To be honest, Spanish wine and I haven’t been particularly close over the years, I mean I’ve always enjoyed them and had a great appreciation for them but working in an Italian restaurant for many years, Italian wines were obviously of greater relevance.
I jumped at the opportunity to taste a diverse selection of Cru Wines’ Spanish offerings at Melbourne’s Syracuse restaurant nestled amongst the law courts district in Bank Place.
Rodrigo Mendez Cies Albarinho 2013 $40 rrp
First up were wines from Rodrigo Mendez, who’s vineyards are not typical Galician vineyards: they’re hidden up in the mountains, surrounded by pine forests. The vines however are still exposed to the ocean winds because the high altitude keeps them at a steady cool temperature. The vineyards are quite isolated, which means Rodrigo is able to farm using organic methods as he does not have to worry about diseases or pesticides drifting in from neighbouring vineyards. He grows native Galician grape varieties and uses natural yeasts to ferment them. His wines are unlike other Galician wines I’ve tried before, but share the characteristic bright fruit flavours and zingy freshness.
Older oak, blend of estate vineyards with average vine age 30-60yrs. The nose was very layered and complex, with a real yeasty, bready aroma amongst citrus and honeysuckle. Almost Champagne like. The palate was rounded with great texture and a refreshing minerally driven acidity, spiced honey, lemon and red apples. Very enjoyable.
Rodrigo Mendez Salvora Albarinho 2011 $75 rrp
Single block, aged in older oak with no Bâtonnage. Bouquet is rich and inviting with yeasty, spiced honey, grilled nut and floral notes. The palate, textured and rounded with a lovely richness, medium acidity levels, grilled nuts, honeysuckle, pastry and citrus with a mineral drive on the lengthy finish.
Raul Perez Sketch Albarinho 2013 $120 rrp
Next was a beautiful wine from Raul Perez who by the age of 39 was regarded as a legend in the wine world, particularly in Spain for his work with indigenous varietals such as the Mencia grape in Bierzo, the rare Prieto Picudo grape in Leon and in this case the Albarino grape in Rias Baixas on the North Western coast.
He too was controversial for his methodology. For Sketch the grapes are harvested by hand and grown approximately 150 metres from the sea. The vines grow in a mixture of sand and granite soil and are at least 40 years in age. He ferments and partially ages in large old French oak barrels, blocks malolactic fermentation and bottles after a year. The bottles are then dropped carefully into the Aurosa estuary where they are kept in the ocean for approximately 60 days at between 60-100 feet deep in the sea.
He does this to allow the wine age in darkness, at a constant cold temperature in a perfectly anaerobic environment and at an elevated pressure.
The wine, light gold in colour with a beautiful glimmer, has a lovely delicate bouquet, bright and very primary with an unmistakable saline minerality amongst citrus, and honeysuckle. The palate is well rounded, with many dimensions, fresh cut lemons, honey, anise, and floral arrangements. A long crisp and beautifully balanced acidity on the finish lingers until next week. Love it.
Finca Allende Calvario Rioja 2006 $200 rrp
The wine spends 20 months in 100% new French oak and is 90% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha I believe. Single Vineyard wine and the flagship of Allende. The wine was still very vibrant in the glass, the nose had a beautiful fruit purity with dark red cherries and plums, some spice and freshly ground coffee: super inviting. The palate is seamless, elegant, vibrant and the oak, after 10 years, perfectly integrated. It’s dense and powerful, yet lush and soft. Great concentration, some liquorice and coffee on the long finish. Superb.
Cesar Principe Tempranillo, Castilla y Leon 2011 $79 rrp
Had a slightly oxidative nose, stewed black and red fruits; think plums, notes of coffee, spice and wet earth- a lot going on. The Palate was fresh and elegant with red fruits; less stewed more fresh, liquorice spice, and the finish quite dry with fairly firm chalky tannin. I’d say this wine needs another 5-6 years to be at its peak, though enjoyable now. If you do choose to drink it now, decant for a solid two hours and drink with a slow braised meat, beef cheek or lamb shoulder and it definitely won’t disappoint.
Nin-Ortiz Planete Garnacha/ Carignan Catalonia, 2013 $90 rrp
From a Bio-Organic vineyard from a husband and wife team where all the work is completed by hand, and the utmost care is taken to preserve freshness and the condition of the fruit. The grapes are chilled after harvest to prevent oxidation. Indigenous yeasts are used to complete fermentation, and ageing is completed in a variety of vessels from foudre to amphorae. The goal is to create wines of balance and elegance that represent the vineyards and region.
The nose was certainly bright and very expressive, inviting. Fresh raspberries and griotte with spice and minerality. I even picked up some leathery undertones. The palate was fresh and lively with red raspberries, dark cherries and a beautiful balanced acidity, structured but superbly elegant and a long, slightly clinging finish. I’d buy it.
So overall a great foray into some unique and interesting wines from up and coming regions and inspiring producers.