Andover Wine Friends’ May tasting was led by Torquil Jack of Carte du Vin … on the basis of his explorations on two wheels of the byways of France and Spain. Torquil and Marion have turned a hobby into an early retirement business, importing wines from small family wineries, mostly unavailable elsewhere in the UK. Their cycling and hard work have undoubtedly been to our benefit.
We tasted a good range of wines from northern Spain but I would like to concentrate here on the wines of David Moreno in Rioja Alta – plus a couple of contrasting wines from Ribeira del Duero. Unusually, Moreno produces not just whites and reds but also a pink and in an unusual local style. Although the wine is called Rosado (2010, 12.5%) it is, in fact, a Clarete, that is, a rosé made of 50% Garnacha (ie a red grape, entirely normally) and 50% Viura, a white grape most commonly found in Cava. The resulting wine is a really attractive colour: onion skin heading in the direction of peach, as you can see in the picture. That soft peachy theme continues on the nose with a hint of creaminess too. Interestingly, as this vintage is now approaching the end of its drinking window, there was a slight touch of carbon dioxide still, just right for a refreshing wine seeking more sunshine than the English spring has provided so far. The palate is entirely in keeping with this start, with soft red-berried fruit and a good sour touch on the finish, likely to be due to the somewhat tart Viura grape variety. Altogether, a really creditable effort and outstanding value at £7.95. Bring on the sunshine!
We are on somewhat more conventional grounds with Blanco 2011, made from 100% Viura. Again, a key point here is good value at the same price: typical light floral nose, unobtrusive lemon fruit and an intriguing saline note all make for a highly competent glass of wine to drink on its own or with lighter foods. Rather more exciting is Rioja, Tinto Reserva, 2004 at £11:50. This is made from 90% Tempranillo and 10% Garnacha and has spent an impressive 24 months in oak, 18 months in American oak and the rest in French. However, in the glass, what you notice is how well the oak is integrated with the strawberry and red plum fruit. The overt oak flavours have worn off meaning that this is now perfectly ready to drink, with evolved fruit to the fore and a fine tannic and acidic structure.
By way of contrast, we also tasted two red wines from Ribera del Duero, also Tempranillo based but from a much warmer, fully continental, climate. If red Rioja typically shows red fruit and oak ageing effects from the Tempranillo variety, in hotter Ribera the same grape variety, here called Tinto Fino, shows black fruit. The young and fruity Linje Garsea, Roble Selected Harvest, Ribera del Duero 2011 (£12:25) makes the point perfectly: it is harvested in two batches so as to pick only ripe fruit and then it displays intense ripe fruit which you could call ‘strawberry’ except that is not quite dark enough – black plum, fully ripe blackberry perhaps. Just six months oak ageing (hence ‘Roble’) means that this is really mostly about primary flavours. By contrast, there was Prios Maximus Crianza, Ribera del Duero, Tinto Fino, 2009 (£13:95) which has spent a year at least in oak barrels and another year in bottles. Evident French and American oak on the coconut and vanilla nose along with that sweet concentrated Tempranillo fruit but now with fine velvety tannins and very good length.
Other wines tasted
Rias Biaxas, Abamar, 2011 – fashionable Albariño from Galicia
Bodegas Urbina, Tinto Special Reserva 2001 – the treat of a fully mature Rioja with a decade of bottle ageing
All in all, this was a gentle and pleasurable cycle through some key northern Spanish wine regions.