On Monday 3rd December Ralph showed the WING Tutored Tasting Group red Spanish wines in 3 pairs. Each pair consisting in a basic and superior Cuvée from a grower in an interesting wine area.

Ralph made the point in his introduction that Spanish red wine might be considered as surprisingly lacking in variety – a fact he attributes to a relatively small range of grapes, and high heat values homogenising the wines offered. We shall see…

Here are my notes:

The first pair originate in Terra Alta DO – the Southernmost wine area in Catalunya; the centre of the area is situated about 40 km South-West of the centre of Priorat…. The producer is Herència Altés which makes wine at 420-500 metres altitude on “loamy soil with some calcerous and sandy components”.

L’ESTEL 2013
(50% Carignan, 25% Grenache, 25% Syrah). Plum hints on the nose with a slightly cooked fruit quality and something in the tarry, toasty, coffee liquorice spectrum. The palate is grainy but firm showing spicy warmth and earth-tinged fruit – redcurrant, blackberry and plum come to mind….Tannins aren’t overwhelming but a bit harsh…

LA SERRA NEGRA 2012
(80% Carignan, 20% Grenache).This has a much fuller rounder nose with more port hints, reminiscent of red berries or currants in cognac. The palate echoes the flavours on the nose but has a long line of integrated fruit acidity freshening the overall impression…

The second pair were from Bierzo. This DO is actually right at the north-west edge of Castilla y León but it has much more in common with Ribeiro Sacre a few miles to west in Galicia. Both areas have over 75% of their vineyards planted with Mencía. We tried two Cuvées from the grower here, Losada: the first 100% Mencia and the second predominately from old vine Mencia with 5%  other unidentified very old vines added. Bierzo is famous for slate soil but the vines here are grown at about 560 metres altitude on clay rich terraces, the wines are raised for 15 months in oak, 40% new for the second wine.

ALTOS DE LOSADA 2011
This has raspberry fruit on the nose, together with some herbal hints and a floral whisper emerging. Quite complex and reminiscent of a less green Cabernet Franc. Palate has a warm but mineral structured background to red fruit with long evolution in the mouth, showing suppleness and charm – Probably my favourite!

ALTOS DE LOSADA “LA BIENQUERIDA” 2012
This single-vineyard wine has slightly rounder aromas but is also slightly simpler than the previous wine: red fruit, less herbs and a spirity slightly oaky sweet note. Rounder, smoother but somehow narrower flavours on the palate – integrated fruit acid again but a little constricted at the finish.

The final pair comes from Ribera del Duero and are expressions of Tempranillo from Bodegas La Horra Corimbo. The grapes are grown on bush-vines, the first Cuvée is from 20 year old vines has 14 months in barrels, 80% French oak barrels and 20% American oak barrels; the second from 40 year old vines and has 2 months longer in oak.

CORIMBO 2012
Slightly brackish black fruit but quite a hard and unyielding nose – with little development, maybe young? Palate has sweet fruit with a – slightly hard – tannic frame, again seeming young. Quite long but tightening at the finish.

CORIMBO 1 2009
More open pungent nose with sweet fruit and a hint of sous-bois. Palate is a little more supple and nuanced than the previous wine, better integration and interest and not a bad Tempranillo, but rather big and rather pricey (£50ish – nearly double the previous wine and treble wine 3!). I’d expect this sort of quality for wine 5’s price!

A very interesting tasting,  showing that increased price, older vines, single site and “premium” winemaking is not always a big improvement. There’s a danger of getting just more intensity, more concentration of the flavours and no more (and sometimes less) breadth of flavour or interest. In general too I felt the wines (I’d exonerate wine 3 of this) did show a constricted palate of colours to paint their picture, or only a few chords to express their melody – depending if you prefer visual or musical metaphor?!

So perhaps that’s me agreeing with Ralph’s overall impression of Spanish wines expressed at the beginning of the night.

Thanks so much Ralph for a enjoyable and thought-provoking tasting.

As the next Tasting is the Xmas quiz there will not be a scene-setting post this month, but Nottingham based readers may be interested to know that Domaine de Cébène Les Bancels 2015 Faugères made Jancis’ recommended list this month as it’s available from Leon Stolarski (http://www.lsfinewines.co.uk/index.html)

À Bientôt

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