Toscar Tempranillo Crianza 2008

img_5795To be honest, this is very similar to the 2007 that I reviewed last year. Consistently good quality and well priced wines are always good in my book. Sure, it’s not the most exciting thing to drink, but for 14 bucks I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better wine to go with those Tuesday night lamb chops…

The important things are all there: warm, ripe plums, dark cherry, vanilla and wood shavings, a bit of chocolate. Round and supple, slightly raspy tannins on the finish, length and a bit of acid to drive things along. 87 Pts.

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

Web: www.salvadorpoveda.com

Other Vintages: 2003, 2007

Mount Majura Tempranillo 2009

img_5844A busy week at work last week, perfectly capped off by seeing Blues Explosion at the Espy on Friday night. Great to see these guys in a small venue. Anyway, on to the wine. This wine really stood out at the TempraNeo tasting last year (along with the Mayford), and the thing that attracts me to this wine is that it has personality. Sure, there is a nod to Spain, but this shows firmly individual and unique characters that could only be Mount Majura Tempranillo. This is what we should be doing with Tempranillo in Australia.

One interesting thing that I got out of the TempranNeo is that there seems to be something of a trend towards ‘joven’ or unwooded, young wines with Australian producers. Thats just fine with me, a good sappy and wild young tempranillo in summer is great, but the fruit needs to be absolutely top notch…there is a reason why there is a wine lake of young tempranillo from hot climates in Spain. There are a few locally that can really pull it off, Pondalowie for example, but many producers have a way to go. Still, it’s early days with Tempranillo in Australia.

Pleasing nose of earthy dark fruit, cherry liquor, herbs, eucalyptus (a classic note for this wine) and chinotto. Not sarsaparilla or cola, both are a common descriptor for tempranillo, there is some kind of slightly bitter orange/cola note in there. I’m calling it chintto. Classic medium bodied tempranillo with tangy acid and tannins that gently build as the wine gets more air. Well defined and long, plenty of fruit, but its savoury all the way. Sour cherry, herbs, chinotto and pepper. She got the Flavour! This is setting the pace for Tempranillo in Australia. 92 Pts.

Source: Winery Sample Price: $35 Closure: Screwcap

Web: www.mountmajura.com.au

Pazo de Señorans Albariño 2009

Pazo de Senorans 2009I have a bunch of notes for samples that importers have sent in over the past 6 months. Poor form on my part for not writing these up sooner, but they’ll all be up over the next couple of weeks…To be honest, I don’t know a hell of a lot about this wine and it’s story. It is one of the most popular and written about Albariños around however, and a bloody good drink.

This is the ‘estate’ wine, there is also a regional wine from bought in grapes from growers sourounding the estate. These guys are most famous for their Selección de Añada, an aged release that sees about 3 years in tank before it’s bottled, which is quite a rare thing for an Albariño based wine.

Super aromatic nose, loaded with pear, apple, jasmine, a slight lemon twist. Nicely textured, more in the fuller figured camp than the striking acidity crowd, but not flabby though. Pear and white peach in the mouth, long finish, talc and minerals. Tangy white peach leaves a lovely after taste. 92 Pts. $38

Source: Echalon wines RRP: $38 Closure: Screwcap

Alion 2005

Alion 2005It’s always good to start the year off with an exceptional wine, and this 2005 Alion fit the bill nicely. I had a look at the 2004 and 2005 Alion at the Vega Sicilia road show in March 2009, and at the time I thought the 2004 had a slight edge over the 2005. But it’s irrelevant really, Alion is a fantastic wine even in poor vintages, which 2005 certainly was not. It ages like a champ, gaining complexity and finesse, but can be enjoyed young with a bit of breathing time.

I did have a short lived affair with Bordeaux and Priorat for a couple of years, before the prices got way out of control. These days I just buy more Alion and Vega Sicilia Valbuena. No it’s not the same, and that the point. I got sick of finding old and tired wines in the cellar after 5 years (Priorat) and spending a month’s pay on a case or two of wine (Boardeaux). Sure these wines aren’t cheap, I’d be lucky to buy a 6 pack of each these days, I do however feel I get better value for money and more enjoyment from the wines of Ribera del Duero.

On this tasting the 2005 is showing more fruit and herby undergrowth than last time, with a grab bag of other notes showing up as the wine gets more air: olives, violets, blackberry, mulberry and some cherry. Oak is in a supporting role, a bit of sawn wood and freshly ground coffee in the background. Long and layered in the mouth, I would almost call this lean at the moment, needs time to develop that lovely texture shich shows up by the last glass. Structured, but enjoyable at the moment. Give it a big sleep to get the most out of it, 10 years is perfect, this will easily go 20+ years in the cellar. 94+ Pts

Source: Boccaccio Cellars Price: $139 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.bodegasalion.com

Telmo Rodriguez ‘LZ’ 2009

Telmo's 2009 LZLast year was a write off in terms of blog postings, but it’s almost the new year and time to get back on the horse…I had hoped to see this wine in tank when I was in La Rioja in Feb last year, but alas the snow and conflicting schedules got in the way. Now it’s in bottle and here in Australia, I’ve a very happy boy indeed.

LZ comes from one of the two vineyards that is fully owned and managed by Compania del Vinos de Telmo Rodriguez, this one located just outside the small village of Lanciago on the Basque side of the Rioja. (The other one is in Galacia, where the Gaba do Xil wines are made). Its basically one hill side just outside the village, you could call it and estate if you like, that is loosely modeled on the burgundy quality pyramid of village wines in the lower areas, 1er Crus at the top and Grand Grus in the middle. And I do mean loosely, it’s not quite as hard as that. Setup to be biodynamic (and now certified as such)and modern, but keeping the old traditions in the back of mind, the vines are all trained in goblet (or en Vaso in Spanish).

Up top there is a modern winery that looks like it’s straight out of a Bond film, well a modern, sustainable Bond film. Recycled barrel staves, compressed earth walls, natural temp control and gravity flow instead of pumps, the bodega ticks all sustainable, low input buildings, yet still manages to look like a something out of the thunderbirds (very cool in my book). Built low into the hilside, you wouldn’t know it was there if you weren’t looking for it. But at the heart of the bodega are these huge concrete fermenters. Custom made, trucked up the impossibly small road to the winery and lifted in place, these big grey silos are the key to making LZ the wine it is. Concrete provides excellent temperature control, and in combination with the building itself, keeps fermentation temps low and preserves all of that lovely fruit flavour. Whatever they are doing, it is surely working. I think this might just be the best young wine from Rioja I’ve ever seen…

The wine itself is a joy to drink. I’m a fairly harsh critic of  joven wines from Rioja, I often find them full of green herbs and sulfur, preferring the riper offerings from Ribera del Duero and Toro usually. But this is the polar opposite, lively with a core of red and blue fruits, wild herbs and an earthy quality. Sappy and meaty, lengthy finish that leaves the taste of minerals, ripe fruit and herbs. Middle weight with soft tannins,  spot on for summer and autumn drinking. Just the kind of thing I could drink every day for a month and be totally happy with. Grill up some mushrooms with garlic and oil, lovely. Clearly the best LZ yet. 91 Pts.

Source: The Spanish Acquisition Price: $25 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.telmorodriguez.com

Other Vintages: 2005, 2006

Calo 2008

Calo 2008A cheaky little joven Tempranillo from Rioja Alavesa. While tempranillo is generally a fairly tannic grape, the wines from the most elevated, northerly regions tend to be a little more tannic. A good thing in my book. I’m not going to bang on about this one, enjoyable and good value….

Musky raspberry and violet, black cherry and malty biscuits on the nose. Earthy, a little herbal and fresh. Musky, with plenty of smooth tannins. It is a little lacking in the acid department, leaving it a little flat in the mouth and the finish on the shorter side, this gets better with a bit of air. More dark cherry and pepper in the mouth. Give it a bit of air to open up and your laughing. 87 Pts.

Source: Fourth Wave Wine Partners RRP: $19 Closure: Screwcap

Bodegas Mauro 2006

Bodegas Mauro 2006There is a great little vinoteca in San Sebastian called Solbes (Calle de Aldamar, 4, just accross the road from the Bretxia market. A full range of smallgoods and cheeses from all over Spain and France, great olive oil, great preserved produce and all kinds of cider, beer, spirits and wine. A well selected range inexpensive wines and a room full of the best stuff from Spain and Portugal with a smattering of France and Italy. All at very reasonable prices. Whenever I’m in Spain, I try to get here and stock up on whatever takes my fancy. Like a bottle of Mauro 2006. I bought this one at Boccaccio tho…I’ve also had a couple of bottles of the 2004 lately, it’s really on song at the moment.

Opens up with loads of wild bramble and herbs, with some red and black cherries smashed in with some wild violets. Wild and rustic with character and real appeal. It needs plenty of air to open up, but once it does, it’s packed full of smooth long tannins, a good line of acid straight down the centre and excellent length. Plums, cherries and a little choc in the mouth, spice and herbs. Give it a year or two to develop and dig in. 92+ Pts.

Source: Boccaccio Cellars RRP: $80 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.bodegasmauro.com

Flor de Pingus 2007

Flor de Pingus 2007I’m in a real Ribera del Duero kind of mood of late, maybe to balance out the 05 Rioja I’ve been hoarding, whatever  the reason Ribera and Italians have been getting high rotation on the tasting bench. I’ve had a look at this wine a couple of times now, and to be honest it was underwhelming on first taste, tasting a bit like Bordeaux from a cold, wet vintage (i.e. dilute and green with chunky tannins). Oh dear not good. Right time for a another bottle at home with some ribeye…

Oak, lots of oak. That’s my first thought. Ok, it is quality oak and it’s not totally dominating the fruit initially but it’s fairly obvious. A bit more air and the fruit comes up to meet the wood halfway, starting to look good. A little herby, a touch of cola and plenty of ripe dark red fruits. In the mouth it’s a different story, your in first class here. It sits on a fine line between medium and full bodied, excellent acid and rough suede like tannins. A bit of a tight rope walker this one, one step either way it wouldn’t work. But it pulls it off convincingly. Not the best vintage of Flor de Pingus, but I have a feeling this will be a late bloomer in about 5 years. 90+ Pts.

Source: The Spanish Acquisition Price: $195 Closure: Conventional Cork

Other vintages: 2005, 2006

Bodegas Félix Callejo Cuatro Meses en Barrica 2006

img_5623When I first started buying Spanish wine it was very much like having some kind of collector’s fetish. Hunt around for the wines, hear something about a new import and spend weeks trying to find out where to get it Word of mouth was king. These day’s I’m almost falling over Spanish wines in booze shops, bars and restaurants, you can read about them in local papers and plenty of blogs and I have even heard people talking about Rioja on the train once. Things have definitely moved on. One big change has been in the supermarket chains. You can now find a decent range of wines from all over Spain (and Portugal too) in both Vintage Cellars and Dan Murhpy’s stores. The old token range of big house swill is mostly gone and you can find some quality wines at reasonable prices. And they have gone to some length to get it right: they’ve hired some very smart and experienced chaps to find the wines, either through established importers (as this wine is) or importing them direct. Of course, the supermarkets haven’t been the kindest to many wine brands over the years and there is still a big gap between the good independant retailers and the chain stores in terms of service and range (and price in many cases), but that’s not the point.  The point is this: most Spanish and Portuguese wine is sold in restaurants and bars in Australia. What this does do is to bring these wines out of the wine geek’s realm and more into the mainstream wine drinker’s. This can only be a good thing.

Anyway, I picked this up at Dan Murphy’s on Friday night, rather surprised to see it there. After all, this is a fairly small family run bodega that gets a bit of press every now and then. I’ve had their Reserva in Spain a couple of times, now that its available here it’s well work tracking down if Ribera is your thing. The short story on this one is that’s Tempranillo grown in lime rich soils in northern part (towards Burgos) of Ribera del Duero, that gets a quick dunk in french and american oak for 4 months (hence the name)…Imported by Bibendum.

A bit stinky on opening, but this cleans up in a minute or two to reveal a nose of tar and spice, salami, sweet cherry and a little funky mulberry. Very slick in the mouth, smooth with buscuit crumb tannins but that acid drive things along nicely. Deeply flavoured, juicy fruit as you’d expect from Ribera del Duero, with cola, minerals, clove and sage.  Lip smackingly good, grab a rack of lamb for the BBQ and a bottle of this for a nice sunday lunch. Drink now and over the next 5 years. 90 Pts

Source: Dan Murphy’s Price: $31 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.bodegasfelixcallejo.com

La Vendimia 2008

la-vendimia-08After a fairly indulgent Christmas/New year period and start of a new year, I usually think it’s time for a couple of weeks of detox. Well not detox really, just a couple of weeks to a month of not drinking. Given I’ve got almost a month of eating and drinking in Spain coming up in a couple of weeks, it seems like the wise thing to do. So it will continue to be fairly quiet here at Tinto y Blanco for a couple of weeks…

This time in Spain I’m having a bit more of a holiday and I’m focusing more on food than a full on wine adventure: lazy days with long lunches, lots of jamon and roasted lamb, and of course a bit of wine here and there. Of course I can’t help but have a couple of appointments in and around Bierzo, plus a couple more in Rioja to get the low down on the 2009 vintage. I’ll post up some notes as we going along…Oh and another thing. If you haven’t checked out the new (or not so new) Movida book “Movida Rustica”, do check it out. From the brief look I’ve had so far it looks like its full of ‘real’ Spanish food.

Anyway on to the wine. Love the label and the 2008 is much better than the 2007 that was around for a little while mid last year. Fresh raspberry and earth is the first thing on the nose, it opens out to show some cherry and a little herb. Easy to drink, but still kind of serious and savoury at the same time. Meaty with soft tannins, its a little light in the acid department. Very likeable with a nice hunk of goat. 88 Pts.

Source: The Spanish Acquisition Price: $27 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.vinosherenciaremondo.com