Volver Single Vineyard Tempranillo 2008 – New Wave Spain

The new wave of spanish wine seems to divide the winelovers and bloggers around the world. Recently I noticed some quite a harsh critique of the new more fruitier styles of spanish wines in social media forums – but for me this critique seems more than a bit unfair.

I’m not claiming to be an expert on the spanish wine industry – but I have been tasting spanish wines for decades and I think that you could compare the situation in Spain today to where Italy was say some 15 years ago. All around the country there seems to be a lot of experimentation and old dogma is being questioned. “New” (at least for the consumers) districts and regions (think Priorat, Montsant and Bierzo to namne but a few) are putting out amazing wines and old favorites like Rioja are better than ever.

Yes it is still true that some of the big names, I am thinking foremost on Ribera del Duero and Toro, are not fulfilling ther potential to the fullest (and whatever happened to Navarra?). Yes there are excellent wines coming out of those districts too but not in the numbers we could expect.

La Mancha on the other hand is a district that you normally do not expect to perform well at all. Large and extremely hot and dry it was long just a center for uninteresting bulk wine production. But even that has changed over the last couple of decades with the likes of Marques de Griñon and Manuel Manzaneque setting the the standards with some truly amazing wines.

I haven’t come across Bodegas Volver earlier – but this Volver Single Vineyard Tempranillo 2008 shows great promise for that grape in the district. And it is also a good example of the more fruity non-oxidized style of the spanish new wave. The Bodega are owned by the enologist Rafael Cañizares and comprise 98 hectars in the eastern parts of the district were the topsoil is sand over large river stones, clay, iron and chalk.

The Volver vineyard, planted in 1957, is the source of the producers top Tempranillo. Low yields, high altitude (660 meters above sea level) with great daytime/nighttime temperature variations and the age of the vines forms the basis for what is going in to the bottle. The wine gets a long and slow fermentation/maceration and then spends 6 months in french oak.

The 2008 got a dark red and dense colour. The aromas loaded with red berries, mint, herbs and liqorice. I also find elements of cocoa and raspberry candy. The taste is medium bodied and fruitdriven with red berries (raspberries), herbs and cocoa powder with a long herbal finish. The tannins are well integrated and mellow. Drink now or over the next five years!


Vindemia Criança 1998 – Mature white from Terra Alta

How often do you drink whites with a decade or more of cellartime? Are you anything like me then the answer is: almost never and certainly not often enough!

Apart from the odd old German riesling the whites we consume tend to be young fresh and acidic (and to be honest  that riesling is still young, fresh and acidic when we sample it!).

Just therefore is it so cool to find wines that do not easily conform to the ordinary mold. Wines that do go against the common perception of what is “good” (Viña Todonia comes to mind). And this is such a wine.

I found it in a dansih wine bar in Copenhagen – and the owner Nils Frøslev insisted that I should taste it. At  Villa Vino you can buy it by the glass. It probably could be written off as past it’s best. But with the maturity Vindemia Criança 1998 has gained a new life with mature fruity flavours with dried apricots, honey and nuts. The acids are almost gone but the fruit concentration are marvellous with an almost botrytis-like taste and just enough oxidational notes to give it complexity.

It comes from one of those “new” spanish districts (at least for us who lives in Sweden) that we all should watch very closely – Terra Alta. Terra Alta is in Catalunya very near two other recently hyped districts – Priorat and Montsant. This wine comes from one of the best producers in the area Cellar de Xavier Clua. I can’t find Vindemia on their website and I guess it has been replaced by another garnacha blanca blend –  Mas d’En Pol.

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!

More Mencia from Bierzo – Tilenus and Petalos

More from Bierzo in north west of Spain. The district used to be known for light, juicy-jammy and a bit sour and volatile wines. But with new players and a focus on lower yields and old Mencia vines that image is about to change permanently!

At the same time more and more producers are stepping up and showing the world what can be done with the grape. Take Alvaro Palacios, for example, the man who shot Priorat to stardom (read more on Palacios here!). He is now involved in Descendientes de J Palacios with his nephew Ricardo Perez – and the domaine is one of the most interesting in the area.

It was long believed that the Mencia-grape was related to Cabernet Franc – and as I’ve written earlier here in EricssonUncorked and my swedish blog Uppkorkat – the wines can be reminiscent of both Cabernet Franc and Barbera (or a blend of the two!) with quite pronounced acidity and spicy dark fruit.

DNA-testing has instead shown that it is identical to Jaen that is quite common in middle and western Spain and portugese wine region Dão. And you can find Jaen/Mencia in spanish districts like Valdeorras, Ribeira Sacra and Liébana.

Here are two more great Mencia wines from Bierzo!

Petalos 2008 (around €15)
From Descendientes de J Palacios. The wine is made from grapes that come from vines that are between 40 and 90 years old.
Blue-red colour. Spicy aromas with hints of dark berries, oak, leather and herbs. Good concentration on the palate with red and dark berries, liqourice/salmiak, herbs and tobacco. Great value!

Tilenus Pagos de Posada 2004 (around €22)
This wine is made by Bodegas Estefanía and the average age of the vines is 90 years! Low yields, hand harvesting, fermentation in stainless steel and 18 months on french oak!
Dense dark blue-red colour. Warm and earthy smells with hints of game, dark berries, oak/vanilla, leather, dried fruits and spices. Medium-bodied very fresh (a bit acidic) taste of red and dark berries, leather, spices and oak. Good concentration on the palate with elements of chocolate and tobacco!

Bargain Mencia from Bierzo – Tercer Motivo

Spanish Bierzo is hot! Hot as in “hyped” and “in vogue”. A decade ago few outside Spain had heard of the place and even fewer connected it with quality wine. Now some of the countrys leading producers (for example Alvaro Palacios via his Descendientes de J Palacios) are setting their sights on Bierzo and the wines are intriguing!

And the reason? A highly individual grape and stunning old vineyards makes Bierzo one of Spains most interesting wine districts right now. Mencias acidic and fruit-concentrated flavours can be a little hard to come to grips with. I used to find the wines a bit too acidic and volatile – but that has changed over the past few years.

Now the best wines combines freshsness, green notes and minerality with deep concentrated fruit-flavours and a good tannic structure. The best examples taste a bit like a cross between Cabernet Franc and Barbera (Mencia is actually identical to Portugals Jaen – not Cabernet Franc as was once thought). But prices are high – so when this wine came my way it was a welcome addition and a great bargain.

Tercer Motivo Mencia 2007 (around €10) comes from Bodegas Neo which is located in Ribera del Duero. But hte Tercer Motivo is of course 100 percent mencia from Bierzo. The average age of the vines that form the basis of the grapes to this wine is 60 years and the wine has spent 15 days on it’s skins and has been aged in barrel for 6 months (60 percent french and 40 percent american oak).

Dark blue-red colour. A bit closed on the nose with dark berries, minerals, oak and vanilla. Medium-bodied spicy taste of dark berries (blackberries and plums), herbs and oak/vanilla. The wine got the characteristic harshness of the Mencia grape with quite pronounced tannins and acidity – but that harshness is balanced with generous fruit. Drink now or keep up to 5 years!