Wine and Health: Rioja Congress 2017

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Today is a pretty good day. First, because this eternal flu seems to be  going away. After many days drinking water and little wine, I can finally go back slowly to my regular drinking habits. and also my writing too.  Since my sojourn in Spain, I developed a good habit of having wine on a regular basis with my meal.

When I was living in Madrid, I used to live on Fernando Catolico street on the quiet residential district of Chamberi. I rented a room with breakfast and supper included. Lunch was on my own and also wine. By trial and error, I discovered this wonderful little restaurant just 5 minutes away from my flat. Restaurant La Tuna on the 68th civic number of that street. It is a family owned operation. I think the family came from the La Mancha wine region. What I definitely know is that they were a family of vinegrowers.

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Food at La Tuna was not exactly gastronomical fare, more in the lines of comfort food. The menu will change daily but it rotated a few weeks or so. For 3 plates and a bottle of wine, they would charge 10.00 Euros. That was a sweet deal. I used to have lunch, almost every day. Friday was my favorite. They used to serve homemade breaded chicken escaloppe with a hearty portion of french fries. For starters, there was a magnificent lentil soup with chorizo bites and for desert there was always a classic Spanish dessert such as Crema Catalana.

The wine used to be pretty acceptable. It was a mostly a blend of Cencibel and Tempranillo, fruity and rustic with a brawling acidity.  The kind of wine that you would gulp it down.

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Drinking wine on a regular basis, is always a good thing. While browsing the Spanish wine news, I just found out that the VIII International Wine Health Congress will be celebrated in Rioja.  This is a congress in which the latest findings of  wine consumption on health will be discussed. If you want to read the whole article, you can check it out at the Spanish newspaper, El Mundo.

These are the points that there will be discussed:

  1. Personalized diets according to age group
  2. Diet effects over gene transmission. For instance, how the food diet of grandparents affect their grandchildren.
  3. New focus studies over wine polyphenols.
  4. New protective elements of wine.
  5. Wine effects over intestine microbiology
  6. Wine and the mediterranean diet.
  7. polyphenols effects on diabetes.
  8. Wine polyphenols effect on diabetes.

This congress is a shining light while many European health policies consider wine simply as an alcoholic beverage and not as a food. Along our shores, in a study done by celebrity Chef Ricardo and Leger Marketing reveals that Quebecers are the largest wine consumers across Canada. whatever this Congress effects would have any impact on the Canadian scientific community is to be seen. Already, they are skeptical about the positive effects of wine consumption.

This is a time of Bonanza for Spanish wine sales in Canada. According to the news agency EFE, in the first six months of 2016 alone, sales increased to a healthy 10 percent for a value of some $45.7 million. Interesting fact, is that much of the growth occurred in the Ontario province, which is the second largest market after Quebec. For the full press release of EFE, click here.

However I am confident that much of the growth of Spanish wine sales will come from Quebec in the near future. As I write this, the SAQ ( Quebec Liquor Board) continues in their cost saving program for wines of the regular catalog to regain parity with the LCBO. This is wonderful opportunity for the Spanish wine industry. However they have to act fast and not sleep on their laurels.

Good, tasty and friendly wines for your pocket

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Nobella Viura 2016. SAQ # 12698311. $8.00

It is still quite possible to drink Spanish wine, even if you are very limited in your income. Simple yet with delicious fruit orchard notes. Medium body and fresh. Nice white to have with a quick fish dinner on monday night. Nothing complicated, just pleasure.

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Ijalba Solferino Rioja 2014. SAQ # 13004449. $15.05

Ijalba does it again with this organic blend of mostly Tempranillo with Maturana. Solferino grapes are pressed by foot and is made with the carbonic maceration style. On the nose, this Rioja is very expressive of ripe red fruits, with a hint of licorice and church incense. On the mouth, very round and friendly with flavors bringing to mind more red fruits and red licorice. Soft tannins with a medium-long finale. Possibly the best value in the Spanish category at the SAQ

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Solaz Tempranillo-Cabernet Sauvignon 2014. SAQ # 00610188. $11.05

Simple aromas of dark plums, toasted wood and dry italian herb spice. On the mouth, easy-going with a medium acidity. Savoury and vinous with a rather short finale. Its a good choice to have with a chicken club sandwich.

 

Telmo Rodriguez: Making wines with soul

At some point or another if you are an amateur of Spanish wine, you have heard the name Telmo Rodriguez. A man ahead of his time, with many facets-from businessman to surfer.  He is the knight of shining armour of Spanish autoctonous varieties. Through his company,  Compañía de Vinos Telmo Rodríguez he has created some of Spain’s most emblematic and original wines.
Telmo has quite an international background. After studying enology in Bordeaux, he did stints at Cos d’Estournel and Petit Village. After that he continued in the Rhone Valley his journey working with Chave and Trevallon.  It was in the Rhone that he discovered terroir driven wines.During his academic formation he made friends with Pablo Eguzkika which became his partner in his current wine company.

Telmo started his wine venture in 1994. The beginnings were quite difficult. At the moment, the Spanish wine industry was wore interested in producing quantity rather than quality. In addition, at that time there was crazy fashion was to pull old indigenous grape varieties and replace them with international french ones such as Cabernet Sauvignon. With humble means, Telmo started his proyect by looking back at the heritage of Spanish wine. His company became the defenders of the old and authentic vines.

Currently his company has proyects across many appellations in Spain. They include Alicante, Cigalas, Malaga, Ribera del Duero, Rioja, Rueda, Toro and Valdeorras.  Some of his well known wines include Dehesa Gago, Basa, Gaba do Xil, Viña 105, Gago, Gazur, Almuvedre.

Lucky for us, Telmo will be in Montreal on September 8th to present some of his wines  the Galerie du Gouverneur. The event will be hosted by the SAQ Signature. The price is $195 per person and includes a gastronomic supper made by Sebastien Muniz, celebrated chef of Montreal  Spanish restaurant Meson and Tapeo. The wine list include:

Mountain Blanco 2013, Sierras de Málaga
El Transistor 2014, Rueda
Pegaso Pizarra 2010, Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla y León
Matallana 2005, Ribera del Duero
Altos Lanzaga 2011, Rioja
Granja Remelluri Gran Reserva 2009, Rioja
Molino Real 2009, Málaga

For those fortunate to attend, it will be a chance to taste three of Spain’s cult wines. These are Matallana, Altos Lanzaga and Molino Real.


Matallana is the flagship wine of the portfolio of Telmo Rodriguez. A 100% tinto fino from old and new vines from  Ribera del Duero vineyards in Sotillo, Roa, Fuentecen; Fuentemolinos, Pardilla  and Fuentelisendo. This is an incredible sensual yet powerful wine aged 15-18 months in french oak. See my post on souvenirs from an old tasting salon for the tasting notes of the 2000 vintage.

Altos de Lanzaga is another exceptional cuvee from the region of Rioja. This wine is born from four plots of old head peruned vines in the village of Lanciego at 500-600 meters altitude, which are worked biodynamically. The wine ferments in 3,000 kilo oak vats with wild yeasts for 20 days and matures in 1,500 and 225 liter oak barrels for 18 months. 

An avant garde Rioja as it best. The nose is full of glorious dark plums and heady blackberry jam with stewed prunes.  On the mouth, it is silky, chunky with a fine tannins structure. Flavors bring to mind more blackberry and cassis aromas with a Madagascar vanilla finish. Drink until 2025


Molino Real is  a very concentrated moscatel wine. This is the fruit of bush vines near Malaga. It has spent 20 months in new french barriques. The fruit is such of an amazing quality that you can barely feel the wood except for a savoury spicy thin coating. This is a cult Spanish wine with strict allocations across the world and ranks among the finest wines of Spain. 
If you are in Montreal, dont miss this chance to meet Telmo and taste some of his wines. For sure, you wont be dissapointed.

Until next me and you have heard it in El meson del Vino.

BBQ is Barbacoa, an American- Spanish thing

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As the weather gets warmer in these parts of the worlds, the cooking moves from the indoor kitchen to the outdoor patio.

No one is really sure where the term barbecue originated. The conventional knowledge is that the Spanish, upon landing in the Caribbean, used the word barbacoa to refer to the natives’ method of slow-cooking meat over a wooden platform. The practice of barbecuing in America came as a result of the introduction of domesticated livestock by Spanish and Europeans settlers in the 15th and 16th centuries. This technique involves putting meat in an iron cast grill and put directly on a fire.  It is something very common to find in Latin American and Spanish Gastronomy.

The best Parrillas are made in Northern Spain. It is not surprising since most of the livestock that ends up in a grill comes from those parts.

I came to know the gas bbq when I moved to Canada. Up to the age of 15, I only BBQ with the coal system. In Venezuela, this cooking method is called La Parrilla.  This was a very social thing, since it was done with a group of family and friends on a weekend. It involved large quantities of meat and some organs too.  It also involved large quantities of booze involved. During those years, I was not a wine drinker. In a Parrilla, it is custom to have beer or scotch. There is not really a wine culture in Venezuela

When choosing a wine for La Parrilla, you need a full body red wine with bold flavors and maybe a bit of oak. Otherwise, the charred and smoke impregnated flavours will dominate everything. My top choices for Spanish wines, include wines from the two R’s, Ribera del Duero and Rioja. I also very fond of Garnachas from Calatayud specially with blood sausages or morcilla .

The latest SAQ Cellier offers some excellent Spanish  wines, to get you in the mood to start barbequeing.

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Bodegas Balbas Ardal Reserva Ribera del Duero 2010. SAQ #  12806984. $31.50

Decadent fruit on the nose, showing lots of depth and concentration. On the mouth, very structured with savoury animal, mineral and smoke flavours. Hefty tannins, this wine with get more civilized with a few years on the cellar. Perfect with a charred T-Bone steak. 93/100

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Celler la Muntanya Negre 2010. SAQ # 12818109. $20.45

This wine is  a blend of Monastrell with some 25% Garnacha, 20% Garnacha Tintorera and a hint of the local red Bonicaire, an almost extinct variety they are recovering from 40-year-old, head-pruned vines vines. Big nose, bringing to mind lots of earthy and herbal characters such as mountain scrub, ripe black fruits and aromatic fresh herbs. On the mouth, the wine is full body, with a restrained balance and a interesting elegance. A very nice. 90\100

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Burgo Viejo Rioja Crianza 2012. SAQ # 12848308. $17.00

Red ruby  hue with violet tones. On the mouth, it is a  well-balanced with old style black fruit, vanilla and coconut flavors. Powerful, complex and silky smooth. Traditional Rioja with a friendly pocket price. 91/100

 

 

 

Sierra Cantabria and Muga, two great Riojan producers

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Perhaps, my favorite wine region of Spain is Rioja. I hesitate because Ribera del Duero gets into my heart as well. Regardless, I just love the classic wines of both regions.

Since 1870, the Eguren family has been growing grapes and making splendid wines in one of the most important properties in Rioja. Sierra Cantabria go back in history since 1957. They have 90 hectares of vineyards with an average age of 35 years. They are located between the River Ebro and the Sierra Cantabria mountain range. This mountain range shelter the vineyard from the cold winds from the northern winds creating a specific microclimate for vineyard growing and which provide a distinguished personality to their wines.

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Sierra Cantabria

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

Reserva 2008

( 100% Tempranillo aged for 18 months in French and American oak )

Big nose. Lots of cassis, spices with a good dose of new oak. Powerful yet very refined. Fine tannins. Will age well for 5-7 years.

Gran Reserva 2005

( 98% Tempranillo and 2% Graciano from vineyards older than 30years. Age 24 months in American oak barrels)

Evolved nose. Red currants and incense. Full body. Austere structure. Linear phase, even in a closed phase at the moment. Flavors bring to mind, smoked cigar tobacco and flowers. Tannins not yet fully developed. Give it another 5-7 years to come around.

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

El Bosque bottling is a single variety Tempranillo.The grapes come from Finca El Bosque, a small property of 1,5 hectares that has old vines more than 40 years old in clay-limestone soils with gravel and rocks on the surface. 

The area is protected by Sierra Cantabria range, and has a mixture of climates that go from Atlantic and Mediterranean with soft winters and summers with a great difference in temperatures between the day and the night which is an ideal condition for the grapes to ripen.

This special wine is made by the traditional Riojan method. The production start with a pre-fermentative maceration at a cold temperature of 8ºC for 3 days.

Then, the fermentation takes place in French oak vats at a controlled temperature of 28ºC with 2 grape punchings daily for the first 8 fermentation days and once daily during the remaining 5 days.

The aging is done for 18 months in new central European and French Bordeaux barrels, with racking every 4 months.

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El Bosque 2010

Black fruit jam and compote with lots of new and decadent wood. In addition, balsamic notes with dark chocolate. On the mouth, very powerful, concentrated and extracted but with an striking acidity that keep everything in order. Very fine, polished and silky tannins. Keep it for 30 years.

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The Muga famy is part of the history of wine trading of the Rioja region.They started first as wine negociants and then they built up their own winery and started making their own wines. Muga has become a Spanish International brand name. Like Torres, their wines are available in more than 50 countries around the globe.

Muga

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Seleccion Especial 2010

( Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Graciano. Aged in 24 months French oak barrels)

Very refined nose. Cassis, gunpowder, earth and oak well integrated. Full body, powerful but very refined. Fresh acidity, balanced. Nuances of dark chocolate and figs. Well endowed tannis. Young yet but accesible now. Spicy finale.

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Prado Enea 2006

( Garnacha Tinta, Mazuelo, Tempranillo, aged in 36 months French oak)

Fine evolved bouquet. Dead mountain leaves. Tobacco cigar with roasted pepper. On the mouth, full body, powerful with chewy tannins. Ready to drink now but can be kept for an extra 5-10 years.

 

Vina Ijalba delivers the goods at La Grande Degustation

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Another very interesting producer from Rioja present at La Grande Dégustation de Montréal was Vina Ijalba. Ijalba has set the standard for environmental awareness in and around Rioja, from its organic production to its extensive recycling and environmental certification for the winery. They are also famous for bottling obscure indigenous varietals in mono varietals. For more information on them, you can check my previous post on them.

At the table of Ijalba, I decided to tasty  only the wines availabe on private importation. At the SAQ, you can find currently five of their bottlings. These are Genoli, Graciano, Reserva 2010 and Maturana Blanca 2013. In addition, the magnificent reserva seleccion especial 2005. Ijalba is imported by Charton-Hobbs in the Quebec market.

Tasting notes:

Aloque Rosado 2014

( 50% Garnacha-50%Tempranillo. Clarete method of Riojan vinification)

Delicious crisp red fruit on the nose such as cherry and strawberry. On the mouth, medium body, very round, almost like a buttery texture. Flavors bring to mind hints of caramelized red fruit, spices and herbs. A pleasant revelation.

Livor 2014 Tempranillo

( 100 % Tempranillo. Destemmed fruit, No wood, just 100% inox )

Very explosive nose. Smoke and licorice with exuberant black fruit in both dry and confit form. On the mouth, full body, concentrated with supple tannins but nicely balanced. To buy by the case.

Solferino Tempranillo 2012

( 100 % organic tempranillo. Aged 4 months in new oak)

On the nose, reminiscent of traditional Rioja. Aromas of American oak. Coconut, orange, vanilla. Full body with firm tannins.Very elegant and racy like a fine Bordeaux. Lots of length here.

Murice Crianza 2011

( 90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano. 12 months bottle aging in American oak and a further 6 months in bottle)

On the nose lots of jammy red and black fruit. Also some balsamic cream. On the mouth, full body. Smooth and creamy. Elegant with ripe tannins.

Dionisio Ruiz Ijalba Maturana Tinta 2011.

( 100 % Maturana Tinta, an almost forgotten Riojan variety. 15 days fermentation in bordeaux barriques. Malolactic fermentation in new french oak and aged on its lees)

Very balsamic nose. Lots of licorice, anis and spearmint. Ripe black fruit and eucalyptus. Young with austere tannins. Excellent quality.

Wine of the month: September rhymes with Bodegas Lacus

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Bodegas Lacus (DOC La Rioja) was founded by Luis Arnedo, an energetic man with a profund love and respect for the roots of his native landThe word Lacus derives from a pond made out of mother rock in which it is used to crush the wine grapes.

This is a small winery with low production. They have around 20 ha of vines, distributed with Tempranillo, Graciano and Garnacha.

The vinification method of Inedito is very artinasal. For instance, the berries are manually picked and carefully selected usually in mid to late September. Afterwards, the grapes are given a cool maceration treatment for ten days & fermentation happens in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Finally, the wine is aged in stainless steel and is bottled nine months later without fining or filtration.
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Inedito is a very fun wine to drink. With its opaque colour, the wine displays beautiful nuances of licorice and violet. On the mouth, the wine has very good acidity and very accesible tannins. Its flavors remind of red cherries with petal roses with time shedding away and given place to black pepper and smoke with old, cured leather and lots of minerality.

Bodegas Lacus is represented in Quebec by Vini-Vins. Along with Moraza producer, there are two of my favorites natural producers in Riona. Inedito sells privately in case of 12. For under $25, it is a steal.

Spanish presence at the Festival Vins de Terrebone 1\4: Spanish caballeros of LBV International

Every year for the last 10 years or so, I assist to the Festival Vins Terrebone. It has become a tradition of mine.  It is one of the biggest wine festivals in the Lanaudière. You can taste more than 1000 wines from some of the most important wine agencies established in Quebec. The products can be found both at the SAQ and in the private import system. This is a small winelover’s dream

I was quite pleased by the Spanish presence at this year edition.  Here are my tasting notes. From the stand of LBV International, I was very fortunate to taste the following wines:

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Imperial Gran Reserva 2007. Code SAQ:12203796. $51.50

This wine is dominated by Tempranillo, with a good proportion of Graciano and Mazuelo added to complete the blend.. Maturation takes place in new French and American oak and one has to wait patiently for 24 months prior to bottling.

Iconic, to say the least, this Cune Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja is the stuff of wine dreams… It’s here for a long time, so you can wait a decade or two to savor it, or just a year or two if you cant. The luxury of choice and time for winelovers!! If sooner is your preference, I say open your beautiful bottle and give it some air while you prepare a big plate of patatas con chorizo to eat with your first glass.

Cedary. Lovely ripe black fruit expression with pencil shavings nuances. Tar and chinese ink undertones. Perfect oak integration. On the mouth, plush with a good concentration. Noble and mature tannins with an exquisite balance. Long and racy. Retronasal flavors remind me of dry mountain leaves, flowers. Long aftertaste. Perfect Rioja. 100/100

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Contino Rioja Reserva Rioja 2008. Code SAQ : 12347159 . Price: $26.40

Contino is a single-estate bodega (62 ha of vineyards) based in a 200-year-old farmhouse just outside the town of Laguardia in the Alavesa region.  The estate’s name comes from the royal guard of 100 soldiers who protected the monarch. The label is adorned with the bust of San Gregorio, the patron saint and protector of vineyards

On the nose, traditional american oak aromas with lots of cedar, tobacco and roasted black fruit nose. In addition, herbs. On the palate, amazing elegance. Chewy fruit bringing to mind dark plums. Magnific finale. 95\100

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

Fontaura Aponte Reserva 2005 Toro. Code SAQ: 12259407. Price: $23.90

The wines of Toro, an appellation next door to Ribera del Duero tend to be richer and more extracted than its neighbor. In some instances, they can be heavy and out of balance. However, it seems to be the exception with Fontaura. This is a property that its origins go back to the XIX century. The estates comprises 120 ha and the wine is a blend from old vine tempranillo vines situated at different parcels of the estate.

Wild Blackberry nose, almost passified in nature with dry indian spices. On the nose, full body. Jammy fruit. Retronasal reminding me of butterscotch with dark chocolate and cocoa. Smoky with mineral flavors and smooth and mature tannins. 90\100.