BODEGAS LA BÁSCULA
PERFECTLY BALANCED SPANISH WINES!
When Englishman Ed Adams MW and his business partner, South African, Bruce Jack, were thinking of a name for their novel wine-making enterprise in Spain I wonder if they considered the journalist’s eternal search for a catchy headline?
It wouldn’t surprise me. With Ed’s history in marketing, both before he was elevated to the exalted position of Master of Wine, and afterwards too, he wouldn’t be slow to grasp an opportunity!
No matter this journalist at least has taken the bait! Many readers will know that La Báscula is the Spanish word for old fashioned weighing scales, where one side perfectly balances the other. And the analogy is perfectly apt. La Báscula wines are just that – perfectly balanced, and in several ways.
There’s a considered and extremely successful balance between the use of indigenous varieties, which are always the lead variety, and foreign varieties – each complementing the other. There’s the balance between modern wine making technique and traditional Spanish methods, which has been referred to many times in this column. And there’s the balance between to two protagonists: on the one scale, Ed, ex-radio journalist, turned wine retailer, broker, buyer and quality control supremo; and on the other, Bruce, university graduate from Scotland and Australia, fully qualified winemaker with experience in Bordeaux, Barossa Valley, Sonoma, California and of course his native South Africa.
Central to both scales is their shared passion for all things Spanish, and their desire to make wines that speak of Spain and that don’t break the consumer’s bank in doing so.
Perhaps readers will think that the most of important of all these instances of balance is that – the balance between the quality of the wine and its price ticket. This, in my opinion, is where La Báscula wines really do have the perfect balance. Ed and Bruce’s wines have got it just right regarding the price/quality ratio of their very impressive portfolio of wines!
I met Ed Adams MW when he was presenting a wine tasting in Denia – one doesn’t pass up an opportunity to learn from a master of the profession in which one works! I was delighted to find that, like all the MWs I’ve met (NB there are fewer than 300 Masters of Wine in the world!) their MW title is worn professionally, and not socially. There are no airs and graces to be found around Ed, no tendency to believe one’s own PR!
We chatted after the event, when I learned of his wine-making partnership with Bruce and the extension of this partnership to the Spanish bodegas with whom they work. Although Bruce has vineyards in South Africa, which contribute to his Flagstone Winery, along with bought-in grapes from other vineyards (though controlled by Bruce) La Báscula owns no vineyards, not a single vine!
And this is where the word ‘novel’ comes into the wine-making enterprise in my opening paragraph. Ed and Bruce have toured Spain, tasting wines and visiting bodegas to learn more. This knowledge affords them the opportunity to choose wineries in which they have confidence to form a project of collaboration. The bodegas grow the grapes, with technical and physical input from the Báscula Boys, and at harvest time it’s Ed and Bruce who oversee the wine-making.
The result is, well, a perfect balance!
La Báscula wines are made in DOs: Rueda, La Rioja, Jumilla, Terra Alta , Yecla and Alicante! Each wine has an element of place within it and yet a universal appeal!
I found The Charge, from DO Rueda, to be the best blended Verdejo/Viura dry white wine I’ve tasted – and the price, a mere 6€! I’ll be honest – I normally veer away from this blend, preferring the 100% Verdejo wines, made from a variety that has so much more character than Viura. I need a re-think, following my exposure to this wine!
Pure gold in colour, with some glimpses of lime green too, the wine has an initial citrus aroma and flavour which quickly develops into a host of super exotic fruit flavours – mango, paraguyo and kiwi, with a slight coconut cream finish, brought about by its partial oak fermentation with its lees! A great start!
Any white wine that has Viognier in the blend attracts me like a bee to pollen (or red wine for that matter as there are Australian and New Zealand wines that use it, often with Shiraz, to make particularly aromatic reds). La Báscula’s Catalan Eagle, DO Terra Alta, has the local, highly prized, Garnacha Blanca as the lead, but aided and abetted by the apricot flavoured Viognier and Galia Melon tasting Roussanne, which is also originally from the Rhône.
It’s rich on the palate, dry, organic, cool fermented without oak and has a glorious peach, apricot and subtle melon fragrance and flavour, whilst keeping its refreshing acidity. Maintaining the standard and keeping the same value-for-money price!
I’m sure marketing came into the equation when they added a Rioja wine to their range. Everybody knows and appreciates Rioja wine, though at times over the last years this excellent and deserved reputation has been tarnished, in my opinion, by a few wines that really don’t deserve the ticket!
The Charge, DOCa Rioja, you might imagine, does not fit into this sad bracket. In fact this wine will help restore the good name of Rioja as it has everything that well priced, quality Rioja stands for! Tempranillo, Garnacha and a tiny element of Graciano for added elegance are the varieties used and these grapes are sourced from all over the Rioja area (which is common practise there as it blends the different nuances of the varied, altitudes, soils and micro-climates). Nine months in American and French oak add a vanilla and subtle, faint smoky coffee touch to the fruit driven finished product. And yes, you guessed it – still only 6€!
Back to Terra Alta for the Catalan Eagle red wine, made from Garnacha (Tinta, the better known of the Garnacha siblings), Cariñena, Syrah and Cabernet. Like its sister white wine above, this wine will be certified Organic from the 2012 vintage (how Organic wines have come on in quality since their first arrival!).
Here you have some minerality along with deep and dark, mature red fruit flavours and some black pepper spice from the Syrah. The Cabernet will help it age as will the oak staves used to add depth and flavour with a touch of complexity too (how refreshing to ‘own up’ to using oak staves, where so many other bodegas are in denial!). 6€!
Turret Fields Red is made from SE Spain’s favoured variety, Monastrell, with 20% Syrah and has enjoyed some four months in new American oak. It’s a Joven+ wine (I may have just coined a phrase!) in that it exhibits proudly all the young-wine voluptuous juicy fruit, typical of Monastrell and Spanish Syrah, but with an extra depth of flavour and length of finish brought about by judicious use of oak. This time in barrel will also allow the wine to age, perhaps for another five years when it will develop further in bottle. I found the nose to be rich in fruit with a pleasing smoky element too with super, spiced up fruit on the palate and a good length.
The final wine I was sent (though there is one further wine, a delicious, and luscious dessert wine from the Casta Diva vineyards of Señor Gutièrrez de la Vega in Parcent) steps up in price to the still very economic tag of 9€. The Gauntlet Monastrell, DO Yecla, is made from low yielding 50+ year old vines and then aged in American oak barricas for eleven months.
It has greater complexity and structure than the previous reds, greater weight on the palate, and yet it’s elegant too. Ripe fruit and mature tannins with balanced (of course!) acidity. I love the wine now, but can can feel its potential too – under correct conditions this wine will age and develop further. I just wish I had another bottle!
The full Báscula range can be found via email@example.com and you are also invited to visit www.labascula.net – mentioning Cork Talk might be to your advantage!