Spanish Vs. French Taste Off Hamper (12 x 750ml)

We often field calls from customers unsure of how a lesser-known Spanish varietal compares and contrasts to more popular international varieties. We love that our wines arise curiosity. And it brings us to a thoughtful experiment. We imagined a case of wine that matched a Spanish wine to a similar French varietal or style. So now when your friend asks, ‘What’s a Spanish sauvignon blanc like?’ you’ve got some good wines, styles, and descriptors to refer to. (hint: it’s less grassy has more fruit character)

Route du Sud Muscat Sec

Route du Sud Muscat Sec

Mitarte Tercera Hoja Tinto Madurado Rioja vs. Domaine de Pellehaut Harmonie Rouge Cotes de Gascogne IGP. As an iconic producer of Armagnac from Gascony, Domaine de Pellehaut certainly puts out a top everyday drinking still wine. The blend of merlot, tannat, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and pinor noir makes for a richly textured, full-bodied violet-tinged quaffing wine with style. The Mitarte is medium bodied and having spent its grape-growing years in the hills high above Haro, is part of a new-wave of Atlantic influenced riojano wines, fresh and complex, fruity without dumbing down.

Le Val Gewurztraminer

Le Val Gewurztraminer

Arroyo Tinto Joven Ribera del Duero vs. Les Petits Carreaux Merlot. Both wines are full of red fruit roundness but one is a local tinto fino tempranillo from Ribera del Duero and one is a merlot from southern France. They have both seen the sun and followed the same winemaking process: destem/crush, ferment, and press. But they are also worlds apart. The young Spanish is our best-selling unoaked wine. The beautiful blue hues ricochet across the glass. The merlot shows clean varietal character. How do you think they compare?

Monasterio de Palazuelos Sauvignon Blanc Rueda vs. Appetit de France Sauvignon Blanc. Dad always said ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, but it was love at first sight for both of these wines because we love these labels. If you are seeking a Sancerre-style sauvignon, look further afield, because both of these wines have more soft fruit like grapefruit and pear than grass and vegetal aromas. Rueda, best known for the simple, pleasant, aromatic verdejo, is experimenting with monovarietal version of its workhorse blending partner, sauvignon. Both are best accompanied by any of our soft, mixed cheeses. Would you have guessed the Appetit was even from France?

Domaine de Pellehaut Harmonie Rouge

Domaine de Pellehaut Harmonie Rouge

Guerra de Pura Cepa Tinto Mencía vs. St. Martin Cabernet Sauvignon. Some say that the Spanish mencía is a long-lost cousin to cabernet franc in Bordeaux. Both wines are accessible and well-structured but they divurge from there. The cab has black fruit, the mencía red. The cab’s grape-growing climate is warm Mediterranean, whereas the mencía is cool Atlantic. How do they pair with our signature acorn-fed jamón?

Señorio de Cruces Albariño Rías Baixas vs. Route du Sur Muscat Sec. Both wines are vinified dry, leaving less than 0.2% of residual sugar. Though you’d swear there was honey added due to the viscous texture and lip-smacking ripe fruit notes like peach, nectarine, and honeydew. Enjoy with seafood or as an aperitif with our small-batch roasted and lightly salted marcona almonds.

Dominio de Punctum 99 Rosas Chardonnay/Viognier

Dominio de Punctum 99 Rosas Chardonnay/Viognier

 99 Rosas Chardonnay/Viognier – vs. La Val Gewurztraminer. We first tasted the 99 Rosas at a wine fair and of the more than 500 wines we tasted over three days, this is one that stuck out the most. It was not the most complex or the most interesting, but it had a clear balance of acidity, fruit, mouth feel, finish, palatability, packaging and price point. It is the ideal wine to take to a Sunday lunch to enjoy as an aperitif with a soft cheese or smoked fish. The La Vall gewurz is aromatic and food friendly. Do you have a preference for one country’s interpretation of a full-bodied white over another?

–Vanessa, wine geek, San Jamón

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Rioja Harvest and New Arrivals

Miguel and I were fortunate to visit Rioja ‘en plena vendimia’ just as harvest was in its most heated moments in late September 2015. It is exciting to witness crush and this year was especially memorable because skies were clear and the temperature was warm. All signs point to an excellent vintage. We nearly took a tumble down a steep grade with Alfredo and Sonia at ADM who were showing us hidden tempranillo and albillo vines. Maybe too hidden.

We saw the enological laboratory garden station of La Grajera-Logroño just off the LO-20, which is slightly fabled in the underworld of mad viticultural scientists and highly prolific publishers of new research on wine. These are folks that make studies on indigenous Spanish grapes and see their work peer reviewed in scholarly journals. And they were letting me swish around some barely fermented sauvignon blanc in my mouth.

We also attended the annual Cata del Barrio de la Estación (http://lacatadelbarriodelaestacion.com/en/) where the seven main wineries of Haro fling open their doors and give tours, have live music and food and, of course, wine tasting. It was short-sleeved weather. We managed to visit from Viña Tondonia to La Rioja Alta and my favorite, Bodegas Roda, a new classic in Haro. We highly recommend you make the trip down next fall and enjoy the festivities and the world-class winemaking.

We planned to taste through a portfolio of wines just after the morning cata in Haro. Perhaps foolish, but unavoidable as we only had three days and Miguel is an overachiever. So, we drove the 7 km or so up to Labastida where Ignacio Gil of Bodegas Mitarte met us at the grill. Local lamb chops were on the menu. He was so full of life that I didn’t know where one story ended and another began. I was never fully aware if we’d be tasting wine, helping them harvest or foraging for our dinner. I recall there being some overlap. With harvest you never know when the trucks will come in. And especially deep in the heart of Basque country where you are talking about 80-year-old unkempt bush vines that require some coordination to liberate the cluster. Plus, there was a lot of talk of politics. Grape politics, trade politics, local politics and, a minor detail, Ignacio was the mayor of Labastida for over 20 years during the height of ETA. He had round-the-clock body guards during his entire tenure. Oh the stories he told.

The wines are the same: expressive, dark, unexpected, thoughtful, racy, juicy, rounded, and plentiful. He knows what he is doing. He is taking the best fruit from the foothills of the Cantabrian mountains and making it into extraordinary wine. Expect us to source good things from him in the coming months.

Last month we held a contest on your favorite red. Mitarte Madurado Tercera Hoja DO Rioja was the winner Jaldún Crianza DO Rioja (of Alfredo and Sonia) was a close second.

— Vanessa Harris, wine geek, San Jamón