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Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Robin Garr » Fri Oct 01, 2010 12:07 pm

Exploring the rest of Spain

Here's a curious factoid: Spain boasts more acreage planted in wine grapevines than any other country on Earth, but all those vines yield only enough wine to rank third in global production, after Italy and France.

How does that work out? It's simple enough: The hot, arid conditions that prevail over much of Spain limit vines to relatively low production per acre, so it takes more land to make less wine.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, as low yield is generally considered a signal of intense, concentrated wine.

Indeed, looking back over the 12 years since my first visit to the Spanish wine country in 1998, I don't think any nation's wine scene has changed as much as that of Spain.

The super-ripe grapes that result from that hot, dry climate yield alcoholic, extracted wines in a style that wins critical acclaim. Shopping this week for a few affordable Spanish wines to feature in this month's Wine Focus, I was struck by the dominance of wines in the range of 14.5 to 15 percent alcohol; and I'm talking red table wines here, not fortified Sherry.

Thanks to American critical acclaim and collectors' demand for new-style "blockbuster" wines from Spain's most traditional wine regions - Rioja and Ribera del Duero, as well as the more recently acclaimed Priorat - have gained so much attention that they tend to overwhelm the rest of Spain.

That's a shame, because Spain offers wines in wonderful variety, with a sense of place that's sometimes diminished in the more internationalized "collectibles."

So, passing by those "usual suspects," we invite you to venture out into the rest of Spain this month, from Catalunya in the northwest, with its sparkly Cavas and more, across to Galicia in the northwest, with its increasingly trendy white Albariño, just for starters. Or the attention getting reds of Bierzo, also in the northwest. The list goes on: Jumilla, Navarro, Jerez and Manzanilla and many more, like today's featured wine from Campo de Borja (below).

The field is wide open, so come, share with us your thoughts, questions and tasting notes on the tasty surprises from the rest of Spain.
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Robin Garr » Fri Oct 01, 2010 3:52 pm

Axial 2008 "Penélope Sanchez" Tinto Jóven Campo de Borja ($11.99)

Very dark, shiny blackish-purple with a garnet edge. Black fruit and raspberry liqueur on the nose; raspberries and blackberries and fragrant, freshly-ground black pepper on the palate, well structured with zippy acidity and gentle tannins. Sunny and bright, fresh but not outrageous berry fruit, a good, hearty red blend of Garnacha (85%) and Syrah (15%) at an appropriate 13.5% alcohol. U.S. importer: Axial Wines USA, Manhasset, N.Y. (Sept. 30, 2010)

FOOD MATCH: I brought an okra gumbo up to meet it by including thick slices of a locally produced beef sausage. The combination of intense grass-fed beef and light Cajun-style spice worked very well with the wine. More simply, I'd serve it without hesitation with beef, bison or game.

VALUE: Definitely a value at my local price, would be worth the toll even at the middle teens price point in some markets.

PRONUNCIATION:
Campo de Borja = "[i]Cahm-po deh Bohr-hah[/a]"

WEB LINKS:
Here's an English-language fact sheet on the Campo de Borja on the winery Website.
http://www.axialvinos.com/fotosbd/01072010155229.pdf

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Check prices and find limited vendors for Penelope Sanchez on Wine-Searcher.com.
http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/Penel ... g_site=WLP

For a wider selection of wines from Campo de Borja, try this Wine-Searcher.com link.
http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/Campo ... g_site=WLP
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Sat Oct 02, 2010 2:38 am

WTN: `08 Terras Gauda Rias Baixos Albarino O Rosal, Galicia.

Terras Gauda has had a few mentions on this forum and I remember a fine `06. I passed on the `07 but found the `08 being poured downtown at Tzin winebar.

Yellowy color, nose has typical house-style tropical fruits with peach and pear to the forefront. Hint of spritz on entry, fair acidity, some RS here. All rather delicate with peach, citrus and a hint of herbs. Think price is around $27 Cdn so tad pricey and not quite that typical of Albarino from the north of Spain. There is a fair demand for this wine at store next door, I remember seeing it on a couple of winelists.

Next up a Verdejo from PradoRey, Rueda. This 3 Barricas has seen some oak, but hope it is not too "New world" in style. Better be good for $30 Cdn!
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Sat Oct 02, 2010 2:46 am

Originally posted in July `10.

Pazos de Lusco is a Rias Baixas based winery and is quite well known for their lively white wines. Today I had a chance to taste two `08 Albarinos that have just arrived in town and I thought both qualified as "musky-ringers".

The entry level Zios de Lusco is $18 Cdn and has an attractive label. Coconut on the nose was rather unusual, medium straw color. Nice mineral salinity but "did not smell like Albarino" thought Annabelle from Portugal. I did not find the aftertaste all that clean either. As it opened some nice white stone-fruit, dry with citrus tones but so-so acidity which was strange for this varietal.

The more expensive Lusco Albarino Ribera del Mino $28 Cdn was a lighter color but more leesy on the palate. Elegant, cleaner taste with slatey minerality. Seems to come from selected sites by the Mino river (back label). Excellent acidity, bright citrus finish, very nice wine.


I will be retasting the `08 Lusco later this month!
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Tim York » Sat Oct 02, 2010 1:20 pm

Apart from two bottles of Bierzo, my cellar is empty of “other” Spain, so I will have to go out and buy to make new contributions. I have drunk with great pleasure the quite numerous bottles which have passed through in the last three or four years.

Let me, however, go back on some old TNs to trace the recent revelation to me of two exciting new appellations and grapes from the NW corner of Spain (I had been awakened to crisp Rias Baixas and its Albariño grape some years earlier.) These wines have little in common with wines from the rest of Spain except where certain producers’ heavy hands with oak blurs their distinctive character.


DO Bierzo and its grape Mencia.
I was first struck by this wine at a tasting at gourmet temple, Rob, and bought a couple of bottles. My TN below shows how impressed I was by the first bottle opened at home and I bought a few more and have since sought out Bierzo from other producers. In fact Mencia is said to be related to Cabernet franc but I have found it closer to Syrah on this and other Bierzo.

Jan 16, 2008

Pétalos – Bierzo DOC – 2006 – Descendientes de J. Palacios – Alc. 14% - This estate's entry level Bierzo.

I may be cheating a little by placing this in the great value WF. Quite frankly I cannot remember how much I paid. However, I have seen it offered on a Spanish site for € 11.95, so here goes. And even if it costs a handful of € more, it is still great value.

C: Dense and deep with purple froth on pouring.
N: Well developed with dark fruit dominated by sour cherry and touches of kirsch.
P: Generous and deep fruit with charm, silky mouth-feel and good mouth-fill, similar aromas to nose with quite marked but appealing acidity, hints of ivy and spice, structure and good length, wearing its 14% alcohol lightly.

The aromatic profile is quite northern Rhône but more generous and up-front in its fruit. If blind, I would never have guessed Spain and would probably have plumped for a cooler climate Landuedoc wine with much Syrah, like a Faugères from Alquier. It is drinking remarkably well for such a young wine and I wonder about its ageing potential. But do I really care? It is so good now. I will certainly be looking out to buy more bottles; 16.5/20+.


DO Valdeorras and its grape Godello
I first met this at a tasting (TN May 18, 07) given by Gert Claes, a sometime contributor here. This wine increasingly impresses me as a Chardonnay substitute. It has a taste profile all its own but has a creamy minerality which places it in a similar category as Burgundian Chard for gastronomic use.

May 18, 2007
BODEGAS VALDELSIL (D.O. Valdeorras in Galicia – the NW corner of Spain)
VAL DE SIL BLANCO 2004 made from the indigenous Godilla grape was a revelation. It showed white fruit and cream on the N with a crisp yet round, aromatic and long P; a gem. PEZAS DE PORTELA 2002, also from Godilla but with wood ageing, was creamier and sweeter seeming and complex with notes of honey and touches of caramel balanced by some racy acidity. Wines from this estate are well worth seeking out.

Aug 4, 2008
“Val de Sil” – Valdeorras DOC – Godello sobre lias – 2006 – Bodegas Valdelsil – Alc. 13.5% - (approx. € 11) is a white from North West Spain showing mineral and creamy white fruit aromas and a richness of body quite reminiscent of white Burgundy and good acidity but with a hint wildness and heat towards the finish which are less burgundian. I think that it will develop the greater complexity which I recall on the 2004; already a very good wine - 15.5/20 + with + potential and excellent QPR.

Oct 23, 2008
Valdeorras “Val de Sil” Godello sobre lias 2004– Bodegas Valdesil was as expected more subtle and complex than the 2006 on which I wrote a few weeks ago and showed lovely aromas of white fruit, white meat, minerals and honey on a medium-full body enhanced by lively mouth-watering acidity; the honey notes are getting more prominent and I wonder if this a warning of imminent oxidization; very good, though, 16/20+. Another example of the excellent results from the Godello white grape in Valdeorras, North-Western Spain.
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Sat Oct 02, 2010 2:54 pm

Good reminders there Tim. Your choices of whites are way better than mine as there is little around here at the moment apart from usual suspects.
The reds are a vastly different matter as I have some fine Bierzo reds in the cellar ready to go. Most around $22 Cdn and ready to go. Should be a fine month here eh especially if they match the Petalos.
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Oct 04, 2010 9:17 am

Laurie Daniel is a wine writer in the San Fran area. Recently she wrote about Rueda Verdejo.....>

The vintners of the Rueda appellation like to say they make Spain's best white wine. The albariño producers in Rias Baixas, in far northwestern Spain, almost certainly would disagree, but clearly Rueda is doing something right. Last year, as Spanish wine sales overall declined, sales of Rueda wines were up, and it was the only appellation in Spain that increased exports.

The signature grape of Rueda, northwest of Madrid, is verdejo, a white variety believed to have arrived in the area in the 11th century. There is also some sauvignon blanc, as well as two other white grapes, viura and palomino; less than 10 percent of the area's vineyard acreage is devoted to red grapes.

"If you are speaking about Rueda in general, you must speak of verdejo," says Pablo del Villar of Hermanos del Villar, which produces the Oro de Castilla brand.

Good verdejo is very fresh, aromatic and somewhat similar to sauvignon blanc, but with more fleshy stone-fruit and pear notes. It's a grape with high acidity and a tendency toward some bitterness; many wines finish with a slight bitterness that's not unpleasant and is tempered by food. The wines are a natural match to seafood, but I also found that they were delicious with Spain's cured pork products because they cut through the fat and salt.

The freshness of verdejo is undoubtedly one factor in its success, as some wine drinkers look for crisp alternatives to oaked whites
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such as chardonnay. But another reason has to be price — nearly all of the wines are less than $20.

Freshness wasn't always the hallmark of wine from Rueda. The wines used to be made in an oxidized, sherry-like style. But Rioja producer Marques de Riscal arrived in the early 1970s, looking to make a white counterpart to its red wines. The winery started making fresher, fruitier wines. The style became more widespread, especially as temperature-controlled fermentation and machine harvesting — both of which help to preserve fruit flavors and minimize oxidation — became more common.

Rueda wines labeled as "verdejo" must contain at least 85 percent of that grape. Wines labeled simply as "Rueda" must be at least 50 percent verdejo; viura and sauvignon blanc generally account for the rest.

Marques de Riscal also had a hand in the arrival of sauvignon blanc. Famed French enologist Emile Peynaud, advising the winery, suggested planting a little sauvignon blanc for blending, to boost the aromas in verdejo. Sauvignon blanc also gave the region a grape to promote that was better known worldwide than verdejo. While sauvignon blanc from Rueda is OK, it's not terribly distinctive, especially compared to verdejo.

Victoria Pariente of Bodegas José Pariente agrees that sauvignon blanc doesn't offer anything unique in Rueda and that verdejo is the grape on which the area will stake its future. Her 2009 José Pariente Verdejo ($23) is lean and elegant, with green apple, lime zest and a slight herbal note.

Del Villar believes that sauvignon blanc isn't necessary for blending, either. "I think if you work the verdejo in the correct way, you do not need a little bit of sauvignon blanc," he says. His 2009 Oro de Castilla Verdejo ($14), which is all verdejo, is juicy and aromatic, with racy apple, pear, lime and lime peel notes and good length.

One reason that I wasn't bowled over by sauvignon blanc may be that I was tasting wines from the 2009 vintage, which Luis Hurtado de Amézaga, technical director at Marques de Riscal, thinks was too hot. He says the grape does well in cooler years.

Although most Rueda vineyards are in a triangle west of the town of Rueda, a pocket of vines, some of them around 100 years old, is near Segovia, in the far southeastern corner of the appellation. Viñedos de Nieva, for example, has some very old vines, planted on their own roots. Nieva's "Pie Franco" verdejo, produced from these vines, isn't available in California, but the 2009 Blanco Nieva Verdejo ($16) is also excellent, with a hint of creaminess.

Nieva, like some wineries, also produces a barrel-fermented verdejo. But the grape is easily overwhelmed by oak, and I generally prefer the unoaked versions.
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Victor de la Serna » Mon Oct 04, 2010 10:49 am

'Blockbuster' Spanish wines are fortunately beginning to ebb, as less extraction and less overt oak are finally beginning to be advanced by a new generation of terroir-driven winemakers (the successors of lab-bound oenologists). So the better wines are powerful and naturally concentrated because this is a much warmer and drier land than almost anywhere else in Europe (and the world), but heaviness is increasingly frowned upon.

Some supposed 'blockbuster producers' have actually been unfairly maligned because in reality that's not their style at all - I'm thinking of Artadi and Benjamín Romeo in Rioja, for instance.

Moving outside of Rioja and Ribera and Priorat (and Jerez perhaps, although Jerez remains far from mainstream in the US), which I guess is what Robin wants, here is a rundown of emerging regions and worthy producers:

Northwestern Spain:

Rías Baixas (white and some red): Do Ferreiro, Pazo de Señoráns, Palacio de Fefiñanes, Goliardo, Lusco.
Ribeiro: Pazo de Gomariz, Antonio Cajide Gulín, Campante, Viña Mein, José Estévez
Monterrei: Quinta da Muradella
Valdeorras: Rafael Palacios, Guitián, Joaquín Rebolledo, Godeval, Gaba do Xil, Valdesil
Ribeira Sacra: Algueira, D. Ventura, Thémera, Guímaro, Raúl Pérez
Bierzo: Raúl Pérez, Herederos de J. Palacios, Luna Beberide, Dominio de Tares, Estefanía, Gancedo, Losada
VT Cangas del Narcea: Monasterio de Corias
VT Liébana: Picos de Cabariezo
Bizkaiko Txakolina: Itsasmendi, Doniene Gorrondona
Getariako Txakolina: Ameztoi, Talai Berri, Txomin Etxaniz

Northern Spain:

Navarra: Chivite, Artazu, Nekeas, Pago de Cirsus, Camilo Castilla, Emilio Valerio
VT Queiles: Bodega del Jardín

Northeastern Spain:

Empordà: Castillo de Perelada, Masia Serra
Costers del Segre: Castell d'Encús, Cérvoles, Tomàs Cusiné
Montsant: Espectacle, Acústic, Capçanes, Joan d'Anguera, Venus La Universal
Penedès: Can Ràfols dels Caus, Colet
Terra Alta: Vins Piñol, Laureano Serres
Campo de Borja:Borsao, Alto Moncayo
Calatayud: Niño Jesús, San Alejandro, Ateca

North-Central Spain:

Toro: Maurodos, Dominio del Bendito, Teso La Monja, Pintia
VT Castilla y León: Abadía Retuerta, Mauro, Quinta Sardonia, Ossian
Rueda: José Pariente, Angel Rodríguez Vidal, Marqués de Riscal, Viñedos de Nieva,Belondrade y Lurton, Vinos Sanz, Castilla La Vieja
VT León: Dehesa de Rubiales

South-Central Spain:

Vinos de Madrid: Jeromín, Bernabeleva, El Regajal, El Rincón
Méntrida: Jiménez Landi, Canopy
VT Cebreros: Pegaso, El Reventón
VT Castilla: Vallegarcía, Calzadilla
Dominio de Valdepusa: Dominio de Valdepusa
La Mancha: Ercavio, La Plazuela, Paso a Paso

Southeastern Spain:

Terrerazo: Mustiguillo
Valencia: Celler del Roure, Rafael Cambra
Manchuela: Ponce, Altolandón, Cien y Pico
Alicante: Gutiérrez de la Vega, Enrique Mendoza, Laderas de El Sequé, Bernabé Navarro, Primitivo Quiles, Heretat de Cesilia
Jumilla: Casa Castillo, Hijos de Juan Gil
Yecla: Castaño
Almansa: Almanseñas (Adaras)
Bullas: Lavia

Southern Spain:

Sierras de Málaga: Molino Real, Jorge Ordóñez, Cortijo Los Aguilares, Friedrich Schatz
Montilla-Moriles: Pérez Barquero, Alvear, Toro Albalá

Balearic Islands:

Maciá Batle, 4 Kilos, Ànima Negra

Canary Islands:

El Grifo, Eufrosina Pérez Rodríguez, Tanajara, Viñátigo, Tacande, Monje, Los Bermejos, Carballo
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by David M. Bueker » Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:27 pm

Victor - thank you for a very useful post. I know that I am not as familiar with the "less famous" Spanish regions as I should be, so your post will be one to print and keep handy.
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Oct 04, 2010 9:21 pm

Agree, thanks Victor. Juan Gill manages some shelf space here in town along with a few other names you mention. Hope you can hang around this month!
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Joe Moryl » Tue Oct 05, 2010 11:11 pm

OK, I'll play:
2007 Mencia Joven, El Castro Valtuille, Raul Perez, Bierzo: Fairly deep purplish red, shy nose. Some plums and raspberries, set against a gravel and graphite background. Quiet, clean and well balanced but not much to get excited about either. Decent length. Some compare Mencia to Cabernet Franc, but I'm not seeing the connection here. If I were given this wine blind, I might guess cru Beaujolais from a decent year. Not bad, but I've had more interesting examples of this grape. 14.0% abv, $13.
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Stanislav Rudy » Wed Oct 06, 2010 6:36 am

Victor - very nice overview, I like it. This is exactly the way I try to go, I take advantage of every occasion to taste out of stream wines as it was the case for example of Enrique Mendoza when he visited Slovakia recently and we could taste together most of his wines. I like the wines of Miquel Gelabert from Pla i Llevant too but I do not find him on your list. Is he not at the level yet?
And why not to add your Jerez review? It is certainly not less interesting than the others are...
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Tim York » Wed Oct 06, 2010 6:47 am

Joe Moryl wrote:OK, I'll play:
2007 Mencia Joven, El Castro Valtuille, Raul Perez, Bierzo: Fairly deep purplish red, shy nose. Some plums and raspberries, set against a gravel and graphite background. Quiet, clean and well balanced but not much to get excited about either. Decent length. Some compare Mencia to Cabernet Franc, but I'm not seeing the connection here. If I were given this wine blind, I might guess cru Beaujolais from a decent year. Not bad, but I've had more interesting examples of this grape. 14.0% abv, $13.


This doesn't sound very different in flavour profile from the Perez Ultreia St-Jacques 08 (c.€8) but less lively. I like the U St-Jacques a lot and will take out my last bottle and post shortly. I too don't see the resemblance to Cabernet franc though I believe that the grapes are related. Northern Syrah is closer in taste, IMO. Beaujolais cru with a matt texture plus an additional dash of spice is not far off my memory of the Ultreia S-J 08 but Pétalos Bierzo 06 had more polish.
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Oct 06, 2010 6:48 am

Joe, nice to see you are a Bierzo fan. This is the area I am going to concentrate on this month, hope to see some more thoughts from you.
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by JC (NC) » Fri Oct 08, 2010 11:06 am

I'm starting with two that I purchased at the wineshop at Elliott's on Linden, Pinehurst. One is the very wine that Robin Garr started off with--the Penelope Sanchez.

2009 Beso de Vino Old Vine Garnacha Carinena DOC. Produced and bottled by Grandes Vinos y Vinedos, S.A. A Steve Miles Selection. Screwcap. 13.5% alcohol by volume. Under $20.
Beso de Vino means "kiss of wine" and the label has a cartoonish bull puckering for a kiss.

Darkly colored and opaque. Teases the tastebuds wtih dark berry/cherry flavors and a slightly tart backend. Leggy on the glass. I sense an oak underpinning but it does not overwhelm the fruit. I paired this with stuffed green pepper (ground beef, rice and tomato sauce) the first night and with beef tacos the next night. I think it could stand up to roast beef or lamb.

I didn't care for the 2008 Penelope Sanchez Garnacha/Syrah Tinto Joven as much as Robin may have or as much as the Beso de Vino. It was dark and opaque. I thought it tasted more full-bodied than the first wine and that some of the grip may be from oak treatment. My taste impression was of sour cherries or sour dark berries with a peppery note. Bold and a little overwhelming. I would not purchase again.
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Tim York » Fri Oct 08, 2010 3:30 pm

Bierzo, Ultreia de St. Jacques 2008 – Viñedos de Raúl Pérez (organic) – Alc.13.5% (€10), Mencía 100%.
This wine is outstanding for its purity and aromas of tangy, spicy sweet cherry, generous body and mouth-fill combined with freshness and a somewhat mat texture. Compared with my first bottle about a year ago, I think that the texture has become more polished and that there is more depth but less freshness. I hesitate to suggest that this has a better future because it is so delicious as it is. Much as I admired the Pétalos Bierzo 06 from the Palacios heirs, I prefer this for its lesser sophistication; 16.5/20 QPR!!!

Pérez is considered a star in the region and there is a waiting list for all his wines at the importer here.
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Oct 08, 2010 8:43 pm

Nice one Tim. Am looking at my `07 Peique Tinto Mencia right now, was going to open but Grill is super-booked and folks need a hand PR-ing! Its Thanksgiving here, have a nice weekend.
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Rahsaan » Sat Oct 09, 2010 11:24 am

I don't drink a lot of Spanish wine, but last night at an 'orange wine' dinner, the last bottle poured was 2008 Laureano Serres Vinyes Arrancades. I'm not sure of the exact number but we were getting close to 40 wines so you can't expect a detailed note. But it was pretty darn delicious. Juicy fruity orange fun with some freshness. And I see it is reasonably priced (low to mid $20s) so I could see myself buying and drinking it again in the right circumstances.
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Joe Moryl » Sat Oct 09, 2010 11:59 am

Tim: The Ultreia de St. Jaquees sounds a lot more interesting than the Perez Valtuille. I don't think I've ever come across that bottling here. A look on wine-sercher shows one shop carrying it (at $26!). The Perez name is attached to various wines around the north west of Spain - is he a winemaker working with various growers?
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Jenise » Sat Oct 09, 2010 12:25 pm

Great topic. If my sense of smell ever comes back, I'll pop a Bierzo: bought some a few years ago but have yet to taste one (don't accuse me of lacking patience!).
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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Victor de la Serna » Sat Oct 09, 2010 12:58 pm

The great Raúl Pérez mystery, finally unveiled in all its mind-blowing detail. Family feuds. Commercial trickery. An uncle, used and abused. Come right in and watch it unfold before your very eyes, ladies and gentlemen...


So El Castro de Valtuille by Raúl Pérez is no great shakes, but Ultreia St. Jacques by Raúl Pérez is a wonderfully pure wine, huh?

What gives?

Well, how about this fact: El Castro de Valtuille is not made by THE Raúl Pérez at all, and it's indeed a run-of-the-mill wine. It comes from a winery called Castro Ventosa in Valtuille de Abajo, which has been the Pérez family's enterprise for a long time and where a very young Raúl Pérez began making a name for himself as a gifted winemaker. But he didn't see eye to eye with everyone in his family on what the winery's qualitative aims should be, and he departed more than a decade ago to earn a living as the winemaker for a competing estate, Bodegas Estefanía, and to simultaneously develop his own tiny concern, Raúl Pérez Bodegas y Viñedos, active in several appellations. That's where his great Bierzo trilogy, the inexpensive Ultreia St. Jacques (only 6 euros a bottle in Spain, but $25 in the USA due to his high ratings!), the mid-priced Ultreia and the high-end Ultreia de Valtuille, are made.

So how come the name 'Raúl Pérez, viticultor' also appears on the labels of Castro Ventosa's wines? Well, you see, one of Raúl's uncles is also named Raúl Pérez, and, well, the family didn' have any qualms about putting his name there. He is a grower, after all, like his nephew... That was pretty cheeky. It perpetuated the myth that the ubiquitous Raúl was still involved with the family winery.

There's one added chapter: I've just heard that the Pérez family has reconciled and that Raúl (the nephew) will once again be a consulting winemaker for Castro Ventosa. So the name on the label will no longer be misleading (starting with the 2009 vintage). Frankly, they needed him. The wines haven't been very good since he left.

To give you an idea, at elmundovino.com we have just conducted two (blind) Bierzo tastings. Ultreia de Valtuille 2008 has tied for first place overall with the ultra-expensive Moncerbal Corullón 2007 by Alvaro Palacios and his own nephew, Ricardo Pérez Palacios, but overall Raúl's wonderfully pure wines have dominated. I'll just give you here the scores from real Raúl Pérez-made wines and from non-Raúl Pérez Castro Ventosa wines – they're rather revealing. (Tasting notes, in Spanish, http://elmundovino.elmundo.es/elmundovino/):

Ultreia de Valtuille 2008, Raúl Pérez Bodegas y Viñedos, 18/20
Tilenus Pieros 2002, Bodegas Estefanía, 16.5/20
Ultreia 2008, Raúl Pérez Bodegas y Viñedos, 15.5/20
Ultreia St. Jacques 2008, Raúl Pérez Bodegas y Viñedos, 15/20
Tilenus Crianza 2005, Bodegas Estefanía, 15/20
Tilenus 2009, Bodegas Estefanía, 14/20
Tilenus Pagos de Posada 2003, Bodegas Estefanía, 14/20
El Castro de Valtuille 2007, Bodegas y Viñedos Castro Ventosa, 13.5/20
Valtuille Cepas Centenarias 2006, Bodegas y Viñedos Castro Ventosa, 12/20
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Tim York

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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Tim York » Sat Oct 09, 2010 1:21 pm

Joe Moryl wrote:Tim: The Ultreia de St. Jaquees sounds a lot more interesting than the Perez Valtuille. I don't think I've ever come across that bottling here. A look on wine-sercher shows one shop carrying it (at $26!). The Perez name is attached to various wines around the north west of Spain - is he a winemaker working with various growers?


Joe, I'm wondering whether your Valtuille joven 07 has not already lost that freshness which would make all the difference. My Ultreia S-J is an 08 and still has enough freshness; I have none left so I won't be able to find out how it takes another year. I had a Valtuille 06, one notch up the hierarchy, in August and liked it a lot. Here is my TN -

Bierzo El Castro de Valtuille 2006 – Bodega Castro Ventosa, Raúl Pérez viticultor – Alc. 14% - (€19 at our local merchant but €16 at the importer) made from Mencia 100%.
It was quite full bodied and mouth-filling with lively acidity and beautifully polished fruit not dissimilar to, but slightly warmer than, those of a Northern Rhône coupled with firm tannic structure. At first I was troubled by somewhat harsh liquorice notes towards the finish (14 months of wood ageing of which one-third new) but these seemed to recede towards the bottom of the decanter; more airing leading to better balance or changed pairing – beef v goat cheese? Powerfully elegant though this is already, I guess there is further improvement potential, though Bierzo has very little track record to bear that out. 16.5/20++


I have found quite a lot of information about Raúl Pérez in our importer's catalogue. Here is a précis of it.

Castro Ventosa is his family's Bierzo estate which he quit in 2007 but he is still listed as its oenologist. Viñedos de Raúl Pérez, which make the Ultreia S-J as well as several much more upmarket cuvées, is his own Bierzo estate. He apparently has a host of other projects as owner, partner and/or consultant; here are a few -

- In the North of the Asturias, he is working with the grape variety Alvarin.
- In la Sierra de Gredos, he collaborates with Daniel Jiménez Landi to make Reventón (a suerb Garnacha).
- In Ribeira Sacra, el Pecado ( a Mencia).
- In Monterrei, he works with José Luis Mateo (Muradella) on certain wines.
- in León, he works with the variety Prieto Picudo.
- also some Albariño and Godello.

He uses organic methods in the vines and is very sparing with new wood and sulphur.

PS I hadn't seen Victor's post when submitting the above. His information about Castro Ventosa sounds much better as well a more detailed than that in the importer's catalogue. Indeed it is cheek to allow confusion between two different Raúl Pérez :shock: . The importer ought to know, though; his page on Casro Ventosa carries a photo of the famous Raúl :shock: :shock: .
Last edited by Tim York on Sat Oct 09, 2010 1:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Victor de la Serna

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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Victor de la Serna » Sat Oct 09, 2010 1:45 pm

You missed the real story, Tim... :D

Read it up here.
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Bob Parsons Alberta

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Re: Wine Focus October: Spain outside the usual suspects

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Sat Oct 09, 2010 1:50 pm

All very interesting and we have all learnt something new. I opened a Pique Bierzo last night and will post notes after finishing the bottle. I guess not many here aware of the track record of these wines so this months Wine Focus is giving us all a chance to relate......and learn. Thanks Victor for your expertise.

Anyways, here goes on my barrique aged Verdejo. This should merit some reply too I think?

WTN: `07 Real Sitio de Ventosilla PradoRey 3 Barricas, Ribera del Duero

100% Verdejo, 9 months in oak, $29 Cdn, 13.5% alc, good natural cork, interesting bottle shape. Biggest winery in region but quote "not really all that distinguished". I think oak-fermented verdejo is quite uncommon? The price is right up there, I purchased for this focus but am familiar with other PradoRey whites.

Color. Pale yellow-green.

Nose. Citrus, herbs, floral, hint of toast. Apples, minerally, "sea-shells" from across the table who added "put this alongside a Mondave Fume Blanc!".

Palate. Initial entry thought was sauvignon blanc-like, vanilla oakiness too. Short finish really lengthens with some air. Very good acidity, tart grapefruit, dry but not bracing. Restrained peach and apricot but nowhere near tropical fruit status!!
Really not sure about this style of verdejo, oh more acidity on day 2.

Sole in a cream sauce would be ideal I think, chicken scallopini was not a good idea.
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