Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Featured Wines: Iberian Express

If any of the wines in this week's Featured Wines column tickle your fancy, you can order them directly from Jordan by email (JCarrier@everythingwine.ca) or find him in the Vintage Room of Everything Wine's Morgan Crossing location in South Surrey.

Iberian Express
By Jordan Carrier

As the Iberian Peninsula was gradually retaken by Christianity centuries ago, winemaking – prohibited under the previous Caliphates – returned with it. Monks from monasteries like Cluny in Burgundy (no stranger to viticulture, they) flooded into the valleys of the Oja and Duero rivers, bringing know-how and planting vineyards. They founded monasteries in what became Rioja (from “River-Oja”) to serve travellers on the pilgrim’s route Camino de Santiago, and repopulated the Ribera del Duero area, which remained sparsely agrarian until just a few decades ago. The strong connection to Burgundy contributed to the myth that the predominant Tempranillo grape descended from Pinot Noir, although DNA testing has proven otherwise (ancient Phoenicians likely introduced the grape’s ancestors long ago).

Today, Spain consistently has the most acreage devoted to grapes, although because of nutrient-poor soil and the resulting low-density planting, they lag far behind Italy and France in terms of volume produced. Where Spain and neighbouring Portugal do not lag, however, is in great value. Perhaps because of their economic challenges, a wine-drinker’s dollar goes a lot further there. You can spend $20 dollars and be pleasantly surprised. You can spend $70 and be continuously happy until somebody shakes you. You can spend $300 and become something we’ve not yet invented a word for.

Here are some excellent examples:

La Rioja Alta 2004 Gran Reserva 904 - Rioja
Taking its name from the cooler-climate, higher-altitude Alta region of Rioja, where Burgundian monks planted the first vineyards, this winery produces traditionally structured, lighter hued wines with enormous kick and cellaring potential. Indeed, even though this Gran Reserva (top classification) is 12 years old, it has only just entered its ideal drinking window, and has at least another decade in the gas tank. Meaty leather and spice notes surround the dried fruit; this is timeless Rioja, delicious and smarty-pants. 96 points Robert Parker, $70.49 +tax

Vega Sicilia 2010 Valbuena - Ribera del Duero
Another classically built Tempranillo (with a smidge of Merlot), this time from Ribera del Duero’s original winery, the legendary Vega Sicilia. Valbuena has always taken a back seat to Vega’s iconic Unico blend in both lore and price tag, but it has always tended to be the more masculine of the two, both in structure and colour, without sacrificing any of its cousin’s famous elegance. I haven’t opened my bottle yet, partially because I love aged classic wines, and partially because I’m worried that Valbuena may try to drag my teeth down with it as I drink, but the Wine Advocate review does name this year as the beginning of its window, with cherry cigar and citrus peel contained in a cedar box. Very happy to finally carry this! 96 points Robert Parker, $223.49 +tax

Taylor Fladgate 1966 Very Old Single Harvest Tawny Port
As we cross the border from Spain into Portugal, the Duero river becomes the Douro, Tempranillo becomes Tinto Roriz (pronounced HOR-EECH, because Portuguese is basically Spanish on Sinutab), but the winemaking doesn’t get any less awesome. This magical elixir is a Colheita, a Tawny Port from a single vintage (not to be confused with Vintage Port), and it’s all-filling, comforting, and remarkably fruitful for its half-century of age. Toasted caramel, dried apricot and spice abound, this Port hides its booze with remarkable integration and almost infinite length. Goodness me, this is fine liquid. Drink it to celebrate a 50th birthday, 50 years of marriage (someone else’s is fine), or even the 50th anniversary of the first Doors album (yep, it’s been that long). 96 points Wine Spectator, $259.99 +tax


Masterclass: Riesling, the Noble Grape, Thursday April 28, 6:30pm-8pm, Seats $50 +gst
Super excited to drink this many Rieslings in a row, and Yasha is super excited to do food pairings for an all-white-wine evening! Classic wines from across the European spectrum, dry Alsace, rich Austrian and 3 Pradikats of German Rieslings await us on our aromatic travels. 

The wines:

2009 Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile, Alsace, France, 92 points James Sucklin, $79.99
2012 Zind Humbrecht Clos Saint Urbain, Alsace, France, 97 points Robert Parker, $124.99
2009 Nikolaihof Smaragd, Wachau, Austria, 96 points Robert Parker, $58.99
2012 Schloss Johannisberg Kabinett Feinherb, Rheingau, Germany, $40.49
2013 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Spatlese, Mosel, Germany 95 points Wine Spectator, $130.99
2006 Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Auslese Goldkapsel, Rheinhessen, Germany, 95 points Wine Spectator, $130.99

2010 Rabl TrockenberenAuslese, Kamptal, Austria, $99.99

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