Cruz de Alba 2005

Cruz de Alba 2005Here is a pleasing wine from Ribera del Duero along more traditional lines.  A blend of mostly Tempranillo with a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from the 20+ year old vines in Pagos Valderío. Shown through some new French and American oak for the required 12 months, then off to market. From what I can work out, this is a venture of the Riojan house Ramon Bilbao.

I often wish that there were more wines from Ribera del Duero available in Australia. Relatively cheap and good wines from this region are rare. This one is a case in point. While it’s a good wine, and in the scheme of things it’s reasonably priced when compared to similar wines from the region, you could get something just as impressive from other regions in Spain for about half the price. And there is some of that horrible weed, Cabernet in there as well. While it’s traditional for the region, I’m not a fan of adding Bordeaux varieties with Spanish ones. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, but they are rare.

Wild, brambly fruit on the nose with plenty of volume and depth. It’s an aromatic puppy, wood and spice, herbs and liqorice, a touch of green capsicum and pencil shavings. Medium to full bodied in the mouth with some lump tannins that should smooth out in time. The balance is good and the length moderate. Plums, cherries and spice on the palate, with a sprinkle of gamey, animal notes and herbs. I tucked into a midweek steak with this, and it worked like a charm. 90+ Pts.

Source: Broadway Liquor Distributors Price: $50 Closure: Conventional Cork


Lanzaga mini vertical – 2002 to 2006

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to have a look at 5 vintages of one of the standout Rioja wines available in Australia, Lanzaga from Compania del Vinos de Telmo Rodríguez . I tend use the full name of the company these days, as when I visited in February it became very clear that partnership between Pablo Eguzkiza and Telmo Rodríguez has been a key ingredient to building this now very well known company. I still have a load of stuff to write up from my last trip, one of the highlights being a day looking the company’s many operations in Rioja…

As this was a fairly hastily organised lunch session, I jotted down a few notes on the wines after lunch as an after thought. But as there has been some interest, I thought I’d write them up.

2002 - This was a clear winner from the word go. The nose was full of aromatics: violets and field herbs, bright red cherry, a touch of plum and a little blueberry. Savory and earthy on the palate.  Superb balance and integration, as well as some finely textured tannins make this very pleasurable drinking right now. I’d say that this is drinking at it’s peak, but will hold for a good 5 year or so yet. 94 Pts.

2003 - This was looking a bit blocky and had a darker fruit profile than many other wines in the line up. Otherwise a classic cherry cola, wild herbs, a bit of coffee and chocolate. The tannins are still quite firm, if anything I would say this needs more time in the cellar.  91+ Pts

2004 – Now this was a bit a odd ball. When I opened these bottles, this was the only one with a question on both cork and storage. Initially a bit musty and not giving up much at all. However, we returned to the glass after an hour and a half and it was singing. Very much like the 2002 at this stage, it hints at being a more complete wine when it wakes from a long slumber in 3-4 years. Looking great. 93+ Pts.

2005 - To be honest, this was in a bit of a weird place. Not showing as generous or as complex as the other wines at the moment, we agreed to put this down as a slightly off bottle. NR

2006 - This is more like it. Impetuous youth in all its glory, plenty of lush fruit, with violets and roses, but at the same time super savoury and earthy. I reckon this is going to be a great wine in a couple of years, it has all the boxes ticked so far. 93+ Pts.

Condesa de Leganza Tempranillo Crianza 2004

img_5086-editThis is one of those wines where the point is not the correct expression of  grape, the terror, a truck load of fruit descriptors or fancy oak treatment. It is, however, a good bet for putting it down your neck at a party,   or when  you’re standing next to a BBQ, maybe with a coupe of lamb chops while watching the girls on Masterchef screw up their suckling pig…

The nose is open and inviting, plenty of nice, warm fruit with a bit of vanilla and mocha. Round and a bit fleshy in the mouth, good length on the finish with tangy acid. Savory and moreish. A solid, juicy kind of thing, great for washing down grilled meats. 87 Pts.

Source: Broadway Liquor Distributors Price: $18 Closure: Conventional Cork


Toscar Monastrell 2007

Toscar Monastrell 2007

I’m amazed that this wine is still $14, given all the movements in currency etc that have gone on over the past year. With exchange rates getting back towards the levels they were at 18 months ago (sitting around .57-.58 Aussie to a Euro), things are looking up and hopefully keeping any large price increases at bay.  Anyway, I had a bit of a revelation with the classic description for Monastrell about a year ago. While eating a plate of ripe figs, I thought:  ‘Hey this tastes like Monastrell’. I think fig and wild gamey notes are the primary flavours in monastrell from these southern regions of Spain.

On the nose, those earthy fig and plum notes dominate as the wine opens up, then some gamey, wild animal notes leading on to some cherry, some herbs  and a wiff of honey. As is usual, its medium bodied with light tannins and a long finish. More of that fig and plum on the palate, some minerals and earthy herbs as well. One of the great things about this wine is the consistency, each year looks very similar and getting a textbook quality wine at this price is rare. 89 Pts.

Source: Ce Soir Imports Price: $14 Closure: Conventional Cork
Other Vintages: 2005, 2006

Condesa de Leganza Verdejo 2007

img_5085This is the La Mancha property for the Faustino Group. It’s just a small venture with 1,000 hectares up high at 800 meters above sea level. I’ve had a look at a couple of the wines, and to be honest they are really convincing. Add to that some good packaging and very reasonable pricing and you’ve got a very handy range of wines.

Now this is not as well formed or structured as your average Verdejo from Rueda, but its a fairly good drink. Notes of lemon and melons on the nose, with a touch of sage and green bean. Plenty of acid and length too. I think it’s s style that really needs food to work,  so I drank this with a fairly simple seafood pasta and it worked a treat. 86 Pts.

Source: Broadway Liquor Distributors Price: $18 Closure: Conventional Cork


Toscar Tempranillo Crianza 2007

img_5043I last looked at the 2003 vintage of this wine, and I think this is a little better. Just a quick note on this one…I have a fair backlog to get through.

The nose opens up with plenty of warm climate Tempranillo notes: earthy plums, a touch of dark cherry, light vanilla and cedar notes and a little chocolate. Medium bodied, with ripe, dusty tannins, it’s rounded and goes down easy. More of the same on the palate and reasonable length on the finish. While it’s not the most complex wine around, there is plenty to like and you can’t argue with the price. 87 Pts.

Source: Ce Soir Imports Price: $14 Closure: Conventional Cork


Other Vintages: 2003

Toscar Sauvignon Blanc 2008

img_5046What does Sauvignon Blanc from Alicante taste like? Is it another passion-fruit, tropical fruit copy of the now ubiquitous NZ style? Not at all, this is rather herbal and grassy, and to my mind more adult than many of the new world versions we see here (there are exceptions of course, Mahi comes to mind as a big exception). It does have a sense of being more savoury than sweet too.

The nose shows plenty of herbal and grassy notes, with some fennel bulb and cucumber over the top of lemony fruit. Tight and driving in the mouth, it’s fresh and light and easy to drink. More of that lemon and herb fruit on the palate, the acidity keeps things humming along. More of a food style for my money, but definitely a fun, budget alternative to either NZ or French Sauv Blanc. 86 Pts.

Source: Ce Soir Imports Price: $14 Closure: Conventional Cork

Castro Martin Albariño 2007

img_4982I needed to take a quick snapshot on the way out, so the old ‘leaning’ photos from previous Tinto y Blanco themes has made a bit of a come back. It’s been a while since I’ve had a bottle of Castro Martin, so I decided to take this one out for some seafood. I was hoping for clams, but settled for salt and pepper squid along with some scallops with lemon grass and chili at Thanh Thanh on Victoria Street. Magic stuff.

I’ve said it in the past, but I’ll say it again: Castro Martin produce  the most appealing and aromatic Albariño around. 2007 as a vintage is a return to the more minerally style, but with the usual Castro nose of white flowers (jasmine and honeysuckle), white peach, lemon rind and a touch of river rocks. A light straw colour, with the trademark Castro Martin nose of white peach, jasmine and honeysuckle with some green lemony goodness. Nicely textured in the mouth, which gives a sense of richness, but on the other side is quite lean and taught thanks to some cleansing acid. Just the thing for flabby shell fish. The palate shows more white peach, lemons, pear and apple, rounded out by some musk stick and minerals. A slight herbal lick on the finish. Excellent stuff, and it handles a bit of chili perfectly. 91 Pts.

Source: The Spanish Acquisition Cost: $35 Closure: NormaCork


Other Vintages: 2004 2005 2006

Arnegui Joven 2007

img_5051Vintage generalisations  are usually misleading.  But 2007 is turning out to be one of those vintages where hard work in the vineyard and careful wine making will really show results. Yes, it was a wet vintage, but this wine looks positively sunny. So how does that happen? Well the weather isn’t everything in producing wine (it is a lot, granted) and the effects of poor weather can be very localised or  broadly distributed over a whole region. Also, a ‘wet vintage’ is a relative term. In Ribera del Duero, the average rainfall is 650mm a year, they got 800mm in 2007. Compare that to the Yarra Valley with an average of 1200mm… As an aside, this is the 500th post on Tinto y Blanco…

I’d sum this wine up with four words: light, bright, earthy and fruity. It’s not a ‘Sunshine in a bottle’ type of wine by any means, but it has very clean cherry and blueberry fruit that’s striking and the real star here. The palate and nose add a few earthy herbs,  a bit of liquorice and a little violet. Medium bodied with a few soft tannins, it’s a fun drink that works with food or on it’s own. 88 Pts.

Source: Broadway Liquor Distributors Price: $25 Closure: Conventional Cork


Arnegui Crianza 2005

img_5057It seems to be the shipping season at the moment, a whole heap of samples have arrived and I been getting a load of emails announcing new vintages and wines. There have been a bunch of Rioja Crianzas in this lot, and if this is anything to go by, they look excellent. The theme seems to be good value at around $25 to $30 dollars, excellent drinkability and lip smacking acidity with good fruit.

This one comes from Felix Solis, who make wine all over Spain. I haven’t tried their Rioja gear before, but this and their joven look great. The website says 50% Garnarcha and 50% Tempranillo with 24 months in American oak,

It smells like some vanilla, mocha espresso abomination you’d get from StarBucks, but its a good thing (to smell anyway), mix in some herby bramble, bright red cherries, earth and blue berries and you’ll get the general idea. The palate is more intense and is driven by it’s acid (again a good thing). A blueberry danish on the palate, but with more air it comes around to show a classic palate of cherry, herbs, minerals, licorice and spice. An outstanding example of the classic crianza from Rioja. 91 Pts.

Source: Broadway Liquor Distributors Price: $25 Closure: Conventional Cork