PAGO DE THARSYS
WHERE THE BODEGA CAT CHOOSES THE BEST WINE!
Wine writers share something in common with archaeologists.
Egyptologists of old must have had a palpable sense of excitement as they prepared to open the tomb they had just discovered. What revealing artefacts were about to be unearthed to tell of a civilisation about which they were only just learning?
Modern-day enthusiasts patrolling stretches of land with their metal-detectors must experience as much of a surge of adrenalin as the rapidly quickening clicks registered on their machines when hovering above perhaps some treasure buried centuries, maybe millennia ago.
And the wine writer, invited to visit a bodega of which he/she knows next to nothing, certainly relishes the sense of anticipation, hoping for the undiscovered nectar of a Holy-Grail-of-a-wine. How much better for the writer if, unlike the archaeologists forced to rough it in tents in the dessert, the bodega in question also has a Casa Rural, a boutique hotel, right next to the cellars!
Such is the case at Pago de Tharsys in Requena, a bodega that makes DO Cava, DO Utiel-Requena still wines, a superb dessert wine without either designation, as well as a rather special other Sparkling Wine!
There is still evidence of Requena’s wealthy past as a border town responsible for collecting taxes as travellers and traders crossed from one kingdom to the other. Some fine houses and fincas can still be seen. However, after a period of decline, these properties are now in the hands of the captains of the new ‘industry’ – wine making!
Well, ‘new’ is rather inaccurate. There is currently a debate going on in Spain as to which area has been making wine for the longest time. A village near Requena which boasts archaeological remains dating back to 300 years BC claims that the wine press, tools and even receipts/bills written on lead in an ancient script believes that they claim the title.
Indeed, the farmhouse which is part of Pago de Tharsys, has some history too, built as it was in 1808. Integrated into the design of the whole bodega premises this oldest part links perfectly with the newest, modern and state-of-the-art wine-making facility and is indicative of the bodega’s philosophy. The foundation of Pago de Tharsys wines is built on tradition (they still age their still red wines as long as they did many years ago) but with the added advantage of international wine-making experience, considerable and on-going investment as well as modern technology and thinking.
Sitting atop the whole building – finca, winery, cellars et al, is a wind-vane in the shape of cat. It’s a charming story!
Many bodegas in Spain have cats around the premises – it’s a cost effective way of keeping mice and even rats at bay. I’ve visited countless bodegas in Spain and have often seen cats, only once mice – and they were encouraged to be there as part of the wine tour experience!
Now, in the winter bodegas can be very cold places, the more so when they are at altitude – Pago de Tharsys’s vinyards, which surround the bodega, are at 700 metres above sea level. Cats of course like nothing better (except chasing mice) than to laze around in the heat of the sunshine, but if there is no warmth from the sky they look for alternative sources.
Sometimes, in years gone by, for whatever reason, grape juice fermenting into wine in one particular barrel, may take far longer than normal, leading into winter, perhaps, when of course it’s cold outside and inside. You can imagine that the top of a barrel, warm because of the fermentation inside, a chemical reaction which produces heat as well as alcohol, would be an ideal place for a cat to snuggle down!
In those days it was often considered that the wine that took the longest to ferment was the best – ergo, it was the cat which chose the best wines!
Well Señor Vicente Garcia, founder and head winemaker of Pago de Tharsys, doesn’t rely on the cat, or the folklore – it’s his experience, along with that of his daughter, who made wine in the Medoc, and a third winemaker that results in the quality wines and Cavas made by this, one of the leading cava makers outside of Cataluña.
It’s the sparkling wines I’d like to begin with in this article – put simply, they are splendid, and more than just a match for many Cavas made in what many consider to be DO Cava’s natural home, Cataluña!
About 65% of their total production is Cava, the rest still wines, including the distinctive sweet wine mentioned earlier and their one non-cava sparkling wine, made in exactly the same way but using a grape variety indigenous to the area, but not permitted in the making of Cava, the Bobal variety.
We started though with the 2011 Blanc de Blanc Cava which is made with 100% Chardonnay. It’s priced at just over 13€, which for a Chardonnay cava is not expensive. It has a lightness on the first hit, with good aromas of peach as well as yeasty notes. On swallowing you’ll realise that, although fresh and clean, the wine has some body too – typical of Chardonnay, as well as a good length. A fizz that will be perfect as an aperitif but which also has the body to accompany food, including chicken, with which it would be perfectly paired.
Pago de Tharsys Reserva Brut 2011 has body – and some! The extra time spent ‘en rima’ gives it greater depth and richness. There’s Chardonnay here too, but also with Macabeo giving rise to some refreshing apple notes. It’s a Brut Cava, but towards the slightly sweeter end of the residual sugar scale, giving it a faintly off-dry finish. A super Cava to have with Chinese and SE Asian food!
Finally, for this week, the sparkler that is not Cava. The Pago de Tharsys Blanc de Noir – the one made with the black grape, Bobal. I love this wine and the extra 10€ needed to buy it are worth it, and not just for its rarity (it’s a limited production wine). It has depth on the palate with fascinating black grape derived complexity. It’s big, yes, but it’s also elegant too.
Seek it out and you’ll find some faint, quite disant damson and black cherry on the nose as well as apple notes with bready aroma and flavour too. It’s a fascinating sparkling wine, part of a highly recommended portfolio!
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