I really love Catavino – it’s such an informative and innovative source of information on Spanish & Portuguese wines. The food of the region is key, but it’s just as vital to know about the great wines available too. This is the place to find out!
Jose Pizzaro http://www.josepizarro.com

Blends, Blends, Blends, a short unscheduled wine commentary!

GolfoSelling wine is an exercise in repetition. Regardless of the topic, every good salesman has a handful of educational tidbits sitting their back pocket, cataloged and ready for the next customer to ask them what “corked” means, or “do European wines have more sulfites”, or the fact their uncle told them that “white wine starts out red, but then extract the color” (really I’ve heard this!). Personally, I had a small library of anecdotes and analogies for when a customer attempted to explain to me some aspect of a wine or another. Today, I want to talk about one such item, blends.

People seem to, at least from my experience, believe that a blended wine is a rare thing, elusive and hard to find. Those of you reading this already know that this is not true, but humor me for a second. Blends are the lifeblood of all wines. Blending is the act that most confounds and gives value to the winemaker himself. Looking at any wine on the shelf, even a wine made from one grape, and you’re looking at a blend of wines from different parcels of land, a blend of different clonal varieties of the same grape, or more often than not, a blend of different barrels where the wine has been aged. Now, you may argue that some of these are not true blends, since they may contain the same juice, but I disagree.

Last year when I was in Portugal tasting in the Alentejo, by luck, I found myself in the middle of a winery’s final tasting of their barrels, where they hoped to create the final “blend” for their Reserva wine. Unexpectedly, I was invited to join, while they industriously took notes and murmured their thoughts as we tasted our way through what ended up to be 50+ barrels. And at first, I thought that we were tasting different wines, fermented in different ways with different varietals. It wasn’t until approximately the 5th barrel that I asked what the wines were, relinquishing my silent hope that I could eventually guess. Evidently, all five wines had been from the same vineyard, aged in the same barrels, and with the same age. I was stunned. These wines were similar in many ways, but at the same time, showed incredible variety. Needless to say, my mind expanded that day as I considered the daunting task winemaker’s face each time they make a final blend. This experience was so impressionable that now, regardless if I taste a wine that’s been blended or not, I distinctly remember this process, gratified that it’s not as simple as pouring wine in a bottle and hoping for the best.

I mention this experience because I have a few wines in front of me whose compositions are so unique that you probably won’t see them anywhere else. These are not mono-varietal wines. One is a wine with 8 grapes blended together, while the other is a white still wine with both red and white grapes. Before I reveal either of these wines, think of this: if one grape from different barrels can have many different flavors, just imagine a blend with all of them together. I know that at this point some of you may be saying, “Yeah, well blends are not that rare. Look at Bordeaux and Chateaunuef de Pape!” And you’d be right. Blends are what make wine great. While I know that a blend of Merlot clones may not truly be a blend, I liken it to a monochromatic painting, where the artist picks one tone and combines shades of it to create images. Where as true blends of 3, 4, or even 13 grapes can be vibrant tapestries with colors stretching through the whole rainbow and back. One is not better; they are just different.

Golfo7 and Golfo 8 are two wines whose blends are more expansive than most. The motivation behind Golfo is to raise money in an effort to construct a winery in Mozambique, by a group of wineries that increase by one every year. So, for Golfo 7, there were seven wineries contributing one varietal; and in Golfo 8, there were 8 different wineries contributing their perfect monovarietal wine. Each winery donates a variety of grape to put into a blend in the following proportions: 50% has equal parts of all the participants’ wines, while the remaining 50% is composed of a blend that is assembled and voted upon blind by all of the contributing winemakers. You see, each participant blends what they think is the perfect mix of wine to create that last 50%. I know it sounds confusing but it’s not. These blends then are voted on blind, and the winning mix, is what they make for that year’s Golfo.

Here’s the breakdown for the ’04 Golfo 7:
1,894 bottles produced with average US price of $80:
Participating Wineries and Variety donated to Golfo 7 and the percent of contributing wine donated from each bodega to the final blend:

Abadía Retuerta: PV ……………………………………………. 7.2%
Bodegas Ada: garnacha ……………………………………….. 17.2%
Bernabé Navarro: Cabernet Franc …………………………. 17.2%
Cillar de Silos: tempranillo……………………………………. 27%
Ribera del Duratón: Shiraz…………………………………… 17%
Chateau Tours du Pas Saint-George: Merlot ………….. 7.2%
Viña Izadi: graciano …………………………………………….. 7.2%

And for Golfo 8
1,750 bottles produced with an average US price of $80

Abadía Retuerta: PV ……………………………………………. 6.3%
Bodegas Ada: garnacha ……………………………………….. 9.8%
Bernabé Navarro: Cabernet Franc …………………………. 24.1%
Cillar de Silos: tempranillo……………………………………. 20.5%
Bodegas Marqués de Griñón: Cabernet Sauvignon ….. 6.3%
Chateau Tours du Pas Saint-George: Merlot ……………. 20.5%
Viña Izadi: graciano …………………………………………….. 6.3%
Bodegas y Viñedos Paixar: Mencía ……………………….. 6.3%

So what do they taste like? Well, they are modern and will have no problem selling out. Big, full of fruit, and in your face, and full of structure for what could be a long life.

2004 7 Golfo Vino de Mesa – Spain, Vino de Mesa

    Ryan: Deep maroonish red in color. The nose on this wine is complex and full of flavors. Spicebox, dried plums, dusty road, and liquorice core. I want to start listing fruits, but really this is a concentrated nose that could use a few hours to full open up. In the mouth this wine has the finest of the fine tannins, coating every nook and cranny, along with a fairly high acidity that helps to clean the palate and ready it for the next sip. Vanilla notes, mix with a noticeable alcohol, but with some air raspberries, cherries, and cinnamon creep in. A bit disappointed, incredibly modern wine.

    Gabriella:
    Dark mulberry in color with a big jammy bouquet of black cherries, cooked plums, raspberries, vanilla with a touch of violet. On the palate, the wine is medium bodied matched in acidity, but slightly lacking in girth. It’s relatively empty on the mid palate, making me yearn for something to fill the space. Maybe time will give it the oomph it needs. On the palate, the wine shows much of the same flavors as the nose, with less vanilla and more fruit.

2005 Golfo 8 Vino de Mesa – Spain, Vino de Mesa

    Ryan: This is a black wine with a slight tinge of red that reminds me of what’s in my glass. Dark as night! A dense nose that is meaty with a burnt oak note, tar and dried red fruits. Dusty minerals and powered spices seem to fill the air each time I swirl the glass. In the mouth this wine is full of racy acidity and powder like tannins that remain sweet and full of structure. Sweet cherry combines with clove, and light dry oak notes, so much structure though that this is a wine to age for a bit. Alcohol is noticeable though better integrated than on the “7â€Â³. A big wine, that either needs time or lots of air.

    Gabriella: The color reminds me of the drippings from a grilled medium rare steak where the reddish color is so dark, it borders on black. On the nose, I immediately pick out vanilla bean, dark spices, plum, clove, tar and mulberry. In the mouth, the wine has a medium to high acidity that cranks you awake at first sip, with medium tannins that coat the entire palate without gripping leading to a nice long red berry and spice finish. Although I find the alcohol a bit overwhelming, I think that age will mellow it out. I’d love this wine with a thick juicy steak right now!

Absum

Our next two blends come from one of my favorite regions, Somontano, in the province of Aragon. In recent years, wines from this area have really begun to shine, and if you have a chance to buy any, I would love to hear what you think. I’ve picked the following two wines from Bodega Irius: one of which is highly unusual, and the other falls more into the Bordeaux style blend with a twist. What I love about these two wines is the playful nature that the winemaker seems to have. A white wine with the following varieties is not something that you come across everyday: Chardonnay, Gewurtraminer and Pinot Noir. I remember the first time we tasted this wine, our minds went crazy. Fun, playful, full of body and a wine that both is serious enough for rich foods, and playful enough to pop open with a bag of popcorn and a movie! Not to mention, they both fall in the 13 euro price range. Hence, they are not hard on the pocket book. Although, I have to say that the red is not my favorite style, but I do like its purity of fruit and easy nature. A really simple wine, but at the same time, it’s no slouch! Enjoy our notes!

2006 Bodegas Irius Somontano Absum Varietales – Spain, Aragón, Somontano
60% Chardonnay, 25% Gewurztraminer, 15% Pinot Noir

    Ryan: Deep golden yellow color to this wine. Pineapple and banana notes are the first noticeable aromas out of the glass, but the purity and succulent nature draws me back in. Light touches of lychee, and a white flower note seem to weave within also. In the mouth the oak aging becomes apparent though not distracting. This wine is lush, with a medium strong acidity and fully dry finish, though the slightly unctuous nature seems to linger on. Very tropical in the mouth with a touch of vanilla, lots of pineapple, lychee, rhubarb and lot’s of minerals. The body on this is big enough to stand up to salmon and even some roast meats, while overall this wine is a wonderful mélange of flavors that seem to go on and on.

    Gabriella: Medium lemon in color with delicate citrus, banana, mineral and raw almond aromas. In the mouth, the wine is lush and crisp, coating the entire palate with a creamy citrus wash that gently tumbles off the tongue and lingers through a long sensuous finish. This is a fabulous wine with bold and creamy peach and grapefruit flavors, literally dancing on the palate, while showing intermittent flavors of white flowers and lychee. I’m officially addicted!

2006 Bodegas Irius Somontano Absum Varietales – Spain, Aragón, Somontano
50% Tempranillo, 35% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Syrah

    Ryan: Bright red color with a nose to match, meaning that bright red cherries seem to leap from the glass. Lightly smoke chocolate and vanilla would mingle with minerals and clove spice. In the mouth this wine is full of fine and rich tannins, with a medium to high acidity. Lot’s of vanilla here and it seems to be taking away from the first sniff of pure fruit. Notes of sweet cranberry and cherry sit second fiddle to vanilla cherry tart flavors. Fully dry it is at the end you begin to see some light touches of mint or was eucalyptus, followed by some pure sweet cherry pie flavors. I would be interested to see if this wine matures well given 5years or so.

    Gabriella:
    Dark inky red in color leading to a dense maroon red. On the nose, black cherries and black pepper immediately drift up from the glass, followed by subtle notes of charcoal, vanilla and nutmeg. In the mouth, the wine bone dry, soft and silky showing fine tannins, medium acidity and loads of vanilla. Actually, it reminds me a health shake I used to be in love with years ago, but thankfully, the flavors diminishes just enough to let the fruit show through. After awhile, this wine reminds me of cherry filled hard candy that starts delicate, but over time, becomes increasingly tart and sweet, not overwhelmingly, but enough to catch your attention. I’m hoping that time will relax both the vanilla and cherry flavors!

Cheers,

Ryan Opaz

Full disclosure Abadia-Retuerta is a client of Catavino Marketing