Tasting through Portugal and Spain: Part Deux

Oscar, Kevin, Darren, Katie, Raquel, and Molly put on serious faces as we embark on a Vinus journey through Spain



For round 2 Orestes provided and helped secure a group of diverse wines from Spain.  While one or two are favorite producers of his, most were selected for their obscurity and interesting character.  We began the tasting with an Albillo discovered at MEZE Wine and Tapas bar in San Luis Obispo.  The wine was bright, with noticeable but not overwhelming weight, and a distinct earthy funk.  Orestes informed us that the region in which it is grown (Ribera del Duero) is very warm, but Albillo is a variety that maintains its acidity despite the heat in its homeland. 


The red portion of the Spanish line up. Not pictured are the Albillo and Pedro Jimenez



We followed the white with Orlegi (name of the producer not the grape), which is designed to be drunk young (within 1-2 years).  Initially it was quite closed despite the fact that it was last years vintage.  Orestes (taking his role in our tasting experience very–and admirably!–seriously) instructed us to hold on to the pour in a second glass while we moved on down the list.  The next wine (Finca La Estacada) is one that Orestes brought along with him all the way from Spain in his checked luggage.  An inexpensive but delicious offering, it showed perceptible signs of time in oak without being too intense.

Next we embarked on the Signo Bobal from a winery in the Manchuela region.  Bobal is a red variety similar to Albillo among the whites given that it maintains acidity well in hot climes.  This wine was fairly closed (though not to the degree of the Orlegi) at the outset, but as it spent time in the glass a delightful violet and plummy character began to emerge.  Though we opened all of the wines nearly 2 hours in advance, most of the reds from this point on made it plain they would appreciate decanting.  Orestes suggested from the outset that most of the wines would require time to open up.  In retrospect it would be accurate to say that the tendency toward more ‘closed’ or remote character among these wines is likely due in part to their age (most of these offerings were a vintage or two old, so the brightness of youth was beginning to fade into the mysterious delights of tertiary, bottle aged flavors) and to a cultural respect for balanced, ageworthy wine in Spain.


From the table’s perspective



A fun fact about many older Spanish houses is that many use American rather than French Oak barrels as the result of tradition (this practice began in the early-mid 20th century), cost (American Oak is typically less expensive), and flavor profile (differences in fineness grain between French and American Oak result in different flavor profiles).  An aspect of American Oak barrels is that they tend to through a more intense tannic profile on the wine due to naturally thicker grain.  Very generally–American Oak:  dill and savory spice French Oak:  vanilla and baking spices).  It is also interesting to note that the majority of wines in this tasting (and from Spain in general…Portugal also) are very reasonably priced, falling predominantly between $10 and $30.  At this point we revisited the Orlegi to find that the majority of the initially shy and reduced character had developed into an absolutely fruity delight.

We then tried the Sottorondero, a Syrah/Grenache blend produced by Jimenez-Landi.  Distinctly smokey, this wine seemed to ooze classic Syrah character.  A touch of fruit from the Grenache portion became increasingly apparent as the wine opened.  We then embarked on our lone decanted bottle, a 2009 Clio Mourvedre/Cabernet blend.  This was by far the most modern in style, sporting 15.5 points of alcohol and a distinctly sweat oak oriented nose (many newer houses have resumed the practice–in large part due to market pressure–of using French Oak).  This final red was popular among the staff for its lush, bright character, and even at 15.5% it was well balanced and did not seem too heavy.  If we’d had more time to search, a bottle of Quincha Corral 2009, which is a blend of Bobal, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo from one of Orestes’s favorite producers, would have been included .

We finished our Spanish experience with another bottle brought over in Orestes’s checked baggage.  This final sip consisted of  the world renowned Pedro Ximenez, a sun baked dessert wine.  As it was poured into the glass the Pedro looked almost precisely like motor oil (apologies for lacking a photo, we were quite absorbed in tasting at this point).   The taste was absolutely delectable, noticeably thick and brimming with caramelly, nutty, sweet, and dried fruit flavors.

With regard to foods to pair with the wines in the past two reviews, Skylar offered us tales of his first experiences tasting wine in Spain ( what follows is an approximated snippet:

“Imagine an elderly man cooking a variety of meats and sausages over an open fire.  Then imagine being served a platter of freshly cooked meat with each wine on the tasting list.”  *group salivation ensued as our minds transported us there…*

Overall it was an absolutely eye-opening experience to taste through these two select groups of wine.  We all feel absolutely privileged to have had the opportunity to host and learn from both Raquel and Orestes.  Cheers and farewell for now you two, and an immense thank you from the entire HRV crew!

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