Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition

February and March are mercilessly the busiest months in the UK wine trade’s diary. I say mercilessly as whenever you think you can take a deep breath and let it out slowly, you gasp and choke instead. Because hey, there’s ANOTHER tasting to organise or go to. Some tastings are more fun than others. The ones that involve Spaniards are, in my book, the best. With them come associated food, laughter and that elevated state of mind called ‘being pissed’.

I’ve been fortunate enough to exchange laughs and several glasses of posh booze with Spain’s two arguably top estates. Last week saw the arrival of Los Dos Palacios, namely Alvaro and his nephew Ricardo, who have properties in three regions of Spain: Rioja, Priorat and Bierzo. They were in London to show us their 2012s and boy, were they good. Ricardo is the hippie, biodynamic winemaker in Bierzo. I am a little in love with Bierzo, it’s one of those regions that, when you go there, makes you go ‘OMG!’ if you’re American, ‘Strewth!’ if you’re Aussie or ‘Oh my!’ if you’re English. I am none of those so I had a ‘Wowza!’ moment instead. I’ve been to Bierzo a few times, I’ve worked vintage there (I nearly said I made wine there but one should not be so presumptuous, I am not a winemaker after all!) and made vegetable juice. People often say that a wine should reflect the place where it comes from. The Mencias from Palacios really do. Bierzo is wild, untamed, real, earthy and smells wonderful – of wild herbs: thyme and lavender. And so do the wines.  They are ethereal, perfumed and earthy. Kinda amazeballs, really. You need to get some. Seriously. Right now. I’ve put myself down for a case of 2012 Las Lamas (tiny 1.7 ha vineyard on a ridiculously steep slope). I’ll have to wait a year or so to get my hands on it so I shall have to exercise patience, something I have never had much of.
Now, the second outstanding producer I have been hanging out with this week is Vega Sicilia from Ribera del Duero. THE most famous winery in Spain. And deservedly so for their wines are also amazeballs. If I were really mean I’d tell you a lot about the 26 vintage vertical tasting of their top wine, Unico, I organised last summer but that would be really, really mean. Even for me. Sadly we did not taste (drink) 26 vintages of Unico but rather we launched the 2003 vintage as well as 2008 Valbuena, 2009 Alion and 2009 Pintia (Toro). Now, you really wouldn’t be using such words as ‘elegant’ or ‘fresh’ with regards to wines from the hot 2003 vintage. So I was quite surprised my notes said exactly that. I was reminded by Javier, the winemaker that Spain is kind of a warm country anyway so in a vintage like 2003 the temperatures went up by 1-2 degrees, not much more. The wine had vibrant acidity! Yay! I love acid. Of the vinous kind, anyway. I was also mightily impressed by the new release of Pintia from Toro. This is by far the most elegant, perfumed, supple Pintia with rather fine grained tannins. Yawn, wine-speak. I know, I know. I should mention the excellently fat lunch that followed this particular tasting where we couldn’t find a decanter big enough to pour a jeroboam of 1990 Unico into but that would also be slightly mean.
I’m getting boring now, I know. So I shall stop, I don’t want to turn into Sauvignon Blanc! Those who know me will understand this reference. As for the rest of you, well ‘Savvy’ deserves a post of its own so watch this space!
Lenka (The Evil Monkey)

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