WHEN IS WHITE WINE FROM RIOJA
NOT IN FACT RIOJA?
I used to like such little brain-teasing riddles when I was little – when is a door not a door; what gets wet, drying? etc. Well if you read last week’s article you’ll know that the answer to the title teaser is: when the white wine is made by Vintae.
Fed up of mostly insipid and undistinguished white wine from Spain’s most famous winemaking area, La Rioja, the Vintae revolutionaries, not only decided to plant ‘foreign’ unapproved grapes, they even had the brazen temerity to call them Spanish White Geurrillas. Of course such wines will not carry the DOCa La Rioja seal of approval on their labels, but don’t worry, you won’t miss them on the bodega shelves – their distinctive label-design will attract you straight away!
The cartoon characters dressed comically as would-be rebels may put off some serious wine lovers who might consider them gimmicky, perhaps designed to hide only average wine in the bottle.
A wine writer must have an open mind and I tasted them without scepticism and was pleased I did. I feel it my duty to lend my weight to the revolutionary cause and reassure Mr. & Mrs. Serious Wine Lover suggesting that they put aside any misgivings about the label and enjoy the wine. Many certainly have, as I believe sales have multiplied. Consumers in fact are prepared to try the unusual and clearly are attracted to inventive labelling. The test of course is to see how many buy the wine again – the Spanish White Geurrillas have passed this test with flying colours as the wines are flying off the shelves.
And no wonder. The new vintage, 2010, demonstrates that Vintae’s research has paid off. The likes of Albariño, Chardonnay, Viognier, Moscatel, Gewurztraminer, Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are perfectly happy in the sites chosen specifically for them. And at last some aroma and depth of flavour seeps into the profile of white wines from the Rioja area!
My friend Ana, responsible for press communication, kindly sent me some samples of the 2010 vintage and I continue to be impressed.
Viognier Barrica, whose label boasts a medal bearing Revolutionary General complete with bushy moustache and corkscrew in place of the regimental swagger stick, is simply a super, deeply flavoured white wine. I’m a great fan of fragrant Viognier with its apricot and sometimes mango aromas. Here, judicious use of oak as added depth and extra taste without masking the primary fruit flavours nor its floral perfume. A wine to grace the dinner table when serving fish, light meats and salads.
Albariño is of course native to Rias Baixas, Galicia (I recently served on the DO Rias Baixas Consejo Regulador Judging Panel) where it has made wonderful elegant, fragrant and peach/paraguayo flavoured wines for centuries. It’s not accustomed to the different soils of Rioja, but it clearly means to become so! This wine is lovely, flavoursome easy drinking wine with white flour aromas as well as stoned fruit on the palate.
Riesling is perhaps the most noble of white grape varieties. Grown in Germany and Alsace it has bracing acidity and yet a richness too. With lime and lemon on the nose and the palate it can also sometimes have a slight petrol aroma too. Here, so far, the Riesling made by Vintae, is a work in progress, displaying already those citrus notes with some richness (a touch more so than last two years ago). A lovely aperitive, the best Riesling I’ve tasted in Spain.
Gewurztraminer is another German variety which makes wonderful, aromatic and exotically flavoured white wine. Tropical fruits, notably lychees, but with some citrus acidity the Geurrilla Gewurz. is developing into a super wine to accompany some Chinese, Indonesian and Asian food.
La Vinoteca in Calpe, Costa Blanca stocks these wines – I advise asking your local bodega to do the same!