Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cabernet is King - Vega Sindoa Cabernet Sauvignon '09

The everyday category is loaded with Cabs, probably hundreds, from every corner of the globe - the US, Australia, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, and France in the form of low cost Bordeaux. You rarely see them from Spain, which is surprising given that there is Cab in Spain, much of it having been brought there by the French a long time ago. Cab in Spain is most often blended with Tempranillo and other indigenous grapes, imparting it's usual black currant fruit, structure and aromatic complexity to the final product. You don't often see Cabernet from Spain bottled on it's own for $9.99.

Many of the everyday Cabs on the market are bland and uninteresting, very often so ripe and over treated with oak that the Cabernet character has been vinified out of them. What I look for in Cabernet is not only it's dark currant fruit, but those graphite and herbal elements in both the aromas and flavors that are unique to good Cabernet Sauvignon. Vega Sindoa is a brand of Bodegas Nekeas, a winery in the Navarra DO of Northern Spain, not far from Pomplona and the Pyrenees. According to the winery website, wine was produced in this valley as far back as the 17th century before the vines were devastated by phylloxera in the late 19th century.

Hillside fruit is best of course and with vineyard altitudes that range from 1400 to over 2000 ft., it's no wonder that these vineyards in clay and stones produce quality fruit. In fact, the Vega Sindoa Cabernet Sauvignon is absolutely one of the best $10 Cabernets I have ever had. Dark and dense in color, the beautiful primary aromas of black currant and black cherry are complemented by graphite, herbs and earth. The plum and currant flavors are quite large-scaled for a wine at this price point. Mouth filling and long, this beauty finishes with a bit of dusty tannins. It's imported by Tempranillo by way of Jorge Ordonez, whose Spanish portfolio is one of the best in the business. If you like wallet friendly Cabernet, you should really seek this wine out. There's an interesting Q & A with Mr. Ordonez in The Shanken New Daily from 2011. Bottoms up!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Warmer Weather and the Thirst for White - La Val Albarino 2011

It's a fact of wine life that with colder weather people drink more red and with warmer weather people drink more white. Any retailer will back that up. Personally, I've always been equal opportunity with regards to wine as the color I pick is most often related to what food is on the table. You don't really want Cabernet, Pinot Noir or even a Cotes du Rhone with a pasta with clam sauce do you? You want a nice crisp white with good acidity. But yesterday, as the local temps finally hit the 50 degree mark for the first time in awhile, I found myself craving a good, crisp, fruity white wine. And I realized that I had been drinking a lot of red. So even though a leg of lamb was on the menu, the appys of grilled asparagus and portobellos demanded a white and the La Val Albarino fit the bill nicely.

Albarino is a wonderful grape, giving bold fruit flavors with balancing acidity. It's grown in the extreme northwestern Spanish province of Galicia, on the Atlantic coast and the Portugese border. The official DO for these wines is Rias Baixas (ree-ahs-buy-shuss) and the La Val is from the second largest of the region's sub-zones called Condado de Tea. It's the warmest, most inland of the zones and though the average temperature is only 59 degrees, it can still get quite warm in the summer. In addition, there is a lot of granite and slate in the soil which contributes to the wines mineral undertones. Still, this is a fairly damp climate so the thick skin of these small green berries is important for resisting mold.

The La Val Albarino is fermented entirely in stainless steel and though it is aged on it's lees (which are the dead yeast cells) for awhile, there is no oak barrel aging at all. Aromatically, and despite the lack of oak, you're met with toasty/nutty aromas from the aging on the lees, as well as lemon zest and pear.  The medium bodied flavors feature pear and green apple with spice and toast notes and those stony undertones. There's excellent acidity, bringing everything into balance and a long, zingy finish. This $12.99 everyday winner is imported by Polaner Selections, one of my favorites. Bottoms up!