Regional Tasting—Spain

March 5, 2014

Reported by Matt Steeves

Guild Director Sean O’Regan, a passionate wine enthusiast and graduate of the Algonquin College Sommelier program, led a full house of members and guests through a unique and educational tasting. Sean assembled four thoughtful series of flights, including several wines from his personal cellar. The evening started with a brief yet informative slideshow outlining Spain’s position in global wine production, wine laws for aging and recent changes that have improved winemaking in the country.

The wines were tasted blind; however, the regions and unique climates covering each flight were identified and discussed prior to the tasting. As Sean guided us through the fifteen wines covering twelve regions, it was interesting to note the regional characteristics and stylistic differences in each of the flights.

Spain clearly has an abundance of incredible wines at all price points. Although we enjoyed some fantastic wines priced $50-$100 high-quality to price ratio wines are also available from $15-$30.

The tasting consisted of four flights, one white and three red.

As with all Guild tasting events, it is interesting to see what the favourites are in each flight. Although each wine was usually someone’s favourite, there were some clear winners in several of the flights.

Flight 1

The first flight consisted of three whites from different regions.

Alvinte Albarino, 2010, Rias Baixas, $14.85, #288126

The first wine poured was an Albarino from Rias-Baixus, a coastal region in North West Spain with a cooler and wetter Atlantic influence. Light pale gold, apple, peach, mineral, floral, very pretty nose, well balanced with great orchard fruit and minerality. This wine tied for favorite of the flight.

Luna Beberid Godello, 2011, Bierzo, $17.95, #344648

The second wine poured was made from the Godello grape from Bierzo in North West Spain, drier and warmer than Rias Baixus. Aged in stainless steel, the wine showed wet stone, citrus, lime orange and a slightly closed nose. After ten minutes, apple juice, melon, mint, mineral and a slightly bitter finish came through. This wine took third place as favorite.

Mas d’En Compte Blanco, 2009, Priorat, $27.00, #305342

The last wine of the flight was a unique blend of Grenache Blanc (50%) and Xarel-lo (25%) and Picpoul (25%) from Priorat in North East Spain. Aged in French and American oak barrels for six months on lees, the wine had noticeable oak influence with great refreshing minerality. Golden yellow, intense flinty mineral and toasty oak with butterscotch, yellow currants, melon and orchard notes. Complex and creamy, round with oaky, butterscotch and mineral notes with a long finish. This wine was tied for favorite of the flight.

Flight 2

The second flight consisted of four reds from four different regions. The group was challenged with identifying which of the wines was a single varietal, which separated it from the blends common to the other three.

Celler Besllum, 2008, Montsant, $15.95, #283515

The first wine of the flight was a blend of Grenache (50%) and Carignan (50%) from Montsant in North East Spain around Priorat. Aged in French oak and bottle, this wine was ruby red showing spice, dark cherry, mocha and berry with minerality and a perceived sweetness. Not a bad wine, but this one did not receive any votes for favorite of the flight.

Vinya Selva De Mar Mas Estela, 2006, Emporda, $37.00, #684613

The second wine poured was a blend of Grenache (50%), Syrah (30%) and Carignan (20%) from Emporda in the North East corner of Spain on the Mediterranean border with France. Aged fifteen months in French oak casks, the wine was a deep garnet showing red fruit, savoury notes, spice, dried floral, leather and tobacco. Medium to full bodied, spicy with blackberry and mineral with a touch of heat on the finish. This wine took third place in the flight with just a few votes.

Bodegas Y Vinedos Alzania 21 del 10 Syrah, 2005, Navarra, $39.00, #118307

The third wine and flight favorite by a large margin was a 100% Syrah from Navarra in North Central Spain. Spending twelve months in new French Allier oak barrels, this deep ruby/purple wine had a complex nose of spice, cigar box, smoke, ash, tar, pencil shaving, licorice, blackberry, white pepper and eucalyptus notes. Full bodied and well balanced with blackberry, dried cherry, smoky and dried green herbs and a long sweet spicy fruit finish.

Cartoixa de Montsalvat Montgarnatx, 2004, Priorat, $52.00, #351981

The last wine of the flight was another blend of Grenache (70%) and Carignan (30%) from Priorat. Fermented in stainless steel and aged for eight months in used French oak, the wine was garnet with a slight brick rim. The nose was dusty, with cedar, spice, cherry, and taking on flinty minerality and white pepper with air. The tannins were still present after ten years, but balanced by acidity and red fruits on the long mineral tinged finish. Still years of life ahead in this food friendly wine that was second favorite of the flight.

Flight 3

The third red flight of the evening covered four varietals from four regions.

Mustiguillo Finca Terrerazo Vino de Pago Bobal, 2010, Valencia, $37.00, #206425

The first wine was a varietal called Bobal that was new to most people. This wine from Valencia comes from one of Spain’s rare and exclusive single-estate designations of Vino de Pago. Spending eighteen months in French oak, the wine was ruby with a purple rim. A sweet candied nose of red fruit, spice and floral notes leads to a pleasant round mouthfeel with plum, cherry and berry, well balanced with a medium length finish. Overall a nice wine, but perhaps lacking in complexity. This wine was least favourite of the flight.

Bodegas Estefania Tilenus Pagos de Posado, Mencia, 2004, Bierzo, $35.00, #65037

The second wine is 100% Mencia; the only red grape allowed in Bierzo, coming from 80 and 90 year old vines. With a long maceration of 50 to 60 days and aging in French wood for about fifteen months, this ten year old wine was deep dark ruby red showing stewed fruit, tar, earthy compost notes, chocolate, leather and tobacco. Very well balanced with plum, prune, cherry and spice with a hint of pepper on the long finish. This wine was third favorite of the flight.

Bodegas Luzon Alma De Luzon, 2005, Jumilla, $57.00, #314476

The third wine of the flight tied for favorite with nine votes. It was a blend dominated by Monastrell (70%) along with Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) and Syrah (10%) from Jumilla in the South East of Spain. The wine spend twenty-two months in new French and American oak barrels. Dark ruby, garnet rim with an intense tawny port-like nose with raisins, cedar, fig, vanilla, coconut and black pepper. Medium bodied, dried fruit, raisin and prune, savoury notes with a somewhat hot finish. Despite its complexity and tie for favorite, this wine appears to be in decline.

Miguel Torres Mas la Plana Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008, Penedes, $54.95, #129676

The final wine of the flight, which tied for favorite, was a lovely Cabernet Sauvignon from Penedes. The most prestigious red coming from Miguel Torres was deep ruby red, with cassis, blackberry, herb, tobacco, mineral, cedar and spice on the nose. This wine was medium to full bodied, with currant, herb, coffee and chocolate notes and great structure that would permit further aging.

Flight 4

The final flight of the evening was Tempranillo-based wines assembled to showcase both traditional and modern styles along with regional differences.

Bodegas Artevino Orben Tempranillo, 2006, Rioja, $39.00, #191379

The first wine poured from North Central Spain was a modern style Rioja made up of 97% Tempranillo and 3% Graciano. Tied for second favorite, this wine was aged for twelve months in French oak barrels. Deep ruby red, with mocha, caramel, plum, spice and vanilla on the nose. Stewed and dark fruited with spice and toast, the wine was medium bodied, nice balance with fine tannins and good length.

Heredad de Baroja Gran Reserva Tempranillo, 2001, Rioja, $21.95, #276113

The second wine was an aged traditional-style Rioja made of 100% Tempranillo. The translucent garnet appearance was evidence of the thirteen years of age on this wine. Lovely nose of dried cherry/berry, chocolate, earth, vanilla, coconut, leather, tobacco and dried herbs. The palate was elegant and savoury with spice, red fruit and earthy notes with very soft tannins and medium acidity. This wine failed to take any votes as favorite of the flight, but it was a great example of the style.

Bodegas y Vinedos Alion Tempranillo, 2009, Ribera del Duero, $84.95, #199331

The third wine of the flight, and also the favourite, comes from the renowned house of Vega Sicilia in Ribera del Duero. This wine was aged in new Nevers French oak barrels, said to contribute a spicy, cinnamon flavour. Ruby red with a very complex nose of berry, plum, vanilla, cedar, with floral and spice. Good concentration of currant, cherry and stewed fruit, full bodied with firm tannins and balancing acidity on a long finish. This wine should last for twenty years.

Bodegas y Vinedos Dos Victorias Gran Elias Mora Tempranillo, 2004, Toro, $99.00, #103523

The final wine of the evening comes from Toro in the North West of Castile and Leon and spent a total of seventeen months in new French oak barrels. The wine was a deep opaque ruby with a nose of plum, leather, tobacco, cedar and coffee. Full bodied, plush mouthfeel with plum, cherry, mocha and oak spice, nicely balanced and a long finish. This wine tied for second favorite of the flight.