Slide show on The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections
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Can Festis Cava (Jaume Giró et Giró)
While I will be doing a full-fledged feature on Cava in the next issue, I wanted to include notes here on The Spanish Artisan Wine Group’s fine Catalan producer, Jaume Giró et Giró and their excellent label of Can Festis Cava. Like virtually all of the top producers I have tasted in recent months, Jaume Giró et Giró is part of the “Six Percent Club” who own their own vineyards and produce Cava solely from their own grapes. As I will elaborate on in my article on Cava, in my experience, this is one of the fundamental building blocks for producing truly world class Cava, and if one were to simply limit one’s consumption of Cava to producers who grow their own grapes and make their own wines, one could steer clear of disappointingly bland examples and come to appreciate just how beautifully delicate and complex top flight Cava can be from members of this “Six Percent Club”. Señor Giró produces three levels of Cava, all fermented in the bottle like Champagne, with the three levels neatly reflecting the Bronze, Silver and Gold medals of the Olympics. These are outstanding sparkling wines that are every bit as interesting as top examples of Champagne in the classic, dancing style of great Cava.
Can Festis Cava “Bronze Label” Brut Nature - Jaume Giró et Giró
The “Bronze Label” Cava from Can Festis is comprised of a blend of ten percent Chardonnay, twenty percent Macabeu, and thirty-five percent each of Xarel-lo and Parellada and is aged for twelve months on the lees prior to disgorgement. The wine is really a beautifully vibrant and racy glass of Cava, offering up a complex nose of lime zest, green apple, gentle notes of bread dough and a beautiful base of Catalan soil tones (similar to garrigue, only more floral in nature). On the palate the wine is medium-full, crisp and dancing, with a good core, frothy mousse, brisk acids and really lovely length and grip on the complex finish. This is an ideal aperitif Cava that is a perfect lead-in to tapas. 2012-2017+. 88.
Can Festis Cava “Silver Label” Brut Nature Reserva - Jaume Giró et Giró
The “Silver Label” Reserva Cava from Can Festis is really a beautiful wine, having aged on its lees for eighteen months prior to disgorgement and preparation for labeling. It is a similar blend to the Bronze Label (ten percent chardonnay, twenty percent Macabeu, and thirty-five percent each of Xarel-lo and Parellada) and offers up a deeper and more complex nose and palate than the vibrant Bronze Label. The bouquet is a fine and classy blend of apple, tangerine, warm bread, lovely, complex soil tones, citrus peel and a touch of lavender in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and rounder than the above, with a fine core of fruit, lovely complexity and focus, lovely, pinpoint bubbles, bright acids and superb length and grip on the perfectly balanced finish. This is lovely wine. 2012-2019+. 90.
Can Festis Cava “Gold Label” Brut Nature Grand Reserva - Jaume Giró et Giró
The Gold Label from Can Festis is an identical blend to the other two fine bottlings from this lovely Cava specialist (ten percent chardonnay, twenty percent Macabeu, and thirty-five percent each of Xarel-lo and Parellada) and is aged fully thirty months on the lees prior to disgorgement. This is really a stunning bottle of Cava- light on its feet and very vibrant, but with superb complexity on both the nose and palate. The outstanding bouquet jumps from the glass in a blend of tart orange, lime zest, warm bread, wonderful Catalan soil tones, lime blossoms, sea salts and citrus peel. On the palate the wine is very pure, complex and full-bodied, with a rock solid core of fruit, bright acids, very elegant mousse, superb focus and balance and a very long, classy and complex finish. Just a lovely, high class bottle of Cava! 2012-2020+. 93.
Assorted Vinos Blancos
2011 Finca Teira Blanco - Bodegas Manuel Formigo (Ribeiro)The 2011 Finca Teira Blanco from Bodegas Manuel Formigo is a blend of sixty-five percent Treixadura, twenty percent Godello and fifteen percent Torrontés, making it a slightly different mix than the 2010 reviewed below. The wine tips the scales at 12.7 percent alcohol and offers up a fine bouquet of white peach, lemon, a beautiful base of white soil tones, a touch of candied lemon peel (think mature Raveneau Chablis), pretty spice tones and a beautifully musky floral topnote redolent of honeysuckle. On the palate the wine is fullish, complex and beautifully balanced, with lovely, ripe acids, fine focus and grip and a very long, classy finish that really does its best work at the table. A really lovely bottle of Ribeiro white wine. Fine juice that is still fairly young and will clearly develop secondary layers of complexity with further bottle age. 2012-2018. 91+.
2010 Finca Teira Blanco - Bodegas Manuel Formigo (Ribeiro)
The 2010 Finca Teira is a blend of seventy percent Treixadura, twenty percent Godello and ten percent Alvilla. It weighs in at a cool 12.5 percent alcohol and is a lovely middleweight, offering up a complex nose of lemon, grapefruit, salty soil tones, citrus peel and a touch of beeswax in the upper register. On the palate the wine is medium-full, bright and very wellbalanced, with perfectly respectable depth in the mid-palate, good focus and fine length and grip on the finish. This is not exactly snappy today, but it remains fresh and vibrant for near-term drinking. 2012-2015. 89.
2010 Teira X- Bodegas Manuel Formigo (Ribeiro)
Young Manuel Formigo de la Fuente is the winegrower now in charge of his family’s vineyards in Ribeiro, tucked in a corner of Galicia just above the Portuguese border in northwestern Spain. The estate’s “Teira X” bottling hails from some of their oldest vines in their top vineyard site, Finca Miño Teira, and is a blend of sixty percent Treixadura, fifteen percent each Albariño and Alvilla and ten percent Loureira. Only a few hundred cases are produced each vintage. This is a more structured and slightly riper (thirteen versus 12.5 percent) wine than the estate’s Finca Teira Blanco, with more mid-palate depth and a superior backbone of acidity. The 2010 is an absolutely superb wine, jumping from the glass in a vibrant mélange of lemon, fresh bay leaf, stony white soil tones, orange peel and a dollop of petrol. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and beautifully soil-driven, with sound acids, lovely focus and simply exceptional length and grip on the finish. A superb bottle. 2012-2018. 92.
2010 Camino Blanco- Terro Remota (Empordá- Costa Brava)
Terra Remota is owned by the husband and wife team of Marc and Emma Bournazeau, who are residents of Perpignan, France (just over the border), as Marc’s family was forced to emigrate from Spain to Perpignan during the Civil War. This very pretty and stylish white wine is a blend of forty-five percent Garnaxta Blanco, thirty-five percent Chenin Blanc and twenty percent Chardonnay. The nose is deep and complex, offering up a very classy blend of lemon, pear, white soil tones, a hint of green olive and a topnote of spring flowers. On the palate the wine is fullish, crisp and nicely transparent, with sound framing acids and good length and grip on the focused finish. This is not the most complex white in the portfolio, but it is a very satisfying bottle that offers up good depth and breadth of flavor, which, I suspect, will growexponentially in complexity as the vines get older here. Very elegant juice. 2012-2016+. 88.
2010 Sabatelius Godello-Treixadura Blanco (Ribeira Sacra)
The 2010 Sabatelius Blanco is a blend of sixty percent Godello and forty percent Treixadura and is a terrific bottle. The stylish and complex nose wafts from the glass in a blend of pink grapefruit, beeswax, tart melon, lemon peel, salty soil tones, a touch of green olive and a top note of resinous herbs. On the palate the wine is vibrant, medium-full and complex, with a fine core of fruit, bright acids, excellent focus and grip and a long, pure and transparent finish. Fine juice. 2012-2018. 92.
2011 Don Bernardino Godello (Ribeira Sacra)
Don Bernardino is the wine label for restaurateur, Emilio Rodríguez Diaz, whose O Grelo
restaurant is located in the town of Monforte de Lemos- effectively the capital of the Ribeira
Sacra region. His 2010 Godello is excellent, weighing in at a ripe and pure thirteen percent and
offering up a beautiful nose of peach, lime peel, a lovely base of soil, just a whisper of honeycomb and a gently smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish, pure and very classy, with excellent mid-palate depth, fine focus, crisp acids and outstanding balance and grip on the snappy and soil-driven finish. Just a superb bottle of Godello. 2012-2020. 92.
2010 D. Berna Godello- Adegas D. Berna (Valdeorras)
Adegas D. Berna is owned by the young husband and wife team of Berna Guitián and Elena Blanco, who together with their talented consulting enologist, José Luis Murcia, produce an absolutely lovely bottle of Godello. The deep, complex and very pretty nose wafts from the
glass in a mix of lime, tart orange, salty soil tones, a hint of white peach, olives, white flowers
and a bit of citrus peel in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, medium-full and
vibrant, with lovely intensity of flavor, a fine core, crisp acids and lovely length and grip on the beautifully focused finish. This is a really lovely bottle. 2012-2018. 91+.
2010 A Silveira Godello- Adegas O Barreiro (Valdeorras)
Adegas O Barreiro is owned by Pepe Rodriguez, who retired from his first career to tend vines and make wine in this isolated corner of Valdeorras which looks down upon the Sil River valley. Señor Rodriguez’s 2010 Godello is flat out stunning, offering up a deep and classy bouquet of tart peach, orange peel, beeswax, white soil tones, a touch of green olive and a lovely, delicate topnote of fresh rosemary. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and very pure on the attack, with impressive complexity and mid-palate depth, laser-like focus, sound acids and outstanding length and grip on the bouncy and very refined finish. This is a superb example of Godello and one taste of this wine makes it very easy to see why so many Spanish wine aficionados argue that Godello is the country’s greatest indigenous white wine grape. 2012-2020. 93.
2010 Viña de Neira Godello (Ribeira Sacra)
While Ribeira Sacra is obviously best-known for its outstanding red wines based on Mencía, this lovely Godello shows that the steep slate vineyards here are also a fine location for Godello and other white wine varieties. The 2010 Godello from Viña de Neira is a lovely middleweight, offering up an impressively complex and vibrant bouquet of lemon, bread fruit, beeswax, salty soil tones, lemon peel and dried flowers in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish, crisp and complex, with a lovely base of soil, fine focus and good, but not great length on the bouncy finish. If this were a bit longer on the backend it would rate outstanding, but there is an awful lot to like in this classy and complex wine. 2012-2016. 88.
Albariño has long been considered one of Spain’s finest white wine grapes, but much of its history has been marked by unfulfilled potential, as the low prices that most of these wines sold for on the international market simply dictated that the grape had to be cropped high in order for wine- growers to survive economically and make a living sufficient to keep their families fed and sheltered. Happily, one is beginning to see more examples of Albariño these days that are clearly focused on maximizing the potential quality of the varietal by keeping yields much lower and searching out blocks of old vines, with the resulting wines showing a dramatically different profile of complexity and depth of flavor than was the case when the only way for a winegrower to survive with this variety was to over-crop and try to get by on volume.
Much the same phenomenon can be seen in a French appellation such as Sancerre, where there continues to be oceans of rather dilute, simple and easy-drinking wine produced from very high crop yields, but where the greatest producers of the region- people such as Edmond and Anne Vatan, the Cotat cousins, Gérard Boulay and others have shown just how profound a wine can be produced from sauvignon blanc in the best terroirs of Sancerre when yields are kept down and the wines are crafted to maximize quality and complexity, rather than simply aiming to make a profit through volume. A similar push upwards in quality can be seen in the region of Rías Biaxas with Albariño, and the last couple of years have seen some absolutely brilliant examples cross my path from some of the top producers in the region. Prior to tasting these wines, I never imagined that Albariño could produce such profoundly complex, intensely flavored and ageworthy wines, and this new trend may well be one of the most exciting today in all of Spain.
Two decades ago, a group of fourteen growers who specialize in Rías Biaxas Albariño decided
to form a quality-oriented growers’ association, which they dubbed the “Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas”, and six of these estates are now part of Señor Dawes’ portfolio. One of the chief tenets of the producers in this association, besides low yields and old vines is the use solely of indigenous yeasts for the fermentation of their wines. These top estates also differ from much of the more commercially-oriented Albariño out there in choosing to bottle their wines significantly later than is customary in the more quantity-oriented houses, allowing the wines to nurture on their fine lees typically until mid-summer of the following year after the harvest. The growers reported on below from The Spanish Artisan Wine Group are certainly amongst the very finest of this new genre of “quality over quantity” Albariño producers, and there are very few other vignerons working with this grape with whom I have experience that can match the stunning quality of these wines.
2010 Albariño - Avó Roxo (Rías Biaxas)
Adega Avó Roxo is currently run by Antonio Gondar Moldes, who took over the management of the family estate only in 2007. His grandfather, Serafin Gondar began production here in the 1930s and this was at one time one of the most famous wineries in the region, winning several awards as late as the 1970s. The family vineyard is one and a half hectares in size and planted entirely to Albariño and Antonio Gondar Moldes is dedicated to taking the quality here to the highest level, and Avó Roxo is one of the most recent inductees into the growers’ association in the region. His 2010 Albariño is a stunning wine, soaring from the glass in a blaze of tart orange, lime, stony, salty minerality, a touch of green olive, ocean breeze and a smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and very transparent, with a great core of fruit, crisp acids, outstanding focus and balance and superb grip on the very, very long finish. This is a stunning example of Albariño! 2012-2020. 95.
2010 Albariño - Cabaleiro do Val (Rías Biaxas)
The Adega of Cabaleiro do Val is owned by Francisco “Paco” Dovalo López, who founded and is the current president of the Growers’ Association here. While the winery was only officially incorporated in 1989, the family winegrowing traditions here go back centuries and Señor Dovalo López has some extremely old vines in his vineyard. He has taken selection massale cuttings from some of his one hundred and fifty year-old vines to use for replanting purposes, thus retaining the unique character of his outstanding Albariños. The 2010 offering from Cabaleiro do Val is absolutely outstanding, jumping from the glass in a deep, complex and gently leesy mélange of grapefruit, orange peel, stony minerality, lemongrass and a smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and rock solid at the core, with snappy acids, laser-like focus and simply exquisite length and grip on the perfectly balanced and soil-driven finish. This is a brilliant Albariño! 2012-2020+. 94+.
2010 Albariño - Lagar de Broullón (Rías Biaxas)
Lagar de Broullón is owned by José Pintos, who farms this two and a half hectare vineyard in the village of Meaño, which is one of the very finest for Albariño in the Val de Salnés section of Rías Biaxas. The vineyard is situated with a south by southwest exposition, allowing the grapes to reach fine ripeness each year and still maintain a great base of minerality. The 2010 from Señor Pintos is a beautiful wine, offering up a deep and vibrant nose of fresh lime, green apple, salty oceanic tones, citrus peel, a bit of lemongrass and a great base of stony minerality. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and classy, with a superb core of fruit, crisp acids and lovely length and grip on the perfectly focused finish. High class juice! 2012-2020. 93.
2010 Albariño - Lagar de Candes (Rías Biaxas)
Eulogio Gondar is the owner and winegrower at Lagar de Candes, and he represents the fourth generation of his family to head this small estate, which is also located in the village of Meaño, in the Val de Salnés section of Rías Biaxas. The soils here are granitic in nature, producing beautifully mineral expressions of Albariño. The 2010 from Lagar de Candes is a lovely wine, wafting from the glass in a complex mix of tangerine, elegant leesy tones, pulverized stone, lime zest and a saline topnote of the ocean. On the palate the wine is pure, medium-full and zesty, with lovely complexity, very good mid-palate depth, sound framing acids and lovely length and grip on the focused and classy finish. This does not quite possess quite the same “electricity” on the backend as the very best Albariños in this lineup, but it is a superb bottle of wine. 2012-2016. 90+.
2010 Albariño “O’Forrollo” - Bodega Meis Otero (Rías Biaxas)
Bodega Meis Otero is owned and operated by the Fernando Meis Otero, who is one of the very youngest members of the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas. He took over the reins of the family bodega in 2001. Like many of his fellow members of the growers’ association, his vineyards are located in the Val de Salnés. The family’s one and a half hectares of vines used to be planted to a mix of regional grapes, but Fernand Meis Otero’s father took the step to plant exclusively Albariño here in the early 1980s. Thus, the vineyards are just now coming into their prime as they close in on thirty years of age. The 2010 O’Forrollo Albariño is an outstanding wine, delivering a deep and very complex nose of sweet grapefruit, pulverized stone, orange peel, briny oceanic overtones, lemongrass and a touch of acacia blossom in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish, complex and very classy, with a superb core of fruit, laser-like focus, outstanding intensity of flavor and superb length and grip on the beautifullybalanced finish that closes with a distinct note of orange peel. Lovely juice. 2012-2020. 93.
2010 Albariño - Rozas (Rías Biaxas)
Adega Rozas is located in the village of Meaño in the Val de Salnés and is run by winegrower Manolo Dovalo. This family estate goes back several generations, and its 6.3 hectares of vineyards are loaded with old vines- many dating back more than two generations! Señor Dovalo insists that it is the very high percentage of old vines in this very favored section of the Val de Salnés that allows him to make such outstanding Albariños. The 2010 Rozas is simply stunning, soaring from the glass in a complex blaze of lime zest, tart orange, kaleidoscopic minerality, lemongrass, gentle leesy tones and a smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and very racy, with a rock solid core of fruit, brisk acids, laser-like focus and simply stunning length and grip on the very minerally and magically complex finish. This is as magical a glass of Albariño as I have ever had the pleasure to taste! 2012-2020+. 96+.
2011 Lagrima de Garnacha Rosado - Bodegas Camino del Villar Viña Aliaga (Navarra)
The 2011 Rosado from Viña Aliaga is a beautiful bottle of dry Rosé that is drinking superbly out of the blocks, but shows every indication of improving with a year or two of bottle age. Made from one hundred percent Garnacha, with its color arrived at by a bit of skin contact, the 2011 offers up a deep and stunning nose of blood orange, cherries, rose petals, lovely, chalky soil tones and a bit of orange peel in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, fullbodied and beautifully balanced, with a lovey core of fruit, bright acids and excellent focus and grip on the long and classy finish. Just a beautiful bottle of Rosado, with great purity and no “candied” aspects on either the nose or palate. 2012-2016. 92.
2011 Viña Catajarros “Elite” Rosado - Bodegas Hermanos Merino (Cigales)
The Viña Catajarros Rosado from Bodegas Hermanos Merino is made up of a blend of eighty percent tempranillo, five percent Garnacha, and fifteen percent of two white wine grapes, Verdejo (ten percent) and alvillo (five percent). This winery is run by two brothers, Eugenio and his brother Merino, and the estate is a Rosado specialist, with the vast majority of their production comprised of dry rosé (augmented by a bit of red wine). The 2011 Viña Catajarros Rosado offers up a superb and vibrant nose of cherries, orange peel, salty soil tones and a topnote of dried roses. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and tangy, with a superb base of soil, excellent focus and bounce and a very long, complex and classy finish. I would give this superb wine another year of bottle age to really let it blossom, as the 2010 shows that there is more yet to come as this wine develops with a bit of cellaring. High class Rosado here! 2013-2018. 93.
2010 Viña Catajarros “Elite” Rosado- Bodegas Hermanos Merino (Cigales)
The 2010 Viña Catajarros Rosado from Bodegas Hermanos Merino is made up the same blend as the 2011, and the additional year of bottle age has really let this wine come into its own. The 2010 version is a superb bottle of rosé, jumping from the glass in a complex and classy nose of cherries, melon, pomegranate, a touch of spiced meats, orange peel, complex, soil tones and a nice touch of smokiness in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and beautifully balanced, with a lovely core of fruit, with gentle framing acids, superb soil signature and excellent length and grip on the complex finish. High class and serious Rosado that shows every indication of continuing to drink well for several more years. 2012-2016+? 93+.
Assorted Viña Tinto
2010 Tempranillo - Camino del Villar Viña Aliaga (Navarra)
Carlos Aliaga’s tempranillo never sees any oak and is raised entirely in stainless steel tanks. It hails from the family’s limestone-based vineyards located in the center of Navarra and is a superb value. The 2010 tips the scales at a very civilized 13.5 percent alcohol and delivers a lot of aromatic and flavor complexity for its very modest price tag. The bouquet is a blend of black cherries, new leather, a touch of chocolate, lovely spice tones, a bit of meatiness and a topnote of violets. On the palate the wine is medium-full, complex and has a bit of ripe tannins on the backend, with a sappy core of fruit, good focus and fine length and grip. This will be even better with a year’s bottle age, but it is already an awful lot of wine for a bargain price! 2012-2020. 87+.
2009 Camino Vi Negre - Terro Remota Camino (Empordá- Costa Brava)
The 2009 Camino Vi Negre from Terro Remota Camino is a lovely red wine from Empordá, with its alcohol nicely scaled at fourteen percent and the beautiful terroir found here front and center in the wine. The blend on the 2009 is comprised of forty percent Garnaxta, thirty percent Syrah, twenty percent Cabernet Sauvignon and ten percent Tempranillo. The outstanding nose offers up a deep, pure and very refined blend of cherries, blood orange, a touch of cocoa, lovely spice tones, fresh nutmeg and a violet topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, medium-full, bright and tangy, with lovely intensity of flavor, melting tannins and a long, complex and beautifully focused finish. This is a beautiful bottle that shows off just how special this region can be when new oak is not the focal point of the equation. 2012-2020. 92+.
2008 Dhuoda Tinto (Catalunya)
This lovely red is a fifty-fifty blend of Carignane (which is known locally as Samsó) and Garnaxta. The vineyards lie at an altitude of nine hundred meters above sea level, which keeps the nights cool and the alcohol level down a bit. The 2008 Dhuoda Tinta weighs in at a very civilized 13.1 percent alcohol as a result. The soils here are brown slate and very similar to those found in Priorat, but the evenings are cooler here. The 2008 Dhuoda was fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged in a mix of new, one wine and two wine barrels of French origin. The 2008 Dhuoda Tinto offers up a deep and classy bouquet of red and black cherries, new leather, nutskins, garrigue, a lovely base of soil and a nice touch of fresh herbs in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and very suave on the attack, with a lovely core of fruit, soft tannins and a long, complex and very classy finish. This is quite low octane by Catalan standards and shows little influence from its one third new wood. Lovely juice. 2012-2020+. 92.
2008 Montsant Vi Negre- Herestat Navas (Montsant)
Montsant is the mountainous region that surrounds Priorat and shares many of the same grapes with its better known neighbor. There is very good potential here, but it is a hot region and there is, of course, still more incentive these days to fashion wines of power that might capture the attention of Priorat fanciers looking for a bit better value in this neighboring region, rather than try to harness the ripeness here and look for a Montsant version of elegance. This 2008 from Herestat Navas is one of the more restrained examples I have tasted from Montsant which admittedly is a very small sampling. The 2008 Montsant Tinto from Herestat Navas is comprised of a blend of forty percent Garnacha, twenty percent Cariñena (Carignan), twenty percent Cabernet Sauvignon and twenty percent Syrah. It is a deep, ripe and classy wine on the nose, offering up scents of cassis, garrigue-like spice tones, baked black cherries, a bit of tarriness and a nice base of new oak. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and rock solid at the core, with good focus and a bit of uncovered wood tannin currently poking out on the complex backend. There is enough stuffing here to eventually carry its new wood and the wine is not particularly out of balance, but this is a wine that would have been dramatically better with a bit less oak. But, not bad. 2012-2020. 87+.
one of the most beautiful vineyard areas in Spain.
2007 Garnacha Vieja - Camino del Villar Viña Aliaga (Navarra)
The Aliaga family’s old vine Garnacha bottling, which hails from forty to fifty year-old vines is outstanding. Not particularly ripe by contemporary grenache standards, the 2007 weighs in at 13.9 percent alcohol and is raised in a blend of French and American oak- a small percentage of which is new - for six months. Gerry Dawes is quite funny in commenting that he really does not like this wine, but his customers keep asking for it! It is really an exceptional bottle of Garnacha, offering up a deep, impressively complex and sappy nose of crushed raspberries, a touch of meatiness, gentle notes of chocolate, garrigue, bonfires and a lovely base of chalky soil tones. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and complex, with melting tannins, a fine core of fruit, superb focus and balance and lovely length and grip. This is a high class bottle of grenache that never strays over the line into jammy obsequiousness and is another dynamite value from this superb producer. 2012-2020+. 92.
2007 Colección Privada Tinto- Camino del Villar Viña Aliaga (Navarra)
The 2007 Colección Privada Tinto from Camino del Villar Viña Aliaga is a blend of eighty percent tempranillo and twenty percent cabernet sauvignon and is aged again in a blend of French and American oak, this time for twelve months duration, and with the percentage of new wood slightly higher than for the Garnacha Vieja. The nose on the 2007 is deep and complex, with a nice, old school feel to its mélange of black cherries, grilled meats, coffee grounds, cigar some and a lovely base of dark soil tones. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and “nobly rustic”, with a superb core of fruit, modest tannins and excellent length and grip on the backend. This is not quite as complex as the Garnacha 2007, but it too is a very good bottle of wine. 2012-2020. 89.
Ribeira Sacra (and other Mencía-based Reds)
2011 Don Bernardino Mencía (Ribeira Sacra)
As noted above, Don Bernardino is the wine label for restaurateur, Emilio Rodríguez Díaz, whose O Grelo restaurant in the town of Monforte de Lemos. The steep vineyards for his red wine lie in the village of Amandi, overlooking the Sil River. I tasted two vintage of this terrific Mencía, with the 2011 being the slightly riper of the two vintages at thirteen percent (incomparison to the 12.5 percent of the 2010), but with both wines proving to be absolutely outstanding. The 2011 Don Bernardino offers up a vibrant nose of pomegranate, black cherries, a beautiful base of slate, a touch of lead pencil and a gentle topnote of woodsmoke. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and very classy, with excellent intensity of flavor, bright acids andexcellent length and grip on the focused and bouncy finish. Just a classic example of Mencía. 2012-2020. 92+.
2011 Décima Amandi Mencía- José Manuel Rodríguez (Ribeira Sacra)
José Manuel Rodríguez is the head of the growers’ association and regulatory agency of Ribeira Sacra, and makes one of the finest examples of Mencía I have ever had the pleasure to taste. Like the Don Bernardino Mencía, these two lovely vintages of Décima hail from very steep vineyards overlooking the Sil River in the village of Amandi. The 2011 Décima weighs in at a very classic octane of 12.5 percent and roars from the glass in a sophisticated and utterly classic nose of pomegranate, lead pencil, slate, a nice touch of gamebird, coffee bean and a gentle medicinal topnote that is vaguely reminiscent of Hermitage. On the palate the wine is fullish, complex and very intensely flavored, with laser-like focus, fine mid-palate depth, tangy acids and great length and grip on the very softly tannic finish. Utterly classic Mencía! 2012-2020+. 94.
2011 Toalde Mencía- Roberto Regal (Ribeira Sacra)
Roberto Regal’s production is miniscule, as he owns only about one hectare of Mencía vines here in a very steep vineyard overlooking the Miño River. There are just a handful of older indigenous varieties also in the vineyard here, so Señor Regal makes a field blend of these with his Mencía to produce this superb wine. The 2011 Toalde is outstanding, offering up a deep and complex bouquet of black cherries, pomegranate, a touch of nutskin, a lovely base of slate and granitic minerality, smoke and a gentle topnote of fresh herbs. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish, long and very sappy in the mid-palate, with fine focus and balance and a long, suave and bouncy finish. This is a lovely wine. 2012-2018. 91+.
2010 Viña Barroca Mencía- Bodegas Adriá (Bierzo)
The Viña Barroca Mencía bottling from Bodegas Adriá hails from thirty to sixty year-old vines grown on hillside vineyards that range from 450 to a 1000 meters above sea level. The soils here in Bierzo are not the pure slate one finds in Ribeira Sacra, but rather a mix of quartz, clay and slate. The 2010 Viña Barroca Mencía was aged entirely in stainless steel and given four months additional bottle age prior to release and weighs in at a ripe 13.5 percent alcohol. The nose is deep and classy, offering up a youthful mélange of dark berries, medicinal black cherries, a touch of tree bark, graphite, garrigue and a fine base of soil that seems to show a slightly ferrous complexity. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and intensely flavored, with lovely transparency, a solid core, fine focus and excellent length and grip on the complex and classy finish. I should note that I tasted this wine twice, with the wine once popped and poured and on the other occasion given one hour in decanter prior to serving. The additional aeration made a world of difference in allowing this young wine to blossom fully and decanting is very much recommended for this fine wine. This is a stunning value! 2012-2020. 92.
2010 Mencía d’Berna- Adegas D. Berna (Valdeorras)
Adegas D. Berna is a specialist in Godello, but their 2010 Mencía d’Berna is also a splendid wine and not to be overlooked with all the white wine fireworks being crafted in the cellars and vine- yards here by the estate’s (regionally) well-known and very talented consultant, José Luis Murcia. This is an absolutely classic example of Mencía, offering up a superb aromatic mélange of dark berries, pomegranate, a touch of tree bark, spice tones redolent of cumin, a bit of bitter chocolate and a lovely base of complex, stony soil tones. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and very intensely flavored, with a sappy core of fruit, tangy acids, excellent focus and grip and a very long, complex finish that stays light on its feet all the way to the conclusion. There is just a faint touch of volatile acidity to this beauty when it is first opened, so a short stint in decanter is quite beneficial. Fine, fine juice. 2012-2017. 92+.
2010 Don Bernardino Mencía (Ribeira Sacra)
I am not sure if it is the extra year of bottle age or the slightly lower octane level, but the 2010 Don Bernardino Mencía is even a small step up from the excellent 2011 version. The stunning nose soars from the glass in a blaze of black cherries, dark berries, a touch of tree bark, dark chocolate, smoky overtones and a gloriously complex base of slate soil tones. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and superbly complex, with outstanding focus and balance, tangy acids and truly exceptional length and grip on the scintillating finish. This is a beautiful bottle of Ribeira Sacra! 2012-2025. 94.
2010 Décima Amandi Mencía- José Manuel Rodríguez (Ribeira Sacra)
2010 Décima Mencía from José Manuel Rodríguez is another absolute classic in the making. The deep and utterly refined nose soars from the glass in a mélange of black cherries, pomegranate, a touch of road tar, bonfires, fresh herb tones, cracked pepper and a gloriously pure and complex base of slate. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and very intensely flavored, with a sappy core, tangy acids, exquisite balance and a very, very long, focused and refined finish. The 2010 Décima Mencía is a beautifully crafted, complex and refined wine that is very pure and precise on both the nose and palate. It is still a young wine that will continue to blossom with further bottle age, but there is nothing structurally forbidding about the wine today and it will be a very difficult task keeping this wine in the cellar and not drinking it right away. Great juice. 2012-2025. 94.
2010 Sabatelius Mencía- Primitivo Lareu (Ribeira Sacra)
Primitivo Lareu is a superb winemaker on the far western end of Ribeira Sacra, located in the sub-region of Chantada, which happens to be the coolest vineyard area in all of Ribeira Sacra. In addition to his winegrowing responsibilities, Señor Lareu is also a sculptor and painter, but first and foremost these days, he is a serious viticulturist bent on extracting as much terroir from his vineyards and producing as transparent a glass of wine as possible. His 2010 Mencía is outstanding, offering up a stunning and sappy nose of pomegranate, black cherries, woodsmoke, beautifully complex herbal tones, espresso and a superb base of stony, slate soil. On the palate the wine is deep, medium-full and dancing on the palate, with superb lightness of step coupled to excellent intensity. The wine is impressively complex and focused, with bright acids, little tannin and outstanding length and grip on the bouncy finish. Superb juice. 2012-2020+. 93+.
2010 Toalde Mencía- Roberto Regal (Ribeira Sacra)
The 2010 Toalde from Roberto Regal is excellent, wafting from the glass in a smoky mélange of dark berries, black cherries, espresso, tree bark, stony soil tones, fresh herbs and woodsmoke. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and intensely flavored, with lovely transparency, very good mid-palate depth and superb length and grip on the focused and complex finish. This wine is very light on its feet and yet packs plenty of intensity. I suspect it will prove to be a touch longer-lived than the equally fine 2011 Toalde bottling. Classic Ribeira Sacra. 2012-2020+. 92.
2010 Viña Cazoga Mencía - Jorge Carnero (Ribeira Sacra)
Viña Cazoga has a long history of fine wine production in the Ribeira Sacra and was once one of the largest and most important estates in the area, but during the nadir of the region’s fortunes- which really started at the dawn of the twentieth century, when so many of these steep vineyard sites were abandoned and young people emigrated en masse in search of more profitable work- Jorge Carnero’s family’s vineyard holdings in the village of Amandi dwindled down to almost nothing. Jorge’s grandfather, Raimundo Vidal, was instrumental in starting to resurrect the Ribeira Sacra region in the 1970s and today the family owns a single, 3.9 hectare parcel of vines right above the Sil River that was long recognized as the finest vineyard in Ribeira Sacra. Almost the entire vineyard is planted with vines in excess of one hundred years of age, with ninety-five percent planted to Mencía and the balance made up of a mix of Tempranillo and Merenzao. The 2010 Viña Cazoga Mencía is a beautiful wine, offering up a deep, very intense and complex nose of black cherries, pomegranate, black pepper, a touch of spiced meats, slate soil tones, espresso and a topnote of cigar smoke. On the palate the wine is deep, fullbodied and very sappy at the core, with great focus and grip, excellent balance, bright acids, virtually no tannins and outstanding length and grip on the dancing and palate-staining finish. Great Ribeira Sacra! 2012-2020. 94.
2008 Viña Cazoga “Don Diego” Mencía - Jorge Carnero (Ribeira Sacra)
The Don Diego bottling from Jorge Carnero spends six to twelve months of its elevage in four year-old, five hundred liter French oak barrels prior to bottling and is released after further bottle age. Even using four year-old barrels, the Mencía grape still shows a fair bit of wood influence in this wine, which does make for a markedly different impression than the stainless steel-aged regular bottling. The 2008 offers up a very deep and classy nose of black cherries, bitter chocolate, woodsmoke, lovely soil tones and a nice, generous touch of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and quite suave on the attack, with a bit less overtly terroir-derived soil tones in evidence. The finish is very long and moderately tannic, and though the wine is focused nicely, there is not quite the same purity and blazing transparency here as is found in the 2010 regular bottling. This is still a very well-made wine, but it seems that the oak takes away a bit more than it adds to the final blend. 2012-2025. 90.
Gerry Dawes can be reached at email@example.com