Last weekend, we had the privilege of conducting our very first wine tasting in Barcelona. Completely informal – meaning sans Power Point, sommelier cup and Ryan in a suit (and if you believe that we’ve ever conducted a wine tasting in this manner, I have a bridge to sell you) – we tasted through eight bottles of wine among six Spaniards and three Americans. It was a real treat!
What prompted the gathering was a conversation I had with a handful of teachers about our mysterious wine business that keeps me glued to the computer during my breaks at school. When I inquired of their interest in Spanish wine, I felt the pull of the Riojana bible. Yes, the insidious draw of Rioja wraps its infamous fingers around even the educated and critical thinking folk. Although intimately familiar with the notion that fabulous wine exists in all parts of Spain, the actual experience of tasting such “foreign” grapes and styles was still a novelty to them. Hence, it was suggested that Ryan and I schedule a Saturday evening to travel into Barcelona and conduct a wine tasting. Our responsibility was the wine, while they opted to each bring a Tapa to “picar” or share.
For our part, we made a brief stop into our local wine shop and bought as distinct and interesting bottles of wine that we could possibly sniff out trying to shoot for a 12 euro price point per person, giving us a 96 euro benchmark to hit (originally, we had only planned for 8). We did so for 86 euros, finding some absolutely incredible finds. v
- 2005 Pirineos Gewürztraminer, D.O. Somotano
- 2003 Dominio Tares Godello, D.O.Bierzo
- 2004 Olvena Cuatro, D.O. Somotano – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah
- 2004 Dominio Tares Cepas Viejas, D.O. Bierzo – 100% Mencia
- 1997 Rotllan Torra, D.O.C. Priorat
- 2000 Castell de Falset from Agricola Falset-Marsa, D.O.C. Priorat – Red Grenache, Tempranillo, Old Carignan Vines, Cabemet Sauvignon and Syrah
- 2005 Cava Submarinas from Vina Casanueva, Chili – 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Carmenere.
- Malvasía J.Robert, a Vino del Tierra wine from Sitges, Catalonia
Which wine were there the most votes for? Do I dare be honest? Well, albeit a little off the Iberian wine map, the Cava Submarinas was an absolutely fantastic wine! Not only was it an incredibly complex and an interesting wine, but the flavor of the deep red fruits and notes of toasted coffee and herbs continually altered and changed over the course of the tasting. As if the wine needs anything but its own fabulousness to sell it, get this, it was stored underwater! Evidently, the combination of pressure, constant temperature and filtered sunlight at a depth of approximately 30 feet create the perfect conditions to store wine.
The second favorite from the group, confirmed once again today by a text I received asking for the name of the wine, was the 2004 Dominio Tares Cepas Viejas. It has been said that few grape varieties better express the terroir of D.O. Bierzo’s calcareous clay and slate substrata than Mencia, also known as the “mineral” grape. From the comments at the table, my sense is that they would whole-heartedly agree with that statement, because not only was the nose continually commented upon for its robust aroma of cherry, chocolate and spice, but the ever-evolving palate in conjunction to its lengthy finish allowed people to have a nice contrast over some of the other more simple wines.
Finally, the third favorite was the Dominio Tares Godello. The Godello grape is one of the oldest in the Iberian Peninsula, and is one of the D.O. Bierzo’s most emblematic varieties. As is typical with almost all noble vines, it produces little for the amount of care and vigilance it requires as it embodies little resistance to disease. What made this wine intriguing was that it was tasted alongside the Gewurztraminer, allowing the fresh crisp acidity to jump out of the glass next to the sweet lychee flavors of the Gewurztraminer. Additionally, the bright pear, green apple and almond flavors paired beautifully with the Manchego cheese. Although there were a handful that preferred the Gewurztraminer over the Godello, the Godello earned points for its well-made and subtle flavors.
Upon reflection, would I have changed any of the bottles we chose for the tasting? No, I wouldn’t have. Sure, the Chilean wine won more points than any other Iberian wine, but that doesn’t translate to Chilean wine being better or worst than Iberian wine. This particular wine was outstanding and a beautiful example to this group of people that foreign wines – which are hard to come by in Spain, are worth trying and comparing to Iberian wines. Without a comparison, we can never deepen our own understanding of what we have. Additionally, I believe that several people felt as if they barely scratched the surface as to what Spanish wine is all about. The godello, mencia and carignan vines are all native to Spain, but few natives are aware of their existence. What better way to open their horizons than to actually purchase, open and taste the wine.