Wine of The Month: Clos Mont Blanc Tempranillo

Photo: Wikipedia-Poblet Monastery

Clos MontBlanc is located in Barbera de la Conca, near the town of MontBlanc and the monastery of Poblet. Winemaking goes back here in the time when the Cistercian monks arrived.

Conca de Barbera was awarded appellation status in 1985. However, like i said before, the area had a long tradition of wine culture. This D.O specializes in the production of white, pink and sparkling wines. Reds are also produced from grapes such as El Trapat, Ull de Llebre and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ull de Lebre is the name given to the Tempranillo grape in the Catalan language. Tempranillo is derived from the Spanish word Temprano which means early is named as such because it ripens typically two or three earlier than other varieties such as Garnacha or Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Clos Mont Blanc is a family operation dating back to 1988. It is an initiative of the Carbonell Figueras family.  Construction entrepeneur Lluís Carbonell bought the winery in the late eighties. Actually, Clos Mont-Blanc was part of a collection of a local cooperative.  Carbonell directed the winery to produce quality wines with the latest technology. They have 40 ha of their own and they also collaborate with other farmers

I tasted their entry level tempranillo 2012 at the Festival Vins Terrebone. This is mostly tempranillo 85% with the rest composed of Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is aged 2-3 months in new barrels. The small passage of wood give the wine a modern yet no excessive appearance. It has the same profile as other wines that i have tasted from the appellation while living in Spain. This tempranillo It is a good introduction for those wine lovers that want to learn more about the wines of the region. However, the SAQ in Quebec, carry very little wines from this parts. You will have to resort to the private market if somebody wants to acquire any.

Clos Mont Blanc is represented in Quebec by Vins etc. It comes in cases of 12 bottles at a very modest price of $19.85. I highly recommend  it for the fall season with  hearty meat based stews.

Clos Mont Blanc Castel Tempranillo 2012. 

On the nose,Jammy black fruit with dry mushrooms with notes of chinese ink and gunpowder. Full body, silky palate with a medium acidity. Lovely texture with an agreeable viscosity. Flavors are consistent with the nose with a finale that reminds me of middle eastern spices. Long finale. 90\100

On the trail of the Xarel-Lo grape

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Xarel-lo is one of those grapes that most wine drinkers have probably had at some point in their lives, though many of them may not be aware of it. It is grown on over 20,000 acres of land, nearly all of them in Spain, and it forms the backbone of one of the most popular and widely available wines on earth, but few people are even aware it exists. Xarel-lo is kind of the ultimate team player. It is an indispensable component of the wine that it has helped to make famous but it still plugs along in virtual anonymity. It’s a underrated grape that hasn’t been given its due so let’s take a moment and have a look at Xarel-lo and its charms.

Xarel-lo is one of the three traditional grapes used in the production of the Spanish traditional method sparkling wine known as Cava. Cava is made in the same way as Champagne and at one time was known as Spanish Champagne, though that practice had to be abandoned when Spain joined the EU in 1986 (it is still known locally as champán, champaña or xampany depending on where you are in Spain). The other two grapes are Parellada, which we’ll get to in a future post, and Macabeo, which is perhaps better known as Viura, the great white grape of Rioja. Most Cavas are blends of some or all of these grapes, but the producers aren’t under any obligation to inform the consumers about which grapes are used and in what proportions. Most Cava bottles that you’ll find in your SAQ shops are mute about the components of their blend and it seems that most consumers really aren’t that worried about it.

Many wine enthusiasts are under the misapprehension that only Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo are used in the production of Cava, but this is not the case.  Most of the Cava that is produced is made from these grapes, but there are other grapes that are allowed.  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Garnacha, Monastrell and Subirat (which may be some form of Malvasia) are permitted for the production of your basic white Cava.  There is also rosé Cava which is made by adding in some still red wine made from Pinot Noir, Garnacha, Monastrell or Trepat (which is only allowed for rosé production) into the finished sparkling wine prior to bottling (most rosés are made by keeping the juice from crushed red grapes on the skins for a brief period of time to extract a little bit of color).  Cava is also a little bit different in that it is not a single geographically delimited area but is rather a collection of about eight different regions throughout Spain (though over 95% of it is made in Catalonia).

The only way to tell if the hype over Xarel-lo is genuine is to try some wines made from the grape. Unfortunately, the only wine available at the SAQ is the Calcari from Pares Balta which i reviewed before on my blog. I enjoyed very much and I would go out of my way to pick it up again. I will have to consult the private importation market to see if there is more still Xarel-lo availables.

In the meantime, I will leave you with these cava reccomendations in which Xarel-lo plays a supporting role.

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Raventos i blanc brut reserva 2009. Price: $20.40. SAQ Code: 11140615

Unlike any other wine denomination in Spain, “Cava,” born in 1986, does not refer to a specific geographic area but rather to sparkling wine made using the Champagne method. This lively sparkling wine offers nuanced but concentrated flavors of lemon blossom, brioche and almond, with a delicate hint of fennel blossom. The wine is complex and balanced, with tiny bubbles and a delightfully long, clean finish. 93/100.
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Seguras Viura Lavit Brut. Price: $17.25. SAQ Code: 10467940

Pale salmon in hue, this Trepat-Monastrell-Garnacha blend has fresh, minerally raspberry aromas and a palate of nuts, citrus, bright cherry, pomegranate and wild strawberry.  Nice fruit sweetness makes this appealing to a wide audience, and sparkling always makes an occasion more festive. 90/100.

Wines of The Month: Torres Coronas Tempranillo and Rioja Ibericos

Torres, is one of the most admirable wine brands in Spain and worldwide. The Torres Family is  one Spain’s leading wine dynasty and the  number one world’s most recognizable Spanish brand. Torres is also the family winery with the most extensive vineyards in the Denomination of Origin (DO) of Penedès and the largest winery in Spain. They also run overseas wine proyects such as   the Miguel Torres Chile winery in the Chilean Central Valley, and in the United States (California) when in 1986 Marimar Torres founded Marimar Estate. In Spain outside of the Torres family’s native Penedès region, they own vineyards in the DO Conca de Barberà, DO Toro, DO Jumilla, DO Ribera del Duero, DOQ Priorat and most recently in DOC Rioja .Moreover, Torres is also Spain’s largest producer of DO wines under its own label, exporting to more than 140 countries. Torres made two significant contributions to the development of enology in Spain: First, the use of fermentation at controlled temperatures, and second wine maturation  in small oak barrels as  as has been a habitual practice in Bordeaux for many centuries.

Bodegas Torres was founded by Jaime Torres and his brother in 1870 in Vilafranca del Penedes. During the Spanish Civil War the winery was bombarded, leaving everything in ruins. Miguel Torres Carbó, a fourth generation member of the family, rebuilt the winery in 1940 and started business up again. He was a pioneer in state bottling. During World War II, Miguel Torres traveled to the United States to promote his wines.It was in this period that the brands Sangre de Toro, Viña Sol and Coronas first came into the market. In 1966 work started on the planting of  internationalgrape varieties: at first Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and later on Merlot, Pinot noir, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. This is a pretty impressive resume. Both wines tasted below, regularly available at the SAQ are some of the best values available in the province of Quebec and Ontario

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Torres Coronas 2011. SAQ Code:  00029728. Price: $14.40. LCBO Code: 29728

A blend of mostly tempranillo with some Cabernet Sauvignon. On the nose, aromas of ripe red plums, black cherry with vinous nuances and green cofee. In the mouth, full body, fresh with generous fruit. Savoury nuances of oak, vanilla and leather. A bit tannic but showing nice lenght and a long finale. Excellent quality for the price paid. 88\100. Weekday wine for for a simple bbq of grilled meats. Also it makes a nice food match with roasted pork loin in a mustard and rosemary sauce.

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Torres Ibéricos 2011. SAQ Code: 11180342. Price: $18.25. LCBO Code: 381046

Ibéricos  name is inspired from Alto Otero, a pretty place where the winery is situated in the town of Labastida, north of the Iberian Peninsula. On the nose, aromas of cedar, tobacco pipe with lots of ripe red fruit character. On the mouth, full body. Rich and velevety on the palate with well endowed tannins. Flavors remind of spices and balsamic notes. Generous finale. A well made crianza. Long and classy finale. 92\100. It goes really well with a grilled Merguez sausage and Spanish saffron rice.

Torres is represented in Quebec by Amphora Vins Fins et Spiritueux and in Ontario by Family Wine Merchants.

Cheers!!!

Spanish presence at the Trialto Tasting

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Trialto, one of the leading agencies in the Canadian wine importing business, hosted on June 9th, their second annual tasting. I was in the company of other members of the Quebec wine press. The wine tasting was an intimate gathering and was followed by a fine selection of cured meats and fine cheeses. The Spanish wine presence was quite high, about 30% of the wines tasted. From 17 wines presented, five were from Spain. Most of the wines are available all year round in the Quebec market, with two exceptions that I will mention below.

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Navarra-Garnacha, Bodega Artazu 2013. SAQ Code: 10902841. Price: $15.45

On the nose, aromas that bring to mind different layers of black fruit. In addition, black pepper with paprika nuances. In the mouth, full body, fruity in the mid palate. Dusty tannins with a medium lenght finish. 87\100

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Catalunya-Montsant Mas Collet, Celler de Capcanes. 2012. SAQ Code: 642538. Price: $17.55

On the nose, aromas of redcurrants with dark plums and roasted herbs. In the mouth, full body with confit red berries flavors . Great tannins expression. 90\100

Rioja-Izadi Reserva 2010. SAQ Code:  12604098 ( Lot Specialty to arrive in August )

On the nose, noble oak notes with distinctive nots of crayons. In addition, cofee with ripe dark fruits. In the mouth, full body with coconut and cocoa flavors. Brambly tannins. Difficult to approach nose because of its youth. 90\100

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Ribera del Duero-Pruno Finca Villacreces 2013. SAQ Code: 11881940. $22.45

On the nose, lots of red ripe red fruits with smoke and barnyards. Less oak than previous vintages. In the mouth, lovely flavors of leafy blackcurrants. Big but quite polished tannins. 92/100

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Castilla-leon. Rueda Basa. Telmo Rodriguez 2014. SAQ Code: 10264018. Price: $16.45

On the nose, lots of green and tropical fruit character. In the mouth, medium body. Fresh and a bit sparkling. Lovely citrusy fruit character. 89/100

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The tasting was more special, because during lunch, we were lucky to have the presence of Juan Palomar from Grupo Artevino. Mr. Palomar is the export area manager for Artevino in the North Aamerican market. This is a group of wine companies led by the Anton family. They include Izadi ( Rioja), Finca Villacreces ( D.O Ribera del Duero), Vetus ( D.O Toro and Rueda) and Orben ( Rioja).

I had a nice dialogue with Juan regarding the style of Izadi in Rioja and Villacreces in Ribera del Duero. Regarding Izadi, it is a very special since it marries the traditional style of Rioja with the modern one. I also was pleased with the latest vintage of Pruno. There was more fruit character and less oak.

You heard it first in spanishwineguide.com.

Hasta Luego

Spanish Picnic in the Park

With Summer almost at our doorsteps, Many Montrealers are other suburbs residents profit of the sunny good weather and tend to do outdoor activities. I, for one, love spending a summer exploring different parks. This is the perfect excuse to have a picnic in the park. With a little vino on hand and some simple but really tasty food, it is the best atmosphere to have quality time with your family and friends.

Like I said before, Simplicity is the key word. My idea of a Spanish picnic would include dishes such as Tortilla Espanola, Ensalada de Bonito con Pimientos asados, Croquetas de Pollo. However, no Spanish picninc would be complete without some Jamon and fish preserves.

Two food staples  that you can find in Spanish Gastronomy are Jamon Serrano and preserved fish.Jamón Serrano ham is a source of great pride among Spaniards. For centuries, the people of Spain have  rolled fresh hams in sea salt and hung them from their rafters to cure. A year to eighteen months later the jamones are ready to mount on special stands that are designed so that anyone can stop by, carve a few paper-thin slices, and enjoy. A special, very sharp knife is used for the job.Jamón serrano is more than a delicacy in Spain; it is a normal part of every family’s life. Every tapas bar and neighborhood café have their own hams. Most families will have one on the go at home

Spaniards are also passionate fish-eaters, second only to the Japan who are the world’s leading consumers of fish. This craziness for fish and seafood eating culture has developed out of a number of different factors – geographical, historical, cultural, and even religious factors.

Here are some suggestions for Spanish wines for Picnic drinking. Remember to favor more pleasure than complexity. Wine drinking is supposed to be not all the time serious.

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Torres Vina Esmeralda. Price: $15.85. SAQ Code: 10357329.

A well known value at the SAQ, this blend of  Moscatel and Gewürtztraminer display very aromatic notes of pear, honey and rosewater. In the mouth, it has a bit of spritz with a fresh acidity. Fruity and more floral flavors jazz up the palate delivering a crisp and delicate finale. 88\100.

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Freixenet Mia 2013. Price: $13.05. SAQ Code:  12478976

On the nose, this Catalan white wine displays notes of white and tropical fruits with subtle vegetable and mineral nuances. On the mouth, medium body, fruity with a refreshing acidity. In addition, notes of melon dew and flowers. A nice touch of residual sugar adds deliciousness in the palate. 90\100.

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Borsao Blanco Seleccion 2013. Price: $13.95. SAQ Code: 10856161

On the nose, aromas of peaches, lemon and nuances of grilled cashews and brazil nuts. On the mouth, round with a fresh mouthfeel. Crisp acidity with a broad texture.  and a clean finish. 88\100

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Freixenet Cordon Rosado. Price: $14.80 SAQ Code: 00352369.

Great aromas of ripe raspberry and strawberries with aromatic flowers and vanilla bean. On the mouth, medium body. Refreshing and balanced with a crisp acidity. Great summer sparkler. 91\100.