Pago De Tharsys, Nuestro Bobal por Diana Suria

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In Spain, our tour guide said that, in Spanish, to make an object, like say a screwdriver, the verb is “fabicar,” to produce. However, when it comes to the process of making a wine the verb is “elaborar,” to elaborate. To elaborate something implies consciousness, time, and the labor such as that of an artist. It speaks to a sense of creation and nurturance, not just production. Oh, and some vintages require more “elaborar” than others!

To understand Spanish wine you need to understand that Spain and its wine makers are in love with the country, with its history, and with the land itself. Think Cervantes, Ferdinand and Isabella, Goya, Franco, Picasso, El Cid, Dali and Saint Teresa are all looking over your shoulder while you work.

Today Spain is making some of the most exciting and affordable wines you can get. The vineyards “elabora” that wine with shiny high tech equipment, but you’d think they are just seconds away from stripping off their cloths hopping into the vats and crushing the grape by foot because they still continue to respect the wisdom of the old ways and the flavors that result from them.

I am visiting Pago De Tharsys in Requena Spain, about an hour’s drive from Valencia. The Bodega is owned by Vicente Garcia and Ana Suria. Pago is a term that means all of the production from the grapes to the bottling are done in the same place. The status “vinedo de Pago” adds a great deal of prestige to the property and wine. Tharsys is the name of the person who founded Requena 1500 years before Christ. The first vineyard on the property was founded in 1808, and in 2000 everything but the cellars were demolished and rebuilt.

They make a sparkling wine called Caves (Spanish Champagne) and I am told they are very good. I’m afraid of bubbles so I passed. Spain and France both started making sparkling wine around the same time 1870’s. Unlike the French, who cultivated an upper crust luxury image of Champagne, the Spanish have a more middle class view of Caves where they drink it as a comfort wine, typically served with an appetizer of thick warm bread with tomato and extra-virgin olive oil. If you like sparkling wines skip the Champagne and buy Caves, your finances and flavor will improve. Compared to Champagne Caves are a steal!

But I’m not here for bubbles, I’m here for Bobal!

I first heard of Bobal from a wine aficionado friend of mine in Texas. “Griffy,” he said, “it’s so dark it will stain your glass.” Well it was dark; however my glass emerged from my first encounter unscathed. The wine I tried the first time was a 2010 Sera Note Utiel-Requena Pasion de Bobal. Yes, I know that’s a mouthful. This wine is available in the United States ask for Pasion de Bobal. The Utiel-Requena is region in Spain where the wine is from; Bobal is the native grape of Requena.

Bobal derives from the Latin “Bovale” which means “bulls head” because the grape clusters look like a bulls head on the vine.

The wine we are talking about here is Nuestr Bobal por Diana Suria, or “Our Bobal by Ana Suria”. This is an outstanding wine with a beautiful bouquet of blackberries. As I said, the color is dark, medium body, good tannins, dry by my wweet detector Josephine’s standards, but perfect by mine. For the taste, you’ll get some spiciness, blackberries and a lot of flavor. This is a great food wine, any roasted meat would pair well with this, or just some cheese. It is a blend of 85% Bobal and 15% Cabernet Franc, aged 10 months in oak.

I’m sorry to say that I can’t find any listings for Pago de Tharsys or Nuestro Bobal por Siana Suria in the United States, I would try for the Sierra Note and make sure whatever you find it’s from Utiel-Requena for the best interpretation. But do try some Bobal, you’ll thank me!

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Fill your Airbus with Beaujolais

I’ll looking forward to my second Beaujolais Nouveau, Thursday Nov 21st !

Chez Nick

It tastes of raspberries, strawberries and even bananas (but mostly rotting fruit.) It gives you acid, upset stomach, diarrhoea and a very bad hangover. Every year, serious wine buffs rage against the stuff – it is not real wine – too popular too commercial, YET come Thursday, everyone in France will be uncorking a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau.

At home with family, at a workplace drink with colleagues or in a bistrot, café or restaurant with friends – the French will be downing this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau. For many restaurants and cafés, the Beaujolais night is the biggest and best business of the year.

The Beaujolais region isn’t huge, yet every year the local winegrowers manage to produce nearly 35 million bottles of the Bojo Noovo – half of which are destined for Japan and China.

Of course with the success of the Beaujolais Nouveau, other wines are getting in…

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Land of light and wine

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In his tour guide, Rick Steve describes Provence as the, “land of light and wine,” and I would have to say that is a very good description.  Painters like van Gogh, Renoir, Matisse, Picasso and Cezanne have all come to paint landscapes here, and then never left.  It was a cloudy day with showers when I visited, but when they broke and the sun came out the scenery was strikingly surreal.
 
My tour guide used the word “garigue.”  The word describes the character of the land; parched, low rolling limestone hills covered in dry scrub and tough, resiny plants, wild rosemary, wild thyme, lavender, and short oak trees.  It was amazing.  During the tour there was a box of earth at a vineyard, and when you opened the box and took in a breath, then went to a wine made on the land where the dirt was from, the perfumes of both were the same.
 
The Romans called this region “nostra provincial,” our province, hence Provence. The area is vast, ranging from the beaches of the France Riviera north inland to the southern Rhone river valley.  Even the French are not sure where it ends; when I asked my guide she shrugged her shoulders and just said where the Garigue ends.
 
Another phenomenon that has to be mention is the wind.  Provence experiences a persistent, and sometimes violent, wind from the north called, “la mistral.”  Wind speeds can exceed 100 mph which explains why most of the grape vines are located in protected south-facing pockets, with the hills to their backs.  Not surprisingly, so are the towns and houses.  
 
I visited the land between Toulon and Marseille, with the epicenter being Bandol.  Bandol is the top appellation in Provence.  My humble bottle came from a supermarket shelf, a Rose, which is what most of the wines from this region are.  The color was a pleasing pink and clear.  The nose contained a vibrant strawberry, with a taste that was powerful and earthy.  I definitely got the garigue, and you guessed it, full of strawberries.  I enjoyed the wine with a Marseille bouillabaisse (fish soup) and Griffy was ready to get an easel and go paint.  It was wonderful despite the rain.
 
My guide told me that as good as the roses are, the real deal here are the reds.  Deep red wines, which I was told were leathery on the palate.  I have always wondered, who’s ever eaten a shoe to know what “leathery” is?  By law a red produced in Bandol must contain at least 50% Mourvedre and most are 100%.
 
Again, I implore you, those who look down on Rose, rethink your position, and try the roses from the Rhone and Provence.  These are bold and fruity, substantial in body, and are downright great with big flavor.  I’m talking about generous amounts of olive oil, garlic, herbs and spices, fish and poultry dishes.  Foods where a white wine would run screaming from the table, try a rose from this region, you’ll thank me.
 
Okay, one last thing I have to tell you about, Pastis.  If you come to Provence, and you meet up with a local, like I did, they will insist you try Pastis.  This is the most well-loved aperitif in Provence.  It’s weird!  It’s a greenish-yellow, licorice-flavored liqueur served with a carafe of water.  You add the water to the pastis, the water immediately turns cloudy and as you raise the glass to your lips the last though you have is, “Oh my God, I hope this doesn’t kill me.”
 
And back in the day before the French Government got involved it might have.  The original drink was absinthe and was outlawed in 1915 because the wormwood leaves used to make it were toxic.  That’s why you have the carafe of water, to cut down the toxicity.  Today, the drink is made by infusing either licorice or aniseed in a distilled spirit.  I had one, sip!
 
 

Argiolas

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When you think of Italy what images come to mind?  Popes and Caesars, the Colosseum and Gladiators, huge classical ruins and neo-classical buildings, Renaissance art and the culture of Florence, or maybe sports cars like Ferrari or Maserati.
 
When you arrive in Sardinia you get none of that.  Not that it isn’t there, but Sardegna (Italian) is austere, isolated, and solitary.  About 125 miles away at sea from anything–the Italian Mainland, Sicily and North Africa–the people are insular, they have their own way, and in many cases they haven’t changed since when there were Caesars, Gladiators, and Renaissance painters.
 
Despite being an island the inhabitants of Sardinia are more likely to be shepherds or farmers than fisherman, which only adds to the insular nature of the people.  Empires come and go but the shepherds and the farmers are still here.  Wine making is an old trade here too, and about a 30 to 40 minute bus ride from the main city of Cagliari past a good number of sheep (they outnumber the people on the island), in the Municipality of Sediana, you will find the home and vineyard of the Arigiolas family.
 
The vineyard was founded in the early 1900’s by the patriarch Antonio Argiolas, who had a wild idea take the local grapes and make the very best wine possible from it.  This simple-but-successful strategy has been handed down to Franco and Giuseppe, Antonio’s sons and to their children.  I sampled two whites and two reds; the whites were S’elegas, made from 100% Nurabus grapes, and Costamolino, made from 100% Vermentino.  Both were excellent whites and in the summer I hope I can find them here is the states.  The reds were equally good.  Perdera, a blend of Monica, Garignano, and Bovale Sardo, and Costera, 90% Cannonua, 5% Bovale and Carignano, all native varietals. IMG_0615 
 
We enjoyed our wine on a magnificent November day with sopressata, cheese, and a local crisp bread that was so good it should be the subject of its own review.  My host was Antonio’s Granddaughter.
 
IMG_0617I have talked about the Cannonua grape and its interesting connection to longevity.  Antonio lived to be 102 years old, so it seems fitting that we focus on the Costera.  The color is simply beautiful, a clear bright Garnet shimmering in the glass.  The nose is a vigorous bouquet of dark fruit.  I do enjoy the aroma of a big tasty wine, and I assure you this will stand toe to toe with a Cab and not back down.  The taste is outstanding: warm, full-bodied ripe fruit and pleasant tannins.  Pair this with roasted meat, a beef stew, or sharp cheese, sit back, and enjoy.  We don’t need no stinking Caesar’s or Ferrari’s either, but if you happen to have a Botticelli painting, looking at that would go well with drinking this wine too.
 
In order to get the color and flavor just right, the winemaker allowed the skins to macerate with the juice for 12 to 15 days.  The wine is then aged in French barriques for six to eight months prior to bottling.  Maturity date for this wine is about 5 years.
 
The Costera is considered an “entry-level” bottling.  If you have more disposable income you might want to try the limited edition Turriga 2008.  But seriously folks, most of us will be ecstatically happy with the Costera.  Wine Advocate rated this wine a 90, and at this price point, around $15, you can put the extra money towards a trip to Sardinia.  Trust me, you will not be disappointed. 
 
Argiolas bottles about 2 million bottles a wine a year.  I suggest you look for yours.

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Weingut Groiss Gruner Veltliner

 
 
Gruner Veltliner is a new name to my vine lexicon.  This wine came as a recommendation from a reader, and while I was totally unfamiliar with it, as were my tasting buddies, we nonetheless polished off 1.5 liter in easy order over a turkey dinner and were all very impressed.
 
The Gruner hails from Austria and has been grown there since Roman times.  It’s thought to be originally from northern Italy, in the vicinity of the Valtellina area, but DNA testing has not found any link with the grapes from that area.
 
The website for Weingut Groiss is pathetic, they really need to invest a few Euro’s and get a site that projects some kind of positive image of their wine and company.  Every review I read seems to be copied and pasted from that same website.  None would ever convince someone to try this wine, and that’s a shame because this wine is really good.  
 
The Weingut Groiss is a young wine.  I don’t know if the wine is age worthy, most whites are not, so my recommendation is buy and age in the refrigerator about as long as it takes to cool down to drink.  The color is clear, almost no color at all, and there is a slight nose; I detected apple, other tasters got lemon.  The flavor was great: citrus and spices, definitely not the usual flavor from a white.  It was dry, not sweet at all, and as I said paired magnificently with a roast turkey diner. 
 
Though very good, it is possible that the Groiss was not the best representation of this wine.  I will certainly be looking at the Gruner grape again, it was unique, showed great character, and above all was an absolute joy to drink.