Sunday, January 31, 2016

Tasting in Spain January 2016: 1. Madrid and Ribera del Duero

On my admittedly self-indulgent visit to Madrid for two months, I have determined to do a reasonable amount of tasting Spanish wines. They are so much more affordable here than in the US. This is different from French wines, which are generally little or no less expensive in France, perhaps because they have more of a world-wide market than Spanish wines. In any case, on my first full day in Madrid I purchased several bottles from Bodega Privada (online sales only, delivery for 6 Euros) at 1/3-2/3 less than US prices, followed a few days later by my visit to Bodega Santa Cecilia, one of my favorite wine shops in all the world. There I snagged 3 bottles of my favorite grenache wine, Alto Moncayo Alto Moncayo 2013 (also tasted at my Durham tasting in early January before I left) and a couple other gems at steep discount. And because of a slight mixup on the order they gave me a complementary tasting and tapas at their lovely wine bar. A wine bar that serves some superb Spanish wines, so I couldn't help adding on to my order a glass of Finca Dofi 2013. A great Priorat winery, but apparently not a great year for them judging by the tasting--89 points.

This was followed last week by a journey to Asturias, Cantabria (north and northwest of Spain), and Ribera del Duero where I had wonderful private tastings at Bodegas Vizcarra (famed for $20 in US "Pruno" which Parker keeps overrating at 93-94 points; it's $12 here) and Emilio Moro, which produces my current favorite Ribera, Malleolus. I found out that word means something like "little vineyard plot." I do think this trip solidified my sense that I like Ribera a bit better than Rioja. Not to say I don't love me some Rioja (see below). Tastings were private because I was the only tourist around midweek in late January. Also visited the ridge-top fort or castle at Penafiel, quite a dramatic place.

Notes on the Emilio Moro tasting:

Tasting 3 levels of wine at Emilio Moro: all excellent. Naia Restaurant serves Resalso by the glass for a song

Resalso 2014: Lightest in color, lowest in body and finish, less distinctively varietal. A bit of cherry soda on nose. No tannin, some alcohol on nose, pleasant medium finish. Citrus comes out with air on nose, maybe cotton candy. Very revealing to have this alongside the other two for tasting. 87 points. Resalso comes from young vines and recent vintage and tasting the other two alongside, from 2013 and 2011 and older vines, is instructive. Emilio Moro 2013: Bigger, deeper nose, slightly darker. Notable anise and spice with vanilla in background as in the cherry. There is definite tannin and acid on the finish. Tannins though are pretty round. With air it opens to give more oaky or vanilla nose. Nicely balanced and very pleasant now, better in a year or two. With more airing, more caramel and mint overtones, and rounder on palate, with longer but not terribly complex finish. 90 points. 2011 Malleolus: Huge increase in darkness and depth of nose. Anise plus more complex spices, vanilla. Fruit tones shade more toward plum here, with cherry and caramel. On palate round tannins but quite pronounced. Fruit and acid in nice balance carrying a medium long finish. Nose is classic winery smell of oak and fermented grapes. Wonderful silky mouth feel but with need of some age to soften tannins. I'd say give it 2-3 years. With more air, more complex nose develops. The impression is of high quality wine, from older vines, carefully crafted. Could not be mistaken for a Rhone or a Bordeaux or a Priorat. And is more elegant than most Riojas. There is a slight hint of sherry here, I guess or prune-type ripeness, but nicely integrated with the rest of the flavors and aromas. Might be a slight hint of citrus here too, and some forest floor, spice and mint coming on with more airing--even some sandalwood incense. 93 points.

From Vizcarra, the 2014 Pruno is a solid wine with some real character and deserves 89 points. The Vizcarra is significantly better, 91 points, but a clear step behind Malleolus.

At this moment I'm sitting on my 8th floor rooftop terrace looking west over Madrid. It's a clear day and I can actually see a bit of mountain at the far horizon. But on the whole the weather has been much cloudier than during my stay in 2012. Anyhow, I've just opened a bottle of La Rioja Alta Rioja 904, vintage 2005 which is the most recent release--they usually keep them for 10 years before releasing, and only make it, their Gran Reserva, in the best years. The nose is superb: creme de cassis and cherry vanilla with a hint of mint, exotic spices and flowers. The tannins are mostly resolved so it's indeed at its peak right now though will last a while with its nice balance of fruit, acid, alcohol and remaining tannin. I'd call it medium body, with a long balanced finish. The color is beautiful, purple with the brick colored rim denoting maturity. Sitting on my terrace drinking great Spanish wine: this was my dream that led me to come here for the winter. Enjoying also Flor d'Esgueva cheese, which is local to the Ribera area, a low lactose sheep's milk cheese featuring a nice tangy crumbly taste.

Vineyard at Vizcarra

Penafiel Castle

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