Saturday, March 17, 2012

The new world of (old) Spain

The country of Spain has over 2.9 million acres under vine. That makes it the most widely planted, but 3rd most (behind France and Italy) wine producing nation in the world. In other words, a ton of juice comes out of Spain. The quality ranges from supermarket slop up to world class treasures. Spain is considered an "old world" wine region, they've been making wines there since Roman times. Old world can be described as a style of wine that highlights the wines' terroir, or sense of place. The wines take on the traditional characteristics and style of the vineyard and grape varietal. Over the last decade or so a new philosophy has started to take hold by some wine makers. Cutting ties with the old world style and making the best possible wines the vines will produce regardless of terroir. This is sometimes considered "new world" or a more modern style driven by some consumers. The wines selected for this exercise are two of the top "new world" wines coming out of Spain today.

Vine Times Chicago executive chef, Kristina, decided to try her hand at a traditional Spanish recipe to pair with our new world Spanish wines. Can the old and new co-exist, and even taste great? Let's find out.

The Wine

Bodegas Alto Moncayo, 2005 Campo de Borja

Bodegas Alto Moncayo is a joint venture featuring popular Spanish importer Jorge Ordonez and Australian wine star Chris Ringland. Jorge has been called the guy who introduced Spanish wines to America. You've likely tried one of his wines as they are great values starting as low as $6 a bottle. Chris is known for making large and full throttle wines that land high scores from some wine critics but are polarizing in style. Bodegas Alto Moncayo , offers 3 different Garnacha wines. From their entry level Veraton ($29) to Alto Moncayo ($47) and finally Aquilon ($166.) We're tasting the mid level Alto Moncayo from the 2005 vintage. I purchased this wine on release back in 2008 and have cellared it for a little over 3 years. I opened one about 18 months ago and it was still tannic and high in alcohol so I waited longer to open the last bottle of this in my cellar. Longer cellaring allows the wine to further integrate and evolve, rounding out some of the potential harsh edges.

Tasting note: Nose of coffee and blueberry pie. Black in color, full bodied. Notes of dark chocolate and jam. Laser beam of black and blue fruit, very concentrated. Gobs of oak. Alcohol is high and strong on the finish. Still a massive wine, not balanced. Needs even more time, if it will ever come together.

Bottom line is that this is a massive new world style wine, 16% alcohol and it shows all of it. It's full throttle and fruit forward. Fantastic garnacha flavors but it's just not balanced, thus interesting, but not overly pleasant to drink. If this is your style of wine then the Alto Moncayo delivers, not quite sure it's my thing.

Bodega Numanthia Termes Numanthia, 2003 Toro

The Alto Moncayo was Granacha, our 2nd wine of the night is Tempranillo, or more specifically a unique version of the grape called Tinta de Toro. Bodega Numanthia also offers three levels of wine, the Termes ($30), Numanthia ($60) and Termanthia ($200.) Again we go with the mid level wine, Numanthia, from this Bodega. Although the vines are ancient (70 to 100 years old) the Bodega revived the vineyard and their first vintage was 1998. Since then they've been earning high scores and putting the Toro region back on the map in Spain. Bodega Numanthia is owned by luxury company LVMH. Only 250 cases of this wine are imported to the U.S. and it usually sells out quick when it hits retail, so if you see it grab it because it won't be there when you come back!

I've been cellaring the 2003 Numanthia since my purchase in July of 2007! About time to check in on one of these.

Tasting note: Nose of pencil lead. Blackberry and dark cherry on the pallet. Hints of Vanilla and oak. Ultra concentrated and full bodied, well integrated and balanced. Inky black. Still a touch young but drinking well.

Between the two wines the Numanthia showed better. Perhaps it was because of the extra two years of age, or perhaps it's a better made wine with more balance. Either way at 9 years old it still was a baby, this could last for 25+ years and I'll wait at least another 5 to 7 years before opening another bottle.

The Food
What better to pair with two big Spanish wines than a powerful classic Spanish dish, Pollo al Chilindron. A wonderful dish from the Navarre region of northeast Spain. Pollo al Chilindron is made with red bell peppers and tomatoes, for good measure the sauce contains a good portion of Jamon Serrano. Absolutely delicious and Kristina nailed it.

Recipe here:

What a fantastic evening with great Spanish wine and food. We hope you can enjoy creating a dinner party like this for your friends soon. E-mail us and we'll be happy to help you source wines and recipes to plan your own evening en Espana.

Best Regards,
Vine Times Chicago

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