includes lively fruits and earth and mineral notes when young, developing into complex aromas of matured fruit, coffee and oak spices with extended barrel aging.

Since the 1990s, when the region’s potential to produce quality wines came to the fore, Jumilla has attracted a lot of outside attention. Producers from other Spanish regions as well as foreign companies have set up wineries here.

JumillaAs a result, plantings of varieties such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have steadily increased, mainly to add body and character to the Monastrell-based reds. This blending approach has worked wonders for the status of the region’s wines. It is now seen as a benchmark among similar styles produced in this part of the country.

A Jumilla Monastell red wine must include at least 80 percent of the named variety. The same rule applies to Jumilla Monastrell rosé. Jumilla Dulce (sweet wine) may be produced in all three colors.

The landscape of Jumilla is characterized by wide valleys and plains, interrupted by the serrania (mountain ranges) that cross Murcia between the sea and the Meseta Central (central plateau) of Spain. Hot, dry and harsh is the best way to describe the zone. Despite these seemingly adverse conditions, vines have been grown here since Roman times, when the region had quite a reputation for its full-bodied red wines.

The wine industry in Jumilla received a big boost when the phylloxera plague struck neighboring France in the late 19th Century. This resulted in demand for Jumilla wine soaring. Despite escaping the major outbreak, Jumilla was struck down by the pest in 1989. This offered the DO a chance to modernize and refocus on lighter, more elegant wines.

Jumilla’s climate is best described as arid and continental, more in line with the Castilla-La Mancha areas to its west than any significant influences of the Mediterranean  although in the eastern fringes it is more transitional. Summer temperatures of 40°C (104°F) are not uncommon here. This, along with the scant rainfall, makes the region a theoretically harsh grape growing area.

There are two main factors that act as saving graces. Firstly, there is a healthy amount of lime in the soil, which helps in retaining vital moisture, and secondly, the elevated central plateau. Elevations range between 400 and 800 meters (1300ft – 2600ft), providing some respite from the intense heat. Nevertheless, frosts, violent storms and torrential rains still pose real threats to vines.

The Priory’s Región – Priorat

The Priory region (or Priorat) is located in the province of Catalonia in the northeast of Spain and about 150 kilometers southwest of Barcelona.  Its name comes from the original settlement of Carthusian monks in the 12th century in the area.  Since then, grapes have been grown in the region.

The region is almost surrounded by the Montsant Mountains and its topography is characterized by steep and steep slopes and arid and rocky soils where the mechanization of the crop is impossible.  However, the monks’ thirst for wine led them to cultivate the vines on hand-carved terraces in the mountains with great effort and hard work.  To this day the cultivation and harvesting of grapes is manual.  The age of the vineyards and the aridity of the soils result in very low yields of only two-thirds of a tonne per hectare (the average elsewhere is between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes).  The intense summer heats in the Mediterranean produce wines with high alcoholic content (a potential of up to 18 per cent).  Low yields and mode of production result in intense, high-concentration and relatively expensive wines.

The Phylloxera wiped out many of the region’s vineyards at the end of the 19th century and many growers left the region and its vineyards.  But in the 1970s young wine industrialists led by René Barbier (Clos Mogador and Freixenet) and Alvaro Palacios (Finca Dofi,L’Ermita) attracted by the potential of the region brought French winemaking methods and began the replanting and reconstruction of the old vineyards.  The result has been an almost miraculous resurgence of the region that today is in the major world leagues with its best wines.

The Soils.Poor, stony soils of volcanic originwith a base of quartz and slates.  Slates produce mica residues that reflect the sun and retain heat (high sugar concentration in the grape).  Aridity forces vines to produce deep roots in search of water nutrients and minerals.

Climate.There are an abundance of microclimates that vary with altitude but are determined by the icy winds of the north (mitigated in part by the Montsant mountains) and by the warm winds of the east.  Summers are long, hot and dry(35o C) and very cold winters (-4oC)

The Varieties The traditional varieties were Grenache and Carignan that continue to be the most important (suitable for production of wines type Cotes du Rhone).  New entrepreneurs have planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah to produce blended wines

Today there are more than 50 reputable cellars in the region.  The wines are usually aged in French oak barrels, must have an alcoholic strength of at least 13.5 percent and are strong and concentrated.

Montsant 

(Taken from wine-searcher.com) Montsant is a wine region in Catalonia, northern Spain. The gently undulating area was formerly categorized as a viticultural sub-zone of Tarragona, but local growers felt the high-altitude vineyards here earned the region recognition as a DO in their own right. As a result, the Montsant DO was created in 2001, its name taken from the Montsant massif (‘holy mountain’) that dominates the region’s landscape.

Montsant lies west of Tarragona city and forms a ‘C’ shape that almost completely surrounds the prestigious Priorat region. Vines were first introduced to the area by the Romans thousands of years ago, and Catholic monks continued the viticultural tradition during the Middle Ages. By the 19th Century, wines from Montsant were receiving praise at universal exhibitions.

Montsant

Montsant’s most prized vineyards are located in terraces on steeply sloping sites, often interspersed with pine, almond and olive trees (the region is also known for its excellent olive oils). Here, the vines benefit from intense Mediterranean sunshine during the day and relatively cool temperatures at night. This high diurnal temperature variation assists in the development of complex aromas in the grapes, while preserving vital acidity. The soil is a local specialty known as ‘llicorella‘, which is high in granite and slate components. Together, these growing conditions result in the region’s wines being concentrated and expressive of the local terroir. The average altitude of the zone is 1180ft (360m) above sea level, rising steadily in the northwest and southeast as it approaches the Montsant and Montsalt mountains respectively.

Montsant has earned a reputation for its high-quality red wines, particularly those based on old Garnacha and Carinena (Carignan) vines. Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo), Spain’s darling, and international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah also perform very well here. Most red wines are typically intended for aging and exhibit velvety textures even after a short time in oak. The old vines offer particularly complex examples.

A small quantity of white wine (based on Chardonnay, Macabeo and Garnacha Blanca) is produced, along with rosados (rosé) wines and dessert wines, for which the region was once famous. These Vi Ranci (old wines) are made in an oxidative style and are then fortified. Some mistelas (mistelle), made from grape juice and added alcohol, are also produced. Kosher wines from the area can also be found.

Praise for Montsant’s high-quality wines is getting louder as the international market realizes the region’s potential.

 

 

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