This week I throw caution to the wind and celebrate tasting - and drinking - a rare gem from my cellar. It is most certainly not cheap, it isn't widely available, but it was very, very good, ...The bottle was a Rioja, but not just any old wine from that region. No this was the single vineyard 1970 Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva from the great Bodegas López de Heredia in Haro.
We know Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, but wine drinkers in the U.S. aren’t really familiar with Rioja’s grapes: the reds like Tempranillo, Garnacha (Grenache), Mazuelo, and Graciano grapes or whites, such as Viura, Malvasía, Garnacha Blanca. Both red and white wines are great values because these varietals fly under the radar. Since there’s not a lot of demand, the price is lower, but the quality is still great.
Wine to try: Cune Rioja Crianza, Rioja, Spain, 2011 ($14)
Made from 100 percent garnacha (grenache in the U.S. and France), the Las Rocas had tons of dark cherry fruit, a deep purple color, lots of body and a long, spicy finish. It was well-balanced and finished dry.
Mencia is a grape that was mistaken for cabernet franc for a while, before DNA testing debunked that idea. It’s easy to see how the mistake could be made, though. This wine offers wood spice, such as white pepper, along with a savory character that suggests trying the wine alongside big red meat. ABV: 12.5 percent.
One of the best, Pazo de Senorans started as the dream of husband and wife team Marisol Bueno and Javier Mareque. In the early days of the region, after it was established as a D.O. with Albarino as the key variety, Marisol was the founding president of the Consejo Regulador of Rias Baixas, dedicated to promoting the Albarino variety throughout the world. Aromatic Pazo Senorans Albarino is filled with white flowers, lemon and lime zest, orchard and stone fruit, a lively representation of the region.
Tempranillo is Spain's premier and recently, most planted black grape. It is concentrated in the northern and central wine regions where its name varies among the different localities. In one of Spain's highly regarded regions for red wine, the Ribera del Duero, the grape is known as Tinto Fino.
How to drink albariño? It makes a very classy apéritif. It is one of my favourite wines to drink with no food. But it’s minerality makes it a perfect match for most seafood, from raw oysters to shrimp to scallops. And richer versions, like the wines of Pazo de Senorans, can easily handle richer fish and those served with richer sauces.
He has been credited with putting Spain on the fine wine map, turning around the fortunes of Priorat and Bierzo, and now directing his focus on Rioja Baja, which is why Decanter has awarded Alvaro Palacios the Man of the Year title for 2015.
The winery, which lies just outside the DO boundary in Ribera del Duero, was previously distributed by Liberty Wines, but withdrew from the UK market in early 2013 to concentrate on developing a more premium portfoli
Seriously classy Tempranillo blend with some Cabernet Sauvignon from an organic vineyard adjacent to the legendary Vega Sicilia winery. Elegant, velvety, opulent; dark red-fruit flavours mingling with tar, spice and smoke. Fantastic with the last game of the season.
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