Where is Segre?
If you're ever feeling daunted by the complications that make wine both difficult and fun, here's news that may or may not make you feel better: Sometimes even the alleged experts have to look things up.
So it was for me the other day, when I walked into a local wine shop and found this hearty red wine being poured from a bottle with a horizontally striped label that looks a bit like a rugby shirt.
<I>Segre</I>? Where in the heck is <i>that</i>?
I had to turn the bottle around and read the fine print to get the full name of the region - Costers de Segre ("Segre Hills") - before I could dig the details out of Hugh Johnson's <i>Pocket Wine Book</i>
and Jancis Robinson's <i>Oxford Companion to Wine</i>
A quick glance at those two primary references - once I knew to look under "C" and not "S" - and we've pin-pointed Segre on the map of Spain. A small and relatively recent Denominacion de Origen ("denomination of origin, abbreviated "DO"), Segre incorporates three or four separate spots in the arid inland mountains of Catalunya, generally just north of the more well-known Priorat, maybe an hour's drive west of Barcelona.
Named after a small river of the region that flows into Rioja's Ebro, Segre is a place of climate extremes by Mediterranean standards, where rainfall is scant and temperatures can range from below freezing to 100F.
Most of the common Spanish wine grapes are grown there, along with traditional French wine grapes, and today's featured wine - produced by the wine maker Tomás Cusiné, whose family makes the more familiar Catalunyan wine Castell del Remei - incorporates quite a few of them. Named after the village in which the wine is made, <B>Vilosell 2004 Costers del Segre Red Wine</b> is a blend of 50 percent Tempranillo ("Ull de Llebre" in Catalan), 26 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 percent Merlot, 9 percent Grenache "Garnatxa") and 5 percent Syrah. It's fermented in tanks but then sees nine months in French oak.
It comes across as fruit-forward and powerful, but in fairness, this appears to be a trademark of the region and the fruit. Old World earthiness and minerality clearly bespeak its Spanish heritage; it's not just another anonymous international-style fruit bomb.
<table border="0" align="right" width="165"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/vilo1114.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Vilosell 2004 Segre Red Wine ($15.99)
This Catalan red from wine maker Tomás Cusiné is made in the relatively new wine region Costers del Segre in Northeeastern Spain not far from Priorat. It's a very dark reddish-purple color with a garnet edge. Plum and black cherries add a hint of barnyard and a whiff of oak in a complex aroma. Fruit-forward flavors blend cherry cordial and sharp acidity, with more subtle earthy minerality, restrained oaky vanilla and perceptible tannins in the background. Warm and long, it seems a little more alcoholic than the advertised 13%, and it leaves a bit of gritty sediment in the bottom of the glass and bottle. U.S. importer: European Cellars LLC, Charlotte, N.C.; an Eric Solomon Selection. (Nov. 14, 2006)
<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> This robust red would go well with red meat or sharp cheese; its blend of fruit and earth with good acidity made it a fine match with a golden chanterelle risotto with pancetta and prosciutto.
<B>VALUE:</B> While there's no complaint about this wine's value in the middle teens, it's worth shopping around, as retail price points seem to vary unusually widely, from around $11 to $18.
<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> Abundant fruit and tannins suggest some aging potential, although the relatively heavy early sediment may caution against long-term cellaring.
<B>Segre</B> = "<I>Seh-gray</I>"
<B>Vilosell</B> = "<I>Vee-loh-sell</I>"
You'll find a detailed spec sheet on Tomas Cusine's two Catalan reds on the importer's Website. This link downloads a PDF document
; you'll need the Adobe Reader to view it.
<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Search for vendors and check prices for Vilosell on Wine-Searcher.com