Bodegas Fernando Remirez de Ganuza

I went to a Spanish wine tasting at Fiamma in New York on Monday and had a chance to taste some rare and some good wines.

The ones I liked the best were from Remirez de Ganuza in Rioja. I had not tasted them before and what I liked about them was the light to medium body. The wines had ripe fruit and intense palates, but were not sticky, hot or heavy. More Burgundian — or Barolo — in style. I got to talk to Luis Alberto Martinez, who is the wine maker and manager at the estate.

I tasted the Fincas de Ganuza Reserva 2001, the entry level wine, which would retail for around $60. It’s unfiltered and had a lot of sediment and brett on the nose. This always makes me stop. But it was delicious. Medium tannins, fresh and balanced. Next to me was John McClement of Keens Steakhouse. He said he likes a little brett in the wine. For me, it’s usually so overwhelming that I don’t want to taste it. It’s like sitting next to someone on a bus who’s wearing too much perfume. They may be a really nice person and someone I’d like to get to know, but I can’t get past the way they smell.

In this wine, however, the fruit and secondary aromas of developing fruit — leather, tobacco — enveloped the brett — that barnyard smell, which many new world winemakers consider a flaw — and added dimension.

Also on the table was the Remirez de Ganuza 2003. Like the above wine, it was made from 85 percent old vines tempranilllo, 10 percent old vines graciano, three percent old vines grenache and two percent “other.” These grapes are grown in four different vineyards. And Remirez prides itself from only using grapes from the “shoulders” of the bunches, where, it is presumed, they are the ripest. This wine would retail for $120. It was medium ruby that was starting to orange at the rim, moderate brett on nose, light bodied and tangy with black fruit.

Also on hand were the 2004 and the 2001 in magnum. The ’04 is one of the better vintages, and it had much more agressive tannins and the body was rounder but it was still a light cherry fruit. The ’01was still youthful, medium bodied with cherry flavors.

Impressed with the wine, I opened Alice Feirings’ book, The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization on the bus ride home. I was on the Rioja chapter.

She wrote about this Parker favorite, “Deliver me from wines like Fernando’s and give the Lopez de Heredias with their intense delicacy.”

Feiring’s complaint, and she said nothing about what the wine tasted like, only what Parker said it tasted like, was that Fernando had used enzymes to boost the color of his wine.

“When I asked him why color was important, he not only mentioned Robert Parker but said that color was indicative of a great wine.”

Hmm. Now I wished I had read this before so I could ask Luis about it, but then I thought, who cares? I didn’t notice the color. I noticed the body, which was what is distinctive about these wines.

The color/quality issue persists. Gary Vaynerchuk discussed Remirez on wine library tv, and says the same thing: Pitch black color. “Again a trademark for very serious wines.”

Color should be a sign of the wine’s age, origin and variety. What matters more to me is the way it smells and the way it feels in the mouth. Balanced, fruity, subtle, intense without being heavy. Remirez de Ganuza had all that.

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