Sunday, January 23, 2011

Vina Albali, Gran Reserva, Valdepenas DO, Spain

First of all, many thanks to Tom Cannavan ( ) for his detailed research on Vina Albali and its owner, Felix Solis ( ).

     This would not be the first time I've written about a winery owner wanted to pursue the finest quality possible in the vineyard. It may in fact be the first time I've written about someone trying to do that with a production of 180 million litres of wine per vintage... not to be dull, but I know wineries that produce 2000 cases a year and worry about quality control, and Vina Albali can produce 120,000 bottles per hour (about 10,000 cases). Quality control? One of the most important parts of being a winemaker.

     Of course, one can easily make the argument that everything is an important part of being a winemaker; it's much like someone once said "many things are half the battle... losing is half the battle! We're interested in what is all the battle."

     And what is the battle in Valdepenas? High on the plain of La Macha (from which comes the name for the mighty wind that blows from there), moisture is low and rot and coloure are flights of the imagination from other places. Even the lack of moisture hardly seems to be a problem as people have been growing grapes here for centuries without end, and only about 30% of the winecrop is grown with the use of irrigation.

     So what then could be the challenge? Extreme continental climate would be the answer: cold as a witch's teat in the winter and up to 40C in the summer (100F+ I believe). Extremes like this are tough on any living thing, and the grapevine is no exception. Temperanillo is grown here, but in a clone known locally as Cencibel. It is this clones hardiness that makes it possible to grow grapes; grapes that will survive an average of 2 days of rainfall in July when sunlight hits 12 hours per day but also endure January with 1C average low, 6 days of rain (only) and 5 hours of sunshine per day.

     But the vineyards of Felix Solis are growing more then just Temperanillo (no matter what clonal name one gives). There is Merlot, Cab Sauv, Syrah, even Gewurztraminer and many many more. Felix Solis is dedicated to researching just what really is possible on this high plateau. As I said earlier, I've met many winemakers who talk about the pursuit of excellence, but never before one who was willing to do the work on so large a scale.

     Bravo Felix Solis.

2002 Vina Albali, Gran Reserva, Valdepenas DO, Spain
13% ABV, $23 CAD   **Excellent Value**
Temperanillo (Cencibel) based blend
Viña Albali Gran Reserva 2002

- Challenge International du Vin 2010. Bronze Medal.
- The best Spanish Wines in Asia 2009. Silver medal
- USA Wine Enthusiast- October 2009- 83 points. “Suitable for everyday consumption. Often Good value”
- International Wine Challenge 2009. Bronze medal.
- International Wine and Spirit Competitions 2009. Silver Medal (Best in Class).
- Premium select wine “Challenge Wein in Prowein 2009”. Silver Medal.
- AWC VIENNA 2009. Silver medal.

  • visual:     clean with slight sediment; deep garnet core with obvious cherry rim
  • nose:     clean; fully intense developed aromas; red and black berries (currants, raspberries prevail), caramel-vanilla of American oak, baked earth (sometimes noticed as terracotta), modest wild flowers, distinct spicy edge
  • palate:   clean, dry, moderate+ to fully intense (raspberry) acids, moderate+ (soft, chalky) tannins, moderate body, moderate+ ABV, moderate+ to fully intense developed flavors of baked earth, dark berries, vanilla - American oaking, some savory herbs and once again a spiciness of pink peppercorns and mild peppers. Very well balanced, fully developed structure (for the price) and full length on the palate.
  • conclusions:   drink this now, as this wine has peaked. It will last a few years longer, but will shortly start to lose all the things that make it a wonder for the price
  • PAIRINGS:   big rich flavors! Anything your heart could desire really; from grilled beef to a classic bourguignon or Stroganoff... even a Calabrese styled stewed tuna or Portuguese stewed octopus (in tomato) would be lovely... wild red meat will play well off the mixed berry notes and fatty food will balance the acids

     Quality is possible on any level, if people are willing to do the work. I have seen chefs mess up a soup for 2 people, and have seen flawless execution of a 7-course meal for 1100. Do they require different skill-sets? Of course, but the one thing they share in common is that in both instances there must be a complete and total adherence to flawless quality. Because really, what would be the point if one didn't?

CIN-CIN~!!!   SLAINTE~!!!   CHEERS~!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment