I spent a few days away from home at the beginning of the week, and Tuesday I was in the city for David Bowler Wine’s Spanish portfolio tasting. If there was an overarching theme for the wines it was that while they were powerful and concentrated they were medium-bodied, not sticky California/Australian wine. Also, the number of wines made from indigenous grapes far outnumbered the creeping international varieties of cabernet and merlot. This made for interesting wine.
Only a few of the producers were still using American oak and only one had the persistent barnyard nose that indicates the wine is infected with brettanomyces. These were the wines of Hermanos Pecina from the Rioja Alta. The tasting book calls the wines tradtional, and they are, but they’re also complex with silky tannins and long finishes.
Interestingly there was one wine in which I smelled brett, but in this case I think it added to the wine. The above link takes you to an article by Jamie Goode, which goes over the pros and cons of the yeast that many say smells like a sweaty saddle.
The wine in which I felt it worked was the Peique 2006 Joven, made from 100 percent mencia.
The OCW on mencia:
increasingly valued red grape variety grown so widely in north west Spain that plantings total over 9,100 ha/22,500 acres, notably in Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra, and Valdeorras. DNA profiling has laid to rest the once-popular theory that Mencía and Cabernet Franc were related. In addition, the rediscovery by young winemakers of old, low-yielding hillside plots of Mencía has dispelled the notion that this variety necessarily produces light reds since wines of great concentration and complexity have emerged from these forgotten vineyards on deep schists and produced a Priorat-like revolution in the region. It was the fertile plains on which Mencía was replanted after phylloxera, with resulting high yields, that gave the variety its reputation for dilution.
Mencía is identical to Portugal’s Jaen.
This was the least expensive of Peique’s wines, which are from the Bierzo region in the north west of Spain, to the east of the increasingly recognized Rias Baixas. The other two on display were the 2004 VV and the 2003 Seleccion Familiar. The VV spent 12 months in French and Russian oak and was meaty with herb and mineral aromas. The Seleccion spent 18 months in French and Russian oak and smelled almost exactly like s’mores cooking on a gas grill with some charred meat thrown in. But it was still nicely acidic.
The second two wines are packaged in six packs, which was almost par for the course in the tasting and one producer even was selling his wine in four packs. Crater, a producer from the Canary Islands, is selling its top-of-the-line wine, Magma, (hello, Dr. Evil) in single packs. This is from a winery that prides itself on being biodynamic. I asked the the woman showing the wine, who responded through an interpreter, why so many wineries were using six packs, given the increased amount of packaging and the cost to ship it. She responded that their production was so limited and they wanted to give more people access to it. This is kind of like the heavy bottles problem.
As a buyer for a restaurant, a six pack of wine is almost useless. It can be gone in one weekend and then I have another hole on my list. And I don’t have a chance to cultivate a following for it. In addition, it’s easy to be fooled by the price. It’s kind of like Dean and Deluca charging $10 for their lobster salad, by the quarter pound.
Info on Bierzo:
increasingly fashionable small DO region in north west Spain, which administratively forms part of Castilla y León. However, the river Sil, which bisects it, is a tributary of the Miño (Minho in Portugal) and the wines have more in common with those of Galicia than those of the Douro 140 km/88 miles to the south. Sheltered from the climatic excesses of the Atlantic and the central plateau, Bierzo shows promise as a wine region. The mencía grape is capable of producing balanced, fruity red wines in well-drained soils on the slate and granite of this part of Spain.
In the late 1990s, a group of small, mostly young growers reproduced in Bierzo the same ‛miracle‚’ which had happened in Priorat one decade earlier—they resurrected a moribund wine region. One of the protagonists, Álvaro Palacios, was indeed one of the Priorat pioneers as well. With his nephew Ricardo Pérez Palacios, he reclaimed small, old vineyards on slate slopes and produced wines with no resemblance to the light quaffable reds traditionally produced from fertile valley vineyards. In addition to Herederos de J. Palacios, the top new names by 2005 were Paixar, Pittacum, Dominio de Tares, Estefanía (Tilenus Pagos de Posada), and Castro Ventosa (Valtuille).