Monday, March 31, 2008

A Brief Taste of Spain – March 27, 2008

On Thursday March 27, a small contingent of wine writers gathered in the LCBO “tasting kitchen” at the Summerhill store, to sip on 26 Spanish wines. Spain, to me, is one of the overlooked wine regions of the world – sure they produce Sherry, but they’re also producing some kick-ass table wines at really excellent prices, and let’s not forget Cava (Spain’s famed sparkling wine contribution to the world).

Cava …
The label can’t say Champagne, but it might as well, some of Spain’s Cava holds up very nicely in comparison with their French counterparts, and it’s made the same way (just with very different grapes), with secondary fermentation and ageing taking place within the bottle itself. Take the Free-X-Net (Freixanet) – a pronunciation I have heard of this famed bubbly – for instance, a line of 3 wines, each with its own charm and character, but priced well below what you’d pay for Champagne. In the black bottle is Cordon Negro Brut ($13.05 - #88591) – fruity, light, citrusy and yeasty … this one is aged 18-24 months in bottle. The clear/frosted bottle version houses Carte Nevada Brut ($11.65 - #74757) – 12 to 15 months of ageing; this one is lighter, crisper and fruitier than its black bottled brethren. The Brut de Noirs Rosé is summery fresh ($12.65 - #352369) … strawberry-raspberry nose – apple, strawberry with a citrus tang in the mouth. All the above wines come with bubbles that carry the wine delicately over the palate.

The whites did little to appeal to me, maybe it’s the cold weather and snow that’s still out my window or that there were but 3 samples on the table – but nothing here made me stand up and say “wow” (considering I was already standing all they would have had to do was make me say “wow”), but anyway, we’ll move right along to the reds.

Red Wines – A couple of surprises ...
Two screw cap wines got my attention – the 2005 Toro ($11.90 - #19570) had very good fruit extraction, fresh with some oaky character – red and black fruits, touch brambly and a fine seam of tannins … made me look at the price twice … really? That cheap for something this tasty? Buy some now before somebody realizes they’re giving this one away. Also under screw cap is Torres Sangre de Toro 2005 ($11.75 - #6585) – they still give you the little plastic bull with each bottle – its easy drinking, very consumer friendly with a full on sweet red fruit nose … pleasant on the palate for not a lot of dough – and that’s no bull (that goes for both these wines).

More good Reds ...
Step it up a dollar and you can experience Torres 2005 Coronas ($12.95 - $29728) – still under cork – this one’s more black fruit dominated and has an international grape component to it - Tempranillo mixed with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Looking to wow the crowd at your next gathering – or that special someone? If money is not an issue than the Torres 2003 Mas La Plana ($45.00 – Vintages) made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon – very nice, very expressive, very tasty.

My final red to recommend is the Mad Dogs and Englishmen ($13.95 - #669135) – the LCBO is between vintages so you’ll see both the ’05 and ’06 on the shelf, keep your eyes open when picking up a bottle. I’m betting you’ll like the smoother, lusher and longer finishing ’06 with its chocolate and red fruit in the bottle.

As for kicking-ass, there is an El Burro Kickass Garnacha available these days (look for the Burro’s head on the label – for $12.85, it’s not very taxing on the palate … black fruit, smooth and slightly grapy, tasted slightly sweet - definitely no kick here.

As for Sherries, the tasty, nutty Gonzalez Byass Nutty Oloroso is coming back to Vintages this summer ($12.85). There’s the sweet with a dry finish Croft Fine Pale Sherry available ($15.25) … dry Sherry fans can find Tio Pepe’s Palomino Fino ($15.75) in Vintages. And those seeking something more exotic can check out the new wine from Harvey (of Harvey’s Bristol Cream fame), Harvey’s Orange, with just a hint of orange on the taste ($15.95 – May 2008).

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