Selections for October 2016

As lovely as the label . . .

2013 LA BUENA VID de MAS QUE VINOS – Rioja, Spain

We’ve shown you enough of Spain’s most famous wine type to demonstrate there are many variations of the concept.  Rioja can be traditionally made:  Tempranillo with long stays in American oak barrels.  Alternatively, it can be a bargain joven, seeing nothing but temperature controlled stainless steel tanks before a very early bottling, meant to promote lively fruit-forwardness.  From the southern part of Rioja it might even be based not on Tempranillo but on more “democratic” Garnacha (Grenache) for a nearly Rhone-like expression.

La Buena Vid, as I’ve been tasting it for several vintages, tends to be none of these.  As its label suggests, it is not classic but (perhaps?) neo-classic.  It uses 80% Tempranillo and 20% Graciano, the Rioja native I like to call “The Petit Verdot of Rioja” as it plays a similar blending role and contributes a mysterious, murky darkness.  The vines are sixty years old and trained the old way, as head-pruned bushes.  After a temperature-controlled fermentation it spent 14 months in USED French oak barrels to keep the more traditional new wood flavors at bay.  It is comfortably mouthfilling, and becuase the 2013 Rioja vintage was a cooler one there is acidic nerve happening as well.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate admired this with a 91 point rating and the remarks:

“. . . it has red rather than black fruit, and is obviously young with some lactic aromas that need a little more integration. The wine has a very fresh palate that combines the natural acidity of the Graciano with the character of the fresher growing season. This is very expressive and drinkable, really pleasant.”

While I often recommend lamb with Rioja, why not do a winter stew this time?  I know I’m in the mood!

Fasten your seatbelts . . .

2013 ACÚSTIC – Montsant, Spain

We are taking you to a donut-shaped wine region about 90-minutes’ drive southeast of Barcelona, and a world away in appearance.  This is hot and rugged country with hardly a flat surface; you’d never know you were one coastal range away from the placid Mediterranean coast.  The soils here range from clay to quartz to “licorella,” a blue grey slate which predominates in neighboring Priorat (the “donut hole” within Montsant’s “donut”).

Acústic is meant to portray the “sounds” of these soils through their vines and resulting wines.  While slate is certainly felt and even smelled here, another feature is especially expressive in this Catalan red:  The Carignan grape variety, locally known as Carinyena, represented as 70% of this blend.  Garnacha (Grenache) is the other player at 30%, known for adding raspberry lift and charm.  - But back to the main player:  Carignan is a known bruiser.  Its rugged expression is a liquid reflection of the challenging Montsant topography.  Carignan delivers brash power and guts to a Catalan or Southern French blend; the bass notes; the gritty, grimey underside.  The way to address this bullying wine expression is to stand up to it.  Counter those intense flavors of dark fruit and earth with big, muscular proteins.  Meat off the grill is the idea!

This 2013 is not yet rated, but the former vintage of Acústic received an impressive 91 point rating from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.