VINO DE PAGO VERA DE ESTENAS
ELEGANCE BORN OF TOIL
It’s inevitable, of course. For all of us, there are always going to be invitations to events that we’d dearly love to attend, but are unable so to do as there is a diary clash. Perhaps an invitation received only a few hours before, or maybe one, a wedding for example, that has been written in stone for a year! It’s frustrating.
We often have to juggle priorities, importance, obligations, time, even costs and ease along with what, privately, we’d actually rather do. A social minefield.
In fact there were two reasons, both wine orientated (what else?!), for my being unable to arrive at a rather special event in May of last year. An event attended by the local, regional and national press, one that I would not like to miss!
May is always busy, being right in the middle of my ‘season’, that time of the year when I am heavily involved in all manner of wine related events. Over one weekend I was judging the annual DO Yecla Wine Competition and attending the presentation evening, with an early start the final day as I was presenting a tasting in DO Bullas, a good drive further south.
Yep, you guessed it, the very weekend when I was invited to the launch of the first wine from Spain’s newly inaugurated Vino de Pago, Vera de Estenas, a triumph of toil, terroir, passion and know-how, for my friend Felix Martínez Roda! Blast! I really wanted to attend all three events, but committed myself in order of the receipt of the invitations, of course, and although, ordinarily the invitation to Felix’s prestigious event had been sent in time, the others had arrived first.
Subsequently, because of my absence from the celebration up in the 700 metres above sea level hills surrounding Requena, inland from Valencia, I have received a sample of both the first wine to be made under the auspices of Vino de Pago Vera De Estenas and indeed the second. Both are outstanding!
Firstly though – what is a Vino de Pago? Well, for a start I haven’t tasted a Vino de Pago that wasn’t ‘exceptional’ – that’s the nature of the beast!
The comprehensive Spanish Wine guide, Guía Peñin defines VP wines as coming from “a single winery, and it is a status given to that winery on the grounds of unique micro-climate features and proven evidence of constant high quality over the years, with the goal to produce wines of sheer singularity.”
Wikipedia defines Vino de Pago as “ . . (sometimes also referred to as Denominación de Pago or DO Pago) is a classification for Spanish wine (similar to the French appellations) applied to individual vineyards or wine estates, unlike the Denominación de Origen (DO) or Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa) which is applied to an entire wine region. The Vino de Pago classification was introduced in 2003 by a decision in the Cortes Generales, the Spanish parliament, to help further improve the quality of Spanish wine.”
“The quality requirements for a Vino de Pago correspond to those for a DOCa wine, and wine estates that are classified as Vino de Pago are subject to separate requirements rather than those of the wine region where they are located. One of the requirements is that the estate may only use their own grapes for their wines.”
In fact Guía Peñin defines Vinos de Pago wineries as having the same status as Denominación de Origen, whereas Wikipedia above, elevates them to the top category, DOCa, Denominación de Origen Calificada. I side with the latter.
Over the years I’ve seen what goes into the eventual acknowledgement of VP status – huge effort, tireless energy, responsible and honest self-criticism, a foundation of good quality and a striving to improve year on year. Plus an adherence to super-strict rules and regulations, with both wines and bodega subject to announced and unannounced tastings/inspections. VP status is neither lightly given, nor easily retained!
When introduced, the new regulation met with particular interest in Castilla-La Mancha, where the first Vinos de Pago were created. Although never articulated, perhaps for fear of being ostracised, the VP concept, in this area of massive production, not always quality orientated (La Mancha is the largest wine producing area in Europe), was, I think, a god-send for those bodegas thus located which wanted to escape being tarred with the same also-ran wine brush.
The twelve years between have seen the status of Vino de Pago bodegas and wines elevated even further. It is no longer true to say that VPs are the result of making wine in an area where the general level is poor, with bodegas wishing to escape the bad publicity that can arise from such a fact. Felix’s bodega is situated within DO Utiel-Requena, whose quality level is high, with some outstanding bodegas. Indeed, Felix still makes fine wines categorised as DO Utiel-Requena, and he’s proud of it too!
The second wine that Felix produced under the Vino de Pago banner is a white wine. It’s no wonder that his first VP wine is red, coming, as it does, from an area long known for the quality of its reds. It’s also no wonder that Felix’s Chardonnay is elevated to VP standard. Remember the phrase above, “ . . proven evidence of constant high quality over the years . .”!
I’ve had the pleasure of tasting his Chardonnay fermented in barrel with a short ageing in oak too, for many years now. I’ve always enjoyed it (even when bottled years ago in those, for me, wholly inappropriate, Blue Nun style bottles!). I have a glass of his VP Viña Lidón Chardonnay 2014 in front of me now. It’s delicious!
Banana skin on the nose as soon as the wine is opened, soon evolving to freshly mashed banana aromas with a refreshing citrus zing and a nutty (blanched almonds) element too. On the palate there’s a delightful balance with classic Burgundian elegance and subtlety to the fore, with understated exotic New World fruit. Lovely!
Martínez Bermell Merlot 2013 is Vino de Pago Vera de Estenas’ first wine and will, I’m sure, be seen in years to come as a flagship of the area from whence it came, and indeed of the whole concept of Vinos de Pago. A careful crafting of elegance and subtlety, full flavour and lasting power; of violet and deeply dark rose petal fragrance with juicy plum and blackberry fruit; of earthy, undergrowth minerality with layered pleasure and complexity.
Contact Colin: firstname.lastname@example.org and through his wine services website www.colinharknessonwine.com , where you can also subscribe to his newsletter (free of charge, of course) and therefore have first-hand and early news of the various wine events he organises, most of which are sold out very quickly! Plus you can also follow him on Twitter @colinonwine for the latest on the Spanish Wine scene!