Secastilla: Aragon’s Grand Cru

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Disclaimer: This article is way overdue. It was supposed to be posted last year. Howevr, due to severe personal problems, I was not able to deliver.

To say that Spain has many grand crus could be a very exxagerated overstatement. In my experience, there is only a handful of Spanish wineries that can boast this prestigious title. Of course, they are Spain finest and include mythical Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Lopez de Heredia, Alvaro Palacions, Abadia Retuerta and Senorio de San Vicente.To obtain the title of a Grand Cru, a winery must has in place a combination of several important elements. First, you need to have great vineyards-think old vines-. Second, you need to have a distinct terroir, and also a track record of making not good but outstanding wine. This leads to me the final factor which is typicity in the wine. This is a European term to describe the degress to which a wine reflects its cultural origins. For instance, even if you make the best Syrah in Ribera del Duero, the wine would not be a cru because there has never been a historical precedent in growing that grape in the Duero Valley of Spain.

In my last trip to Spain, I discovered the Spanish version of the French Hermitage hill: Secastilla. The Secastilla valley is situated 800 meters above sea level, the highest point in the appellation of Somontano. The valley boast a special micromediterranean climate with important fluctuations in temperature between day and night.Secastilla history began with the Romans, the great civilization that spread the culture of the vine. During my visit, I learnt that they established a recreational area not far from this terroir ( natural spa) and thus established viticulture to supply their thirst needsThe Secastilla valley, high in the foothills of the Pyrenees, is a hidden gem, with old Garnacha bush vines producing exceptional wines of exceptional intensity and character.

Viñas del VeroViñas del Vero started winemaking operations in 1986 and a decade later they discovered the Secastilla Terroir. According to Vinas del Vero winemaker Jose Ferrer terroir is: the soil, weather and landscape and the people.

The Tasting:

Secastilla Garnacha Blanco 2017

( Aged 4 months in French oak)

Highly aromatic. Subdued aromas of jazmin and quartz complemented by white fruit. A little touch of oak brings out the character of the bouquet. On the mouth, structured with a bright acidity. This white Garnacha has an echo of a white HermitageSecastilla Garnacha 2016 joven

Delicious crunchy cherry fruit with a touch of violets and Licorice. Very spicy. Fruity with nice acidity and minerality. Beautiful and precise fruit concentration. Amazing freshness in the finale.

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Secastilla Garnacha old vines 2014

( Coming from the vineyards of Guardia Miranda and Botiguero. Aged 10 months in Allier french oak barrels)

Fluid black cherry fruit with a touch of smoked jalapeno and Tapenade olive.Incredible balance, ripe fruit with touches of lead pencil shavings, pepper spice and fresh rosemary. Such an extraordinary wine.

After the tasting we had a lovely picnic overlooking the Secastilla Vineyards with some delicious Spanish specialties

Enric Soler 2017 Penedès Improvisacio Xarello

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A great wine should send you shivers across your body and give you a rush of excitement. This criteria is what makes the cut between something good and divine.

You problably have heard of Xarel-lo, right?. This is one of the principal grapes  used to make Cava in Catalunya. It gives power, degree and acidity;reason enough to be called the white lady of Barcelona’s Vineyards. I have tried a few ones available at the SAQ  but nothing trascendental. Most of the commercial available Xarel-Lo available in Quebec comes from young vineyards and the wine it yields is not that interesting. Dont get me wrong, they are good whites but they could pass for a passe partout.

However, Xarel-lo gets interesting  when you have very old vines in the hands of a skilled winemaker. This is the case of Enric Soler: the master of Xarel-lo. Recently I had the chance to taste his improvisacio and it blew me away. His old  vines ( 45 to 65 years old) are cultivated according to the principles of biodynamic agriculture. The wine is aged on a mix of French foudres and cement eggs.

The wine had a profound minerality and deep floral notes that accentuate as you let the wine breath with time. This minerality could be described as something silex-chalky like. Ripe and tense on the palate, it brought memories of drinking an incredible Grand Cru Burgundy but with a smaller price tag.

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I had to pair it with seared halibut with vegetable couscous and fiddleheads. It was a success. The 2017 retails for $53.20 in Quebec as a private import ( 6 pack case). For more information, you can contact its importer Wino import

Hasta luego

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain Blanco Sierras de Malaga 2015

I love Muscat when it’s vinified dry. Love is not the proper word, more like melting cheese in a croque monsieur sandwich!!

This was a very interesting Spanish white tasted in the Noble Selection portfolio tasting.

Molino Real is the personal project of Telmo Rodriguez, the iconoclastic Spanish winemaker. Along with his partner Pablo, he revived the glory of the wines of the Mountains of Malaga. Most people think of Málaga as making only sweet wine but there is more to that.

This white has a striking nose reminiscent of menthol, white licorice with diverse floral touches, lime and dry fruit accents. It was round with a delicious acidity and a very perfumed finale. It is 100 % Muscat of Alexandria from bush vines in shallow stony soils. At the SAQ for $25 ( 14006121). Highly recommend buy if you want to try something original and quite different.

A stellar trio of Ribera del Duero wines

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Ribera del Duero and natural wine is not something that you hear often these days. The region is better known for producing classical cut wines along the lines of Pesquera, Arzuaga or Protos for instance.

Lets rethink that line of thought and rethink about Ribera del Duero. I came across yesterday to something beautiful at the Bambara Selection trade tasting in Montreal, Quebec: The mythical  wines of Goyo Garcia Viadero

John Bambara is really importing a gem in our Quebec market with these wines.  If you are interested in having taste of the authentic Ribera from the past you must taste the wines from Goyo.

Goyo García Viadero, comes from a  very important  wine family  in the Ribera del Duero. He  has been making natural wines since the 1980s inspired by natural winemakers, such as Pierre Overnoy from the Jura.  In 2003, Goyo decided to revive 3 tiny plots of old vines in the town of Roa at different plots and altitudes. By the way Roa is like the Napa Valley of Ribera del Duero hosting important wine estates such as Condado de Haza and Lopez Cristobal.

Whats interesting with Goyo is that he coferments red and white grapes and harvest for acidity like in the past. This is a far cry for the modern approach that Ribera del Duero has taken in the last decades or so with the arrival of Robert Parker in the region.

In the cellar, the grapes are all destemmed, fermented exclusively with wild yeast, and nothing is added during élevage (including SO2). The wines are then aged in old French barrels at an underground, century-old cellar

The wines tasted

Joven de Vinas Viejas 2017. ( $34.50. 12 pack case) This wine is born from a single vineyard planted entirely to Tempranillo on sandy clay & limestone soils at high elevation.

Crunchy black fruit with hints of licorice and elegant multilayered earthy nuances. On the palate, quite structured for a joven. Austere with a racy acidity and angular tannins. Will need at least 7-10 years to come together. Excellent value for the cellar.

Finca El Peruco Ribera del Duero 2015 ( $65.50, 6 pack case) Made with 85% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) and 15% Albillo, Finca El Peruco is a  high altitude single vineyard  at 1,000 meters elevation, one of the highest points in the Ribera del Duero, on profoundly chalky, clay-calcareous soils.

The 2014 was a very profound wine. It had a nose redolent of cedar, cohiba tobacco and middle eastern spices. A bit on the oaky side at the moment but with a tremendous showcase of finesse and power. The acidity hold this wine together. Will need at least two decades to come together. Another value from the cellar. Highly reccomended, if you can get a hold of case

Finca Valdeolmos Ribera del Duero 2015 ( $65.50, 6 pack case) A blend of  90% Tinto Fino and 10% Albillo (Goyo co-ferments the grapes in the vineyard) grown on stony, sandy, limestone soils, and vinified like the other Ribera del Duero wines that Goyo makes.

The 2014 was very aromatic with multilayered ripe black fruit and lots of floral nuances. On the palate, it was more accesible than Peruco with a polished mouthfeel and chewy tannins. Flavours are consistent with the nose but not showing its true potential. Get a case and drink it over the next 15 years to follow its development

( All prices in $CDN. Invitation courtesy of Bambara Selection)

 

Ovni Pedro Ximenez 2017

I never recall tasting a Pedro Ximenez still dry version. I recall the grape as yielding sweet syrupy wines better to pour into high quality vanilla ice cream rather than drinking!!

This wine caught by surprise. If you have ever played baseball, you know the feeling when the pitcher throws you a surprise curve?. That’s exactly what I am talking about.

This nectar has a gorgeous nose redolent of Jazmin, honey and white fruit reminiscent of Japanese pear and white grapefruit. On the palate, it has wonderful nutty flavours ( walnut, comes to mind) and flor aromas as well. It is fruity enough with such a sublime elegance. This is a definitely under the radar wine for Spanish wine lovers. I have seen it in the IG of some of the finest restaurants of Montreal but it is for the die hard cognoscenti

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Who are Equipo Navazos?. Originally this was a private buying club for an Amontillado cask in the cellar of notorious Miguel Sanchez Ayala. In a group effort of 30 friends and professionals they bottle the cask and titled it La Bota de Amontillado/Navazos 1. When word got out about their project, what was once a hobby became a full-fledged commercial enterprise. Supply remains limited and demand has only increased througout the world. Since then Navazos  has also released brandies, unfortified Palomino Fino aged under flor, and a couple of PX wines, one dry and one made from raisined grapes.

Ovni Pedro Ximenez 2017 can be adquired in the private import market in Quebec  by way of LES IMPORTATIONS DU MOINE. $25, 12 pack case)

 

Succes Vinicola Feedback

I am on vacation at the moment, so the wine reviews are taking a back seat for the moment

Before I left for Walt Disney, I tried this wonderful Spanish wine

It is under $30 and one of my greatest wine discoveries of the year so far.

A pretty mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Trepat and Ull de Lebre. This is the perfect red to drink this summer, if still available through the good people of Wino Import in Quebec

The wine comes from Catalan country, specifically the Conca de Barbera appellation.

Never heard before of Succes Vinicola before. I love their labels and more importantly is that they craft true Pueblo wines.

It has nice blackberry undertones with exotic spices such as nutmeg and cloves. Digest and so easy to drink, it is very hard not to finish the bottle. Perfect with rice and fish based dishes.

Get a case now and enjoy it to the fullest!!

A rosado for the heatwave?

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People wanted a summer, they got a summer.

Until friday the temperature will rise over 30 C-thats a welcoming heatwave-considering the cool June that we had.

This is not time for red wine and steak May I suggest a glass of chilled rosado with a bowl of Gazpacho?

I just remembered the Conde Valdemar Rosado ( 12217821 , $14.45) available in massive quantities at the SAQ. A predominant blend of Garnacha with Viura as well ( 75%-25%). This rosado impressed me with its beautiful raspberry, clean and pink colour. On the nose the wine exudes aromas of fresh cherry topped with flower nuances reminiscent of aloe vera. On the palate, fresh with a polished finale.

This rosado is made by the Bujanda Family, one of the top Riojan producers. They cultivate the  typical grape Riojan  varieties such as Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Garnacha, Graciano and Maturana. The grapes from this amazing rosado come exclusively from their own vineyards.

This is the perfect wine to have by the pool or sitting around in your bathub filled with cold water if you dont have a pool. Get a few bottles after work and drink up. Its important to keep hydrated!!!

Salud!!!

 

Monasterio de Las Vinas Old Vine Garnacha

Monasterio de Las Vinas is one of the favorite Spanish wines of the Quebec consumer. As a matter of fact, it formed part of my Spanish introductory wines and Cariñena as well. So, I was very pleased to visit Grandes Vinos y Viñedos, the powerhouse coop that makes this great little gem.

This is one of the best wine cooperatives in Spain and the world. It’s a pretty cool union of forward thinking 700 viticultural families. Since 1950’s they have been captains of industry of the appellation always taking it to the next level

Grandes Vinos y Vinedos is one of the participants of the Wines of Garnacha/Grenache program. This is an historical joint venture initiative between the Spanish and French Government for the promotion of Garnacha in Spain and France. As I write this lines, I am ending the Spanish part of my trip and heading to Rousillon to continue the French part. During this trip I learnt that Canada is a the most important market for this Carinena company ( they send about 2.5 million bottles)

Carinena is the oldest appellations in Aragon and one of the oldest of Spain. Indeed, its production area was formally established in 1933 but its good reputation goes back to the Roman times. It was the favorite wine of famous Spanish comic playwright Pedro Munoz Seca. In his best known play ” La venganza de Don Mendo (Don Mendo’s Revenge, 1918), there is a reference of Carinena wine through the central character Don Mendo who loses a card game also known as ” las siete y media” because he had too much wine

¡Serena, escúchame, Magdalena, porque no fui yo… no fui!
Fue el maldito cariñena, que se apoderó de mí

Carinena is located 50 km away from Zaragoza to the the south of the Ebro river, in Campo de Cariñena. Garnacha and Carignan are the leading grape varietals planted in the appellation which is notorious for his extreme climate and rude terroir. It is very hot during the day. cold at nights and the rain seems that is always missing. The vines thrive in tough soils such as slate. That’s why it earn its famous phrase: El Vino de Las Piedras.

I tasted the Old Vine Garnacha 2016 which was just was terrific. It had aromas of slate, eucalyptus, anis with deep red fruit notes. On the palate, it was generous, fruit foward and quite easy to drink. Kind of old world meet new world. Soft tannins with delicate nuances of cacao and cumin. The 2015 is available at the moment at the SAQ ( 13838646, $14.55). This is a wine that delivers so much for the quality and it was a pleasure for me to rediscover it at the source.

The Garnacha that goes in this wine is 40 years old and the wine see a slight passage in French oak for 4 months. This is a great wine to have for your weekday BBQ’s or even something more simple such as Serrano ham with tomato and bread which is something very classic to eat in Spanish Gastronomy.

Although Grandes Vinos is not biological, it is important to note that they take quite seriously their environmental impact. For instance, they use the Sexual Confusion Technique as an alternative to chemical control of the Grapevine moth. Basically, this is a technique that employs the pheromones of female moths to confuse the male moths in order to prevent breeding

That’s it for now and see you soon. Hasta luego!!

A wine homecoming

home·com·ing
noun
an instance of returning home.

The world of wine learning is full of surprises with its respective ups and downs. It is similar to a life quest with the difference that if we go to far we might get lost and long for the familiar feeling again.

For me this sensation  is what makes you feels safe and conjures a feeling of warmness that has been plastered to your memory. It can be a powerful souvenir such as returning to your childhood vacation home or the smell of your grandma kitchen for instance. The first impression will always be there even if the feeling may come and goes at different times in your life journey. If we are lucky enough and have the means, it is possible to recreate the feelings

Some of my powerful familiar feelings in my life come from food and wine. The earliest that I can recall involved my grandmother preparing breakfast for me when I was a child. As a little boy growing up in Venezuela, I remember with joy the intoxicating toasty corn smell of the arepa as it was being turned in the budare. Looking vividly the Arepas as they cooked, my mouth salivating, as the aroma of the Arepas spread throughout the kitchen. Now when I have a chance to make an arepa, this souvenir come back, as if it happened yesterday.

The grape that is the poster symbol for my love of Spanish wines is not Tempranillo but Garnacha. The bouquet of a well made Garnacha wine-dark fruit, coffee, olive, leather, tar, spice, and black pepper is Spain for me. A copita of Garnacha was my choice of wine when i used to go for midnight tapas  in the retiro area of Madrid. A glass of Carinena was just bliss with a calamar sandwich and portion of patatas bravas after a visit to El Prado on a chilly saturday fall day.

By next Friday, I will get to relive it all. My own personal  homecoming to Spain and its wines. I will be spending a few days in the ancestral home of Garnacha: Aragon and its french outpost the Rousillon.  My mind and body is already prepared to receive the bounty of its communion. This short trip will be a journey into introspection. I cant help to think of the words of the wise Carl Jung:

Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

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To prepare myself for the pilmigrage to come, this week I tasted the Edetaria Via Terra Alta 2016 ( SAQ # 13803021 , $18.55). Made exclusively with Garnacha peluda, a mutation of red Garnacha and typical of the Terra Alta DOP in Catalonia.

Deep and soulful notes of roasted herbs, toasted coffe beans, blue fruit and cocoa. Warm and generous in the palate, it recalls to me the flavours of Tarragona and the goodness of Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Ripe tannins with a spicy peppery finale, it is a perfect wine to have with your summer bbq’s.

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Stay tuned via these pages and The Montreal for a diffusion of this wonderful adventure to come!!!

Hasta luego

Dinner with Partida Creus TN 2015

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Happy Birthday to myself!!

On my birthday, I get to do what i do best: sharing my wine passion with the rest of the world.

This past saturday, I had a chance to enjoy another bottling of one of my favorite  natural producers of Catalonia: Partida Creus. This Italian passionate couple ( Massimo Marchiori and Antonella Gerosa) are making truly wonderful and exciting wines. Their juice is not for the faint hearted!!. In every bottle, it is like a trip to the rabbit hole. You never now what to expect but for sure wonderful and exciting things

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source: entitymag.com

The Tinto Natural 2015 is an unusual  blend of Merlot, Cabernet et Garrut the nose is quite something. It start off with nuances of brandied cherries with raspberry and prunes going wild with aromas of dry blood, black earth and fine refined nuances of brett. On the palate, it is gutsy, high strung and yet so delicious to drink. I just love the finale, so redolent of the earth and everything that is alive in the universe.

My pairing choice was: Chicken thighs baked in the oven with peanut butter, fish sauce and soya marinade. A perfect and fluid match

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Salud!!!