Monday, November 23, 2009

Ribeira Sacra "Alodio"

There was a time in my life, in my earlier days of wine exploration, when I drank Spanish wine much more often than I do at present. Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Bierzo, Albarino and wines of any number of other regions, vines or styles were just as likely to grace my table as were the wines of France, Northern Italy and Germany that more typically find their way home with me now. I think that's a fairly typical pattern in the evolution of the exploration of any field, whether it be art, music, science or, in this case, wine. Fields narrow, focus intensifies. The urge to dig deep overcomes the tendency to dabble on a more piecemeal basis. Once those roots have grown, though, the desire to venture outward returns. And the country that most often calls me back, much more so than Australia or the US, is Spain.

But where to start? I've definitely fallen into the same trap as others, where Spanish wine begins and ends with R. Lopez de Heredia, along with the occasional dalliance with Sherry. Aside from that, too much of what I have drunk over the last decade has been either dried out and bereft of expression or pumped up into something jammy and homogeneous. Recently, however, I've made some intriguing initial excursions into Ribeira Sacra, a tiny, hilly, cool climate area of Galicia that's been receiving loads of attention of late from wine writers such as Eric Asimov and Gerry Dawes. I enjoyed an eye-opening bottle of Guimaro's Ribeira Sacra "B1P" at NOPA in San Francisco earlier this fall and more recently checked in with the following, a recommendation from both Old School Joe and the Spanish wine buyer at NYC's Chambers Street Wines.

Ribeira Sacra Summum "Alodio" Mencía, Enológica Témera (Bodegas Costoya) 2008
$15. 13% alcohol. Diam. Importer: A José Pastor Selection, Vinos & Gourmet, Richmond, CA.
Enológica Témera is a small estate, with five hectares of vines and an annual production of about 4,000 cases, located in the Riberas do Sil subregion of Ribeira Sacra. Winemaker Carlos Costoya's entry-level red, this cuvée of "Alodio" is a varietal expression of the local vine Mencía. (There's a white version as well, made from Godello.) Though this is true Mencía, rather than the Galician strain of Cabernet Franc that is also rather confusingly known as Mencía, there's nonetheless a familial resemblance here to cool climate Cab Franc.

Medium purplish-red in the glass, it leads with simple, direct aromas of fresh red fruit – cherries and cassis, mostly – and finishes with a very soft, round texture marked by refreshing acidity. It reminds me, as hinted at above, of a fruity, bistro-style Chinon crossed with the warmer scents of a clean, medium-bodied Côtes du Rhône. After a half-hour in the glass, its aromas reach a higher tone, giving scents of blueberry skin and violets. From there, the wine remains very consistent, practically unchanged in fact, into its second day, moving just ever so slightly into the tarter end of the red fruit spectrum.

If I've a complaint, it's that the wine seems overly polished, its edges removed to the point that its texture is slightly glossy. The lack of any overt winemaking signatures, however, lead me to think that this soft simplicity is most likely the product of young vine fruit, fruit that hasn't yet reached a deeper expression. I'll look forward to seeing where it leads in future vintages. And in the meanwhile – this is a reasonably good value at $15 or less per bottle – I'd hardly say no to "Alodio" as an added option in my ever developing rotation of no-nonsense, every day wines.


Unknown said...

Last week, I had two bottles of the Guimaro on separate nights . Both nights, I was impressed. Will definitely be adding to my every night wine lineup.

Gerry Dawes said...

You should approach Ribeira Sacra wines with caution. Once you start drinking them regularly, you will have a hard time going back to those black, jammy, low acid, terroir-destroying new oak and high alcohol wines that being represented as the highest expression of the Spanish winemakers' "art."

Besides my several trips to the region, I spent a month tasting wines for my article, usually drinking one or two of them over dinner and making notes as I went.

Now I am having trouble going back to even taste the Parkerista, formulaic junk that is being passed off as real Spanish wine.

I honestly believe that Ribeira Sacra is the most exciting wine region I have encountered in 40 years of traveling in Spain--and that includes my first encounter with Priorat in 1988!

Thanks for posting the link to my Ribeira Sacra tasting notes.

My best, Gerry

Marcus said...

I echo these comments and commend this post, which rings true with me. I too have found myself having a Spanish red this week that delivers unexpected personality. Vina Pedrosa Ribera del Duero 2006 - and it's actually Tempranillo, though prefers to go by Tinta del Pais.

1WineDude said...

Personality wines FTW!

David McDuff said...

@Daniel -- Definitely need to explore Guimaro further. Loved the "Bip."

@Gerry -- Not to worry, I have no plans to go "back to those black, jammy, low acid, terroir-destroying new oak and high alcohol wines...." Gave them up a long time ago. Thanks for stopping by and for posting the great round-up and pics.

@Marcus -- Thanks as always for the kind comments. Don't know that particular Ribera del Duero.

@JoeDude -- Say what?

Joe Manekin said...

Guimaro makes an entry level, unoaked Ribera Sacra that is delicious, a bit more expressive, crunchy, and invigorating than the Alodio.

David McDuff said...

Hey Joe,
I'm thinking that's the bottling Daniel was referring to in the first comment of the thread. Either way, it's been added to my shopping list. cheers!

James Swann said...

DNA profiling has shown Cab. Franc to be unrelated to Mencia. There is only and has only ever been one variety called Mencia in Galicia. Mencia is native grape to the north west of Iberia (Jaen in Portugal).

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