Terraced vines in the Ribeira Sacra
From where I sit Spanish wine is still sorting itself out.
On one hand you've got the stalwart traditionalist that make sometimes amazing, sometimes outdated, 'this-is-how-we-make-it-and-that's-that', wines. Then, on the other hand you've got the producers that have been influenced/pushed/sub-consciously driven, to make hyper-modern, overdone wines that they think taste great with their hyper-modern, over-stylized food scene they've got going on over there. Then on the other hand you've got small gang of Spanish hipsters that wish they were French hipsters, that make wine that tastes like 'anything-natural-wine', wine. Ok, so that's three hands but you get the idea...Spain has an identity situation when it comes to wine.
Tonight we're gonna attempt to sort it out, or at least taste some of the most interesting things from each of these hands...all while staying away from the extremes and focusing on what we think is good, honest and serious wine. Lopez de Heredia (the traditionalist for the purist in you), Ontanon (the old, new-comer looking to stay 'with it while not bowing to the market entirely), D. Ventura (one of the guys that helped put Mencia on the map, before the hispters got to it), and D'Anguera's biodynamic Monsant (a breath of fresh air from a place that really is going in a lot of different directions).
t's not often we get this excited for a Spanish lineup, so come out and taste some really fun new/old/hip/not-hip wines Made in Spain.
The Wines Made in Spain Lineup:
Ontanon, Vetiver Blanco, Rioja $16
We've been thoroughly impressed with the work of this semi-tradtionalist/semi-historic Rioja producer over the past several vintages. This is their viura based white Rioja, partially oak aged yet still fresh and lively. It falls squarely into the 'bang for your buck category' but is also a wine with purpose...simple yet refined enough to be serious.
2005 Lopez de Heredia, Gravonia Blanco, Rioja Alta $30
If you're familiar with Lopez de Heredia you'll be excited to try this new and always excellent vintage. If you're not yet familiar with LdH, well, it's time to change that. These guys have been doing it a long time, they were one of the original 3 historical Rioja 'houses' founded in the mid-1800's. Their cellars are deep and they've always produced what we consider the finest of the traditional Rioja's. The red's are fan favorites but the white wines are the cult hero's.
Ontanon, Rioja 'Maceracion Carbonica', Rioja $16
Here is where Ontanon pays attention. Not only do they make age worthy, stout crianza's and gran reserva's but they also make wines for the cool kids, and by that of course I mean carbonic tempranillo. They say there is an old tradition of carbonic winemaking in Rioja, which is likely half true and half story to sell this new wine they are making. Either way, this wine puts a fresh perspective on your everyday Rioja, and makes it super fun to drink. Glu-glu (Spanish for glou-glou).
D.Ventura, Pena do Lobo, Mencia, Ribeira Sacra $20
Mencia has become a hipster grape. Likely because it vaguely resembles gamay, grows in a corner of Spain no-one knows about and you can make good quantities at low prices and use some carbo-winemaking tricks to make it thirst wine. This was one of the very first wines from the Ribeira Sacra to hit the US, now many years ago. Ventura always had a vision and that was to make fun yet complex wines from his steeply terraced wines overlooking the Sil river. Slate soils, steep pitches, high acidity...a little of everything!
2005 Lopez de Heredia, Vina Cubillo, Rioja Alta $30
While LdH is most celebrated for it's single vineyard Bosconia and Tondonia red wines (in stock at the shop by the way), they also make this wine which is essentially a more youthful, less austere, yet quite serious tapas wine. Deeper in color than their other wines, broader shoulders perhaps...a bit more blunt then finesse yet it's always a favorite of ours (and yours). Supply's are always limited these days, you can thank Eric Asimov for that...
Joan d'Anguera, Altaroses Granatxa, Montsant $18
Inky, dark, smoky, potent, deep, alcoholic, dull, fruit-bomb, expensive...these are the general tasting notes for wines from Montsant (and even more so, Priorat). Bright, elegant, complete, textured, generous, plush, fairly priced...these are the tasting notes for this wine for this wine. A lovely granatxa (grenache) from the towering mountainside vineyards, farmed biodynamically, vinified naturally without pretense or fanfare. Just straight up great wine.