Friday, May 10, 2019

Super Premium Spanish Wines, Including A $2500 Bottle

I recently attended a tasting of outstanding Spanish wines, where the emphasis was on 'delicacy', not something automatically associated with Spanish wines. I will report here on the Mencia wines, and the wines from Priorat and Rioja. The tasting was set up in such a way that a top-level blended wine was shown first, followed by some single vineyard wines, which the Spanish only recently started to emphasize.

Mencia is a grape variety grown in the northwestern part of Spain. It derives from Portuguese varieties. It has a reputation for light and diluted wines, but more serious wines have recently been made, with great success. The 2016 DJP 'Petalos' from Bierzo is one of the leading blends. It is very attractive wine, based on red cherry flavours with good intensity, great length and a dry finish (93 points). The two single vineyard wines were from Valdeorras. The 2015 Telmo Rodriguez 'As Caborcas' Vineyard wine is a bit lighter and delicate, with enticing sea-spray and spice flavours (93 points). The 2015 Telmo Rodriguez 'Falcoeira' Vineyard wine is more generous, with a bigger mouthfeel, sea-spray again on an elegant texture, and a balanced finish (94 points).

The blended Grenache from Priorat is the 2017 Blai Ferre Just 'Billo'. This is a medium-bodied wine, raspberry the dominant  up-front fruit flavour, but not overpowering, delivering an elegant and balanced structure with a dry finish (93 points). Next is the 2015 Blai Ferre Just 'Desnivell' Vineyard Grenache. Apart from raspberry fruit, there are also blue fruits here - a very drinkable wine (92 points).

The highlight of the tasting arguably were the two wines of Alvaro Palacios. The 2015 'Finca Dofi' shows quite a light colour, which translates onto the palate, but the intensity grows quickly, a bit like an iron fist in a velvet glove. The raspberry flavours are matched by savoury notes (94 points). The famous 2015 L'Ermita is quite a fascinating wine. The colour is light as well. This is a very smooth wine, dancing on your tongue. It has been described as liquid poetry. The subdued fruit lays bare the complexity of this wine, from orange rind to slate minerality. A little sweetness completes the satisfying mouthfeel (96 points). 

Is this wine worth $2500 per bottle? First, why does it cost so much? Yes, the yield is low, and the handling is very detailed and specific, but the main reason is that the fruit comes from a 1ha property. So scarcity drives the price. For a case of 12 bottles, you get a decent car. The wine is gone in 12 nights, but the car lasts years. Ok, I am comparing luxury with utility, but it is hard to make a rational case for it. As there is very little going around, the winery is not relying on rational decision-making; so it all works out.

The Rioja blend is the 2016 Alegre & Valganon Tempranillo-Garnacha. This is an odd blend. The wine has some depth, but is not complex; an easy drinking style with a little sweetness (90 points). The 2016 Alegre & Valganon 'La Calleja' Vineyard Tempranillo is a light to medium-bodied wine. The wine has good drive on the back of its red cherry fruit, but is a little harsh on the finish (90 points). A more interesting wine is the 2016 Alegre & Valganon 'Bahiarra' Field Blend. Field blends are all the rage in Portugal, but this is good, too. The wine has a darker colour, which translates into darker fruit, mainly black cherry, on the palate. The texture is very harmonious (93 points). 

The two best Rioja wines were the 2016 Sinodo Viticultors 'Los Tollos' Tempranillo, and the 2015 Telmo Rodriguez 'Tabuerniga' Tempranillo. The former impressed with its complex fruit flavours and superb elegance, before finishing light (95 points), the latter was a bigger wine with complex fruit and earthy flavours, wound together for a satisfying mouthfeel (94 points).     


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