Bodegas Beronia Reserva 2001

Bodegas Beronia Reserva 2001If you’re inclined to indulge in a bit of traditional Rioja, you’ll know all about this house and this wine. I’ve been working through the range over the weekend, starting off with this Reserva from the great 2001 vintage.

A blend of Tempranillo (89%), Graciano (5%) and Mazuelo (6%), this Rerserva follows the usual pattern of aging in the bodega for at least 3 years. In this case, 18 months of that are in french and american oak, the other 18 months is in bottle.

The nose comes over smooth and confident with cherry and plum, with cinnamon, star anise and a bit of cigar box. Its full of beans in the mouth, with velvety and refined tannins. Cherry and blue fruits on the palate with subtle cinnamon and anise. A fairly robust wine that shows plenty of class. It went really well with my lamb racks, it even went well with a slab of fromage de meaux. 90 Pts.

Source: Broadway Liquor Distributors Price: $35 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.gonzalezbyass.com

Con Class Verdejo 2007

Con Class Verdejo 2007

This is another of the Vintage Cellars imports and personally, I’m very impressed. I get to taste a load of stuff with some of the importers, a lot of it is in search of a cheap white like this. Unfortunately not many reach this standard, and at this price. For sure, it’s not the best wine on earth, but it really over delivers and offers a real alternative to the cheaper NZ Sauv Blanc that seems to be the big seller in bottle shops.

Up front and fresh on the nose, pears and a little peach with some white flowers. A bit more air shows the classic fennel bulb. The palate show some guava, pear and passionfruit plus some musk stick. Its not that textured, which is something I look for in good verdejo, it’s lean with acid drive. Excellent for the price, I’ve tasted quite a few ‘inexpensive’ wines from Rueda and this has to be one of the best cheapies around. 87 Pts.

Source: Vintage Cellars Price: $12 Closure: Screwcap

Martin Codax ‘Burgans’ 2006

Martin Codax Burgans 2006A month or so ago I bought a bottle of this wine and the screwcap was faulty. I had the replacement scheduled for tasting on Monday night, when I got an email from the wine buyer for Vintage Cellars followed by a chat on the phone about closures and their range of Spanish wine. It turns out that there was a bit of a problem with this batch, about 1% of the batch had a faulty or loose screwcap. Still better than cork according to most failure statistics. The fault has been noted and action is being taken to resolve the fault.

So on to the wine. This is the entry level wine for Martin Codax and its probably the only Spanish Albariño available under $20. And its a good wine too.

Aromas of white peach, lime, white flowers and a subtle muskiness. Its got texture in the mouth, its a bit flabby and sweet in the middle, but the acid balances this out for a clean finish. Apple and white peach on the palate with a bit of flint and lemon oil. It’s a well priced drink, It’s not going to knock you off your feet, but you can now afford to drink Spanish albariño any night of the week. 87 Pts.

Source: Vintage Cellars Price: $16.50 Closure: Screwcap

Web: www.martincodax.com

Iberian wine in Australia, Two years on.

Bar Lourinha on a busy Tuesday night

Is it just me or is Spanish wine starting to take off all over again? Or perhaps its a second wind. Whatever it is, there are plenty of new wines in the market this year from both Spain and Portugal. The good thing for buyers of Spanish wine is the broad range of wines that are now available and there is some competition at the lower end of the market.

When I first started Tinto y Blanco almost 2 years ago (more about that later), I could find about 200 Spanish wines and about 20 Ports from the big houses in Portugal. There were a couple of Spanish bars around town, but hardly anyone sold Spanish wine by the glass. These days, there are over 600 wines from Spain and Portugal available in Australia, covering just about every style and region of Spain. Portuguese wines have taken a bit longer to get moving and the main coverage is table wines and ports from the Douro Valley at the moment, with a few other regions showing up here and there.

There are two things that really shows me that Spanish wine has made it into the minds and down the necks of Australian wine drinkers. The first is the number of Spanish bars in Australia now and the number of bar/pubs/bottle shops selling Spanish wine. Its almost mandatory these days to have something on your list that’s Spanish. Just have a look at the photo above, thats a Tuesday night at Bar Lourinha in Melbourne. Not bad eh. The second is that Vintage Cellars now have a range of Spanish wines that they are directly importing and heavily promoting. Regardless of what anyone may think of the big end of the wine retail game, VC do put wine in the hands of many Australians due to their buying power and low cost prices. For example where else can you buy a perfectly good bottle of verdejo or albariño for under $20 (well under).

The established players are branching out too. Over the past couple of months many of the established importers have released a raft of new wines on to the Australian market as well. For example, Negotiants have recently released wines from cult producers such as Mauro as well as a bunch of new stuff from Priorat/Monsant. The Spanish Acquisition has a range of new stuff at all levels, including Artadi at the very top end. IFW have also branched out to the table wines of Quinta do Noval. On top of all that, there are new importers popping up all over the place, with a number of independent wine stores branching out and importing their own stuff.

The questions I have to ask are: is the market getting too big? How many brands and importers will the market bear? Now that Spanish wine is more mainstream will sales drop off if it’s no longer the ‘cool new thing’? Or is it still the cool new thing, with its buddy Portugal. Given the buzz on Spanish food and wine, I think Spanish wine has a long term future in Australia. In terms of cost Spanish and Portuguese wine is still a winner as far as imports go too, but I think we are now seeing importers looking at cost more than quality at the low end of the market. Portuguese wines are generating a lot of interest, and are starting to look like a new force on the import shelves.

So after two years of running the site it feels like there has never been a better time to be drinking Spanish and Portuguese wine in Australia. In order to celebrate the 2 year milestone, I’ll be running a very lame competition to give away some seriously good wine from next Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Bodegas Hidalgo ‘Pastrana’ Manzanilla Pasada

Bodegas Hidalgo 'Pastrana' Manzanilla PasadaI stopped by Rathdowne Cellars on Saturday morning in search of Manzanilla and found this puppy. It comes in a full 750ml bottle so you can have two binges from the one bottle. For our non-Australian visitors, the Australian Government is about to release new alcohol guidelines that assert that more than 4 standard drinks in one day is a ‘binge’ on alcohol, and that any more than 2 drinks a day is harmful. 4 standard drinks is about 3 glasses of wine.
Its an unusual sherry for more than just the bottle size, its a single vineyard wine which is quite rare but not un heard of. Like champagne, most sherry is made from a range of vineyards and then blended. The whole story is on the front label, so I won’t spoil the read for you.
Apples and chamomile on the nose with some almonds and light flor notes. Very delicate, mellow and smooth in the mouth, quite nutty but refreshing. The palate shows plenty of typical manzanilla notes of apple, almonds, a bit of salt and yeasty bread. Less salty than expected.  A warm finish that lingers for quite a while. Highly drinkable and an excellent with food too.  92 Pts

Source: Rathdowne Cellars Price: $34 Closure: Cork Stopper

Web: www.vinicola-hidalgo.es

Wine from Dão – an Alvaro Castro Tasting

Last week I dropped into the Spanish Acquisition HQ for a bit of Jamon and ended up tasting a whole heap of stuff including a selection of wines from Alvaro Castro from the Dão region in Portugal. This lot are not currently being imported, but I’m sure it won’t be long before we’ll be seeing a few of these around town. The wines were served up single blind (we knew they were Alvaro Castro’s wines, but not which ones). I don’t have a lot of info on these wines or the region, but Jamie Goodie has a good overview of the region, including a bit on Alvaro Castro and his vineyards. Overall, I’d summarise the wines as very elegant and balanced, at the same time there is plenty of fruit too.

Primus 2006 – The only white in the line up from Alvaro today. Apples and pears, saturated by banana. Pleasant enough with a long finish, but too much banana for me. 87 Pts.

Dão Reserva 2005 – An enticing nose with subtle spice with some dark fruits and violets. A brooding kind of wine, deep and intense with fine balance and plenty of quality fruit. 91 Pts.

Dão Reserva 2005 – Something odd with this bottle, no notes.

Quinta du Pelleda Vinha da Serra 2006 – Cherry and blackberry, Christmas cake spices, vanilla oak and a bit of game. Tight and structured in the mouth, but very enjoyable. A healthy dose of tannins too. 90 Pts.

Pelada 2003 – Here we go, showing a bit of age but its still quite intense. Blackberry, beetroot and blueberry with woody spice and some great acid that really livens up this wine. 92 Pts.

Carrocel 2006 – This seemed like a younger version of the Pelada with a bit of mint and more obvious oak. Juicy and mouth coating, but I’m sure it will all integrate in a couple of years. 92 Pts.

Reserva

Pelada

Don Aurelio Crianza 2004

Don Aurelio Crianza 2004There’s not much to say here really, this is a good wine from Valdapeñas made from Tempranillo and given a bit of time in wood. It’s correct, it’s savoury and it’s good QPR. Wine from Valdapeñas is often confused for Rioja when served up blind, so that will give you some idea of the style.

A cheery red colour in the glass, with a nose of earthy cherry pie, followed up by some wood and smoke in the background. Pretty much the same in the mouth, but add some blueberry, plum and liquorice. A good little unit, cheap but very enjoyable. 87 Pts.

Source: The Spanish Acquisition Price: $21 Closure: Conventional Cork

Mas d’en Gil Coma Vella 2002

Mas d'en Gil Coma Vella 2002It is this kind of wine that leads to a few of the comments I made on the post about the Clos Fonta. In vintages like 2002, which wasn’t a great vintage, the producers still have the high costs of everything in the vineyard being done by hand, plus lower production and quality to boot. So all these costs (and some profit) get passed on to consumers, which would make this wine a hard sell at $90. Then again the 2004 will probably fly out the door. The punters expect something special at this price range, unfortunatley nature doesn’t always play along.

A bit of coco, cherry and sappy plums with a bit of pez and sawdust. A bit more air show raspberry, slight violets, white pepper and sooty earth. Yeah its complex and enjoyable on the nose. Unfortunately, its a bit flat and clinical on the palate. The tannins are a bit hard on the finish, but overall it has good balance. A bit medicinal tasting with some clove and pepper, plum and rosella, cola. There’s plenty there to like and its quite a good wine for the vintage, but it just doesn’t come together for the big points. 89 Pts.

Source: Broadway Liquor Distributors Price: $90 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.masdengil.com

Luis Pato Vinha Barrosa 2005

Luis Pato Vinha Barrosa 2005This is the older brother of the Vinha Pan, its made from 80 year old vines and this extra vine age really shows in the resulting wine. Its more deeply flavoured and meaty. Its starting to edge towards full bodied as well. This is my pick of the two, but it’s like splitting hairs really.

I also had a look at some of Alvaro Castro’s wines from the nearby Dao region last week, I should have some notes up by the end of the week.

A bit deeper in colour than the Pan. A gorgeous nose of raspberry, violets, a bit earthy undergrowth, cinnamon, nutmeg and smoked paprika. Luxury mouth feel, with a touch of grip and just the right amount of acid. The palate is a bit minty, and shows more raspberry with some mulberry, plum and cola. Intense and concentrated with a very long finish. An intriguing wine that will be a pleasure to drink over the next 20 years. 93+ Pts.

Source: The Spanish Acquisition Price: $100 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.luispato.com

Other Vintages: 2003

Mas d’en Gil ‘Clos Fonta’ 2001

Mas d\'en Gil Clos Fonta 2001

I’ve been a big fan of Priorat in the past, but the price rises over the past couple of vintages have pushed these wines into a whole new price bracket. Plus they can be challenging, confronting wines that are more for the head than the heart. That doesn’t sound like fun, does it? Well, maybe in a fetish kind of way. Actually, the cheaper wines can be much more enjoyable than ultra expensive ones. At times I think you get much better value over the other side of the Iberian Peninsula in the Douro Valley.

Of course, as soon as I take such a bold position this wine turns up on the tasting bench. It’s $150 a bottle, which is by no means cheap, but it’s a spanking, complex wine that is worth the money if you like you’re into wine from Priorat. This is clearly up there with the top wines of the very good 2001 vintage and is drinking really well right now.

A classic Priorat nose of soot, hot rocks, raspberry, cherry pie, plum and bramble. Its a pleasure in the mouth, its well integrated and shows superior balance. Subtle tannins towards the finish and none of the heat that you can find in some Priorats, but it does weigh in at 15%. The palate shows plenty of minerals with some clove, raspberry and plum, cola, hot cinnamon and musk sticks. There’s enough here to restore my faith, its a little wild but that’s the point. 94 Pts.

Source: Broadway Liquor Distributors Price: $150 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.masdengil.com