WHAT HAVE THE ROMANS EVER DONE FOR US?
Well, although the link is at best rather tenuous, indirectly, at least, they have brought us the wines of Bodega Las Calzados – and I’m very glad they did! (www.bodegalascalzadas.com)
Linguists will know that Las Calazados means ‘the roads’ in English, and of course we all know about Roman Roads – they go in as a straight a direction as possible from one place to another. The eponymous Bodega Las Calzados is located at the intersection between two ancient Roman Roads which ran, respectively, to Cartago Nova (Cartagena) and Complutum (Alcalá de Henares). And I have a feeling that I have to visit!
It’s not quite accurate (well, not at all, really!) to suggest that Romans also brought us amphorae – the Ancient Greeks can be credited for this – but they certainly made use of them. Like their predecessors, the Romans used amphorae to carry liquids – water, oil and of course wine. So, given this, and the Roman link above, it seems a perfect fit that Bodega Las Calzadas makes and ages their wines in amphorae (large clay pots) and calls them Tinácula (Latin for Tinajas – large clay pots!).
I was sent three examples and I really enjoyed them all, in fact I’m sipping a glass of their flagship wine Tinácula X, as I write!
Tinácula White is made with 100% Chardonnay. The bunches are harvested during the cool of the night, and placed carefully in small 15kg baskets. The grapes are pressed manually and the resulting juice macerates with the skins at a cold 4ºC temperature for 12 hours. After a fifteen day fermentation the wine is placed, as you might imagine, in 150 years old tinajas, of 2,000 litres capacity.
During its 3 months ageing, this wine is subjected to daily stirring, where the lees are hardly allowed to settle. I really like the style of this wine – apart from its pale yellow colour, it’s not like any other Chardonnay I’ve tasted!
It’s refreshing, initially with a little lemon on the palate, a pleasing floral aspect – faint honeysuckle, chamomile and a little earthy hay in there too. Hold it on the plate and it will give you a little more fruit, more apple than exotic peach/pineapple, as can often be found with Californian and Australian Chardonnay. The regular stirring doesn’t give much of the creaminess you might expect, but as the wine moves around the clay it takes with it a mineral earthiness, that is a common characteristic of the whole, small portfolio.
Its big brother, Tinácula Red, is also a monovarietal this time Bobal, the signature grape variety of DO Ribera del Júcar, under whose auspices the full range is made. Here the earthiness is a little more pronounced, threading its way through the dark cherry and plum fruity notes.
It has a lovely colour in the glass and in the mouth you’ll find rounded tannins, prominent enough for there to be some ageing potential, though as smooth as you like too. The some fresh acidity, making the wine a juicy mouthful with mineral notes, a little mountain herb too.
The vines are 45 years old, grown at 800 metres above sea level, producing rich grapes. Maceration ensures the deep colour as well as tannin to age. Malolactic fermentation takes place again in clay pots, though this time new, and of just 500 litres capacity, where the wine stays for five months, intensifying the mineral earthiness, but never hiding the fruit.
I’ve been loving the flavour and aroma of the wax-finished bottle Tinácula X, with its Roman coins depicted on the front label, and some history of the bodega on the back, since I started this article – and I ain’t finished sipping yet! It’s a super example of what Ribera del Júcar has to offer.
The X, is another link to the Roman past, here signifying the 10 months that the wine has been aged in 150 years old tinajas of just 200 litres. Like the previous red, fermentation is natural, provoked by yeasts indigenous to the 50+ years old vineyard from whence the Bobal and Cencibel (Tempranillo) grapes come.
The earthiness intensifies further here, but again, never consuming the aroma and flavour of the rich grapes, coming from such an old vineyard. There are dark green herbs in the mix too, plus some stone derived minerality, also coming from the soil.
Those readers who have tasted Bobal already (come on the rest of you, now’s the time!) will know of its lovely black cherry flavour, exemplified here, and with the added bonus of some, rather ripe loganberry and tinned strawberry notes from the Cencibel, lurking under the surface of the upfront Picota cherries.
This really is an excellent wine, with time on its side too, and priced at just 14€, well, it’s a steal!
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