Editor’s Note: This is the 2nd chapter we are publishing of Valencia Land of Wine (see 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th chapter). Articles are written by Joan C. Martin, and translated by John Maher. Each story is straight from the pages of El Pais’s Valencian edition that highlights an aspect of Valencian wine history through the story of one wine. If you are enjoying the stories, you might consider buying a copy with this link:Valencia Land of Wine.
Sanfir: Lady Syrah, England Made Me
Casa del Pinar, Los Cojos (DO Utiel-Requena)
English weather has not made historically for good wine – Tacitus wrote of the inclement autumns, “The sky is overcast with continual rain and cloud, but the cold is not severe.â€1 As a consequence, the British made a virtue of necessity and became the most discerning wine consumers and connoisseurs (the list of wine-tasting sages is extraordinary: Jancis Robinson, Michael Broadbent, Oz Clarke, Jan Read, and many more). They also emerged as creators and shapers of great wine styles, such as Bordeaux, Port, Sherry and Champagne. Without British involvement these wines would lack their distinctiveness and their quality. Britons were also involved in the planting of Syrah grapes, originally from Syria and Lebanon, on the banks of the Rhone where they produce extraordinary wines. My own initiation into the mysteries of Syrah came when I was having dinner with the cigar king, Zino Davidoff, at the Lion d’Or restaurant overlooking Lake Geneva. My host recommended a Lebanese wine – ChÃ¢teau Kefraya – the purest essence of Syrah from the motherlode, the Bekaa valley. Few wines have made such an impression on me. I was seduced by the elegant yet potent blend of aromas and a wild, mature, sweet spiciness. I thought of Davidoff when I first came to taste the Sanfir crianza from Casa del Pinar. This is a small “chÃ¢teauâ€ which also incorporates some charming casas rurales. It is owned by Philip Diment and Ana Castillo, an Englishman and his Spanish wife, who moved to the Mediterranean having owned some of London’s first and finest tapas restaurants.
Production is low, 25,000 bottles of their crianza and reserva all told. The aroma is dense and combines the scent of raspberries, blackberries and blackcurrants. There are added notes of vanilla and cinnamon alongside the exquisite sweetness of mature tannins achieved by constant stirring of the lees. Maceration, in new 300- and 400-litre oak barrels, follows the best contemporary practice as carried out in the Napa Valley, Priorat and Hawkes Bay. All this brings us a red wine of rare elegance, maturity, suppleness and vigour. This is a wine which is capable of holding its own against wines of its type from anywhere in the world, as is indicated by the fact that to date all the Casa del Pinar wines that have been entered in competition have garnered awards, including bronze and silver medals in the International Wine Challenge in London.
Label: Sanfir 2001
Grapes: Syrah, Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bobal
Approx. price: €10–12
Bodega: Casa del Pinar
Address: Carretera Los Isidros-Caudete Km 7, Los Cojos, 46354 Valencia
1 Publius Cornelius Tacitus (55–117) was one of the most important ancient Roman historians. This observation is from The Life and Death of Julius Agricola, a biography of his father-in-law Agricola, Roman general and governor of the province of Britannia from 78–84 ad.