PAYING HOMAGE TO HOMENAJE
It’s an educated guess, but I’m quite sure that a very large percentage of Cork Talk readers will have enjoyed the Homenaje range of wines, at some time or other – and probably still do so!
I’m firmly in that percentage so I was delighted to receive recently a host of not only Homenaje wines, but many others made by the parent company, Bodegas Marco Real. Wines made in various different parts of Spain, extra to the Navarra vineyards that are home to the company, but also as far afield as the Mendoza valley in Argentina!
Whilst Homenaje is the clearly visible, perhaps best known, tip of the iceberg, Bodegas Marco Real is nevertheless a huge conglomerate-style business that makes wines from Entry Level+ to top quality, award winning lovingly crafted offerings. It seems that every wine drinking occasion for a year could be handsomely covered by Bodegas Marco Real wines alone!
I wonder, also, how many readers have stayed in NH Hotels whilst travelling about Spain – again, I’m in this bracket. And the connection? Well, towards the end of the 80s Señor Antonio Catalan, founder of NH Hotels, decided to extend his business to include one of his passions – wine.
With colleagues and friends, including Señor Juan Ignacio Velasco, owner of the powerful Navarra Distilleries Group, whose majority shareholding helped finance the expansion, he started Bodegas Marco Real, and from a tiny acorn, a mighty oak tree grew!
Therefore in order to do justice to this nimble, benevolent leviathan I’m going to take in turn each of the producing areas within its control, starting today with the wines of the Homenaje range.
I first tasted Homenaje, the Rosado in fact, in a small but popular restaurant not far from Torrevieja, probably fifteen years ago. Like so many over the years, the restaurant has now disappeared, but the wine memory stayed with me.
Try and cast your mind back to those dark days when one daren’t spill a drop of most restaurant house wines, lest its dreadful acidity burn a whole in the table! Experience taught me then that it was better to have a poor red house wine than a poor white – most reds were dried out, fruitless and harsh, but at least they didn’t singe your mouth.
Thankfully there were some establishments (though few and far between) where the owners cared about the customers’ enjoyment of the dining out experience as a whole and didn’t cynically buy their house wines (imagine buying that stuff, I wouldn’t have used it in my restaurants if they’d given it to me!) at the lowest price possible, simply to maximise profits.
The restaurant in question was clearly one of the few that wanted the wine to complement the cuisine. Tentatively I raised my glass of house rosé to my lips, fearing the worst, but was very pleasantly surprised. I asked for the rest of the bottle and read for the first time, Homenaje, DO Navarra. Ever since then whenever I’ve seen Homenaje listed as the house wine, and indeed on the fine wine list, I’ve always ordered with confidence.
And that’s quite a compliment actually. In truth, during the times past to which I refer, it wasn’t difficult to beat the normal house wine offerings. Homenaje did it with consummate ease. Nowadays, wine producers and restaurateurs all over Spain have at last woken up to the facts that: aromatic flavoursome wines can be made, economically; and that we consumers will simply not take any more rubbish!
So Homenaje does have competition these days. Nevertheless, its distinctive, elongated bottles, now adorned with labels designed by recognised artists, stand proudly – until the waiters whisk them away to waiting tables!
I recently tasted the three 2012 joven wines in the range – the white, rosado and red and was pleased to enjoy the consistency of good flavour that has allowed this range not just to continue, but to flourish too.
Homenaje Blanco is made with Viura and Chardonnay. Open, but fridged for two days, the wine is as fresh as when I first pulled the cork. There’s a noticeable, Chardonnay-born banana skin perfume that lazily escapes the bottle as the wine is opened and this is complemented on the palate by some lemon acidity coming from the Viura (aka Macabeo).
It’s a refreshing wine which mysteriously manages to combine lightness of touch with significant body to make it a wine a cut or two above the usual house wine level. It will freshen your palate but also linger after swallowing. Like all the Homenaje wines, it’s very well priced!
The rosado is a slightly darker colour than I remember from that of fifteen years ago. I wonder if the 90% Garnacha, plus contributions from Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend has changed at all during the interim years. No matter, for the wine is drinking perfectly – it’s just what you want from a rosado!
There are dark pink rose petals on the nose, with bright red cherry flavours backing the typical rosado wine raspberry notes. With rosados, made of course with the same varieties that make red wines, you benefit from a lightness of mouthfeel, refreshing acidity, but also some of those richer characteristics that we expect from a red wine.
Homenaje has some body and depth. One wouldn’t call it a complex wine – it’s not designed to be so – but it has a structured, depth and sufficient weight to allow the drinker to savour the wine for a medium length after swallowing.
The Homenaje Tinto 2012 joven wine is as purple as you’d expect when pouring a young red (a tip, that, if you’re ever at a loss at a blind tasting!). I served ours slightly chilled (it’s just the sort of red that handle this and is therefore at a dramatic advantage during these stiflingly hot temperatures that we are enduring/enjoying(?!) at the moment) so the wine was refreshing whist it started to develop the initially shy aromas that we soon enjoyed.
Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon are the varieties used and they combine so well in the mouth where you’ll find some dark cherry with blackcurrent and maybe just a hint of some tinned strawberry (odd, I know, but a typical and endearing characteristic of Spanish Tempranillo). It’s all fruit on the first hit, stirring memories of blackcurrant jam, but without the sweetness.
Mature tannins and perfectly balanced acidity ensure that the wine has no harshness and again there is a medium length finish. It’s a wine to enjoy with food (excellent with BBQs) and on it’s own with friends after dinner when the talk becomes mellow and philosophical!