Souvenirs from an old tasting salon


These days I have been  feeling nostalgic about my past days living in Spain. I miss the colours, flavors and sounds of Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastian. But more important, of course, I miss Spanish wine.

I pull out an old tasting notebook that I used to have when I was living in Madrid. As i sweep through the pages, a fleeting glimpse occurs in my mind of the memories in those crucial formative years of Spanish wine. I put Miles Davis Sketches of Spain. The mood is set and I start travelling in my mind.

Back in those years ( 2002-2004), I was just starting to learn about the fine wines of Spain. During those years, I was a student with limited means and it was not often that I could enjoy a bottle of Alion, or Artadi Vina el Pison. Most of the wines that I used to drink in those days were in the range of 5-7 Euros. In the weekends, I use to splurge a bit more but never spending more than 20 euros.

One day by pure accident, I went to my first Spanish fine wine salon. It was the IV Salon de los Mejores Vinos de Espana. Now, it is called Salon Guia Penin de los Mejores vinos de Espana.  This salon is one of the best of the Spanish wine industry. You can taste the best “unicorn” wines, from Vega Sicilia to Roda and Pingus for a tiny amount of money.

Why by accident?. One day, i was doing my wine shopping at Bodegas Santa Cecilia, where the saleslady told me that this event was taking place. I quickly rushed into my apartment for a quick change of clothes and i took off. By the way, if you ever go to Spain, this wine store is one of the best in Madrid. Compared to La Vinia, the store has better prices with a wide array of Spanish wines.

La creme de la creme was at this salon. Peter Sisseck, Alvaro Palacios, Marques de Murrieta. In those days, there was a real buzz in the Spanish industry. Priorat was the hottest wine region, Riojas de Alta expresion were in fashion and Parker was giving 100 scores to Spanish wines like candy.

I pretty much tasted everything at the salon. These are the tasting notes of my favorite wines. If you have some of this wines at your cellar, they should be drinking well at this moment.

Numanthia D.O Toro 2000

Chocolate, spices, black fruit and leather nose with a hint of truffle. Powerful and dense, yet with a very good equilibrium in the palate. Tough and unresolved tannins. Expected maturity:2010

Calvario DOC Rioja 2000

Heady and powerful nose of red and black fruits with high quality notes of french wood and exotic spices. On the mouth, showing lots of power and concentration. Flavors of earth, mushrooms with tight and grainy tannins. Expected maturity: 2015-2020.

Bodegas Roda Cirsion 2001. D.O Rioja.

One of my favorites in this Salon. Perfect Rioja de Alta Expresion. A very complex nose. Minerals, chocolate with toasty oak. Incredible depth and concentration with ultra fine tannins. Expected maturity: 2020-2005.

Corullon D.O Bierzo 2001

Very austere nose. Ashes, smoke with a mosaic of red fruits. Full body and quite potent. Retronasal indicating fine fresh herbs. Outstanding balance on the mouth. Round tannins and a persistent finale. Expected maturity: 2008

Finca Dofi D.O Priorat 2001

Unresolved and austere nose. Stoney and flowery with a stream of black fruits. Peppery with nuances of new wood. Rich and hedonistic with very polished tannins. Long aftertaste. Expected maturity: 2018-2020

Vega Sicilia Unico D.O Ribera del Duero 1989.

First time approaching this wine. Austere, yet displaying very fine notes of wood. Breathtaking concentration of red and black fruits, despite being 10+. Fine notes of Cuban black tobacco. Elegance more than power with streamlined tannins. Akin like Bordeaux than Ribera del Duero. Long aftertaste. Gamey finale. Expected maturity: 2030-2040

Alion D.O Ribera del Duero 2001

Opulent nose. Jam packed cassis with cherry and spices dominated by french wood. Full body and round with silky tannins. Modern and very sexy. Expected maturity: 2015-2020

Aalto D.O Ribera del Duero 2000

Toasty oak with chocolate and a herbaceous poise. Peppery with overripe black fruits. Lots of concentration with a good balance. Woody finale. Long and persistent. Expected maturity: 2015-2020. 

Clos Martinet D.O Priorat 2000

Cigar box aromas with polished stone. Flowers ( Violets) such as strawberry. Full body. Excellent balance between concentration and acidity. Tight tannins with a smoky licorice finale. Expected maturity: 2018-2020.

Val Llach D.O Priorat 2000

Very aromatic nose with confit black fruit and mineral notes. On the mouth, quite austere with meaty and muscular tannins. Elegant, but needs lots of time to develop. Expected maturity: 2020-2025.

Clos Mogador 2000

Pretty much closed in the nose. Stone aromas ( Quartz, Granite), dry black fruit and toasty oak. Optimal concentration. Chocolate and balsamic notes. Needs a lot of time to develop. Expected maturity: 2020 and beyond.

Terreus Pago de la Cueva Baja 1999. Vino de la Tierra Castilla y Leon.

On the nose, tobacco infusion with vanilla notes.  Masses of red and black fruits. Closed and austere at the moment. On the mouth, very muscular.  Retronasal indicating flavors of violets and black fruits flavors. Not an easy wine to drink. Needs time in the bottle. Expected maturity: 2020-2030.

Matallana D.O Ribera del Duero. 2000

Lots of black fruit character with toasty oak. Still needs time to integrate. Tannins are quite aggressive in the mouth. Lovely flavors in the mouth that bring to mind mint with animal nuances. Very young and austere  with lots of promise.  Expected maturity: 2015-2020.

Most of the wines were in the higher end with prices pushing 50 Euros and more. During those years, the ultra power style was very fashionable and you were considered “hot” by drinking those wines. With Parker no retired from the wine industry and the economic turmoil in the world, the clientele for these wines have diminished greatly.

The Spanish and International wine lover taste have changed as well. Many people know seek wines that resemble their origin rather than to follow an international model.  From time to time, I still drink these wines but have a problem with the level of extraction and alcohol.  I favor more restraint and the natural, organic style.

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