From the beginning of our involvement with the wine world, the constant has been change. In some ways reminiscent of the 60’s, stuffed shirts and fustiness have given way to a fresh less hierarchical approach to the enjoyment of wine. The hegemony of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Barolo has been shaken; and has wine kingpin Robert Parker really absconded to Asia ? What is evident is that tastes change, the market changes. With the current emphasis on approachable ready- to-drink wines, new styles of wine emerge. Traditionalists and collectors will always be with us but the breadth of the wine world widens. Part of this deepening of the market is the emergence of European wine regions once considered marginal – such as Languedoc – now becoming more prominent. In Spain, the area that now encompasses the autonomous region of Castilla-La Mancha was once a center of mostly unremarkable viniculture producing wines suitable for either distillation into brandy or blending to enhance thin vintages of more prestigious wines. But wineries in Castilla-La Mancha – like so many in Spain and Europe – re-invented themselves at the end of the last century, installing modern equipment and adopting modern practices. (A tip of the hat here for the EU for providing funds for this update.) Against this formative background, Katrin and I made our way through the walk-around tasting of the Castilla-La Mancha U.S Tour held at Symphony Hall on Jan.14th.
Our initial reaction was “Wow!” We’d been expecting a small selection of producers; however, as we entered the show, we saw twenty-five tables from which to sample. The wines available represented a cross-section of the current wine market as seen through a Spanish lens.
- Rosès. Rosès have emerged as a strong category in the modern wine market. (And we at WDWU have long championed pinks.) There was a good number to choose from at the walk-around. A particular favorite was the Castillo de Almansa Colección 2012 Syrah Rosé.
- The “Super Tuscan” approach. In his opening remarks, Dr. Apstein had compared some of the winemaking in Castilla-La Mancha to Antinori’s approach in Italy at the end of the last century – international varietals blended with indigenous grapes. A standout was the Finca Elez 2006, a blend of 70%Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Tempranillo and 15% Merlot.
- Stepchild varietals. Perhaps we at WDWU have a bias for the underdog or an eye for the eccentric but we’re always ready to try varietals often neglected or relegated to the role of blending. In other words, we’re always looking for well-made Cabernet Franc. And we found it here. The Aljibes Cabernet Franc 2008 pleased us immensely. On the other hand, the Petit Verdot from the same producer was not noteworthy.
- And speaking of eccentric, there were several offerings aimed at the emergent Moscato segment of today’s market. (We didn’t spend much time tasting these.)
- The highlight of the tasting was a sparkler, the Edone Extra Brut 2009. The wine, made by a French winemaker, is a blend of Chardonnay, Macabeo (one of the varietals in cava) and Pinot Noir. Outstanding! And at around $35 a bottle – great value.
As Katrin had stated in her post about the seminar preceding the wal-around tasting, “The winemakers of Castilla-La Mancha are preparing to conquer the US market in the coming months and years with a targeted marketing program to increase awareness and consumption.” The diversity, quality and value of the wines we tasted all pointed to the realization of this goal.
And kudos to Gourmet Catering for creating the delicious Spanish tapas served at the tasting. As the resident cheesehead at WDWU, I particularly enjoyed the vertical tasting – 3, 6 and 12 months – of Manchego, the iconic Spanish cheese.
For more information about this region, visit www.tierradevinedos.org