Tasting Recap: Iberian Summer
How to stay cool in the midst of this hot, Philadelphia summer? Drink refreshing wines from somewhere even hotter! That was the philosophy behind our latest tasting, “Iberian Summer”. For this tasting – part of our Global Vineyard Passport Tasting Series – we were joined by Eric Lopez: wine expert, great guy, and Iberian Wine Brand Manager for Winebow Imports.
Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo Fino Sherry
Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo was founded in 1874, and is now run by the 5th generation of the Hidalgo family. The bodegas is located in the Jerez de la Frontera in Adalusia. This region has winters that are mild and wet, summers that are long, warm to hot, and dry, and an annual average of 133 days of sun. The Atlantic Ocean tempers some of this heat, and also lends salty and humid air that aids in the creation of flor – a vital component in fino production that you can read about here.
This fino is made from 100% Palomino grapes from aged soleras, sometimes 6 and 7 years old. Eric informed us that this wine is produced en rama style, or “raw”. That means that the the sherry is only lightly filtered at bottling, in essence leaving some of the oxidized flavors from the barrel’s flor.
Consequently, this has a wonderful nose – we were informed that the winemaker suggests “bay leaf”, but that was not really found. There are, however, herbs and greens on the nose, to go along with the apple, nut, and – yes – slight turpentine that is a hallmark of fino sherry (in my mind, anyway). It has a nice hint of salted nuts. It is bone dry, with a lingering finish. About 22 of the 25 people in the room enjoyed the sherry – even some who were not familiar with fino.
J. Portugal Ramos “Lima” Vinho Verde
Vinho Verde, which translates as ‘green wine,’ refers to the early drinkability of the wine rather than its color (which could be white, pink or red). The region is situated along the Atlantic Ocean and consists of a large granite plateau with many rivers running throughout. In fact this wine takes its name from one of those rivers, the river Lima. This river initially prevented Roman incursions through the peninsula, as the Romans believed it to be the river Lethe, one of the five rivers of the netherworld; crossing the Lethe would cause complete forgetfulness of one’s mortal life. However, in 137 BC, the legions crossed after Decimus Junius Brutus proved that it did not cause forgetfulness and could not be the Lethe.
Grapevines flourish along the river banks, and among them grows the flavorful, Loureiro, which composes this wine. Loureiro is mainly associated with Portugal and Galicia, Spain, and was first reported along the Lima in 1875 This wine is 100% Loureiro. Vinho Verde translates as “green wine”, and this wine is made in its traditional style; an early harvest yields grapes with a higher acid level and less sugar for a vibrant with a low alcohol content.
This has an aromatic nose of greens and herbs, though not necessarily the “bay leaf” that the winemaker says is there. The mouth has a lot of citrus, and plenty of mineral. This recent bottling is still very fresh and slightly effervescent – giving the wine a great zip. This wine was much enjoyed by our tasters.
Itsas Mendi Bizkaiko Txakolina
Itsas Mendi is Basque for “Sea and Mountain”. Bodegas Itsas Mendi is in the Basque DO of Bizkaiko Txakolina, between mountains and the Bay of Biscay, not far from the city of Bilbao. This very lush region around the Urdaibai Estuary was designated a Unesco Biosphere reserve. This wine is made with the native varietals Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratie. The wine is made by one of Spain’s most-famous female wine-makers, Ana Martin Onzain.
This wine is incredibly aromatic, with hints of flowers, lime zest, and sea salt. The mouth has great acid and salinity, with a touch of grapefruit bitterness. It is minerally and dry, and very crisp and refreshing.
Castillo de Monjardín Rosado de Lagrima, Navarra
Castillo de Monjardín is in the northwest corner of Navarra, northeast of La Rioja, in the foothills of the Pyrenées. Monjardín has over 500 acres of vineyards planted on sunny, wind-cooled slopes at elevations around 2000 feet. This region is known for producing excellent Rosado – though most of it is Garnacha based. By contrast, Rosado de Lagrima is made from single-vineyard, estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Tempranillo (40%). Lagrima, Spanish for “tear,” is a reference to the local style of rosé production, which utilitzes only free-run juice. The juice stays with the skins for 10 hours, and then is fermented in stainless steel.
This is a very complex rose. The nose is deep and evolving. I never did figure out what I was smelling; I just kept throwing out words: pink peppercorn? black tea? rose? Others found powdered jalapeno and poblano peppers in the nose. The mouth had graphite, mineral, a dose of salinity, and some cherry.
Finca Antigua Tempranillo Las Escalerillas, La Mancha http://www.familiamartinezbujanda.com/antigua/?idc=27
Finca Antigua is in La Mancha, a sparsely-populated windy plain (“meseta”) in the center of Spain where summers are hot and dry. Wine-making has a long history here, as does the family of current owners and siblings, Carlos and Pilar Martinez-Bujanda Irribarria. The region is currently known for rich red wines, often made with the local Tempranillo, known as Cencibel. This wine is made with 100% Tempranillo from the Escalerillas Vineyard. The juice was fermented in stainless steel, then aged 8 months in American oak.
This is a BIG wine; it has ample, round tannins with a great acid balance. Dark red color and flavors, though quite “fresh” tasting, too. It has a lot of pepper and spice, plus dried figs and cassis, and a bit of tobacco. Bob would like us to “think BBQ” for this one!
This was a great tasting for us, though unusual for only having one red wine (sorry Milton!). Our 21 tasters gnerally liked all of the wines, with a few exceptions. Two people were not fond of the Fino, thought this was not specific to the Hidalgo, but generally to sherry-like flavors. However, it was a favorite for the evening of a few individuals. The “Lima” was a big hit with just about everyone. It is a very easy-drinking wine. The Txakolina was easily the crowd-favorite white wine. It is just full of flavor and character, and definitely refreshing. This is going on the Jet by-the-glass menu! The Rosado was, again, liked by most - but not all. A few tasters found a sensation of sweetness that was not to their liking. Yet, this bold rose did have many fans. The tempranillo elicited a collective “wow” from our tasters. It was definitely loved.
Join us for our next tasting on August 12th: Wines for BBQ!