Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Report from: Wines of Spain on the General List Tasting – August 9, 2007

Of late I have been extolling the virtues of Spanish wine in my Vintages Release reports and tasting notes: the value, the ageability, the flavours and aromas and most importantly (to me lately) real wine aging laws. Spain is one of the few countries with the word “Reserve” canonized into their wine laws with minimum aging lengths and acceptable terminology. To use these words you have to follow certain regulations (see my rant in Newsletter #58). If the word “Crianza” appears on the label of a bottle of Spanish wine it means the wine has been aged a minimum of 2 years (24 months) from harvest date and at least 6 of those months in oak. “Reserva” is a minimum of three years, with a year in oak; and “Gran Reserva” is wine that’s a minimum of 5 years old with 2 years in oak and three years in bottle. You’d think with all this waiting time, minimum oaking requirements and tied up capital that Spanish wine would be expensive, but surprisingly they offer some of the best wine deals on the general list at the LCBO and some of the best aged wines (that you can still age longer). On Thursday August 9th, I got a chance to try almost all of the general list wines from Spain – which means most of these are readily available at an LCBO near you. 26 of a potential 33 wines were on display – here are the best of a good lot (there are 7 and none will break the bank; best of all, they will leave you smiling and wanting more).

Under $10 Bargains:

You would think that a wine under $10 these days would be something they scraped off the bottom of the barrel – but not so when it comes to Spanish treasures like these two. Candidato Oro ($8.15 - #523811) – great value, with hints of vanilla, red fruit and spice on the nose; easy drinking, smooth and quaffable as all get out with a tasty red fruit palate. The other bargain is one of my favourites from years gone by when I regularly kept my wine purchases under ten bucks. Rene Barbier Tempranillo-Merlot ($9.70 - #640193), I think it’s gone up a couple of dollars over the last few years but still represents excellent value. Smooth, easy drinking and chillable – some vanilla and spice with subtle oak flavours – not too complicated. Great for sitting outdoors in the backyard, around the BBQ or practically anytime you need a red wine that won’t tax the palate.

Best Selling Spanish Wine:

This just over $10 red ($10.10 to be exact) has the added bonus of being the best selling Spanish wine on the general list at the LCBO: Castillo De Almansa Reserva (#270363 – I tried the 2003). Aged mainly in American oak, giving it dark fruit and spices along with some cinnamon character. It’s rich yet mellow and smooth with good tannin structure.

Excellent Value:

I could give all the wines I’m recommending the above title but this one is an absolute steal: Hoya de Cadenas Reserva ($11.55 - #620989 – I tried the 2002). Fruit forward with dark fruit character, chocolate, good oak integration and fine tannins; and a great cinnamon finish. I also tried the 2003 version and found it to be a bit smoother in the mouth. Both wines should age well over the next 3-5 years. I bought three of these on the way home, 2 – 2002 and one 2003.

Another Tasty Buy:

Speaking of wines I bought on my way home, I also picked up 3 Conde De Valdemar Crianza ($14.95 - #356089 – I tried the 2003) from Spain’s most famous wine region, Rioja, which is why you’re paying a few extra shekels for this one. This wine’s a good and dark – in both colour and taste – a wonderful nose, good aging potential, cinnamon and spice on both the nose and taste with red fruit and raisin on the finish.

A Little More New World in Style:

Dominio De Malpica Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.95 - #32011) is smoky and earthy on the nose, but the palate is rich in red fruit with some spicy cinnamon kick. The tannins are right there and awaiting a few more years of bottle age to smooth out.

So far we’ve looked at 6 wines all under $15 … but now let’s check out our seventh wine worth $20.15 (which means it was $19.95 before bottle deposit came into effect) – Castillo De Almansa Seleccion 2001 (#16535) – a lush smooth delicious offering from La Mancha (as in Man From …) dark chocolate and dark fruit with nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and other tasty spices.

Check for these wines at your local liquor store and prepare to be amazed, what’s that Swiss Chalet slogan - “Never so good for so little” – when it comes to Spanish wines you’d better believe it.

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