16 May 2013

All Roads Lead to Rioja

Being lucky enough to give a wine tasting in a delicious tapas bar in Naas recently (@lasrada) I decided to go with Spanish wines. Seems kind of a no brainer or dare I say it predictable. The day that the writing and/or logic as to how and what we write on this blog becomes predictable I will personally send the Empty Glass to the proverbial farm. 

It is with great regret that I announce that The Empty Glass has been put to pasture  ... 

But really I chose the wines as I think Spain is hard done by in many respects. It produces some stunning wines that are often overlooked by the newest and cheapest Rioja Reserva. Not that I have anything against Rioja, it is one of my favourite wine styles. Spain is a country with a vast history, with a wine journey that begins with the Phoenicians and this heritage demands respect and recognition.

While we tend to focus on Rioja and Ribera, but forget about Jumilla and Priorat. It would be a shame to miss out on the window of history and culture that each of these wines and regions offer us.

The following wines were tasted on the night and are part of the O'Briens Wines portfolio, chosen to provide a snapshot into the many layers of Spain accompanied by my own scoring*;

La Rosca Cava – From Penedes in North-East of Spain, Cava has been in production since the mid 19th century. Made in the same method as Champagne with bottle fermentation and this particular example gets 18 months bottle aging. The best examples are crisp and refreshing  but have a hint of that delicious creamy texture of good Champagne without the need to pay a fortune. This wine, a blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo combine to create intense and zesty lemon rind filled palate with crisp apple fruits and a long lingering finish. Perfect as an aperitif. Score: 87

Luzon Bianco 2011 – From Jumilla in the South of Spain a region often frowned upon comes a blend of Chardonnay and Macabeo (Viura), the latter normally found in white Rioja, is incredibly complex. Rich and full to the brim with apricot and peach fruits with a hint of toast from barrel fermentation and great with roast chicken or smoked fish. Good structure and a long finish. 
Score: 89 

Protocolo 2011 – From Marcus Erugen this Tempranillo punches well above its weight, providing a huge amount of fruit and body for an introduction to the varietal of Rioja and Ribera del Duero.  From La Mancha, again a region thought of as producing bulk wine, this wine displays finesse and a distinct lack of bulkiness in the price. Intense black cherry and plum fruits are complimented by liquorice and herb. Great with chicken, chorizo, lamb or on its own. Score: 88

Sierra Cantabria Crianza 2008 – A step up from Marcus Erugen this Rioja begins to show the serious side to Tempranillo. Varietal aromas of red fruits such as strawberry and raspberry emerge with a bit of aeration and this is all enveloped in vanilla from integrated oak. Full bodied and good firm tannin, hallmarks of a well structured wine. Try with some spicy Chorizo. Score: 89

Planets de Prior Pons 2008 - Definitely the stand out wine of the night and a region I have fallen in love with. Spain's answer to Chateu-Neuf du Pape (a very similar blend) is displaying far better fruit and most importantly affordable high quality wines and this was no exception. A wine philosophy in this region is one of terroir and commitment to fruit quality, keeping yields down and the maintaining of old vines create a layered wine of red fruit compote, blackcurrant, herb, stony minerality, mocha, and vanilla. Excellent tannic structure and refreshing acidity. Elegant and bold, an iron fist in a velvet glove. Score: 91

*All of these wines are directly imported and available from O'Briens Wines who are currently running a 20% off Spain Promotion this weekend.

Some other producers of note to try get your teeth into this weekend would be;

Rioja: Muga, Conde De Valdemar, Coto de Imaz - look out for 2001, 2004 and 2005 in the Reservas and Gran reservas.

Ribera del Duero: Torres Celeste, Pruno Ribera Del Duero 

Jumilla: Luzon

Rias Baixas: Martin Codax 

Every one of the wines and wineries mentioned here show off some of the finest wines that Spain has to offer from real Rioja Reservas to the super cool and refreshing Albarino from Martin Codax Spain provides a plethora of styles and each one new discovery in what is very old world indeed. 


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