Spanish new wave – Dominio de Valdepusa’s Caliza

Marqués de Grinñons estate Dominio de Valdepusa in La Mancha has been one of the pioneers of the Spanish winerevolution for almost 30 years. At a time when everything was about Rioja and the area in and around La Mancha was known for more or less underinkable bulk-wines – Valdepusa was a beacon in the dark.

I first encountered the wines in the mid 90s. First up was the magnificent cabernet sauvignon and then a few years later the monumental syrah. And they completely knocked me to the ground. This was something quite different from the bland and tired La Mancha-wines that I had tasted up to that moment. Marqués de Griñons wines had power, structure and balance. They were modern wines for modern consumers – and for me personally they showed that Spain had a potential that lay far beyond Rioja.

At the time the wines were labeled as Marqués de Griñon – but since the early 2000s they are bottled under the estae namn Dominio de Valdepusa. The man behind it all the Marquis Carlos Falcó was educated in agriculture in the U.S. at the University of California, Davis, and then seeked help of Alexis Lichine (wine writer and the owner of Bordeauxchâteaus Château Priuré-Lichine and Château Lascombes) and Professor Émile Peynaud (the forerunner and father of modern wine-making). He was advised by Peynaud to plant French vine varietys and were assisted by Lichine in the marketing and distribution of his wines.

Since the property was outside the more famous wine districts the Marquis could experiment with foreign grape varieties, pruning and irrigation (drip irrigation) – something which otherwise was prohibited by the Spanish wine law at the time. And history proved him and his contemporary collegues in both Spain and Italy right (where winemakers de-classified their best wines into “table wines” – Vino da Tavola – to make the best wines as possible).

Today Dominio Valdepusa is a “pago” – a vineyard with its own designation/denominación – even if the estate could bottle their wines under the DO Méntrida (official website for DO Méntrida found here!) The Pago-denominacion was introduced by the regional government of Castilla-La Mancha in 2000 and fully incorparated in to the Spanish wine law in 2003.

A Vino de Pago has to be a vineyard with the “highest international reputation” but do not necessarily have to belong to any official district (DO – Denominación de Origen). But the estate must use their own grapes in the production. Dominio de Valdepusa was, together with Pago Finca Elez (Manuel Manzaneques estate also makes an awesome syrah!), the first vineyard which was awarded the new designation.

Dominio de Valdepusa currently consists of 3000 hectares, of which 42 ha are under vines. Caliza is one of the property’s simpler/earlier drinking wines and has received its name from the limestone, “caliza”, which forms the the underlayer of Dominio de Valdepusas vineyards. The wine is a blend of 65 percent syrah and 35 percent Petit Verdot – ie. a wild blend of Rhone and Bordeaux if you like! The grapes are hand harvested and then gets a long maceration for up to 4-5 weeks. After fermentation the wine is aged for 10 months on new or semi-new barrels of French Allier-oak.

All this has has resulted in a wine with a dense dark purple color. The wine is quite expressive on the nose with lots of dark berries, herbs (mint, sage), chocolate and toasted oak. I find elements of both blackberries and black currants. The taste is medium-bodied to full bodied with a round, mellow and fruity flavor of blackberry, black currant, plum, toasted oak and herbs. There are quite firm acids and tannins but they are all wrapped in soft fruit and flavors of dark chocolate. And the finish is long and well balanced.

The wine is not available in Sweden. I bought it on the ferry to Helsinki for around €9-10! I wish I had bought more! But it is also available here!

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