Friday, April 15, 2011

Mid-Tier wines of Spain; a comparative

"Well what is mid-tier wine?" I asked myself.

   At this point in my life (and career) I have come to agree with most of my more learned colleagues in the line of thinking that almost anything can be mid-tiered, depending on one's point-of-view. I know people who have a rather ridiculous salary who consider $50 to $150 to be mid-tier and I know people who who never even consider paying over $30 a bottle. To each their own, I'm not here to debate the finer or lesser points of either - but merely to speak from my own experience. In my fiscal reality, $20 to $35 is mid-tier... anything over $50 is definitely becoming high end and something I would drink rarely (perhaps once or twice a month), and anything under $20 to me is entry level... perhaps I've met a few entry level wines that deliver far and above their price-point, and perhaps I've had a $100 bottle (or three) where I wondered who it was that came up with the over-inflated price.

   But, as usual, I digress.

   Mid-tier wines; $20 to $35, all from Spain. All available in Canada.

   For those of you who have never had a comparative tasting, whether it be with friends or colleagues, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is a brilliant exercise and just plain old fun~! We sat the six of us, half sommelier trained and half neophytes, all passionate about wine, and talked about the bottle we had brought to the group... we learned from each other not only technical aspects of wine, but how each persons' palate may draw different notes from a wine; both in aroma and flavor. I was absolutely silent (a rarity - ask Mrs AStudentofWine) when the "least learned" of the group found a wine that spoke to her and she rattled off a plethora of tasting notes that Anthony Gismondi would have been impressed by.

   As I said, it was a great learning experience, and who wouldn't have fun cracking open a half-dozen bottles of wine with some friends old and new?

2008 Barco de Piedra, Pescqura del Duero
Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
13.5% ABV, $27 CAD   ** VERY GOOD VALUE **
100% Temperanillo

aged:    5 months in (85%) French oak (15%) American oak
  • visual:   clean; garnet core with cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate- intense and developing aromas of worn leather, drying black cherry, rhubarb, light cassis background
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ red currant acids, moderate+ slightly grippy tannins, moderate alcohol, moderate body, moderate+ intense developing flavors mimicking the nose with Burgundian qualities. Good body and structure, medium length.
  • conclusion: drinking well now to 2013
  • PAIRINGS:   pair with Beef Bourguignon just as with a Burgundian Pinot Noir - I found many similarities in the construction, but that's just my interpretation

2007 Juan Gil
Jumilla, Spain

100% Monastrell
terroir:   shallow chalky soil on a bed of limestone
climate:   continental
aged:   12 months French oak
  • visual:   clean; garnet core with cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ developing bouquet of each red and black berries, light eucalyptus, light vanilla, slight brine minerality, soft black florals like irises, distinct spicy anise on the mid and end notes
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ to fully intense red and black currant acids, fully intense slightly grippy tannins, moderate+ alcohol, moderate body, fully intense youthful flavors which mimick the nose well (predominately red fruit). Excellent balance and structure, long length
  • conclusion:   Too young to drink well - this will peak 2013 to 2018 and perhaps longer
  • PAIRINGS:   this wine cries out for venison prepared in just about any way imaginable; consider a flank finished with bourbon demi served with wild mushroom ravioli (to play earthy notes off the black florals in the wine)
2005 Los 800
Priorat, Cataluyna, Spain
14% ABV, $26  **VERY GOOD VALUE **

45% Garnacha, 35% Carignan, 10% Cab Sauv, 10% Syrah
soil:   black slate and quartz with mica
  • visual:   clean; light garnet core with large cherry-brick rim
  • nose:   clean; fully intense and developed aromas of baked earth, dried cassis, dried black florals, savory black licorice (root), slight star anise, spicy black peppercorn finish
  • palate:   clean; dry, full red currant acids, moderate velvety tannins, moderate+ alcohol, moderate+ body, moderate+ intense and developed flavors mimicking the nose with a distinct tart plum quality and crispy mineral backbone. Good balance, excellent structure and medium+ length
  • conclusion:   drinking as well as it ever will - enjoy now to 2013(14)
  • PAIRINGS:   with the intense acids it is a perfect appero... use it to wake up the palate or be daring for main course and serve it old, old school with a roast beef and oyster stuffing~!

2008 Atteca "old vines" Garnacha
Bodegas Zabrin, DO Catalayud
14.5% ABV, $30 CAD  *** EXCELLENT VALUE ***

100% Garnacha/Grenache

vines:   80 to 120 years of age
yield:   less then 1 ton per HA
  • visual:   clean; moderate+ garnet core with light cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; fully intense and developed aromas of rich florals, red and black berries especially blackberry, red and black raspberry, cherry compote, background of rich coffee and green peppercorns
  • palate:   clean; dry, full raspberry acids, light+ to moderate slightly grippy tannins, moderate- alcohol, moderate- (light+) body, moderately intense and developed flavors much the same as the nose but dampened. Excellent balance and structure with medium- length
  • conclusion:   even though there are some red berry notes, this wine is already slowing down and getting ready to die... enjoy now to 2013 max as the concentration is slipping
  • PAIRINGS:   oddly enough - enjoy it as a Sherry~! try this with a rich beef consomme and savor the balance the fatty beef flavors will give to the overachieving acids in the wine

2005 Jean Leon Cabernet Sauvignon
Penedes district, Catalonia
13.5% ABV, $26 CAD **** BUY THIS NOW ****
(Liquor Control Board of Ontario)

85% single estate Cabernet Sauvignon and (15%) Cabernet Franc
vines:    planted 1969, the first Cab Sauv in Spain; 300 m elevation, south facing
aging:   25 months French oak
medals:   Silver @ Decanter awards 2010
  • visual:   clear; light cherry core with large cherry rim and the barest hint of brick
  • nose:    clean; fully intense developing bouquet of rich wood, blackberries, red and black raspberries, clean barnyard... very Haut-Medoc (Bordeaux) styled nose in my (humble) opinion
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ red currant acids, moderate+ chalky tannins, moderate+ alcohol, moderate+ body, moderate+ developing flavors mimicking well the nose. Excellent balance and structure and very long length
  • conclusion:   this wine is a steal at under $30 CAD.. if you find it (there are only about 8 cases in all of Ontario as I write this), then buy as much as you can. This drinks well now, but will improve over the next few years. Consume 2013-2018 (and can keep beyond I'm guessing)
  • PAIRINGS:   buy the best beef tenderloin you can (free range), roll it in the best coffee you can buy, then sear it into carpaccio... serve it with grilled bread and a white truffle aioli and be transported to another world
   By far one of the best tastings I've been to in the past 6 to 12 months, and certainly one of the most enjoyable... what are you waiting for, go crack open a bottle of wine with your friends~!

As always, I welcome your questions and comments.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

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