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Posts Tagged ‘Castilla y León

Spain 2, Australia 1

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Didn’t set out to do a Vintrinsec-only flight but that’s how it ended up. Is the agency cornering the Mencia market in Quebec?

McLaren Vale 2016, Mencia, The Anthropocene Epoch, D’Arenberg ($29.90, 13491136)
Australian Mencia. Who knew? Apparently, this is the first vintage of the wine. 100% Mencia. The grapes are hand-picked and vinified on a parcel-by-parcel basis. The grapes are gently crushed and placed in fermentation vats. About two-thirds of the way through fermentation (with selected yeasts), the grapes are foot-trod, then basket-pressed and transferred to old French oak barrels for nine months. Reducing sugar: 2.7 g/l. 14% ABV. Screwcapped. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
Outgoing nose of plum skin, berries, slate, herbs, black pepper, beef fat and clay. Full-bodied but not galumphing, dense with ripe fruit but not a bomb. Clean and dry, with soft tannins, freshening acidity and a flavour not that far from cherry cola. Good finish that gains wood notes as the wine warms and breathes. A shade less minerally than the other wines in the flight but respectable nonetheless. (Buy again? When looking for a crowd-pleaser to pour at a classy backyard barbecue, sure.)

Bierzo 2014, Gus, Raúl Pérez ($26.10, 13354457)
Rockstar winemaker Pérez named an earlier entry-level cuvée Dargo, after a pet dog. This cuvée is named after one of his cats. 100% Mencia from organically farmed 70-year-old vines. Matured 12 months in neutral French oak barrels. Reducing sugar: 1.6 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
Red and black licorice, slate and a touch of volatile acidity lending a vinyl note (a second bottle opened a few days later was pristine). A medium-bodied, fluid mouthful of juicy fruit (black raspberry, mainly) and dark minerals. Alive with acidity and firmed by smooth tannins. Credible energy and depth. Faint vanilla and char notes emerge on the finish. Not quite the equal of the long-ago Lalama but about as good a Mencia as you’ll find for the price. (Buy again? Yes.)

Ribeira Sacra 2016, Joven, Mencia, Adegas Guímaro ($21.00, 12752533)
Mencia (90% with five percent each of Caiño Tinto and Sousón, all from organically farmed vines in various parcels with soils ranging from granite to slate and sand. Manually harvested. The lots are fermented separately by soild type. About three-quarters of the harvest is destemmed; the remainder is left in whole clusters. Cold-macerated six days. Fermented 20-30 days with indigenous yeasts, half in tanks and half in foudres. Matured six months in tanks on the lees. Unfiltered. Cold-stabilized. Fined with egg whites. Added sulphur is kept to a minimum. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
Bretty nose of tomato paste, red and black berries and slate. Medium-bodied. fruit-forward and fleet, due in no small part to the bright acidity. The juicy fruit is undertoned with minerals and overtoned with herbs. Light tannins provide an appealing rasp. Finishes long and clean on a spicy note. Nothing profound but honest, drinkable and affordable. (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG March 9th tasting: flight 4 of 5

Written by carswell

May 9, 2018 at 11:25

Toro solo

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Toro 2015, 4mil cepas, Cuatro Mil Cepas ($24.95, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Founded in 2008 by 11 friends, the estate now comprises 7.5 hectares in three plots in the Toro DO. It also makes wine in the Sierra de Salamanca PDO. I’ve not succeeded in finding any information about this bottling, which is 100% Tinta de Toro (aka Tempranillo) and comes from sustainably farmed vines. It is probably fermented in stainless steel tanks and matured in barrels (likely a mix of American and Hungarian oak). 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.

Black and red fruit, old wood, graphite, sandalwood, Chambord, leafmould. Full-bodied. The flavour is a mix of ripe but not jammy fruit and a layer of spicy but unaggressive oak. Firm yet pliable tannins and sleek acidity confer a velour-like texture. Balanced, fluid, long. Young but delicious and delivering high QPR. If in the mood for an affordable, oak-inflected Toro, this will do just fine. (Buy again? Not really my style but if it’s yours, go for it.)

WMG September 14th tasting: flight 8 of 9

Written by carswell

November 5, 2017 at 09:33

Three Bierzos from Raúl Pérez

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Bierzo 2013, Ultreia St-Jacques, Raúl Pérez ($25.95, 12331835)
A Mencia-dominated blend with Bastardo (aka Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (aka Alicante Bouschet) from organically farmed vines in a five-hectare, clay-soiled vineyard planted in 1900 to 1940 in Valtuille de Abajo. Manually harvested. Fermented (80% whole clusters) in large oak vats. Maceration lasts between two and five months. Matured in 225- and 500-litre barrels, foudres and cement tanks. Unfiltered and unfined. Reducing sugar: 2.1 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
Umami-ish nose of slatey plum, blackberry, spice, “bay leaf,” “sumac,” “blond tobacco,” India ink. Medium-bodied and supple-surfaced with clean fruit, fine tannins, streaming acidity and an underlay of minerals and old oak. The persistent finish is complexed by a light astringency and bitterness, while leaf mould lingers. A little too dark and weighty to be a vin plaisir but sharing that genre’s qualities of being straightforward, accessible and delicious. (Buy again? Yes.)

Bierzo 2014, Vico, Raúl Pérez ($40.25, 12335035)
Also available as part of a recent Cellier operation for 25 cents less ($40.00, 13193761). 100% Mencia from dry- and organically farmed 80-year-old vines in Valtuille de Abajo. Soil is sandy with small river stones. Manually harvested. Fermented (30% whole clusters) and macerated for 60 days. Matured 11 months in third-fill, 300-litre French oak barrels. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
Complex nose of gingerbread, black pepper, “grape cola,” “Brio Chinato,” slate and balsam fir. Denser and more structured than the Ultreia but even more Burgundian in texture. The remarkably pure fruit is deepened by minerals, structured by fluent acidity and firm but round tannins. The finish is long and savoury. Young and a little monolithic though accessible with a few hours’ carafing. Would be interested in seeing how this tastes in ten or 15 years. A second bottle – opened (by mistake) and immediately recorked 26 hours beforehand – paired deliciously with braised lamb. (Buy again? Yes.)

Bierzo 2013, La Poulosa, La Vizcaina, Raúl Pérez ($54.25, 12332264)
Mencia (90%) and Garnacha Tintorera (aka Alicante Bouschet, 10%) from dry- and organically farmed vines planted in 1940 and rooted in the clay and river stone soil of the two-hectare La Poulosa vineyard in Valtuille de Abajo. Fermented (80% whole clusters) in large oak vats. Total maceration time: 60 days. Matured 12 months in 225-litre used French oak barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
Wood and leather then smoke, spice and plum then blackberry cordial. Medium- to full-bodied and beautifully structured. A wine with every dimension, including unplumbable depth. The alcohol is well integrated; indeed, the wine is quite fresh, with that balsam note appearing once again. Dark minerals last well into the long finish. Needs five or 10 years but has the potential and balance to convince you it will only improve with age. (Buy again? Yes.)

A flight that made less of an impact than I expected it would. I suspect that’s partly because the wines were young and partly because of what I call the Chianti effect: that, like many Chiantis, these are wines that show better in the dining room than in a tasting room. Before the tasting, the winemaker’s cult status had me worrying that the wines – especially the Poulosa and the second flight’s La del Vivo – would be Parkerized overachievers but they were anything but. They may be a little pricey but their quality is undeniable. Pérez is obviously someone to keep an eye on.

MWG February 17, 2017, tasting: flight 6 of 6

Written by carswell

March 13, 2017 at 14:53

Two Galicians and an ugly duckling

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Ribeiro 2014, Coto de Gomariz ($26.95, 13075554)
A blend of Treixadura (70%), Albariño (10%), Godello (10%) and Loureiro (10%) from biodyanmically and organically (non-certified) farmed vines grown in granite, schist and clay on slopes and terraces near the village of Gomariz. The grapes are hand-picked, destemmed, crushed and lightly pressed. The juice is cold-settled and fermented in stainless steel tanks at low temperatures. Bottled from the tank on demand and always on a flower day. Vegan-compatible. Reducing sugar: 2.2 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
Promising nose dominated by white grapefruit along with apple, pear, pineapple and background herbs and stone. Smooth and suave in the mouth. Quite dry. Brisk acidity lightens the somewhat viscous texture. Marked by sweet fruit upfront but minerals and dried fruit on the long finish. A sensation – faintly biting, like pepper can be (though the flavour isn’t at play) – that I suspect results from a combination of acid, mineral bitterness and maybe stealth tannins lingers after the fruit has disappeared, adding intrigue. (Buy again? Sure.)


Rias Baixas 2015, Lagar de Cervera ($27.40, 13159272)
100% Albariño from estate vineyards in O Rosla and Cambados. The manually harvested grapes were destemmed and macerated on the skins for 10 hours, followed by gentle pressing at 10C in an inert-gas atmosphere to prevent oxidation. After settling and racking, the must was fermented at 15C. One quarter of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation. Matured on its fine lees with occasional stirring. Saw only stainless steel until bottling. Reducing sugar: 2.8 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinicolor.
Straightforward nose of grapefruit and quartz with faint white flower notes. In the mouth, the wine is middle-weighty, clean and as minerally as fruity. The smooth acidity barely ramps up the tension. A touch of bitterness on the fairly long finish adds welcome intrigue. Tasted twice – first at the store, then at the tasting – with consistent impressions, this well-made but somewhat listless wine was a disappointment, especially in view of the estate’s reputation and the glowing reviews the wine received in the media. Would likely show better alongside grilled fish. (Buy again? Meh.)

Bierzo 2013, La del Vivo, La Vizcaína, Raúl Pérez ($57.00, 12332045)
A relatively new project, La Vizcaína (“the Biscayan”) produces five wines – four reds and this white – using fruit from vineyards around cult winemaker Raúl Pérez’s hometown of Valtuille de Abajo. This is a blend of Doña Blanca (80%), Godello (10%) and Palomino (10%) from organically farmed vines, some planted as long ago as 1916. The manually harvested grapes are handled in two ways. Around 80% are pressed and racked into 500- and 700-litre French barrels for fermentation and maturation; they are left untouched for one year. The remainder are fermented on the skins in clay amphorae for one year, again untouched. The two parts are blended and the wine is bottled unfiltered and unfined. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
The wine in our bottle was double-carafed about an hour before we tasted it. Gold bronze in the glass. Complex nose of straw, chalk, honey and a faintly acrid note that several tasters found off-putting, at least initially. Improved with time, developing scents of white spice, “sage,” “late corn field,” “yellow flowers” and “faint nuts.” A sip shows it to be rich, extracted, broad, just acidic enough, dry and not particularly fruity, and what fruit there is is candied. Wax, bitter, mineral and oxidative threads intertwine, most apparently on the long finish. Still, some tasters wanted nothing to do with it and “interesting” was about the best any of us could say. However, those of us who kept our glasses until the end of the tasting – four or five hours after the double-carafing – were amply rewarded, as the acridity had vanished and the wine had deepened, sweetened and become beautifully layered and coherent. Memorable. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 17, 2017, tasting: flight 2 of 6

Written by carswell

March 1, 2017 at 16:40

Bargain Bierzo

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Bierzo 2014, Viernes, Bodegas Godelia ($16.45, 12751451)
100% Mencía from vines between 12 and 21 years old in various plots. Manually harvested. The grapes are kept at 10ºC while processed at the winery and gently destemmed. Fermentation in temperature-controlled (25ºC) stainless steel tanks with push-downs and pump-overs lasts 12 to 15 days. Malolactic fermentation and four months’ maturation on selected lees also take place in tanks. 13.5% ABV. Screwcapped. Quebec agent: Vinicolor.
Attractive, earthy nose dominated by cherry, cassis, sandalwood and slate. Medium-bodied. The flavours echo the nose. Starts out ripe-sweet but dries as it goes along. Light tannins add some grit and outlast the fruit. Licorice, black pepper and a dash of salt colour the mildly astringent finish, while tobacco lingers on. Quite intense from start to finish though lacking some of the depth and follow-through of more expensive Bierzos; on the other hand, it’s not overambitious like so many of those wines are. Savoury and a bit rustic, true to the grape and the terroir, this punches above its weight and delivers good bang for the buck. (Buy again? Sure.)

No, it’s not natural or even organic and is probably made with selected yeasts and manipulated who knows how. But in contrast to many wines in its price bracket, it doesn’t taste industrial or like a headache generator.

Written by carswell

March 10, 2016 at 12:40

¿Creador de armonias?

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Ribera del Duero 2012, Sélection Chartier ($19.95, 12246622)
Made by Bodegas Arrocal to the specifications of the self-styled créateur d’harmonies. 100% Tinta del Païs (aka Tempranillo) from 50- to 70-year-old vines. After strict sorting, the grapes are destemmed and cold-soaked. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts takes place in stainless steel vats. The wine is transferred to 75% French and 25% American oak casks (first, second and third fill in equal proportion) for ten months’ maturation. 14.5% ABV.
(The bottle my glass came from had been open for about four hours.) Fragrant nose of dark fruit, burned earth, tobacco leaf and spice, especially black pepper. In the mouth, it’s a middleweight. Fluid and fruity up front, turning more structured (lively acidity, lithe tannins), darker (shades of minerals, smoke) and drier on its way to a lightly astringent, heady – not hot – finish. Not notably deep or long but clean, tonic and, of course, food friendly. Light years away from the dense, chewy, often heavily oaked reds most wine lovers associate with the appellation, not that I’m complaining. (Buy again? Sure.)

On the bottle’s front label and on his website, Chartier recommends various food pairings for the wine, including some surprising ones like grilled porgy, dark chocolate (80% cocoa or higher) and strawberries. While none of those seems obvious to me, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt; the one time I asked him to recommend a wine pairing for a tricky dish (chicken roasted with Seville oranges and cumin), he came through with flying colours. Still, I’m pretty sure that, while waiting for strawberry season to roll around, you could get away serving this with charcoal-grilled veal or baby lamb chops.

Written by carswell

March 29, 2014 at 22:41

MWG October 17th tasting (3/5): Bierzo @ $20, $25 & $30

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Bierzo 2008, Men de Mencia, Pago del Vicario ($20.55, 11962715)
100% Mencía. Matured 12 months in French and Caucasian oak barrels. 13.5% ABV
Closed nose: earthy-verging-on-muddy plum and spice. Dense but fluid, with supple tannins, sleek acidity and dark minerals. The nose’s plums taste a little stewed. I’m not getting any oak and that’s a good thing. One-dimensional but not without appeal. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Bierzo 2008, El Castro de Valtuille, Bodegas y Viñedos Castro Ventosa ($25.60, 11155569)
100% Mencía from 70- to 80-year-old dry-farmed vines. Manually harvested. Fermented partly in French oak barrels. Matured 14 months in French oak barrels. Unfiltered. 14.5% ABV
Reeking of ethyl acetate, with a strong lipstick aroma. That slowly receded, allowing plum, black raspberry, pomegranate and some dried sweat to come through. Concentrated and fruity but not heavy. Tangy acidity, gritty tannins and a dusting of graphite and spice give the wine energy. Long and surprisingly fresh for such a high-alcohol wine. Seemed to strike a balance between the Men de Mencia’s plainness and the Carracedo’s high polish. Absent the EA, this would have been my wine of the flight. (Buy again? Assuming ours was an off bottle, yes.)

Bierzo 2007, Mencia, Carracedo, Bodega del Abad ($30.00, 11963478)
100% Mencía. Manually harvested. Macerated for ten days prior to fermentation. Ferementation lasted 12 days. Not subjected to harsh treatment. Matured 12 months in superfine grain Allier oak barrels with medium toast. Unfiltered. 14% ABV. Another of the Cellier New Arrivals wines.
Dark fruit, slate, spice, vanilla and, as our resident dill detector pointed out, a hint of that herb (in its dried form). Smooth and elegant. The whirl of fruit and earthy minerals is lifted by acidity, textured by velvety tannins. Sweet and spicy oak is definitely present but not overwhelming. Long, chewy finish. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Written by carswell

October 25, 2013 at 12:23

MWG October 17th tasting (2/5): The naked and the clad

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Rueda 2012, Bodega de Los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal ($14.35, 10270725)
100% Verdejo. Destemmed, cold-soaked on the skins and clarified through settling and fining, then fermented at around 14ºC for 20 days. After a short stay in barrels, the wine is bottled, usually in the winter that follows the harvest. Screwcapped. 13% ABV.
White grapefruit, cat pee, granite dust and barely audible lychee and dried herb high notes. Light and bright, very dry yet intensely fruity with a faint nut skin-like bitterness. Not deep but quite long. Yes, it’s a bit faceless. But it’s also clean, fresh and refreshing. As the French say, correct, especially at the price. (Buy again? Sure though not in preference to Ijalba’s similarly priced Genoli, which is made from organically farmed Viura grapes.)

Rueda 2008, Naiades, Bodegas Naia ($29.95, 11962707)
100% Verdejo from old vines, some of them centenarians. Manually harvested. Barrel-fermented then transferred to new French oak barrels for eight months’ maturation. Attractive label. Ridiculously heavy bottle. 13.5% ABV. One of the wines in the Cellier New Arrivals release.
Fragrant bouquet of tropical fruit, vanilla and coconut with background minerals and char. While you could say the dense fruit is balanced by the grape’s naturally high acidity, to my palate the wine is sweet and cloying. And if the oak doesn’t exactly mask the fruit, it certainly envelops it. Broad and long, this is far closer to a buttery New World Chardonnay – albeit one with some minerals and muscle tone – than to traditional Ruedas like the Marqués de Riscal or, for that matter, Naia’s own eponymous cuvée. Not at all my style though some people will love it. (Buy again? Nope.)

Written by carswell

October 24, 2013 at 13:16

MWG March 21st tasting (6/6): Four “cuvées for cellaring”

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Well, that’s what Cellier called them.

Pessac-Léognan 2009, Château Larrivet Haut-Brion ($50, 11378341)
The estate is distant from and unrelated to Château Haut-Brion. Michel Rolland has been hired as a consultant. This 2009 is reportedly 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot from vines averaging 25 to 30 years old. Manually harvested and sorted. Fermented on a parcel by parcel basis in temperature-controlled (30ºC) stainless steel tanks, with daily pump-overs and rack-and-returning. Macerated from three to five weeks. Transferred to French oak barrels (50% new, 50% second vintage) for malolactic fermentation and maturation, which lasts a total of 18 months. Fined with egg whites and lightly filtered before bottling. 13% ABV.
Textbook Médoc nose: cedar, graphite, plum, cassis. Rich and suave in the mouth. Upfront fruit and dark minerals smooth the underlying tannins. The sweet-ripe finish has a lingering astringency. On the one hand, a balanced, well-made wine with some apparent depth, though pretty primary for now. On the other hand, it’s modern and a bit cookie-cutter. Wine of the flight for most people around the table. (Buy again? If in the market for a $50 Bordeaux, maybe.)

Priorat 2007, Costers Vi de Guarda, Genium Celler ($45, 11896527)
A blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, 10% Merlot and 10% Syrah from nearly 100-year-old vines. A 48-hour cold soak is followed by 30-day fermentation (at 29 to 30ºC) and maceration in small stainless steel tanks. Subsequently transferred to new French oak casks for 14 months for malolactic fermentation and maturation. Bottled unfiltered. 15.5% ABV.
Complex, savoury, evolving nose: rubber, celery salt, dried salted plums, sawed wood and slate, then soy sauce and smoke, then candied red berries, cedar and Asian spice. Intense, dry and heady. Lots of character. Dense, even chewy fruit, 2×4 tannins and souring acidity. There’s breadth and length galore but not much depth, at least for now. Blackberry tea finish. Hidden by the extract, thick layer of oak and heavy structure, the alcohol is felt more than tasted. A monolithic mouthful, not for the faint of heart. (Buy again? Not my style.)

Ribera del Duero 2006, Finca Villacreces ($37, 11807547)
A blend of 95% Tinto Fino (aka Tempranillo) and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. After alcoholic fermentation, maceration and clarification, transferred to French oak barrels for malolactic fermentation and 16 months’ maturation. 14.5% ABV.
Cinders, plum, faint sawed wood. Sweet attack, darker finish. Ripe fruit, ash and slate flavours. Big but balanced, with bright acidity and fine firm tannins. Needs time to digest the oak and, one hopes, gain complexity. (Buy again? Unlikely.)

Pauillac grand cru classé 2009, Château Haut-Bages Libéral ($64.75, 11395909)
A cinquième cru classé, actually. A blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot from vines averaging 35 years of age. Manually harvested. Each parcel is fermented and macerated for 18 to 24 days in concrete or stainless steel vats. Matured for 16 months in French oak barrels, 40% new. 13% ABV.
Initially closed and stinky but developing cassis, cedar and sawed wood aromas with an unexpected floral note. Fluid and relatively supple, the structure cushioned by ripe fruit. Good acidity and integrated oak. Tannins linger through the menthol-scented finish. Primary but accessible. While it could be passing through a phase, surprisingly unnuanced, unlayered and undeep for a $65 bottle. (Buy again? Unlikely.)

While this was the most popular flight of the evening, it prompted comments along the lines of “I liked the wines but can’t see myself buying any of them” and “Not that I never drop $50 or $60 on a bottle, but these didn’t deliver the bang required for those kind of bucks.” Looking back at all six flights, others wondered whether such an uninspiring lineup didn’t imply that the Cellier concept had indeed run out of steam. In any case, RIP.

Written by carswell

April 3, 2013 at 16:27

MWG June 21st tasting: report (1/4)

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IGT Terre di Chieti 2010, Pecorino “Unico”, Tenute Ulisse ($18.80, 11660418)
100% Pecorino from 5- to 10-year old vines. Chilled, destemmed and softly crushed before ferminting and three-months aging in stainless steel. 13% ABV. Vino-lok closure.
Apple and lemon on the nose. Medium-bodied but full of extract. Kept bright by acidity. Savoury lemon intertwines with chalk and quartz. Good, clean finish with a faint bitter note (hazelnut skin?). Fine as a apertif or with simply prepared seafood. (Buy again? Sure.)

Verdicchio di Matelica 2010, Bisci ($20.20, 11660979)
100% Verdicchio. Lightly crushed then pressed to separate the must from the skins. Fermented at a cool 20ºC or less. Aged seven months before bottling. 13% ABV.
Floral bouquet with chalk, grapefruit, melon and eventually jalapeno notes. Rounder and weightier than the Pecorino but also blander (perhaps due to its being served too chilled; the estate recommends 14ºC or higher), which isn’t to say lacking dimension. Clean and bracing with lifting acidity. At this point, not as exciting as the 2009. (Buy again? Yes, especially to lay down for a year or two.)

Rias Baixas 2010, Albariño, Fillaboa ($22.05, 11668129)
100% Albariño from one of the appellation’s top producers. Sees extended lees contact. 13% ABV.
Odd nose that had us wondering whether the bottle wasn’t slightly off: curdled cream against a background of lemon, flowers and coral. Lighter and simpler than its reputation suggests it should be: a savoury, minerally, lemony mouthful with crisp acidity and a saline, slightly alcoholic finish. Not bad but I couldn’t buck the impression that something was missing, that the parts weren’t coalescing into a whole. (Buy again? Maybe to give it another chance.)

Bierzo 2010, Godello, Dominio de Tares ($26.25, 11631852)
100% Godello from 20-year-old vines. Fermented 20 days at 19ºC. No malolactic fermentation. Aged three months in new French oak barrels with daily battonage. Cassein-fined before bottling. 13% ABV.
Complex and evolving nose of yellow fruit, spice and a hint of oak. Ripe-fruity and rich in extract, so conveying an impression of sweetness, yet briskly acidic and actually quite dry. Subtle peach and vanilla give way to a long, spicy finish. Intriguing. (Buy again? Yes!)

Written by carswell

June 26, 2012 at 23:00