Tuesday, May 15, 2007

RSVP Tasting Mk. III - Spanish Reds

Wine Altos de la Hoya 2005
From Jumilla, Spain
Price $17.99 (BC Liquor Stores)
Alcohol Content 14%

Mix of 90% Monastrell and 10% Grenache. Monastrell was once thought synonymous with Mourvedre; as of this writing, the sages now have it pegged as Graciano. Whatever its heritage, this wine is close to Southern Rhone in its ambitions, though speaking with a definite Spanish accent. A peppery scent in balance with berry (raspberry?) fruit inclines you to keep your nose in the glass; dry and somewhat tannic on the palate—if the fruit lasts, balance will be extremely nice in a couple of years.

Wine Ercavio Tempranillo 2004
From Toledo, Spain
Price $20.29 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 13.5%

The grizzled veteran among our tasters commented that ‘this smells like Burgundy’. Righto—wine was aged in 1 year-old Burgundy barrels. Gamy nose skillfully straddles the borderline between gaminess and what’s usually referred to as ‘barnyard’ notes (and what an unsympathetic nose might find reminiscent of sewage) without falling in. Yummy old-world palate with a nice finish of gentle oak. A crowd-pleaser.

Wine Gos Monastrell (Bodega Juan Gill) 2004
From Jumilla, Spain
Price $13.91 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 14%

Nose reveals another trip past the barnyard without actually opening the gate, with the additional advantage that it smells like the fruit more than what was done to it. A friendly tannic finish to a mild, balanced Cotes-du-Rhone style—at a better than Cotes-du-Rhone price. Perhaps a tiny bit faceless, simply because there are a lot of other decent Spanish Grenache-Syrah combos out there these days.

Wine Joven Valdelosfrailles
From Cigales, Spain
Price $13.07 (BC Liquor Stores)
Alcohol Content 14%

Wild, semi-insane nose that the eminence grise among us described as ‘fishy’, which is pretty close to the truth, but almost beside the point. Who would want a wine to smell like this? But it’s fabulous. Not quite so impressive on the palate, but still pretty crazy: tannic, a bit acid, and almost nutrasweet-sweet. Confused, although it might be set straight by some food. ‘Earthy fecundity’ (eminence grise again) like this doesn’t often come your way for 13 bucks.

Wine Arrocal 2004
From Ribera del Duero, Spain
Price $23.48 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 14%

A couple of terms in reform school might see the winemakers of the Valdelosfrailles above turn out something like this: nose is a much saner; a more elegant class of gaminess just hinting at the pasture over the hill. Elegance and style all the way through, actually; for impressing your guests rather than laying a sink-or-swim religious experience on them. (This is the bottle everyone wanted to take home with them.)

Wine Conde de Valdemar Reserva 1999
From Rioja, Spain
Price $24.99 (BC Liquor Stores)
Alcohol Content 13.5%
Marvelous nose redefines the notion of 'gamy': usually a euphemism for the scent of an unraked dairy-barn floor, 'gamy' here actually means the smell of wild game---and game that's been hanging for a while, to boot. Why a scent like that is so fabulously attractive in a wine, was a mystery that the mere mortals present around the table had a hard time putting their collective finger on---although they were so intently maneuvering for seconds most didn't stop to ponder the question. Lovely, classic Rioja: Manly, balanced, subtle, old enough for the oak and tannin to have softened and melded into the fruit. Like late-period Clint Eastwood: an enological Bridges of Madison County.