THE NATURAL BORN WINES OF AMBIZ
Last week’s Cork Talk introduced readers to the unusual concept of Natural Wines: what does it mean etc. Also, I spotlighted one Spanish producer whose wines I’d tasted, my first experience of Natural Wines. You can find the article archived here: www.costa-news.com click Features, Cork Talk.
This week I’m recording my tasting views on the wines of Vinos Ambiz, with a precautionary note. When tasting natural wines, I believe it best to think of them as another type of alcoholic drink, rather than as wine, in the modern day traditional sense. (It’s ironic in a way – the first ever wines must have been made in the Natural way, so it’s wholly wrong to think of this as a new phenomenon) Better to compare Natural Wines against other Natural Wines – you can’t compare wine, with beer for example.
I’ll begin with what readers may consider the most outrageous of all the wines! We all know, and mostly love, Sauvignon Blanc – well, we have to think again in terms of our perception of this variety when you see a bottle of Vinos Ambiz ‘Orange’ Sauvignon.
Nothing at all to do with oranges, this wine takes on the dark Seville orange colour from its time, two years in total, two different vintages, in Tinaja – the ancient earthenware containers where half the must ferments (the other half is in stainless steel) and the resulting wine is then left to age. Finally the two are blended and bottled.
With aromas of dry cider (scrumpy, came to mind first) the wine looks and tastes nothing like we know Sauvignon to be (Jim!). It’s a little cloudy, as are all of the Ambiz wines, following their gravity-only clarification, but don’t let this put you off. Hold the wine on the palate for a time, close your eyes and feel it! There’s a certain earthiness to it and there’s a lasting finish as you swallow.
Airén, is not normally a grape variety for which I reach first. Mostly lacking in character, its principal attraction is often just its freshness. So, I had my doubts when I opened the Ambiz 2012 Airén – surely this would be tired, and probably undrinkable? Well, no, not a bit of it. There’s that ‘terroir’ earthiness again, with some wild mountain herb notes too – and entirely different wine from the norm!
The Airén 2015 is a younger version, though again, with rather more personality than the usual Airé offerings. There’s a touch of pinecone on the nose and a little resin too. There’s fruit, though as well as whisper of bay leaf.
Malvar is a variety that’s new to me. The Ambiz Malvar 2015, if served blind, that’s bottle and blindfolded taster, he’d be forgiven for believing it to be a dry sherry, a good fino! However, hold the wine on the palate (this is a good plan with Natural Wines) and wait for the pure fruit to come through the clouds in the bottle! There’s some apple and a little citrus in there, and it’s a crisp finish.
Albillo is an indeginous Spanish variety that is making a comeback in the traditional wine-making world, perhaps led by results from those making Natural Wine with this grape. It’s quite full in the mouth and there’s a slight ‘homebrew’ nose to the Ambiz Albillo 2014, and I don’t mean that in a disparaging way.
The natural yeast (with Natural Wine it’s never cultivated yeasts designed in the lab to bring lout particular aromas and flavours, of course) makes its presence known as the cork is taken from the bottle. On the finish there’s a distant reference, as if it’s actually a spirit that you are drinking, and a food friendly slight bitterness.
NB Colin’s Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on Total FM 91·8 & www.totalfm.es will restart at the end of October, following his recovery from an operation on his other dodgy knee!