Friday, October 14, 2011

A detour on the Spanish wine route

The club's cry for Spanish wines has me wandering all over New York. Last week, the Coffee Connoisseur and Mr. Marathon had the entry-level 2010 Garancha from Bernabeleva, a vintner in Navaherreros about an hour and a half west of Madrid. Both CC and Mr. M enjoyed it and asked for another Spanish red. I obliged with a tempranillo, the 2008 Lezcano-Lacalle Maudes Crianza from Cigales, which is about 150 miles northwest of Madrid and which a new club member - call her LRB for lover of big reds - very much liked. She also had a Conde de Hervias Rioja Joven the previous week, another tempranillo. (Joven means "young" in Spanish, and such wines see little or no aging, while crianza must age for at least six months in barrels and two years total.)

Garancha, or Grenache, is famous for its fruitiness, but the 2009 Bernabeleva tino I tasted was woodsy and earthy, a product of vines planted in sandy soil that sits on granite, I was told. CC dislikes fruit bombs intensely, so I'd guess that his bottle had the same basic profile. I don't know how he feels about freshness, though, so maybe he should try the joven as a test.

My search for Spanish wines that the gang might like also led me to Tinto Fino, a shop on 1st Ave. in the East Village. I wasn't expecting much when they poured an Albarino, a white grape with which I associated the citrus flavors of Sauvignon blanc. But the Abadia San Campio from Rias Baixas in Galicia was a different, higher-class animal, with a floral nose reminiscent of Muscat and a delicate taste that nonetheless had more backbone than the nose led me to expect. I asked the guy pouring the tastings if my impression had been formed by drinking too many crummy Albarinos made for U.S. palates. Apparently, it had. There's also Despana Vinos y Mas in SoHo for the Spain gang, and several of the salespeople at Chamber St. Wines are serious fans and buyers of Spanish wines, so CC, LBR, Mr. M will be able to familiarize themselves with Spanish wine geography in the months ahead.

I was on my way from the office to Chamber St. to taste more Spanish wines (Marcus Wines: We spit so you can taste) when I happened upon a tasting at Frankly Wines from the Jura in northeastern France (Jura as in Jurassic). My obsession with Jura wines could fill many posts, but for now the reader need only know that the region is most famous for the Savagnin grape (not a misspelling), from which vin jaune, or "yellow wine" is made. Like sherry, vin jaune is fermented and aged in oak barrels under a veil of yeast (voile in French, flor in Spanish), as are Savagnins that aren't subjected to the long aging needed to produce vin jaune. Frankly Wines offered pours from several bottles by Jacques Puffeney, a classic Jura producer, as well as some from the younger vintner who lives across the street from Puffeney, Michael Gahier.

The Puffeney '09 Savagnin was nutty and intense, perfect for the classic pairing with nuts and Comte cheese, but the Gahier was suaver, more subtle, and led me to think his Chardonnay might be a deal at $20.


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