Bodega Teso la Monja Almirez 2007

img_5343If you remember Numanthia, the estate that the Egurens sold to LVMH in 2008, you’ll be familar with this wine. As far as I know, we never got the entry level wine from Numanthia but this is the direct replacement from the Eguren’s new estate, Teso la Monja. The will be a ‘premium’ and ‘super-premium’ wine as well. Personally, I think this wine is a step up from the previous one from Numanthia, it is very savoury and shows some serious restraint in terms of winemaking, it’s not overoaked, it isn’t overworked, and the result is about as far from ‘sunshine in a bottle’ that Toro is well known for, yet I can still see the classic Toro characters in there.

Nose is fully of bloody meat, salami, violets, wild herbs, cedery oak and a touch of liquorice. You’ll notice there isn’t one fruit descriptor in there, as its not overly fruity more savoury and secondary. OK there is some cherry and plum in there. Round and lush in the mouth, but there is some spine there, and plenty of acid to give the finish a nice tart note. Savory, complex and spicy in the mouth, small but plentiful tannins lend some pleasing texture. Its a serious, adult wine that you can happily drink now or over the next 8 or 10 years. But be quick, I’m told there is very little stock for this vintage. 92 Pts

Source: Toro Wines Price: Around $55 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.eguren.com

Martinet Bru 2005

img_5352This is a new import from the guys at Toro wines and there is plenty to like here. This is the second wine of Clos Martinet, it’s a little bit different from it’s contemoraries as its about half Merlot, with the rest made up of cabernet sauvignon and garnacha. The merlot gives is an open weave, lush feel which is ofset by the rocky minerals and firm acid. The oak work is mainly in older french oak, so you get a good look at the fruit without that huge lick of oak. Classy stuff.

Full of wood and soot on the nose, a little violet, blackcurrant and dark cherry, some coffee and vanilla. Maybe just a touch of spearmint. More of that really nice wood in the mouth, it’s supporting and high toned, not smothering. Lighter than the nose suggests. Plenty of dark cherry and  blueberry fruit, spice, dusty tannins and a sparkle of acid on the finish. Lovely, and dare I say it, elegant. Lovely stuff, highly drinkable now, but it will hold over the next 5 years. 92 Pts.

Source: Toro Wines Price: Around $55 Closure: Conventional Cork

La Perla del Priorat ‘Noster’ 2005

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I’ve got a couple of entry level on the tasting bench at the moment, this is the first. This was a big hit for me last year, a wine from Priorat at this price level and quality was quite rare at the time. But now wines in the $40-$60 price bracket are the must have item for many importers. And who’s complaining, seeing as the top wines from the region are going up again this year? There doesn’t seem to be one style at the price point, some are big rounded, easy drinking things, others are a bit tighter and focused. This falls into the later camp…

Plenty of Priorat character here, sooty, black coal kind of notes up on the nose first off, then a bit of hot tar and violets. After that the fruit: raspberry, plum and light cherry notes. The tannins are a little gritty and grainy, but it’s all nicely balanced and there is acid, enough to keep the finish sparkling clean, tangy and long. A similar profile on the palate, a bit of licorice and wood spice adds a bit extra. Overall, an excellent example of Priorat that doesn’t wander off in to rustic red wine, it looks like fine wine from Priorat.91 Pts

Source: Ce Soir Imports Price: $39 Closure: Conventional Cork

Other Vintages: 2004

Sierra Cantabria Crianza 2004

img_5335The kitchen renos are almost done, as you can see in the photo the tiling still needs to be finished off. But at least I’m not cooking in the lounge room any more…The guys use a lot of sorting to get these wine in this shape, both on the vine and in the winery. 15 months in a mix of french and american oak, most of it older barrels up to 3 years old. I like this kind of forumla, you get the great fruit and the benifit of oak, but not a huge impact.

Now this is one smart little wine. It’s a more traditional version of rioja crianza, but it also made in a moden style using french oak and plenty of fruit flavour. Its a bit tight and young, which for a crianza at 5 years of age is very admirable, give it a quick shake in the decanter to free up the lovely rioja funky herbs. The nose kicks off with some  shaved wood notes, a little coffee and nutmeg, then into the cherry, blueberry fruit. All of that is followed up by a bit of wild herb and some liquorice with more air time. And that’s fairly much the recipe for this wine, the palate is similar but a bit heavier. Nice tannins lead to a bit of structure and edginess, but there is plenty of round, ripe fruit to make this a pleasure to drink. 90 Pts.

Source: Toro Wines Price: Around $35 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.eguren.com

R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva Blanco 1987

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This is a note that has been in draft mode for about 6 months now. Not because the wine is bad or anything like that, its just an increadbly hard wine to describe. Reading an article in the NY Times, I thought it was about time to post it. I bought this bottle after coming back from Rioja and visiting López de Heredia and literaly being overwhelmed by how these people make this crazy wine. By all logic is should be well past it by the time it’s released, I mean who has heard of white wine kept in casks for nine and a half years then in bottle for another 13 or so years before its released?  The people who make it say the secret is the acid, and you can clearly see that when you taste it. It looks oxidized, but tastes like it could do another 10 years standing on it’s head. It sounds like it should be musty and mouldy, but its fresh and floral.

They also make a load of red wines and age them just as long, or longer in some vintages, but for my tastes, its the white wines that are king here. The reds follow some form of noble decay it seems to me, while the whites are on the up and up, dramatically evolving into these highly polished, aromatic wonders that thrill in so many ways: colour, flavour, and scent. They continue to unwrap themselves from years in the dark while in your glass, a touch of orange rind here, some vanilla there, lillies, then lemon, more white flowers, toffee, and on it goes. I’m told they go with rich white meat dishes and fish in heavy saucese, but you’d have to be crazy to drink this wine with food. It demands respect and there is plenty of depth to explore on its own.

A tasting note defeats the purpose here, this is an experiance wine.. There is nothing else like it the world of wine, so what do you rate it against? Other vintages of the same wine, I’d guess. Pitty I’ve only seen 4 vintages and they are all different, but all great, so I couldn’t call one 93 points or the other 99 points. You could pull hundreds of descriptors out too, a bit boring to read really. Your best bet to get any idea of what this wine is about it to buy a bottle, kick back with a book and a nice big glass and drink it over four or five hours. It’s not a difficult wine to like, but more for your wine geek than for your average punter, so why not drink the bottle yourself?

The thing I really like about these wines is that they are actually inovative, but the inovation was done 100 years ago and processes and method have just stayed the same. The family has held fast to the idea and watched many of the other wine trends pass by, and return in some cases. Single vineyard wines are still uncommon in Rioja, but are seen to be a modern thing.  Lopez de Heredia have been doing it for 100 years. There are many modern things going on at the bodega too, but tradition rules.

Source: Toro Wines Price: $180 Closure: Conventional Cork and Wax

Web: www.lopezdeheredia.com

Quinta do Crasto ‘Crasto’ 2007

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After a couple of weeks of demolishing kitchens, sanding and polishing floorboards, fitting a new kitchen and a few other things, I’m back tasting again. So to kick things off I’ve got this entry level wine from the Douro valley in Portugal. Many of you will know that Dominic Morris is involved in the operations here and he has made a very tasty and highly drinkable wine from the excellent 2007 vintage.

A really refined nose, but it still has that rustic, earthy/sooty edge that is one of the trademarks of the Douro. Plums and blueberries, with a dash of cherry for good measure, a little choclate, violets and wild herbs too. Just about perfect balance in the mouth, the acid is right where you want it and it isn’t overpowered by the fruit at all. Lush, flesh tannins and bit of Tang crystals (the organge concentrate) on the finish. I’d almost call this medium boddied, but it tips the scales just over I think.. Excellent drinking and great value. 90 Pts.

Source: The Spanish Acquisition Price: $30 Closure: Conventional Cork

Other Vintages: 2006