Category:Spanish wine

Wine of the week: Volteo Tempranillo 2008

The search goes on for a replacement for Osborne Solaz.

The Volteo ($8, purchased) comes close, and not just because it's imported by the company that used to bring Solaz into the United States. In this, there are four other Volteo wines — a white, a rose, and two red blends.

It comes close because it is a solid, well-made Spanish wine that is surprisingly Old Word in style. That means it has some, but not much, cherry fruit, tell-tale Spanish acid, and enough oak to balance the wine. Oddly, the Volteo Web site says just the opposite; hopefully, the producer won't discover its error and start making Spanish wine that tastes like California merlot.

Serve this with lighter red wine food, like barbecue (which is what I drank it with) and things like roast chicken. I'd also open the bottle 15 or 20 minutes before you drink it; it needs that much time to show what it has to offer.

Finally, a word about the label. The back actually has useful information (serving temperature, grape variety, and serving suggestions) and the front has what Volteo calls a  Smart Label: A blue frame appears around the label illustration when the wine is at the correct serving temperature. I don't know if it works, since I drank the wine too warm. But if someone does get it to work, leave a comment.

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Mini-reviews 16: Helfrich, Natura, Segura, Saintsbury

Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

? Helfrich Gewurztraminer 2009 ($15, sample): Too much gewurztraminer tastes like riesling these days, which means sweet and not very interesting. That's not the case with the Helfrich, a leading Alsatian producer. It's spicy, almost clove-like; sweet but balanced; and has an impressive mineral finish.

? Natura Chardonnay 2009 ($12, sample): This Chilean white is made with organic grapes, and isn't bad for what tastes like warm climate chardonnay. Look for tropical fruit at the back, and more oak than it probably needs.

? Segura Viudas Brut Rose NV ($10, sample): This is one of the best-made $10 Spanish sparkling wines that I've had in years — which is saying something, given the quality of $10 cava. So what's it doing in a mini-review? Limited availability, of course. It's fruitier and less closed than most Spanish bubblies, and somehow has a few French-like qualities. Highly recommended.

? Saintsbury Carneros Chardonnay 2008 ($20, sample): Screwcap. Fresh acidity. Bright pear fruit. Proper amount of oak. In other words, everything too many California chardonnays aren't. And yes, it's a value, even at this price.

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Mini-reviews 15: Chateau Bonnet, Ilagares, Wakefield, Silver Birch

Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

? Chateau Bonnet Blanc ($10, purchased): I picked up a couple of bottles of an older vintage of this top-flight French white when a leading Dallas retailer closed. I should have bought more. It has bright, sparkling, balanced fruit (green apples) with the right amount of acid.

? Bodegas San Martin Ilagares ($8, sample): Spanish red blend that offers incredible value, and could be the new Solaz. Assuming, of course, it's widely available, which it doesn't appear to be. If you can find it, expect red fruit, though not quite as fruity as the Solaz.

? Wakefield Promised Land Unwooded Chardonnay ($12, sample): An interesting Aussie white, with lots of apple and a hint of sweetness. I'm not wild about the 14 percent alcohol or that it isn't $9.99, but well done nonetheless.

? Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc ($24 for a 3-liter box, sample): This New Zealand white, part of the Octavin series, delivers $6 a bottle worth of wine (a 3-liter box equals four bottles). The catch is that it also has $6 wine flaws — not much of a middle and kind of thinnish.

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Wine of the week: Marqu s de C ceras Rose 2008


People always ask: "How do you pick wines to review?" The Wine Curmudgeon has a couple of criteria. First, it has to be an interesting, well-made bottle of wine. What's the point of wasting my time telling you what not to drink? Second, it has to be available. What's the point of wasting your time by telling you about a wine you can't buy?

In this, it doesn't much matter whether the wine comes from a struggling artisan producer whose fingernails are dirty or a huge multi-national whose idea of terroir is a country-specific marketing campaign. In the end, wine is about what is in the bottle.

And what's in the de Caceras ($9, purchased) is worth writing about. It's a Spanish rose, made with garnacha, and you can find it almost anywhere wine is sold. I took this to a barbecue a couple of weeks ago, where there several people who like wine but who were intimidated by it. They're the kind of people who never want to tell me what they like, because they're afraid I'll belittle their choice. "You're the expert," they say. "You tell us what to drink."

Which makes me crazy, because everyone should drink what they want to drink. So I bring pink wine like the de Caceres in situations like this, because no one believes I drink white zinfandel. And pink wine still means white zinfandel to too many Americans.

Then, they taste the wine, and discover that it's full of strawberry fruit, is bone dry, offers great value, and is barbecue friendly on a 100-degree Texas afternoon. So I've accomplished two things: First, they've learned something about a new style of wine. Second, they've learned not to judge the wine before they drink it. What more can the Wine Curmudgeon ask for?

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Expensive wine 15: Montecillo Rioja Gran Reserva 2001

There are many things to like about the Montecillo (sample), starting with the price. At $25 or so, it's not only a reasonably inexpensive expensive wine, but a tremendous value. Second, it's still generally available, which one always doesn't see with wines this old.

But the best thing about the wine? What it tastes like, of course. This is classic Rioja (a red wine from Spain's Rioja region made with tempranillo), and it is made by one of the best of the traditional producers. That means low alcohol, dusty tannins, long finish, and a successful, marvelous, and continuous juggling act between acid, oak and fruit. Do not expect New World style fruit or oak; the oak is a whisper, and the cherry fruit is almost mute. They are there as part of the chorus, not as soloists. As such, this is a much more subtle wine that reflects an entirely different approach to winemaking.

Serve this with almost anything Spanish or Mexican, beef, chicken or vegetarian. I did it with pinto beans, Mexican rice, and guacamole, and it was amazingly complementary. I also decanted it for about 30 minutes, and served it slighty cool, around 55 degrees. One more note: 2001 was an excellent vintage in Rioja, and Montecillo should age well over the next several years, getting even more dusty and interesting.

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Bodega Montecillo’s Maria Martinez-Sierra

Maria Martinez-SierraIn 1976, Maria Martinez-Sierra at Bodega Montecillo in Spain’s Rioja may have been the only woman winemaker at a major Spanish producer. But no one is sure if that is the case, because that was not the kind of question one asked in Spain in the mid-1970s.

The country was still caught in the social, cultural, and political repression that characterized the Franco dictatorship. Though Francisco Franco died in 1975, it took more than a decade for Spain to get used to him being gone. One of the hallmarks of the Franco regime was the permiso marital — wives were forbidden from almost all economic activity, including working, owning property, and even traveling without their husbands’ permission. In fact, when Martinez became Montecillo’s winemaker, her mother stopped speaking to her for 12 years. Spanish women were not supposed to do those sorts of things.

Some three decades later, Martinez has become an icon of Spanish — and Rioja — wine. She has firm opinions about how wine should be made, about Spain’s role in the wine world, and about what’s wrong with the modern wine business. More, after the jump:

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Wine of the week: La Mano Menc a Roble 2007

One of the most difficult things to do when writing about wine is to resist the temptation to criticize what others like. Yes, it’s easy to write witty lines and to bask in the glow of self-snarkiness. But what does that accomplish? The goal should be education, always.

Which brings us to the Mencia ($10, purchased), a Spanish red wine that many people apparently don’t like. “Bitter.” “Innocuous.” “Not memorable.” Another tasting note I saw compared it to a wine that cost three times as much and, not surprisingly, found it lacking. To which the Wine Curmudgeon asks: Are you judging the wine on its merits, or are you judging it based on what you want the wine to taste like?

Why am I getting so philosophical in a review for yet another $10 wine? Because I keep seeing this crop up in how people view both cheap and regional wine — the attitude that if the wine doesn’t fit the perception of what the drinker wants it to taste like, then it’s not any good. Which is doing it backwards. One must taste the wine, and then judge it.

The point is not that the Mencia is bitter, innocuous or unmemorable. The point is that the grape used, the mencia, should not be judged as if it was tempranillo or merlot. Because, compared to either, it will seem bitter. And compared to a $20 or $30 wine, it will seem innocuous and it won’t be memorable. So judge it against itself. You’ll find a cranberry aroma, some juiciness (though it isn’t especially fruity), a bit of tannin, and enough acid to balance the fruit. It’s a burger and barbecue wine, and it does what Spanish wine is supposed to do. Which, to me, is memorable.

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