Back to the future
With total incredulity I read a Tweet on Twitter last November, I think, whose thesis was that the Spanish wine world is stagnant! The call to arms was first taken up by one of this column’s Movers and Shakers (see www.colinharkessonwine.com click Articles), Victor de la Serna. I’d have joined him immediately, had it not been for the volume and weight of Victor’s examples proving that this as far away from the truth as is the space probe currently leaving our galaxy from planet Earth!
Cork Talk readers will know that I am forever marvelling at the dynamism of the Spanish Wine Firmament (moving from simile to metaphor in one easy shot!). There is such innovation here in Spain that said sorry tweet really couldn’t have been made by anybody who actually had on vineyard soil, in bodega, firsthand experience of the Spanish wine scene.
I’m heartened to learn, almost each week, that part of this dynamism is a fundamental desire to get back to the future, and this, driven in the most part by new young winemakers, throughout the country.
There are increasing numbers of educated cavalier, occasionally necessarily rebellious, youngsters who are keen to put into practice that which they have learned on their winemaking courses, experienced in their internships at other wineries (in different countries, even hemispheres), allied with local tradition and family history and reassess some of the old, ancient grape varieties clinging to life in their forgotten fields!
One such winery is Viñedos y Bodegas Pardevalles, DO Tierra de Léon, at about 800 metres above sea level in the Picos de Europa mountain range. They make a small portfolio of wines using the very old red wine (and Rosado, of course) variety Prieto Picudo; and the equally ancient, Albarín Blanco (not to be confused with the totally different, though perhaps similar sounding, Albariño variety). If looking for something different, a wine away from the homogenous Cab Sauvs and Chardies etc that are served so ubiquitously, I urge you to seek these out!
I loved the Albarín Blanco – it’s so different! There’s nothing unusual about its production – harvested at night, to ensure the optimum temperature when it enters the winery, adapted to include the 300 years or old caves hewn by hand, the grapes fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The aim here is to allow the variety to express itself – there’s no oak ageing, nor in vogue cement eggs. Neither is there any use of tinajas, also currently de rigeur. What you get is the fruit, pure and simple.
There’s a slight nod to the cat’s pee, gooseberry fruit of Sauvignon Blanc, if looking for any similarities with any other varieties, but more to the fore are blanched almonds, perhaps some hazelnuts and an endearing wet stone minerality. Super wine, from a variety saved from extinction!
We tasted the Rosado made with the Prieto Picudo, a very dark skinned variety, known as well for its sugar content and natural acidity. At 13·5% alc it packs a punch behind the elegance it also displays. You’ll find, as so often with Spanish rosé wine, some delightful raspberry fruit, with the added advantage of some strawberry too. However, there are dark fruits to this wine as well, some brambly blackberry and a faint whiff of damson.
We enjoyed it with a red lentil based vegetarian dish and the next night with salmon. It’s adaptable, pairing wise, as well as being a lovely Rosado to drink when the weather starts to become a little warmer – though why wait?!
Gamonal, a single estate wine, is one of three reds made with the same variety, Prieto Picudo. It’s a sensational wine! The bunches are carefully harvested by hand and taken to the winery. Fermentation and macerations occurs over a 14 18 day period, allowing the skins to give off some of their dark