Gripping wines from Spain and Italy

Europe

How can winemaking trump terroir?
Photo: 1xpert/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Winemakers in the most famous regions of Spain and Italy have gone pro in the practicum of wine that speaks loud and clear. If there is a downside it is the blurring of lines and overlapping of circles, where regions set far apart show similar, if near identical characteristics in their wines. How does this happen? How can winemaking trump terroir?

The simple answer is wood. Barrel usage is a global affair, with wineries scouring oak forests the world over to age their wine. French oak is most used and whether you make wine in central Italy or northern Spain, the oak you employ may result in more than just the commonality of wood. If your processes are tied by similar or even identical ties, your wines may taste eerily like one another, if not outright like kissing cousins.

Despite the oligopoly of technique and the lack of winemaking individuality gone viral in this generation, there are three things that continue to work in favour of regional character. The first is obvious. Soil. Or, more importantly, the components, the rocks and minerals that fleck the earth. Secondly, attitude. Call it conceit if you like but when a winemaker has the guts to make wines we like to call grippy, you can’t help but stand up and take notice. Third and so important to the consumer, is price. Spending $15-30 on wines from the most historic locales such as Burgundy and Bordeaux is almost always nonsensical and a waste. No where else in the world offers grip, pomp and pride like Spain and Italy and in that go to mid-price range.

A pentavalent and benevolent group fits this requiem for commercial gain. Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat from Spain. Chianti and Abruzzo in Italy. A Venn diagram of commonality can be agglomerated from their proclivities. It is in these fab five Old World wine regions where a twain of ancient and state of the art collide. Here are seven gripping wines from Spain and Italy.

From left: CEPA 21 HITO 2010, ÉBANO CRIANZA 2008, and RESALTE DE PEÑAFIEL PEÑA ROBLE RESERVA 2004

From left: CEPA 21 HITO 2010, ÉBANO CRIANZA 2008, and RESALTE DE PEÑAFIEL PEÑA ROBLE RESERVA 2004

Ribera Del Duero

The history: Located in north-central Spain, on a plateau, 90 minutes from Madrid. Ribera, or “river bank,” extends from both sides of the Duero. The Denominación de Origen (D.O.) of Ribera del Duero dates back to 1982.

The lowdown: Highest average elevation in Europe for growing red wine grapes. Summers are hot, winters are cold, rainfall is minimal. Lower vineyards are alluvial with sand and reddish clay. Higher ones built of limestone, marl and chalk. Tempranillo in the main grape. Finest recent vintages include 2004, 2009 and 2012.

CEPA 21 HITO 2010, Ribera Del Duero, Spain (360503, $17.95, WineAlign)

Oh the shaken, modern humanity. Nothing shocking here, this 100 per cent Tempranillo parfait of silky chocolate, mixed berries, vanilla and wood chips. Finds parity in biting red cherry flavour. Though it may as well be any ambiguous, heterogeneous or hermaphroditic $30 IGT, its price puts it at the front of the line. Fun to drink, high-toned, textured and structured, though its origins are not at once obvious. Will evolve felicitously for five to seven years.  89  Tasted December 2013  @DrinkRibera

ÉBANO CRIANZA 2008, Ribera Del Duero, Spain (355099, $21.95, WineAlign)

Amid a sea of Spanish reds, this Ribera stands alone as the most modern on the table. Dusty, trenchant dark chocolate, mocha crema, thick, syrupy, rehydrated plum fruit. Accented by both white and black pepper, anise and a late lash of astringent tannin. Abrasive as a pleading Waits croon, this Crianza is “better than a cup of gold. See only a chocolate Jesus can satisfy my soul.” Another Ribera with qualities akin to present day, Sangiovese dominated Chianti Classico. Immaculate confection.  89  Tasted December 2013  @EuroVinatage

RESALTE DE PEÑAFIEL PEÑA ROBLE RESERVA 2004, Ribera Del Duero, Spain  (355107, $31.95, WineAlign)

Typically modern version with just the right amount of age. Interesting to see nearly 10 year-old Ribera, with so much obvious oak and modernity retain its fruit lushness and presence after such a chunk of time could have stripped away its freshness. Candied violets and pansy, peppery nasturtium and marble slab, rocky road ice cream. Oak nearly integrated but persistent in chalky texture. Confounding bareback ride on a wild 100 per cent Tempranillo horse that bucks as if Bordeaux or Rhône varieties would seem to bolster the whole.  90  Tasted December 2013

From left: CIRELLI MONTEPULCIANO D'ABRUZZO 2012, CASTELLO DI QUERCETO CHIANTI CLASSICO 2011, PLANETS DE PRIOR PONS 2009, and ONTAÑÓN RESERVA 2004

From left: CIRELLI MONTEPULCIANO D’ABRUZZO 2012, CASTELLO DI QUERCETO CHIANTI CLASSICO 2011, PLANETS DE PRIOR PONS 2009, and ONTAÑÓN RESERVA 2004

Abruzzo

The history: Central Italy, stretching from the heart of the Apennines to the Adriatic Sea.

The lowdown: Mostly mountainous and wild terrain. The four DOC produced in Abruzzo are the Contro Guerra, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane. Montepulciano is the most planted red variety. Finest recent vintages include 2006, 2009 and 2010.

CIRELLI MONTEPULCIANO D’ABRUZZO 2012, Abruzzo, Italy (663939, $17.95, WineAlign)

Winemaker superstar to be Francesco Cirelli does what more should do. Age organic grapes of purity and pristine quality in clay Amphore. The natural empathy and wisdom of crop rotation (for more than just grapevines) drives the logic and proportion of Cirelli’s wines. This Md’A smirks and balks at thoughts of it as entry-level, though it concedes to the moniker ’poster child’. From 15 year-old vines set in sandy clay soils near Atri in the Colline Teramane zone. The fruit is like raspberry felt, lifted, spritely, gregarious and inviting. The wine never plunges into bitterness, nor does it depend on any crutch to remain upright and weightless.  90  Tasted September 2013 and January 2014  @TheLivingVine

Chianti

The history: In central Tuscany. The two Chianti zones, Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), produce the largest volume of DOC/G wines in Italy.

The lowdown: Chainti Classico must have a minimum 80 per cent Sangiovese, the main variety of the region. Other indigenous grapes include Canaiolo and Colorino, bur Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are also used. Soils vary from marl of layered sandstone, to chalk and clay, blue-grey sandstone and clay-limestone. Finest recent vintages include 2006, 2007 and 2011.

CASTELLO DI QUERCETO CHIANTI CLASSICO 2011, Tuscany, Italy  (680496, $22.95, WineAlign)

Heather meadow Sangiovese, emotive of old school Chianti Classico aromas, notably tea, new leather and sour cherry. Texturally succulent and lush, like mini-modern Sangiovese Grosso. Nearly syrupy and 90′s-styled by a heavy-handed, wood-soaked guilty conscience. The kind of CC to “waste away the weekend with perfect regard for how cavalier we used to be.”  89  Tasted December 2013  @ChiantiClassico  @ProfileWineGrp

Priorat

The history: In Catalunya, northeast Spain. The most recent regulations of the DOQ were defined in 2006.

The lowdown: Dominated by hillside vineyards with poor soils, the dark slate called Licorella and low-fielding old vines. Garnacha and Carinena are the most planted, but also international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Finest recent vintages include 2004, 2009 and 2012.

PLANETS DE PRIOR PONS 2009, Priorat, Spain, (314559, $24.95, WineAlign)

Clearly contemporary, voluptuous Garnacha blend, in symmetry with foil Carinena, In support are small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon (10 per cent), Merlot (five) and Syrah (five). Chalk, grain and chocolate intensity, scents of dusty mulberry, menthol tobacco, eucalyptus and licorice. Works its international styling to great effect, if a bit heavy, woody and hollow up the middle. Lags just behind the stellar 2008 and yet this ’09 will have many a follower. Just a bit more structure would make it a prize.  89  Tasted December 2013

Rioja

The history: In northern Spain, on both sides of the River Ebro. The oldest Designation of Origin in Spain (DOCA), established in 1926.

The lowdown: Confluence of Atlantic and Mediterranean climates, with soils ranging from chalky-clay, to ferrous-clay and alluvial. Tempranillo is the most planted (red) grape. Finest recent vintages include 2005, 2005, 2010 and 2011.

ONTAÑÓN RESERVA 2004, Rioja, Spain (725895, $25.95, WineAlign)

The animal that is an ’04 Rioja Reserva is a VINTAGES darling. Here is yet another example in a long line-up spread out over several months of releases. 2004 palate fatigue should certainly have set in but for this youthful yet learned Ontañón. The dichotomy is not lost with much wood to be nosed though it’s neither abstruse nor resinous. More like a smoking cedar plank beneath the rendering weight of a slow-roasting porcine slab. Tangy cherry, sour plum and really stretched length. Mineral finish. Brillo Tempranillo with a touch of Graciano.  91  Tasted December 2013  @TandemSelection

Good to go!

The hunt for red October wine

Photo courtesy Kiowaman

as seen on canada.com

With the ides of October nearly upon us and cold winds blowing stronger out of the great white north, wine thoughts turn simply red. I’ve no plans to re-create the ancient Roman practice of the October Horse but I do intend to sacrifice a few slumbering bottles from the cellar. After all, there’s no point holding back the years.

Caution horses be weary you don’t crack open too many, not quite ready, aging wines. In order to defend that cellar, now is the time to get on the horse and pursue current release, bold bottles to fortify against the chill of impending inclement weather. Here are five rich reds to look for this coming weekend.

Related – VINTAGES October 13th, 2012 Release

redoctwines1 The hunt for red October wine

The grape: Petit Verdot

The history: Used in smallish quantities to round out Bordeaux blends. Has for more than a decade appeared as a single varietal species in Australia and now more recently, here in Chile

The lowdown: Something other varietal by way of Lontué Valley, a wine-producing sub-region of the Curico Valley, in the center of Chile

The food match: Chicken Liver Paté, french baguette, maldon salt

Korta Barrel Selection Reserve Petit Verdot 2010 (296608, $14.95,) like Carmenère pours a glass of tar and toast but here sidesteps green bell pepper and herb stem. In fact, this PV is  so polished the grape needs no blending as it is both the wine’s anchor and sail. Achieves a ripe fruit/briny olive dichotomy, where la figue meets les Lucques and la mûre connects with les Picholines88

The grapes: Carinena, Garnacha and Syrah

The history: Montsant lies in the province of Tarragona, forming a horseshoe around it’s more famous neighbour Priorat

The lowdown: Produced By The Can Blau Estate out of Catalunya, don’t expect a re-working of the wheel, but for the price at the gate, go to the show

The food match: Grilled Lamb Chops, mint, rosemary, garlic, olive oil

Bula 2009 (292094, $17.95, SAQ 11666852, $19.00) trots out of the stable of new wave Montsant blends at a lope. Poised, purposed and purple pretty. Ligneous influence to anodyne effect in coffee liqueur. Smooth and blended until everything has agreed to become red wine. Waves of flavour and makes evident that textural reconsideration can be your best friend.  89

Photo courtesy Kiowaman

The grape: Sangiovese

The history: Tuscany defined, Sangiovese is Chianti to the core

The lowdown: Make no mistake. Castello di Fonterutoli is going full throttle, international styling here and it’s just so damn irresistible

The food match: Braised Beef Short Rib Croquette, sangiovese jus

Mazzei Ser Lapo Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 (288530, $24.95) may cause intellectual and physical moiety due to a bold, morning mug of mocha driven, piazza juice but I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating biscotti. Say what you will but the Lapo displays a striking, Italianate, strada strut. A wine expansive and adorned as if she were the duchessa of an embellished palazzo90

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Burgundy’s heartbreak grape found true love in the Willamette Valley but Umpqua Valley is something other

The lowdown: Not fully tested southern climate for Pinot in Oregon increases the subtlety and  intrigue factors

The food match: Smoked Duck Confit, bliny, fig jam

Brandborg Bench Lands Pinot Noir 2008 (295238, $28.95) is bred from a locale not known for its speed out of the gate but when she spooks, she can pass any horse in the ring. Base and natural like bare hands and feet grazing the pasture. Cinnamon heart candy red and spice meets herbal, licorice twizzler. Perfect libation for the bright lights, social hour. “A festival every week, if this is what you seek.”  90

The hunt for red October wine. Photo courtesy Kiowaman

The Splurge

The grape: Tempranillo

The history: The greatest expression of the grape has to be in Spain’s Ribera Del Duero, bar none

The lowdown: Alejandro Fernández may be the wine world’s greatest unsung hero. His “basic” Crianza wines can age beautifully for 10-15 years. The Reservas? Forget about it

The food match: Braised Beef Brisket, caramelized onion, tempranillo gravy

Tinto Pesquera Reserva 2008 (323345, $39.95) ramps up the garriga tierra quotient. Savoury and spicy, flanked by chalky, grainy tannin and a pulchritudinous, primordial tobacco aroma that tendrils around, as tobacco smell will. Sickle hocked, over at the knee, toes in. Inviolable Tempranillo.  92

Good to go!

Bodegas Roda – Raven of Rioja

Mideastro Yorkville

Mideastro Yorkville

 April 17, 2012

Mideastro, 27 Yorkville Ave, 416.477.2427, Chef Benny Cohen

http://wp.me/p1N3EI-cvj

The Spanish Wine Society and Halpern Enterprises precipitated a four-course, eight-wine pairing by way of Chef Cohen and Bodegas Roda. Chef”s Italian/Israeli/Mediterranean inspired fusion holds food sacred to stimulate the brain. Plates as Modigliani canvas, sauces of the fruitful earth, proteins enriched deeply by herb and flora. Bodegas Roda matches the culinary caws with wines possessed of stunning clarity, consistency and the subtlest of variance from the lowly Sela through to Roda’s Unico challenger, the Cirison. For Agustín Santolaya, playing winemaker at Roda must be a dream, like Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe. Here his wines one through eight, including two from Ribera del Duero (Corimbo and Corimbo 1), all Malena Costa beauties of viscous, long-legged concentration. Barcelona FC’s Carles Puyol is likely drowning his sorrows in a Roda vertical after this past weekend’s crushing loss to Real Madrid and the fading memories of his one time, raven-haired, Mallorcan model girlfriend.

Loud shout out to Doble B, the Marxist (as in Brothers) Spanish Wine Society maestro Barry Brown for an afternoon tasting at the Yorkville eatery. Roda’s eight great were presented dissertation style by the Bodega’s Export Manager, Gonzalo Lainez. Later that evening by member’s invitation, in flights, as guest to my liege AZ for comida and comedia.

Bodegas Roda at Mideastro

Bodegas Roda at Mideastro

 

Confit Quail, watermelon, spinach, red onion, with a light touch of ruby grapefruit vinaigrette and wild oregano, dauro olive oil

  1. Sela 2009 ($34) the new kid on the Roda of Haro block combines Hibiscus spiced charcoal, tar and roses from 89% Tempranillo with sherry, scented, savoury caramel apples of 11% Graciano. Gracious me.  88
  2. Corimbo, La Horra 2010 ($41) of ever red catholic fruit and pine tar migrates to a spice of an exotic edge. Floral and radiant Riberan of indeterminate florescence. High tide of Caribbean funk and vanillin fudge.  100% Tempranillo.  89 

 

Roasted Veal Sirloin, three colour potato, vermouth porcini jus

  1. Roda Reserva 2006 ($56) aligns velveteen, well-rounded Garnacha with smokey Tempranillo and thoughtfully astringent Graciano. Adds up to a promising future because at present this may be the most backward wine of the lot.  Shut down line built for a long playoff run.  91
  2. Roda Reserva 2007 ($51) the pensieve of reductive tomato and juiced violets has the most tang for the buck. Flirts with the vermouth porcini jus at night and runs away with the veal.  90

 

Tempranillo Braised Lamb Cheek, pomegranate risotto, zucchini papardelle, aubocassa olive oil

  1. Roda 1 Reserva 2005 ($90) is a tale of two bottles. First one slightly oxidized, second absolutely stunning. Mr. Lainez’s commentary, “fruit must play a prominent role and the oak is supporting actor” is evidenced by this ’05. Acidity and freshness incarnate.  93
  2. Roda Reserva 1 2006 ($80) like its ’06 brethren exemplifies the anthropomorphic personification of the vines polymer. Sweeping tannins on the loose, hexagonal, hooked tongue and cheek. A local anaesthetic in the mouth, syrupy, needing carne 92
  3. Cirison 2009 ($292) according to Gonzalo is “the best wine we have ever made.” Impeccable balance, perfect polymer, fruity, smooth. “The ultimate Tempranillo,” says Roda man. Whereas the rest of the portfolio are rotating single vineyard entities, the Cirison is made from the best bunches of grapes from Roda’s holdings. Expensive, refined, delicious.  94

Assortment of Artisan Spanish Cheeses, manchego, picón, mahon

  1. Corimbo 1 2009 ($80) is sweet thistle pie. A cracker jack Tempranillo and nothing but Tempranillo. Candy coated with red licorice and an inexplicable apple flower sensation as if molecular gastronomy of the Ferran Adrià or Heston Blumenthal kind. Exotic and spicy, seeing through me, it “knows my name but calls me ginger.”   95

 

 

Good to go!

Family Day, Snow Forts and Sangiovese

It appears frozen but the lake likewise tempts as a precarious proposition. Look out and note just one (who is that guy?) ice hut, a solitary walking man and (thankfully) no snowmobiles.  Chewing repeatedly on the cud of weary winter thoughts has become this coming vintage’s obsession. Yet for one glorious weekend a foot of snow falls, the temperature hovers around a degree of perfection and the sun cozily kisses rosy-cheeked faces.  The family fortifies the wood garrison with brandy spirits. Pardon me, that was the Port. The fort is buttressed with more fallen branches. Best of all, packing snow is available so we fashion a brick house. “Mighty mighty, just lettin’ it all hang out.”

CASTELLARE DI CASTELLINA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2006 (508507, $26.95) was released through VINTAGES back on June 12, 2010. A CC Riserva that resides in my wheelhouse and rings my bottiglia bell. This unassuming yet infamous winery first entered my Sangiovese psyche when I tasted the ’90 Riservas (including the wonderful SV Il Poggiale) with the proprietors’ daughter in their tasting room back in the summer of ’95. The price here is perfect; it’s over $30 US in Europe and very little is shipped to the States. Now fully resolved, suspended in mellow sanguis Jovis animation, plums floating in a cloud of vanilla hinted cream foam. The afternoon sun lighting up the face of an exhausted and content child laying down in the snow after a day of  igloo construction.  90

BODEGAS ALEJANDRO FERNANDEZ TINTO PESQUERA CRIANZA 2007 (341461, $27.95) sold through at VINTAGES beginning on November 13, 2010. Fernandez does Tempranillo in the Ribera del Duero like no one else. While Parker’s Pesquera moniker from 1985 “the Petrus of Spain” may have been hyperbole, the lively and silky quality of this campesino Crianza never disappoints. My vertical goes back to 2001 and I find myself pining for a Pesquera on every visit to the cellar. Baking spices are a common aroma denominator and like Ridge‘s noticeable Draper “perfume” there is always a distinct Pesquera “bouquet.”  The wine is now showing Crimson and Clover, “over and over.” It is beginning to change colour, like maples in October. Also sugaring, as after a few hours in the kettle in March.   91

PETRA ZINGARI TOSCANA IGT 2008 (224228, $13.95) from the VINTAGES August 6, 2011 release deals value in quarto from varietals Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot. An unusual blend from the Maremma coast for sure but throw me down in the snow if it isn’t unmistakably Tuscan. Iron, leather, pure snappy, fennel fruit and tannic tang are all there. Primary yes, but what more can you ask from $14? Held up 24 hours later for a second go round.  88

 

 

Good to go!