ALBARÍN & PRIETO PICUDO – AN ENGAGING DOUBLE ACT IN CASTILLA Y LEÓN
Firstly, the area – Vino de la Tierra Castilla y León is a huge wine making area, North, North West and North East of Madrid – yes, it’s that large! In years gone by VdlT wines were considered the poor relations of DO wines, Denominación de Origen. Largely, in those days, they deserved the description – the wannabe DOs.
Then new wave thinkers came along, believing in the raw ingredients – the indigenous grape varieties, often not found elsewhere, and in the climate, soils, the terroir of certain locations within those geographical areas. Regular Cork Talk readers will know that I’ve often mentioned wines from VdlT areas of Spain, praising them and championing the fact that these areas are nowadays producing wines every bit as good as those from DOs, and often, better!
So, that’s my first point – if you don’t see DO, but you do see VdlT on the back label, don’t be put off at all!
Next, again devotees (as if!) of Cork Talk will also know that I’m a great believer in the indigenous grape varieties of this country, my home for the last 23 years. I first learned of Monastrell living in the South East of Spain, adding to my knowledge of course of Spain’s most famous variety, Tempranillo from Rioja, as well, of course, as its synonyms. Albariño was new to me until I can to Spain, and Verdejo was new to everybody, apart from those living in Rueda, until about fifteen years ago! And so on.
Perhaps you also remember my writing about Bobal when it certainly wasn’t fashionable to do so, and Godello, plus several other varieties, which at the time were not at all so well known? I’m not blowing my trumpet here, suggesting that it’s me who’s made these varieties better known and more available. I’m simply letting you know that I’m on the case – I love hearing about, and then, of course, tasting Spanish grape varieties that have yet to achieve fame.
Undiscovered varieties, sometimes almost extinct whose continued existence can be attributed to just a few devoted believers. Occasionally even just one person, whose passion, perhaps for his great grandfather’s remote vineyard leads him to continue his ancestors’ work, honing their bequeathed winemaking ideas, adding new technology and advanced international learning.
I’ve recently come across the white wine variety Albarín (not to be confused, as it often is, with Albariño); and the red wine variety Prieto Picudo. (Youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqF4_SiZjj8 and www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5PSKgvBwKw&t=21s. I’ve enjoyed white, rosado and red wines made with these varieties, by a relativey new producers (10 year anniversary in 2020) in VdlT Castilla y León, Leyenda del Páramo. www.leyendadelparamo.es
Albarín makes a fragrant, fruit filled wine, and El Aprendiz, has to be one of the best examples. There’s a refreshing citrus note on the nose, along with a suggestion of ripe banana, with the citrus notes of grapefruit and lemon continuing onto the palate with a little soft apple in there too. Herby notes follow with perhaps a little nuttiness too, blanched almonds. We paired it with Perch in a puff pastry parcel, and I can see it being just right also with other fish and seafood. Another plus here – it’s a lovely dry white for just drinking with friends, it’s happy with food, but it doesn’t need it!
El Aprendiz Rosado is made with Prieto Picudo. Its delicate strawberry aroma and flavour draws a veil over a quite meaty rosé wine, a pink wine with presence! Fish is a good pairing and I like to use similar colours, so I’d try this with trout or salmon. Plus, of course, a Valencian Paella, seafood and mixed with rabbit and/or chicken, will be nicely covered with this wine.
El Aprendiz Tinto is made with 100% Prieto Picudo. The variety has a natural acidity, making it fresh in the mouth. There aren’t many hectares (btw a hectare is about the size of a rugby pitch!) of this variety, it’s therefore necessarily a limited production. This wine has had 3 months in oak, and was my second favourite of the reds. Some forest fruits and a little earthy undergrowth, fresh and lively. A lovely BBQ wine and for lighter meat dishes.
My favourite wine was El Médico 2014, with its cool, inviting label! Again 100% Prieto Picudo, this wine is aromatic with soft red fruit initially morphing into darker brambly berries. It’s had 9 months in oak, for me, apparently the optimum time, as the Músico, their final wine in this portfolio (there are others – watch this space!), with longer in barrel, was losing its fruit (though this may be because it was a little older?), with the oak being central to its aromas.
El Médico, was just right – balanced, elegant, with good fruit on the palate, some depth of flavour and a little complexity. A good wine for turkey, venison, lamb and pork dishes – simply roasted, casseroled or served with a sauce as its pleasant acidity will cut through the sauce and freshen the palate!
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