Tasting wines from Grandes Pagos de España


I’m not sure of the year, nor, for certain, the location (Alimentaria, I think, but it could have been Fenavin?) but these are simply details. Nor can I recall, without looking though reams of tasting notes as well as all my archived Cork Talks, the actual wines I tasted when I attended my first tutored tasting of several (it might have been all, at that time) of the wines made by bodegas which were members of the association, Grandes Pagos de España.

However, what I can remember with absolute clarity is the impression they made upon me as I tasted, made my notes, listened to the address and then went to the press room, fortunately quiet at the time, to reflect on something of a revelation. Each and every wine was outstanding!

Readers can imagine, therefore, my delight at receiving an invitation to attend another tasting of wines made under the auspices of this now even more prestigious association. The fact that it was to be held just down the road from where I live, at one of the founder members’ wineries, Bodegas Enrique Mendoza, made it even better!

So, as this new year, 2019, starts I would like to thoroughly commend all the wines that go under the banner of Grandes Pagos de España – and that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot! The samploes we tasted were priced between 11€ – and admittedly expensive 68€, but look around and you’ll surely find some that suit your budget.

Firstly, as testament to that which I’ve been saying for several years now, of the 11 wines we tasted, 6 were white! Secondly, as many regular Cork Talk readers will know, we certainly do not have to look for wines emblazoned with the words Denomonación de Origen on their labels when searching for quality in wine shops and supermarkets (note the order – please go to the former first, when seeking to buy wine!).

Of the 29 bodegas admitted into the association there are wines being made under DO auspices, but also Vinos de Pago, Vinos de la Tierra, IGP, DOCa, and sin-IGP. Also, with all the wines submitted for assessment for entry there is rigorous control of quality, with a minimum of four independent tasters tasting and scoring each wine, and these assessments happen continuously throughout the year.

Once one vintage gas been passed and accepted, it certainly does not mean the the next vintage will be approved automatically – the whole process starts over! (sadly I wasn’t able to accept the offer, just before Christmas, of being one of the judging panel members because of a prior commitment – but I’m told I’ll receive another this year!).

From this tasting I have three white favourites, though I loved them all, in fact! DO Montilla-Moriles is an area about which I’ve written a little before – right next to DO Jerez, it’s actually this DO that provides (legally, I should add) almost all the PX grapes for it’s more illustrious neighbour! Bodegas Alvear makes their 3 Miradas Vino de Pueblo 2016 using Pedro Ximenéz grapes, which, once fermented, spend 8 months in cement tinajas (similar in shape to ancient Greek amphorae) under the ‘magic’ layer of flor, as I Sherry producton. Lovely, very dry white wine, with a mineral aspect to and, in fact, the leaste expensive of all wijes tasted!

I have to admit that the most expensive wine, Pago Arínzano’s Gran Vino Blanco 2014, made with Chardonnay, growing in the Navarra area, and having 11 months in French oak, resting on its lees, was also a favourite. Expensive, yes, but what a wine! Harmonious wine showing exemplary balance between fruit and oak – stunning!

However, it didn’t at all outshine the ‘local’ (Utiel-Requena area) Finca Calvestra 2017 made from the often denigrated Merseguera variety. Bodegas Mustiguillo has almost brought this wine back to life, chaning it from an also-ran, in fact hardly used, blender, to a white wine of the finest quality! 18€.

It wasn’t just the fact that Finca Moncloa 2014 uses a variety I’d not tasted before(Tintilla de Rota), grown in the VdlT Cádiz area of production, that made this wine stand out amongst such an excellent red selection. It was the sheer joy of drinking it! Cabernet, Syrah and Petit Verdot join the party, which also has a mineral quality to it. Excellent, and please note – VdlT, not DO!

I recommended Signo Bobal from Finca Sandoval in the DO Mannchuelo area as a fine wine for Christmas and I was in pretty good company doing so, Jancis Robinson MW, has also singled out this exceptional wine, made by one of the Spanish Wine Sector’s Movers and Shakers (as highlighted in Cork Talk very recently), Victor de La Serna. Elegance, virtuosity, depth and fun too!

Also, though I’ve mentioned it here before, please, check out Bodegas Enrique Mendoza’s Estrecho, such a wonderful expression of the variety Monastrell! And, from DO Ribera del Duero, a wine so enjoyed once at our Cata Chez Nous, the Aalto 2016, is fantastic!colin@colinharknessonwine.com Facebook Colin Harkness Twitter @colinonwine www.colinharknessonwine.com

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