New Big Spanish Guns - Printable Version

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- Randy Caparoso - 03-23-1999

Okay, folks. I've been warming up for a first (I hope!) visit to Spain this coming July. I know it's not the best time, but I hope to slip in after the bull runs in Pamplona. It'll only be two-three days, but it's better than nothing

Meanwhile, I've recently tasted some pretty darned impressive stuff while on the East Coast this past Feb. Some are impressively expensive, but when you think of them in terms of what you pay for top drawer Napa Cab, Burgundy crus, Bordeaux grand crus, etc., and factor in sheer pleasure (and the following generally give MORE pleasure than the aforementioned), then $40-$60 price tags don't look so high anymore.

In order of pleasure levels:

1. 1994 Pesquera Reserva Especial - Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez's press releases claim that their variant bottlings of '94 have been the highest rated in Spain. I can't argue, judging by this incredibly rich, layered, sumptuous wine. While tannins are thick and tight in the middle, all you feel on the palate are the rounded, juicy, smoky qualities telegraphed way ahead in the nose. On top of that, there is a real sense of elegance and scale, like all the great, serious wines of the world A true "plush nugget."

2. 1995 Alenza, Ribera del Duero (Bodegas Condado de Haza) - This is the special selection from Condado de Haza (Pesquera's other great growth of pure Tempranillo). I'm into palate feel, but the nose in this wine is simply voluminous -- rich, unending tobacco smoke, blackberry, and roasting mocha coffee -- while on the palate, deep, muscular flavors seep through the grains of thick, dense, chewy tannins and oak. I "keep" few wines, and this will be one of them.

3. 1996 Pasanau "Finca la Planeta" - A phenomenal Cabernet Sauvignon based, gravelly estate bottling from Priorat. The nose is earthy, a tad herby, but with blasts of sweet, mouth-watering blackberry and black olives -- quite a unique profile, varietally speaking. Onthe palate, temendous balance of thick, juicy flavors in round, supple layers; surprising sense of elegance, considering the unusual olive-ish nose.

4. 1996 Guelbenzu LAUTUS - Bodegas Guelbenzu's top-of-the-line bottling from Navarra, blending Merlot, Tempranillo, and a little Cabernet Sauvignon, with new French oak. Okay, but what does this add up to? A magnificently full bodied wine with balance and bounce; big, pungent, slightly earthy (in a scrubby, smoky way, not gamey or leathery), weedy, black fruit aromas; following up with full tannin structure (flawed by just a touch of astringency) and dense fruit sensations.

5. 1998 Carchelo Monastrell - Previous vintages of this wine have been wonderfully round and supple blends of Mouvedre ("Monastrell") and Merlot; incredible for the $9-$10 price tags. In '98, this South-East Spanish growth (Jumilla) appears to be getting serious. The addition of 30% Tempranillo seems to have injected increased backbone and lend focus to the supple leather-glovey qualities of the Mourvedre and open roundness of the Merlot (reduced to 20% in the '98). The aroma is filled with tobacco and plummy, purple-black fruit; and the flavors are soft, yet fresh, zesty and long.

6. 1998 Guelbenzu Jardin Garnacha - This is NOT a serious wine. But it is made from 40+ years old vines, and vinified with a little saignee. The result is a wine with almost overwhelmingly lush, fresh strawberry
intensity; tasting round, juicy, soft and succulent on the palate. When I'm not drinking chilled Pinot Noir, this will be MY main drinking red for the summer -- if I can get it.

What about Spanish whites? What about Bob? Well, personally I've been a little slow about jumping on the Albarino background. Always seems a little simple for me. However, I tasted a 1998 Morgadio Albarino lately, which seems to have a little more crisply defined green apple aroma (not the sweet, drugstore perfume quality altogether too common in Spanish whites), with palate freshening medium acidity balanced by a fresh, round, appley fruit qualities on the palate. Not bad.

Do you like dry Sherry? The La Gitana Manzanilla is a definite "oh-wow" -- zesty, yeasty apples and high toned, heady, lip smacking, sticky/salty dryness on the palate. Pass the sardines and olives!

Finally, the 1972 Don PX Gran Reserva goes way over the top: Black-brown shaded mahogany color (looking like a vinous roux - et toi!), and enormusly concentrated, syrupy sweet intensity on the palate, colliding with a lusty, lip-biting, black & green olive/smoky richness of flavor. Ever wonder what to drink with an extra sweet carrot cake, complete with the crunch of the carrots, walnuts, and sour cream icing? Look no further.

Hasta pasta...

- Bucko - 03-23-1999

I just had the 94 Especial and the 95 Alenza at a Pesquera tasting in Las Vegas. They were both excellent wines and the Alenza was my favorite of the tasting.


- Randy Caparoso - 03-26-1999

Now that I put my notes up, the importer (Classical Wines of Europe, based in Seattle) tells me that the '95 Alenza is sold out, but that the upcoming '96 (this summer) is even better. Well, what do you expect them to say?

- Bucko - 03-26-1999

The Metzlers are very nice people - I don't believe for a moment that they would steer you wrong.