An stellar Spanish wine to sip in the campfire!!!

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Campfires are not really my cup of tea, or should I better say my glass of wine!!. I occasionally enjoy them at this time of the year when the nights turns chilly. It’s the perfect picture for a glass of red in one hand and sausage on the other in a dark night

A good sommelier friend of mine told me that good wine with elaborate gastronomic meals is a no brainer. The challenge is how to drink well when the food in front of us is not a par.

Brainstorm Campfire food: Hot dogs, cheap meat brochettes, marshmallows, thick slices of bread embedded with olive oil getting burned on the flames..

Today when I was picking up some wine in my local SAQ Outlet, I tasted an amazing Spanish red and had a revelation. This could be amazing to drink in the campfire outside the chalet.

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Tajinaste Tinto Tradicional 2017. SAQ # 13619321, $24.25 DOP Valle de la Orotava

Listan Negro is an indigenous variety  from Spain, however very little Listan Negro is found in mainland Spain. It is concentrated on the Spanish Islas Canarias, particularly in northern Tenerife.   The soils are volcanic in origin with the weather is warm and humid due to the influence of the Atlantic ocean. This  high index of relative humidity, the complex characteristics of  its wind currents, and the original composition of the La Orotava Valley soils, give its wines a special taste and aroma, distinguishing them as amazing reds.

Bodegas Tajinaste has some of the oldest Listan Negro vineyards going back to 1914. It is run by the perservant Agustín García Farrais who trained in Bordeaux. The family owns 3 ha and they further lease 9 hectares with 25-year contracts with their neighbors and adquire grapes from another 16 hectares worth of vineyards, so the total under management is 28 hectares.

A lovely red with hints of petrol and smoke with nuances of olive tapenade. After aeration, bright notes of ripe red and black fruit emerges. Fruit driven with lovely caressing tannins and a beautiful long floral aftertaste. Would pair well  with classic campfire fare such as grilled sausages or even a steak grilled on an open flame!!

 

An encounter with Telmo Rodriguez

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If you would ask me who were the leading ambassadors of the new Spanish wine industry, I could answer these three: Peter Sissek, Alvaro Palacios and Telmo Rodriguez. In each of their respective regions, they were captains of industry. With Pingus, Peter Sisseck demonstrated that you could capture the essence of a terroir with old exceptional vines. Similarly, Alvaro Palacios resurrected the Priorat and Bierzo with Garnacha and Mencia respectively.

Our final character is Telmo Rodriguez. Telmo is one of the best  winemakers of Spain.  In a similar manner  to Alvaro Palacios, he travelled and mastered his skills  for many years before returning home to Rioja, where he took  to the next level  a wine that was already outstanding, Remelluri.  In addition he has  supervised diverse négociant projects throughout Spain. One of his most acclaimed projects is in Valdeorras, Galicia.

Ladeiras do Xil is the name of this exciting venture. Since 2002, he has been working miraculously 23 ha of steep mountain vineyards in the Santa Cruz village in the province of Ourense.

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I was recently invited to a Telmo Rodriguez masterclass by its Canadian Importer, Trialto. The purpose was to discuss the Ladeiras do Xil project. Frankly, it was a fantastic enriching experience for myself since I am more familiar with his Remelluri and Matallana proyect.

It is always a pleasure to taste the wines of Telmo Rodriguez. He is like a horse whisperer for the wine terroir. A modern interpreter of the past with an avant-garde vision of the future. I always get goosebumps when I heard him speak. I was also very pleased to know that he is a big fan of Rhone wines. We have that in common. You can actually feel the Northern Rhone influence in his wines.

Tasting Notes:

Gaba do Xil Godello 2017 $21.60  SAQ # 11896113

From the Valdeorras wine growing area, specifically the sites of  A Pedreira, A Torgueira, O Barreiro, Valerio, Valdemas. Monovarietal Godello at high altitude ( 400-500 m). Red, clay and slate soils.

This exciting Godello exhibits a very aromatic nose redolent of ripe peach fruit with hints of  fresh-cut grass with a  smoky and flint point. On the palate, it is creamy with a firm acidity.

Branco de Santa Cruz 2015 ( Not available in the Quebec market)

A field blend of Godello, Treixadura and Dona Branca from the Ladeiras do Bibei in Valdeorras. Different sites around the Santa Cruz town. Granite soils with very low yields.

A fantastic nose that remind me of the wine Silex by Didier Dagueneau. Beautiful nuances of silex, slate and wet rock character. With aeration, aromas of white tea and nectarine develops as well. Elegant and well-balanced, it could age for a few years.

Reds

As Caborcas 2015 $77.25  ( 4 cases coming soon in the Quebec Market)

2.5 hectares of vineyards in the in the town of Santa Cruz. Granite floors, poor and shallow, located in endless terraces on steep terrain that is on the banks of the Bibei River. A field blend of Mencía, Merenzao, Sousón, Godello,  and Garnacha. Aging in small oak barrels, stainless steel and foudres. 

Smoky with fieldberry and savoury notes of cured meat, star anise and black olive tapenade.  On the mouth, very elegant with a lot of depth and concentration Firm acidity. Polished midpalate with satiny tannins. Blind tasted, I would probably guess that this is a Crozes Hermitage. Very exciting wine.

O Diviso 2015. $77.25 ( 2 cases coming soon in the Quebec Market)

According to Telmo, this wine is probably the most authentic expression of Valdeorras in the Bilbei hills. A field blend of  Mencía, Brancellao, Sousón, Garnacha and other red and white varieties. Fermentation in small wooden barrels and a soft aging in foudres.

Complex nose with a lot of depth. Aromas redolent of seaweed, licorice and cardamom. On the palate, fruit driven yet with deep pepper notes.  Very elegant with soft tannins and a fluid finale. This wine reminds of me an electric St-Joseph

Falcoeira ” A Capilla” 2015 $77.25  ( 4 cases to come in the Quebec Market)

From the Falcoeira site in Santa Cruz, a field blend of Mencía, Brancellao, Sousón, Garnacha and other varieties. Made with indigenous yeast and aged in a mix of foudres and wood barriques.

My favorite red from the trio. Dark and decadent with complex notes of smoke, petrol and other animal notes with a vivid note of black pepper. Meaty tannins and a magnificent  structure. A very long balsamic finale. Definitely, the Hermitage of Galicia!!. 

 

 

Small Rubies of Mas Que Vino

Sylvain Rubin is an obscure personality in our closely knit wine community in Quebec. I dont know the man very well but in my eyes he proyects an image of camaraderie and bon vivant. However, Sylvain is discreet and friendly. The last breed of humble gentlemen in the small universe of Quebec private imports.

As far as I know, Sylvain was an associate at one of the leading wine agencies in Quebec, Planvin. The reasons for his depart are unknown and not important to me. This agency carries some of the most obscure and exciting wine artisans from Europe also known as natural and biological wine producers.

After he left PlanVin, Sylvain founded Mas Que Vino, a small boutique wine agency with the same spirit than PlanVin, inspired terroir driven wine producers. From time to time, I taste his wines when I go to the Raspipav wine fair. I was happy to catch up with him last April at the spring edition of Raspipav where I discovered amazing quality wines from Bodegas del Medievo

Grupo Bodegas del Medievo is the proyect of a group of vinegrowers and negociants in Aldeanueva de Ebro ( La Rioja). Medievo makes top quality Joven, Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva as well as wines with less known indigenous varieties in a contemporary style yet with great elegance. In the past, I tried the Medievo Reserva which is always an excellent Rioja. At the time, it was represented by PlanVin. Today, I have to find out.

This is an excellent producer that has been making waves for some time now in the Spanish wine industry. In this article from La Voz de Galicia, ( Tuercebotas es un vino), you can get additional information.

Tasting notes:

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Cofrade Rioja Blanco 2016

A fine Rioja dry white made from carefully selected Viura grapes. The fruit is racked in stainless steel tanks with 24 hours of pelicular maceration. Afterwards, the must ferments at a controlled temperature during 12 days. After a period of rest of one month it is clarify, decanted and introduced in isothermal deposit to a temperature of -5ºC to be fully stabilized. –From the producer website

Pretty nose of green apple, quince and cantaloupe. Round, harmonious and very long in the palate. I think it would be great with malpeque oyesters or simple but delicious food such as fish brochettes Price: Around $16.00 in case of 12

Cofrade Rioja Tinto Joven 2016

100% Tempranillo.In October, after twelve days of maceration in a stainless steel tank at a controlled temperature, the wine underwent malolactic fermentation in a natural way. The wine passed 4 months in American oak. Price: Between $16 and $20

Lovely aromas of maraschino cherry, licorice with soft balsamic undertones. On the mouth, it has a round texture with polished tannins. I presume it would be a great wine to have with tapas

Tuerce Botas Graciano Crianza 2014

The Tuercebotas Crianza is made up of 100% Graciano. It was aged in new French oak for 12 months before bottling.-From the producer website

Intense and vibrant with aromas of red and black fruit aromas mingled wih spicy cloves, cola and nutmeg. On the mouth beautifully concentrated with a fresh acidity and balanced tannins. Would love to try with a flank steak on the BBQ. Price: Between 16$ and $20

A good value Spanish Chardonnay

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When I saw the white label from far I was expecting to find a red wine but instead I found a red wine.

The majority of Cariñena’s wines come  from Garnacha grapes: the region offers a diverse array of styles, from steely, aromatic wines cultivated in high-altitude vineyards to ripe, robust expressions from the lower elevations. However, less known, the appellation also produces good value whites from varieties such as Chardonnay, Viura and Parellada.

Bodegas Paniza is no stranger to this blog. I have reviewed their red wines countless times in the past. However, until last week, I never tasted a white wine from them.

Their Chardonnay 2017 ( SAQ # 13710829, $16.05) is a mono varietal wine from high altitude vineyards ( 800 m) in the appellation.  After several days of maceration , the wine ferments in  stainless steel tanks and the aging is completed with a slight passage in oak barrels.

This Spanish Chardonnay has textbook varietal aromas of pear and dry apricots. On the mouth, it is full body with a round texture and medium acidity. It has pleasant flavours of vanilla and fig flavours. It will pair nicely with BBQ salmon, chicken or pizzas and vegetarian dishes.

I enjoyed very much tasting the wine. This is a terrific wine for your weekday BBQ and the QPR ( Quality Price Ratio) is just amazing. I would have welcomed a bit more acidity and freshness but after all we are taking about sunny Aragon here!!!

Bodegas Paniza is represented in Quebec by Valmonti. The Chardonnay was tasted in a SAQ outlet in Joliette, Quebec.

 

Partida Creus-love at the first sip

It was love at the first sip…

Last fall I was part of a judging panel to taste a selection of still whites and sparkling wines natural style under $40 for the Raspipav wine fair 2017.  Among the selections, there was a cloudy, yellowish-orange wine that caught my attention. It was very enticing visually, the pleasant sensation  similar to the first time that I contemplated the painting Children of the Sea by Joaquin Sorolla, a Spanish Impressionist painter.

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Children of the sea-Joaquin Sorolla. Source: Fine Art America

That cloudy wine was the Vinel-lo Blanco 2016 from Partida Creus. This is the project of Piedmontese couple Massimo Marchiori and Antonella Gerosa who set up roots  in Penedes in Catalonia and began restoring parcels of old and mostly indigenous vines to make natural, vibrant wines with only native yeasts, no filtration and nothing added, including sulfites. The VN cuvee is a field blend of seven white grapes usually used for cava but vinified dry: That wine was vibrant and full of life and left a very positive traumatic experience. After the tasting, I tried getting some but it was sold out.

However this year, I was able to get my hands on the white and the red. The white  2017 vintage is a blend of Garnacha blanca, Macabeu, Moscatell, Vinyater, Xarel·lo, Parsé, Parelleda. Honestly, I can’t recall tasting a profound Spanish white for a long time. It was just a polyphonic song: filled with  modulations, inflections, facets, volumes and different  heights. An extraordinary ability to vary the characteristics of the type of “sound” produced and overlapping differently with  distinct notes: (this is the secret of polyphony) ancient resins and marine wind, lemon and salt, peach and fresh flowers, grasses and limestone rocks. Vibrant freshness, intense flavor, prolonged pleasure. An absolute success.

The red 2017 is a blend of Trepat, Sumoll, Garrut, Queixal de Llop, Ull de Perdiu, Garnatxa and Samsó.  A wine that emanates perfection, it combine flowers and limestone, grass and clay, roots and pomegranate, in a wonderful, subtle and expressive interpretation of the Catalan territory. To achieve this result there is no need for filtrations, clarifications and additions of any kind or mischief. Just so much love, commitment and sacrifice in the vineyard.

Natural wine Reflection

If you are an art lover, you will understand the following reflection on natural wines.

Natural wines are much alike the impressionist art movement. Impressionism can be described as  the first distinctly modern movement in painting. Developed in Paris in the 1860s, its influence spread throughout Europe and eventually the United States. Its founders  were artists who rejected the official, government-sanctioned exhibitions, or salons, and were consequently rejected by powerful academic art institutions. Leaving away the fine finish and detail to which most artists of their day aspired, the Impressionists aimed to capture the momentary, sensory effect of a scene – the impression objects made on the eye in a fleeting instant. To achieve this effect, many Impressionist artists moved from the studio to the streets and countryside, painting en plein air. ( Source: The Art Story-Modern Art Insight)

The Impressionists aimed to be painters of the real world: They aimed to extend the possible subjects for paintings and they abandoned  depictions of idealized forms and perfect symmetry, but rather focusing on the world as they saw it, imperfect in a myriad of ways.

Much like an Impressionists painting, a natural wine is just the opposite of a conventional wine. Although perfect in all angles, a conventional wine miss out on the real aspect of a wine. In the long term, you start getting tired of too much stylized forms and look for the beauty of the imperfections or something else. I cant explain un words but every time I drink a natural wine, Sophia Loren comes to mind: Here is an interesting quote on an article that I read on her: The making of an icon: Sophia Loren says she was ‘never beautiful‘ by Hannah Furness

Image result for sophia loren beauty philosophy

“Beauty is not important,” she said. “You have to be interesting, someone who is different to other people.

“Otherwise you just turn up and look beautiful, and there’s nothing more to you.

“I have never been beautiful. I’ve never been a beautiful doll. In fact when I started, people didn’t want to hire me because I wasn’t photogenic.

“People thought my mouth was too big, they wanted me to make my nose shorter, to have straighter teeth.

 

The wines of Partida Creus are available in Quebec in the Private import market. For more information, you may contact Linda Susnik, the sales rep of Vinealis, their Quebec Importer ( ls@sublimevins.ca)

Hasta Luego!!!

Los Amigos de Francois Chartier

Hello dear reader and welcome back to my blog,

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If you live in Quebec and are a serious wine drinker, you must know who is Francois Chartier. If you don’t, you have been living under a rock for a long time. As a result, there is no need for me to introduce you this emblematic person, I will just be waiting my time.

Love him or hate Francois, he has become a celebrity Quebec wine entrepreneur. I personally like the man very much and find extremely intelligent and well informed ( wine think tank about wine and food ).

Last November during La Grande Degustation, I crossed paths with him when he told me that he started a wine importing agency. We exchanged the usual polite protocol between wine professionals and we each parted ways. I guess he was on a rush to go back to his own booth at the tasting. Francois was with his Spanish girlfriend which means he is already well adapted to the life he leads in Barcelona.However, he goes back and forth to Montreal

He told me to pass by and taste his wines  and I say I would but then I forgot. This is something that occurs to me every time I go to a wine salon. I forget to taste stuff like I say I would. I will consider in the future in a next wine event to stick a post it note on my front head, so people will remind me to taste the wines of a specific producer.

However, life catches on with you on stuff that you have to do and I saw his booth at the spring edition of Raspipav in late April. I did not notice too much buzz around his stand. There were a few old timer wine journalists that were curious to check out his wines as well. So I decided to give a try to his Spanish winemakers in his portfolio.

Honestly, I have to tell you that Francois is representing some of the most exciting Spanish winemakers in Quebec. There are two or three agencies more in Quebec that carry a beautiful portfolio and I will mention them in another time. So, to get back to the point, here are my tasting notes of three of my favorite wines of the tasting:

All the wines are available in the private import market by case of 6 or 12. I wish that I could be a millionaire so I can buy a case of each but I am just a poor wine journalist-blogger and also baker. I will just have to be happy with the one case of Cava from Carles Andreu that I ordered.

Tasting Notes:

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PALOMINO FINO « EN RAMA » TOSCA CERRADA 2015

This wine is made by Mario Rovira with Palomino fino from the Pago of Balbaína between Jerez and the Puerto de Santa Maria. This white was made in collaboration with Bodegas Delgado Zuleta, one of the emblematic houses of Sanlúcar. Definitely, a wine to try this summer with a seafood or vegetable tempura. Its nose brings to mind chalk and salt ( like a manzanilla) with nuances of hazelnuts, walnuts and roasted green apples. It has an amazing complexity and finesse. ($27.15 per bottle, case of 6). -Next arrival in June.

CAVA CARLES ANDREU, CONCA DE BARBERA

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In the heart of the Cava region, one of the sub regions with the most unique climate is the Conca de Barbera, where the 80h of Carles Andreu estate are cultivated with indigenous varieties such as Macabeo, Parellada and Trepat. Celler Carles Andreu is a family business dedicated to viticulture since the eighteenth century.

Aromas of ripe apple and pear confit with brioche notes. Balanced and dry with a nice persistent bubble and a long finish. A perfect pairing for this Cava will be a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese ( $22.30 per bottle/case of 6)

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FUENTES DEL SILENCIO 2015 « CEPAS VIEJAS » Vinedos del Jamuz

Even though I lived in Spain for 2 years, the wines of the Leon province are a quite a mystery to me. I only knew that the area had a treasure chest of old vine indigenous varieties.  Back in Madrid, I only tried very little wines from tis region

Bodegas Fuentes del Silencio is an initiave created by Miguel Ángel Alonso and María José Galera. The idea behind this project is to bring a breeze of fresh air to the Leon area of Hereros de Jamuz. The ambitious Bodega counts with the help of the well know Spanish winemaker Raúl Pérez

The estate has 100+ years old vines and some of the go way back before phylloxera. The red  varieties include alicante bouschet, garnacha tintorera and the rare gran negro, which is also grown in  Valdeorras and Monterrei. The couple are also rescuing white grape varieties such as  godello and palomino. In the space of 5 years, they have gathered 20 hs of vines in which they make three wines: two reds and a rose.

At Raspivap, I was able to taste the flagship wine of the estate: Cepas Viejas 2015. It is made with the varieties of mencía, prieto picudo and alicante bouschet.  This wine was made with a long maceration ( 60 days) and the grapes fermented 100% with the stems. The grapes come from the soils of the north of the valey of Jamuz. They are a meager and sandy soils exposed to air currents coming from the Teleno Mount, It is a marvelous wine, highly aromatic bringing to mind confit violets, seasoned black wild berry fruit. On the mouth, it is potent and structured with a great acidity and elegance. I will have anytime this wine with a bavette steak and chimichurri sauce with a generous portion of fries. (46.25$per bottle/case of 6)

Keep checking my blog regularly for the other Spanish wines tasted at Raspipav!!!

Hasta Luego

 

Garnacha, I love you the way you are

be yourself

It has been a while since my last post on these pages. I have been finally adapting now a new work schedule. Before I was in baking school. Now that school is over, I got myself a gig in an artisanal bakery in Joliette, Quebec. The name of the place is Boulangerie St-Viateur. Between baking bread and making it, I get to compose in my mind so here is my latest post. I will promise that I will keep posting in a more regular basis, now that I am more adapted to this life of baker and wine blogger.

As a boy growing up in Venezuela, I had a hard time “fitting in”. When I was a child, my grandfather criticized me on a regular basis. Sometimes, it was because of my lack of social skills as a youngster. In other occasions, it was because of my weight or my taste of music and clothes. Yes, there were some positive comments but as far I remember, the negative outnumbered the good ones.

As a teenager, the situation did not change at all and actually became worse. Not only I had my family nagging me but I became ostracized in high school. My peers made fun of my death metal look and my keen interest for surreal literature.

I felt very much rejected and for a good while I changed to please the ones that excluded me. For instance. In my late teens, I keep changing my fashion tastes according to the flavor of the moment. Hell, I even went to business school to please my family.

The rest is history. I went to work in a bank for 10 years because I was convinced that continue to move up in society was the right thing to do. At the same time, I had developed a wine and food passion which kept my sanity. Eventually, it was not enough and i ended up having a breakdown. You cant live two realities and at the end you have to assume your real self.

How does this relate to wine?. I think is much the same with our wine drinking habits. We want to fit in with our peers and the styles we choose will highly reflect the the group as a whole. It is obvious that our tastes and preferences are highly noticed by winemakers and vinegrowers. I realized this fact the most when I started writing about wine. In our small wine community in Quebec, we all tend to write about the same wines. The weight of the current pulls you right in!!

I still remember with nostalgia my early days of Spanish wine education. Back in my mid 20’s, I was chasing the wines of Priorat such as L’Ermita, Clos Mogador and Clos Martinet. These were highly extracted and beefed up wines with french oak. They were perfectly made to satisfy the international wine press such as Parker, etc. If you were drinking Priorat on those days, you had cachet and belonged with the elite cool wine drinkers.

What I came to understand about Priorat is that a lot of the wines had a high proportion of old ancient vines Garnacha . The pioneers of modern Priorat ( Barbier and company) brought modern vinification techniques and small french oak barrels, and the rest was a success history!!

Would Priorat have ascended to fame without the help of french oak and international grape varities?. This is the question that I ask myself everyday to the present day. Maybe the wine world was not ready for a pure old vine pure Spanish Garnacha in those days and they need it up to beef up with oak and other international grape varieties

In my humble opinions, all those modern vinifications techniques blurred the real character of old age Garnacha. Also, in the past, its personality has not been able to express itself because it has been blended with the more popular or jock Tempranillo grape.

What is the taste of a pure old vine Spanish Garnacha?. A pure old vine red Garnacha would have a special bright fruit character coated with a layer of pencil lead shavings and wonderful spice character that brings to mind paprika and black cumin. This is what i found when I first tasted my first Garnachas from Campo de Borja in Aragon. I would never forget that taste in my life.

Daniel Landi

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Real Spanish wine cognoscenti will argue that the next frontier of old vine Garnacha would be found in the Sierra de Gredos in Spain. For over a decade, the Spanish winemakers over there have been making things right. They are crafting transparent and terroir driven Garnachas.  Minerality is always present in the wines from this area making them totally unique and different to Garnacha wines from other regions in Spain. It is all about getting back to the basics and assuming who you are. At the Sierra de Gredos you can find pretty unprententious wine made with old Garnacha that is proud of its pueblo roots. That’s what Spanish Garnacha is for me: A campesino wearing designer clothes, just rustic elegance.

I went to get myself a bottle of Las Uvas de la Ira by Daniel Landi.Landi grew up in a family of viticulturists in Méntrida, a region not too far from Madrid. He decided early on he wanted to craft his own wine, and after making his fame with Bodegas Jimenez-Landi— a joint project with his cousin—in 2012 he decided set out on his own, taking with him a couple of the very best old-vine Garnacha plots in Spain

This very old Garnacha hails from the town of El Real de San Vicente. The grapes from this wine could be as old your grandmother ( average of 60+ years more) at 750 meters of altitude from granitic soils deep and sand on the surface. Landi is a winemaker that is looking for purity with minimal intervention. He only does soft macerations and does not destem the grapes and of course only employs indigenous yeasts. Finally, he ages the wine in french oak foudres.

How is it?. Here is my formal tasting note:

Extasis!!. Leafy red fruit, lead pencil shavings, rock dust, burning dry leaves with wild garrique notes. Intense, yet fluid in the mouth, gripping every inch of your mouth. Juicy yet highly mineral. Cool shades of mountain fruit. A lot of personality. A very spicy finale bringing to mind dry coriander, mustard. Aftertaste-floral and balsamic

Here is a wine that is not afraid to show its true colours. There is still a tiny bit left on the SAQ shelves (  13302219 , $31.25). Get the last bottles while you can!!

Hasta luego and keep tuned for more wine adventures