Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Say Hola to España's Wines

You didn't think all those trips to Spain this year were for vacations, now, did you? I was working, and working quite hard, thank you very little. In some ways this is a dream job, but in other ways, it's a tough job. I mean, I spent a good 4-5 weeks earlier this year, traipsing through Emporda, Pamplona and Galicia, tasting the local wines and trying to find something, anything, that would be both well-made and well-priced. Sadly, the two rarely come hand in hand.

But after much swirling, sniffing and spitting, I settled on a whopping two, count'em, two, wineries to represent.

The first is Empordàlia, from the hilly Emporda region north of Barcelona. They're a large winery, true, with a whopping 350 hectares (865 acres!) and so my first reaction was to look at their wines with a skeptical eye. But once I started tasting what they were making, I was pursuaded. Then again, they've learned a few things in the forty or so years they've been around.

The Sinols Negre is a blend of 40% Garnatxa, 40% Carinyena, and a balance of Syrah, Merlot and Ull de Llebre (a local variety). The wine is destemmed and cold macerated for 15 days, and never sees any oak. This is a stainless steel beauty, with a lovely perfume of dark flowers, blackberries and plums. The taste reflects the nose, with an elegant mouthfeel that leads to a long finish. Best of all, these wines would retail for around $12 and be delicious.

The Sinols Blanc, an assemblage of Grenache Blanc and Macabeu, is wonderfully aromatic yet carries its hefty nose on a surprisingly elegant frame with refreshing acidity. The finish will leave you aching for more. Seriously, it's delicious, especially on a hot summer's day.

My second choice was a winery called Aroa, in the hills just north of Rioja. Aroa was founded a few years ago through the partnership of two friends who were seeking to make hand-crafted, artisanal wines in the high altitude-foothills of the País de Navarra. They focus on traditional varieties like Garnatxa and Tempranillo to maintain the wines’ historical aspects and ensured the health of their vineyards through the use of organic viticultural methods.

Winemaker Txus Macias

Working with three different vineyards in the high mountains south of Pamplona, winemaker Txus Macías has crafted some lovely wines that proudly represent their terroirs. At Aroa, he uses certified Organic methods and traditional grapes varieties like Tempranillo and Garnatxa, with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Low yields and careful filtering mean the end products are unique and distinctive and have a nice rustic feel to them.

Alternating cover crops between rows is standard practice at Aroa

The Aroa Tempranillo Joven is a beautifully expressive and aromatic wine, with an earthy note that is the purest translation of its terroir. The mouthfeel is wonderfully, authentically rustic, with fresh acidity leading to a long, lingering finish. This wine is perfect on its own or with some Jamón Iberico. Then again, what doesn't go with Jamón Iberico?

Where and when can you get them? Soon, very soon, I promise. I am working hard on it even as I write these words. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures I've uploaded to the Vinotas Selections FaceBook Fan Page.

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