First Published Costa News SL March 2013

BODEGAS PAGO DE ALMARAES

MORE GOLD FROM THEM THAR HILLS ABOVE GRANADA!

Spain is such a happening country with regard to its wine production! Rather than throwing the towel into the financial mess that is the Iberian Peninsular right now, Spanish wine makers are on the front foot (a mixed metaphor, this time particularly for the sports people amongst you!). Investment money is short of course but that isn’t stopping producers investing time and effort in developing wine styles that are bound to attract consumers.

 Take, for example, a number of bodegas in the mountains above Granada – you’ve read about a couple here already. There is an infectious enthusiasm amongst these hardy wine people whose vineyards are around the one thousand metres above sea level mark where winter’s harsh winds and well below zero temperatures don’t deter them from the work that has to be completed during the vines’ dormant periods.

And of course, as we’ve discussed, these altitudes with their crucial and benevolent, dramatic changes between day and night time temperatures during the growing season make the resulting wines that much better.

Another advantage is that the ruling Consejo Regulador of the DO Vino de Calidad De Granada seems to be far more understanding than that of many other DOs with regard to permitted grape varieties. Pago de Almaraes, for example, grows traditional Spanish varieties like Tempranillo and Moscatel but also foreign grapes such as Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. Also in the grape variety portfolio you’ll find Torrontés which would usually be found far further north in the vineyards of Galicia. Their eclectic blends are all the better for this encouraging diversity.

Pago de Almaraes can really be considered a fledgling bodega having started business only twelve years ago, and yet their wines are already garnering awards. I was lucky enough to be sent four of their wines recently, a finely scented, refreshing white and three of their top reds. If you can find them (and this is where, in my opinion, there should be a concerted effort in finding distributors all along the costas and inland) – buy them!

You’ll not miss their wines on the shelves – their distinctive labels and foils stand out. And you’ll be pleased to know that this is not a case of – “Very pretty, but can they fight?!” You’ll be attracted to the bottle and then to the wine too!

Mencal (8€ at bodega price) is the white wine I tasted and really enjoyed. With Sauvignon Blanc and Moscatel in the blend you’d expect it to be an aromatic dry white wine and you’d be right. But add to the mix Torrontés, which can have a similar perfume to Moscatel, and Chardonnay as well and you’ll see how the fragrance is enhanced along with the depth of flavour.

There are grassy gooseberry Sauvignon aromas, some floral notes too and on the palate there’s a lick of peach, banana and some green pineapple, adding to the fresh taste sensation.

The eponymous Almaraes (9€) is a red wine that also boasts pleasing aromas. Made with Merlot, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah (the percentages of which are clearly shown on the label, perhaps following a current trend that calls for greater transparency!). On the nose there are some caramel notes from the six months that the wine has spent in oak – that’s, transparently, French, American and Hungarian(!), with dark fruits such as blackberry and blackcurrant coming on strong and then blending well with the oak. You’ll find some cinnamon notes coming through too, with a touch of mountain herbs.

The vines are young, only ten to fifteen years old, and yet this wine has won a number of awards, which bodes very well for the future when the vines become more mature creating grapes with extra richness.

In the mouth there’s a lightness of touch, and indication of the youth of the vines, but the flavour is all there. There’s tannin enough for the wine to age longer and although it’s not made to lay down I think another year for this 2009 wine will see it develop a  rounded texture that will make it even better than it is now. A meaty wine with a medium length that will be enjoyed on its own and with meat orientated dishes.

Memento (12€) is a big and yet graceful wine. It’s 14% and has a strong mouthfeel with super dark fruit and vanilla oak aromas that shoot out of the bottle on opening. Made from Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah it has enjoyed twelve months in oak barrels that are stored in natural caves where the temperature is kept a constant low with appropriate humidity too.

In order to retain the essence of the fruit the wine has been very lightly filtered before bottling which may mean a slight residue at the bottom of the bottle. Don’t worry about this, simply pour carefully having kept the bottle upright for a couple of hours before serving. Winemakers often make wine in this way believing that the sediment at the bottom of the barrel keeps the wine alive, so if some of that is found in your bottle it’s all to the good!

There’s an elegance about this wine. It’s been made from selected bunches of grapes that come from the oldest vineyards (though these are still only fifteen years of age). It has toasted oak blended nicely with dark forest fruits, a touch of bay leaf and a super spicy overlay coming from the Syrah which has clearly ripened perfectly but because of the height of the vineyards, some 800 meters above sea level, retains some of the traditional French Syrah characteristics.

Finally, on a different day, I tasted their Ribera del Faribes, Cosecha 2012 wine, so very young without oak ageing. Full fruit on the palate and the nose and easy drinking, it’s a style that will appeal to those of us who sometimes just like to enjoy a glass, or two, of wine without having to think about its complexity. A wine perhaps targeting the younger drinker like many bodegas are now doing.

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