BODEGAS TIERRA HERMOSA RE-VISITED
I first wrote about Harry Hunt, founder of Tierra Hermosa, towards the end of 2012, telling the fascinating story of his exit from the stress-filled world of Blue-Chip PR in order to take up the more tranquil role of winemaker in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. (I’ve posted an in-depth version of this article here http://www.colinharknessonwine.com/articles/ so you can read some background if you’d like to know a little more about Harry and Tierra Hermosa).
The beauty of having a negociant wine making business is that, up to a point, you have available to you a selection vineyards from which to source your grapes. A bodega that owns its own vineyards is often restricted to that which he owns, although that isn’t always a problem, of course, as there are many wineries which own spectacular vineyards and make superb wines!
The negociant hasn’t had the cost of buying the land, and this impacts on his retail price, of course – to the consumer’s advantage! Plus, providing that the vineyard owners he approaches are willing to sell some of their grapes, he can choose from where he wants his grapes. This choice will be determined by the style that the winemaker wants for his wines.
If, for example, he/she is looking for a wine with a mineral character, he’ll be looking for sites whose slate/stone/granite soil make-up will help. If he/she wants to use a grape variety notorious for its inability to fully ripen in less sunny situations, she’ll want a south-facing vineyard which enjoys an appropriate climate. If requiring a wine with heightened acidity he may source his grapes from a north facing vineyard, located at altitude. And it’s this last word that is particularly relevant to the wines of Tierra Hermosa.
Harry produces wines with altitude!
For my first article I tasted the full portfolio of wines – just two! Both were reds and both were from the 2010 vintage. I commented at the time that whilst it perhaps sounded like a criticism, though it certainly wasn’t one, it might be said that the wines were a work in progress. And a rather good work too, I added then. I also said that I’d like to try the same vintage in the future when they’d had some added bottle age as I was sure that there would be further development.
It was a couple of years later when I did just that and was delighted to see that there had been interesting and beneficial evolution. I said also that I would like to taste subsequent vintages when the wines had enjoyed further aging. Well, a lot can happen in a year!
I’ve just tasted the 2011 vintage (and the promised white wine, 2014 – about which you are also about to read) and there is a definite difference. However, as Harry explained, this is not just due to the vine’s extra year of age.
I’m rather relieved, actually – let me explain.
When tasting and greatly enjoying Neblerío 2011 (now with a new label), followed by the similarly pleasurable Veinte Grados 2011, I couldn’t detect any oak at all, despite both wines having more presence than the earlier vintage. Rounded and relatively rich and yet without, it seemed, any reference to barrel ageing.
The 2010 wines had both had some time in oak – nowadays such wines would be described here in Spain as ‘Roble’ wines, or Semi-Crianzas, which as many of you will know, means wines that have had a certain time in oak, but less than the minimum for them to be termed Crianza.
It would be wrong to say that Harry had used oak to ‘bolster’ the 2010 vintage, they simply wanted to add some further complexity, whilst retaining the elegant essence of the wine. This complexity, this added depth, this increased richness is all there in the 2011 vintage, but without the oak!
Cork Talk readers may remember my article about the Malbec wines of Domaine Vinssou from Cahors, France, whose rich and full profiles were there by virtue of their long aging in cement tanks, rather than oak. Well, Harry has achieved virtually the same effect, not by long aging in lined cement tanks, of course, but by ageing without the oak, wines that have been made from grapes whose parent vines have been grown at an altitude of not less than 1,000 metres above seal level! Such is the effect of altitude in wine making!
Harry’s desire to let the altitude, the micro-climate, the terroir, do the talking has paid-off, for sure! There’s a slight similarity to French wine in the reds of Tierra Hermosa. There is flavour and aroma enough, but there is subtlety too, with the overall effect being one of elegance. Both can be enjoyed on their own, but with food they really do complement the dining experience – no wonder that they are now on the wine lists of many classy restaurants in the UK, including at least one Michelin starred establishment!
Neblierío 2011 is a Tempranillo mono-varietal. Serve this wine at room temperature (but that doesn’t mean the rooms in Spain during the summer!). It has a super fruit delivery. I enjoyed Tempranillo’s typical strawberry and loganberry soft red fruit mingling with darker fruits in the 2010 vintage. The 2011 has changed, with less strawberry and more blackberry and blackcurrant aromas and flavour.
Fuller on the palate though still lovely just on it’s own, and perhaps now able to perfectly pair with more meat based dishes.
20º (or in Spanish Veinte Grados) 2011 has Tempranillo in the blend, but it is joined by Syrah and Garnacha. The vineyards supplying these grapes are at 1,200 metres above sea level and it’s the elegance that the taster first notices. It’s delightful on the palate as the mouth’s temperature slowly starts to warm the wine.
This is when the super aromas and flavour really make an impact. You’ll find some damson notes, rather than dark plums, I think, with a little earthy minerality back-up. There are herbs, not so easily identifiable – perhaps a little laurel, with a whiff of wild thyme, not the overly pungent cultivated type. Then the fruit comes back to delight again, and as you swallow there’s a mid to long length with a lovely little spicy kick on the finish.
So, what about this white? Well if looking for fruit, but not the slightly sickly mix that some wine makers erroneously think we want when they use their cultivated yeasts, then this is certainly for you. It’s a subtle fruit cocktail, with apple, pear, apricot, some grapefruit citrus notes and a lovely floral fragrance.
3 Pueblos 2014 partners Macabeo and Viognier with the little known Jaën Blanco. It has throughout, that underscoring refreshing acidity so crucial to white wines which enables the taster to enjoy every glass until the bottle is finished. If this wine wasn’t from such a limited production it would easily take the place of may of the over-fruity one dimensional Rueda wines that are nowadays so prolific.
Sales and info www.tierrahermosa.com
PS Why not tune into my new radio programme, The Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on Total FM 91·8 and online www.totalfm.es ? Studio tastings of wines and restaurant food, interviews with chefs and winemakers, wine tasting tips and lots of fun! Fortnightly on Sundays, 7pm – 8pm. Next programme Sunday 21st February!