Bodegas La Zorra, DO Sierra de Salamanca

DRINKING WITH EIGHT VIRGINS

Whilst perfectly pleasant, the 8 Vírgenes, dry white wine from Bodegas La Zorra, wasn’t my favourite wine of the portfolio sent to me as long ago as last summer. But I couldn’t resist the title!

I received the wines via my friend Nicola, of Spanish Palate (www.spanishpalate.es), the expanding wine making and wine distributing company based in Toro. I’ve talked of Nicola and her team before, referencing the wines she and her business partner fashion themselves, as well as some of the wines that they distribute for other wineries here in Spain.

This bodega, La Zorra (meaning the Vixen), is one of the leading wineries in the DO Sierra de Salamanca (indeed the founding father of the DO), a Denominación de Origen that celebrates its 10 years anniversary in 2020. It’s a rather new DO and it’s banking on the variety Rufete, to help make its name.

My own view is that they’ll be successful in doing this, but perhaps by a rather different route than they’d at first thought? From my tasting, admittedly only from the produce of this one bodega, La Zorra, I think it may well be the Rufete Blanco that will be their best bet when seeking fame, and hopefully, fortune!

I may be a lone voice in the wilderness here. I certainly will be up in the Salamanca area, where Rufete Negro is so feted, but I felt that the red wines from the black grape weren’t as distinguished as the white that I tasted, which I thought outstanding!

That’s not to say that I didn’t like Bodegas La Zorra’s red Rufete, I did, though I preferred it when it was part of a blend, in fact with Spanish and International varieties. Perhaps, like a particular instrument in an orchestra when on its own, it really plays second fiddle to the orchestra as a whole?

La Novena Rufete Blanco, however really did give us a virtuoso performance! It’s a new variety to me, but one to which I’ll certainly be returning! Oddly enough it is also known locally by another name, Verdejo Serrano – confusing to those of us (in other words most readers of Cork Talk) who know Verdejo from DO Rueda. Rufete Bnco has a completely different set of aroma and flavour characteristics to the, perhaps, Sauvignon Blanc-esque, darling of DO Rueda!

The bunches are small, the grapes too, and tightly packed. Consequently there’s not much juice with which to play, but it’s rich, and this translates perfectly into the finished, structured wine. It has a fresh acidity, which keeps it lively on the palate, but there’s also a depth, a roundness with volume and presence, resulting from the older vines and also the fermenting in oak. A little papaya on the nose with pears and some pine forest too, and some blanched almond nutty character, as well as some herby notes.

The red wine Rufete monovarietal I liked most was the limited production Raro, whose nine moths in used French oak barrels have given it an extra dimension. It has a cherry-red colour, there’s a slight floral note on the nose and on the palate there are soft light red fruits, with perhaps cherry to the fore.

My favourite of the reds were the ones where Rufete is used in the blend. I’m a touch frustrated though, as I still can’t decide which, of the two I tasted, wins outright! La Vieja is a fine wine. Made with Rufete and happy to accept, for me, more than just a supporting role of Tempranillo and a little Granacha, with about 13 months in oak. It’s quite silky on the palate, with darker red fruits coming through, blackberry and dark cherry. Medium length finish, very satisfying!

It has to share the winner podium with the eponymous La Zorra, whose slightly less 11 months in French and American oak, give the wine a lighter mouth-feel, without diminishing its presence on the palate as well as after swallowing. A winning combination here of dark and lighter red fruits with a little spice thrown in from the barricas.

I’d also like to mention Bodegas La Zorra’s 100% Garnacha wines (known locally as Calabres – another new name to me!). La Moza and La Zorra Garnacha, are two more of the fine Garnacha wines coming out of Spain now – and old and sometimes abused variety, that is now being treated with respect, and responding to well.

I tasted also the Tempranillo/Rufete rosado, which I enjoyed with salmon one night and a mushroom based dish the next. Nice, easy drinking wine, which complemented each dish.

And finally, what of the Virgins, you might ask! Well, it’s a good refreshing white wine with good, not too harsh acidity, which we enjoyed as an aperitif over a couple of nights. It’s made with Rufete Blanco again, but also with Palomino and Moscatel. Other commentators, I see, have mentioned this wine’s compatibility with smoked fish dishes – so that’s what I’ll do when I next drink with eight virgins!

NB My next www.valleyfm.es radio prog is this coming Tuesday 4th Feb, when I’ll be talking Valentine’s Wines – as well as playing, Harry Chapin, Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond, Rupert Holmes, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel; Crista Burgh and Guy Cavell. From 5pm – 6pm Central European Tine – care to join me?

colin@colinharknessonwine.com  Twitter @colinonwine Facebook Colin Harkness www.colinharknessonwine.com

Island Wine!

BODEGA RIBAS, MALLORCA!

A short break in Mallorca, she said. Yeah, great idea, I reply, reaching covertly for the wine guide!

You see, a wine person is never really just on holiday! We are always keen to try new wines, learn about different styles, grape varieties, means of production, and so on. Fortunately, so is my lovely wife, Claire-Marie Soprano (www.clairemarie.es), though I might have been pushing it when I accepted a podcast interview with ‘The Yank and The Limey’ (found on Spotify), as well as a bodega visit!

Our tour and tasting at Bodega Ribas, was a highlight of our trip, in fact, so don’t worry, all’s well in the Harkness-Post household! The oldest winery on the island of Mallorca, that’s 300+ years, Ribas also boasts of being the oldest family run bodega in the whole of Spain – even more impressive.

We arrived early at the small and sleepy town of Consell, where Bodega Ribas is situated, its vineyards just a couple of kilometres away. A lovely old stone building, with a courtyard for visitors to taste wine prior to buying or, like us, to assemble taking in the history and the atmosphere before our fellow tour members arrived.

Apart from the brand new barrel crianza separate annexe, built because of the need to expand in order to satisfy demand, it’s the sort of ancient building that causes people over 6 feet tall to be on their guard, along with the slightly uneven stone floors, for those with bad knees (like me!) – though this is in fact part of the charm. There’s also a healthy aroma of wine, wood and old stone – perfect!

Sylvia, our guide, expert in the business, perfectly conversant with the family history and that of winemaking on the island, is actually a French national – another plus for Claire-Marie, fluent in French and a great Francophile! Sylvia told us that it is the 10th generation of the Ribas family that is now running affairs at this island and export popular winery.

The current incumbents have learned the winemaking ropes from their family, of course, supplementing this knowledge with travels abroad, even as far as New Zealand, all with a view to maintaining Ribas’ position as one of the leaders in the market. Judging from our tasting later, I’d say they are doing a pretty good job!

There are 45 hectares of vineyard, comprising of 160,000 vines, indigenous to the island, as well as international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and the very interesting for me, Viognier, white wine grape. Vines can be up to 65 years of age and all are either naturally low yielding because of their age, or because of some green pruning – there’s a maximum of 2 kilos of grapes per vine. This, of course, adds to the richness of the finished product.

Grapes are harvested by hand, with only those passing muster being placed in the 12 kilo baskets for swift transportation to the bodega, where they are then sorted for a second time, grape by grape, ensuring that only the best produce is used for Ribas wines. It’s only the free run juice (gentle pressing of the grapes) that is used, again to maintain quality. Yeasts are, at the moment, cultivated, but there is a plan to convert to solely yeasts grown from those found naturally on the vines. A move of which I’m certainly in favour.

Our first wine was Prensal Blanco 2019 – yes the new vintage is up and running! Served very cold, it opened in the glass as it warmed slightly. Orchard fruits with some blanched almonds, very fresh, of course, given its youth! Super-quaffable dry wine, perfect with fish and seafood which, incidentally, didn’t seem as generally prevalent as it might be, given that we were on an island! A good start.

Our next wine was a rosado made with another local variety, Manto Negro – again a 2019 vintage. Sylvia told us that there was an increasing demand for their rosé wine, to which they were responding, of course. Perfumed nose – rose petals and soft red fruits. There was a touch of bitterness on the palate, making it an ideal food wine. Try this with paella!

We next tried a Barrel Fermented 100% Viognier white wine – again served very chilled, I waited until it opened a little before it revealed that which I’d been expecting, and indeed hoping for – that lovely dried apricot, particularly, and white stoned fruit element so characteristic of this variety. It’s almost oily on the palate, so rich is the Viognier, yet it manages a degree of elegance too. This was my favourite wine of the tasting, and of our whole visit – and I can tell you, we tried plenty of wines!

Ribas Negre is their best sellin wine, a red made with  Manto Negro, Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. The 2017 is still developing, for me. There’s a slight leafy/mossy aroma along with the dark forest fruits, that come to the fore on the palate, with a touch of liquorice in there too. It’s a little stern at first, but melts into a lovely quite full flavour with some sweet tannin too.

Finally, Sió, their flagship wine – another red and a wine I tasted a few years ago. Using the same blend as above, but this time from the oldest vines, the wine is silky and rich. Sió, which has clearly enjoyed its 12 months on oak, fills the mouth with brambly fruit and blackcurrant, manipulating the senses, delivering a sense that all is well – a wine that needs savouring!

WINES ENJOYED OVER CHRISTMAS HOLS!

HOLIDAY HIGHLIGHTS!

Yes, Darling, THE highlight of the Christmas, New Year and Three Kings Holidays was, of course, being with you and the family – goes without saying!

I’m speaking here, purely from a wine point of view!

Just covering myself here – you never know! Well, now the coast is clear, we tasted some excellent wines over the holidays, starting on Christmas Eve and continuing there on in! Some where tasted therefore in December, technically, of course, in 2019 – so they could have been included in the Tope Ten!

However, this is often the case so, because of deadlines I usually tag the late entries onto the next year. Thus, there will be at least one, maybe two, I should think, that will be in the honours list for 2020. I’m sure avid followers of the Top Ten will understand!

I think that Raventos i Blanc Blanc de Blanc Conca del Riu Anoia has to be one of the best value for money Spanish Sparkling Wines it’s possible to find! Priced at around 11€, this Premium fizz, which has so clearly benefited from extra time ageing on its lees, gives everything we require from sparkling wine. It pairs with so many dishes; it’s fresh, dry and celebratory; it has presence on the palate; it enjoys some complexity; and it has a long finish!

I’ve written about Uvas Cabrera Moscatel before (June last year, actually). I really enjoyed this superb dry Moscatel when I tasted it in Jesús Pobre at the annual wine fair (you must go by the way – it’s outstanding!). With an extra 6 months under its belt, it is even better now. Dry and minerally, there’s a pleasing musky edge to it, with little of the characteristic raison/grape aroma, therefore making it seem like a different grape variety all together. Floral, with some slight citrus notes in the palate – limited production, but when you see it, buy it!

I’ve visited Bodegas Los Frailes near Fontanars a few times – this winery, which employs organic and biodynamic vineyard management (when I was last there, the aisles between vines were being ploughed by horse, and there were goats grazing in one of their other vineyards!), produces some great wines, which, if they were from areas more famous would, command twice the price they currently fetch. 1771 is their flagship wine, named after the year that the family bought the finca and its land at auction from the then King of Spain! Thrilling Monastrell!

Gran Crisalys, from the entirely dependable Bodegas Torelló, elegant white wine is made with Xarel.lo and Chardonnay, both of which were fermented separately in oak barrels where the wine rested for four months, with thrice weekly stirring. After regular tasting, only those barrels marked with an X were selected for blending. For me, both varieties handle a little oak perfectly, the result is a white wine that has such a wonderful aroma and flavour that it can be paired with fish, seafood, of course, but also magnificently with turkey! Hint, Hint, for 2020 Christmas!

I was very pleased to present a rosado at my final 2019 Private Tasting (article soon). A real fan of Spanish rosado I was able to convince some doubters that there are some truly excellent rosé wines here. This, in fact, is one of the most expensive, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot to find real quality.

Dominio del Pidio Rosado is made with Tinto del País (DO Ribera del Duero’s preferred name for Tempranillo) and the white variety, Albillo, which, incidentally, has become a favourite of mine over the last two years! It’s a pale, Provençal shade of pink, but if that makes you think it’s a delicate wine for girls – forget it! The must is able to macerate with the black skinned grapes for longer than some similarly coloured rosados, because of the white must to be blended in later. This means that the finished wine benefits from a lot more than just the colour of the red wine variety.

Fermentation is in cement tanks, with four months of ageing on its lees in 225 litre and 500 litre barricas. Full, dry, floral, with some red peach notes to accompany the raspberry and slightly under ripe red cherry, with a little stony minerality too!

And finally, for this article anyway, I’ll finish with an old friend – the Reserva Especial Cava from Bodegas Dominio de la Vega. It’s a long time since I last tasted this iconic Cava Valenciano. Made with Macabeo and Chardonnay, with some of the juice fermented in oak, it’s a Premium Cava that never fails to wine awards and medals, speaking so eloquently for cavas made outside of Cataluña, and indeed for Spanish Sparkling Wines in general!

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The Top Ten!

COSTA NEWS TOP TEN SPANISH WINES 2019!

So, without further ado, here, in reverse order, are my Top Ten wines of the year!

10. Rós, Rosé wine from Bodegas Tandem (in collaboration with Lynn Coyle MW) – an immediate, though slight aroma of ripe red, slightly fluffy apples, as I brought the glass to my nose. An interesting start! This fleeting first note was joined by a floral presence – you can guess which flower, the rose of course, though a red rose rather than pink. Some fruit notes joined the party – a little rhubarb, whose un-sugared acidity followed through to refresh the palate, though soon to be replaced by the overriding blend of pink grapefruit with some slightly under ripe raspberries!

9. Gamonal 2016, Viñedos y Bodegas Pardevalles, single estate wine made from the variety, Prieto Picudo, harvested by hand. Fermentation and macerations occur over a 14 -18 day period, allowing the skins to give off some of their dark colour to the finished wine, as well as tannin, aroma and flavour, with a certain brightness in the glass too. French and American oak aged and stored in the 300 year old cellars, each imparting a touch of vanilla and a toasty note too. After time blackberry fruit is firstly noticed, with some timid blackcurrant, stony minerality, again understated, with a little mountain herb. There are floral whiffs going on and an undercurrent of liquorice too.

8. *‘Vino Flor’, white wine from Pepe Mendoza Casa Agricóla, made in a way similar to Sherry, it’s no wonder I found an aroma, and to an extent, the taste, of ‘en rama’ sherry, as well as some lemony citrus notes, with a brief, but reoccurring ripe apple aroma and it’s got plenty of presence on the palate, with an engagingly long finish. *This was an experimental wine which has, I think, morphed into Pepe’s Macabeo/Merseguera!

7. Pigar El Ardachero Orange Wine, Bodegas Pigar – yep, you read that correctly, another Orange Wine! Captivating – this wine, made with Chardonnay, is another fine Spanish example of this style of wine. Unlike their other Orange wine, featured in last year’s Top Ten, this is fermented and aged on its lees in stainless steel. Mineral notes, a little cider on the nose with a touch of patisserie, minus the sugar, this dry wine will stay with you, beacon-like!

6. Velvet & Stone Rosado, La Niña de Cuenca – yes, that’s two rosé wines this year! Charming, elegant, aromatic and fruit filled, this Prestige Rosé has pink and white rose petal fragrance with soft red fruits, loganberry and a little pomegranate on the nose and palate. So pretty in the glass, it’s simultaneously soft and powerful (Velvet and Stone!) and has a long finish. We absolutely loved it as an aperitif as well as serving it with salmon and red, orange and yellow capsicum, red lentil based dishes. I imagine it would also be super with seafood/fish paella!

5. Les Freses Blanc, Bodegas Les Freses – truly exemplary dry Moscatel wine made from vines planted in white coloured limestone based soil. Fresh scidity, with some exotic fruit, white peach and a little apricot – reminiscent of Albariño and Viognier wines, and that’s certainly not a bad thing! Floral, delicate jasmine, but weight on the palate too. Certainly good with above fish, also where sauces are used, and lovely, no doubt with shellfish!

4. Bobal La Serratilla, Bodegas Pigar – yes, them again! A whopping 16% abv – though you wouldn’t know it to be so high. It’s full, yes, completely taking over the palate with some wonderful black (and lighter) cherry notes, with an air of elegance to accompany its richness. Fermentation of the juice from grapes of the oldest vineyard on the property was provoked by its own wild yeasts. A glorious very dark colour, it invites the drinker in, and won’t let go! Just seven months in oak – super stuff!

3. Torelló Brut Nature, Corpinnat Spanish Sparkling Wine is perfectly dry at only 0–3grms of sugar per litre and a superb partner to canapés! It has crucial freshness, quite an achievement following its four and a half years en rima! Obviously, there’s an extra maturity to the aromas and flavours in this fizz. Citric fruit aromas and flavours mingle with white flowers and more of a baked apple flavour, with a citrus, apple and pear pastry, without the sugar! Earthiness is in there too making it a fizz for more than just first course!

2. Ví de Sal (magnum); Finca Collado – what a discovery from DO Alicante! A minimal intervention wine, rich on the palate but with alluring fresh acidity. The wine is fermented in large 600litre French oak barrels, with regular stirring to extract colour and flavour from the skins. It’s then aged in the same barrels for 12 months, adding depth and complexity, though the wine is so well made you can hardly detect the oak. Rich plum/damson fruit, a reference to figs and liquorice with some dark chocolate on the finish. There’s thyme and eucalyptus on the nose and big though it is, there is also an elegance to this wine.

  1. La Niña de Cuenca’s, Ildania, is my Number One 2019 – 100%  low yielding average 70 yrs old Bobal, fermented and aged 18 months in clay tinajas (amphorae), varying in size, 500 and 1000 litres capacity. Very dark, initially less than forthcoming with its aromas, though eventually opening up (decant this wine). And what aromas – black cherry, typical of the variety, but with some black plum and lighter cherries too, a little black pepper spice as well. Minerality, certainly mouth-feel, presence, as well as some earthy mountain herbs. Wow!

Happy New Year!

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