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!

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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!