Mystifying Mediterranean Wines
We don’t normally think of central and north central Spain as Mediterranean climate, but, almost the entire Iberian Peninsula enjoys this very wine-friendly terroir.
As always, this tasting was conducted in a double blind fashion with no one knowing anything about the wines other than what can be perceived in the glass. Tony Senna put together several Rioja wines of varying ages and oak treatments as well as a Ribero del Duero and two wines from Valdepenas. The first flight contained medium aged to young wines with the second flight older. Though I picked up on Mediterranean climate immediately, I can’t believe that I did not identify Rioja or even Spain for that matter. Being that many of my favorite wines are from Spain, I’ve very surprised that I didn’t score these wines higher. Possibly the fact that I normally drink them at a much older age may have influenced my opinion. Pat Marks was the only one to definitively recognize their Spanish origins. The majority of the wines were mostly if not 100% Tempranillo. In Spain, the term Reserva does have legal meaning. To be Reserva or Gran Reserva the wine not only needs to have been made following a specific aging regimen but also must be produced from grapes grown in a year that the Department of Agriculture deems as one of superior quality. Joven = very young with minimal aging, Crianza = some aging as in raising a child through nursery school, Reserva = more age in oak plus additional age in bottle prior to release and Gran Reserva = more aging in oak and bottle than the Reserva and most wineries only produce a Gran Reserva in the very best of the best vintages. As you can see by the scores, all of these wines were very well liked by most of the tasters. The alcohol by volume was in the 13-14% range for all of the wines.
CAMPO VIEJO Brut Rose CAVA, Penedes, SPAIN $10
The group liked this one very much. It tasted a lot like $30 French Champagne to me. Had it been rated, I would guess the score would have been well into the 90’s.
2016 CAMPO VIEJO Tempranillo Joven, Rioja, SPAIN $9
A lovely Rhone-like wine with a fresh zip and nice bright fruit at mid-palate finishes with lively fruit too. My score 89 points, group score 89 points (fifth place)
2012 CAMPO VIEJO Reserva, Rioja, SPAIN $16
Also showing very vivid fresh fruit with a bit more body and a longer richer texture than the Joven along with a very satisfying long soft finish. It is clearly a bigger clone of the Joven though still pretty fresh and lively. My score 91 points, my favorite, group score 87 points (last place)
2014 MARQUES DE CACERES Crianza, Rioja, SPAIN $13
Though a bit mute in the nose as well as somewhat hard and closed on the palate, this is a very solid wine of quality with nice balanced mouth feel though it offers up no surprises. Perhaps another five years in the cellar might open up all kinds of flavors. I’ve had this wine before and remember lots of earth and sweet oak that is now masked. My score 84 points, group score 88 points (sixth place tie)
2010 HACIENDA LOPEZ DE HARO Crianza, Rioja, SPAIN $10*
The composty veggie component in the nose shows surprisingly elegant fruit too not unlike the finesse one normally experiences in good Bordeaux wines which made me think of Merlot rather than Tempranillo (it contains no Merlot, however). It also finishes with prunes, veggies and wilted greens superimposed on dusty clay-like earthiness. My score 85 points, group score 90 points (fourth place)
2007 OPIMIUS Gran Reserva, Ribero del Duero, SPAIN $20 (on sale from $50)
This is a big wine! Rich smoky bouquet with layers of maturing fruit complexity and a rich texture. My score 87 points, group score 94 points (first place)
2007 ANCIANO Tempranillo Gran Reserva, Valdepenas, SPAIN $11**
Though a pretty good value, honestly, to me it was not memorable. Besides smoky oaky nuances, and a hint of green veggies, the nose had a strange candy-like orange marshmallow smell. Though nice and juicy, it is very simple and one dimensional. My score 79 points, group score 88 points (sixth place tie)
2005 FAUSTINO I Gran Reserva, Rioja, SPAIN $30
Also mildly smoky and backed up with a rich balanced texture. Maybe it needs time, but presently it is quite closed and not showing much fruit. My score 81 points, group score 93 points (second place)
1998 ANCIANO Tempranillo Gran Reserva, Valdepenas, SPAIN $20**
A bit older and more interesting than the 2007, but still not in a league with the other wines. There is clearly a reason that Valdepenas is not generally recognized as a wine region comparable to Rioja or Ribero del Duero; decent wine, but nothing memorable. My score 80 points, group score 91 points (third place)
Well, as you can see, once again, my palate seems to be at odds with most of the other tasters. I liked the wines, but did not find many of them compelling or of the sort I would enjoy day after day after day. Solid and serviceable, might be a good description.
Enjoy in Good Health,
Brian Cain, the Michigan Vintner
*Clearly this 8 year old wine came from Tony’s cellar and is not a current release. The price is what it cost back when originally purchased.
**Also from Tony’s cellar, so, pricing is not current.