Once again this fall, Wines from Spain organized the Great Match in an effort to create greater awareness of Spanish wine in the U.S. marketplace. Although this fall’s turnout was not as large in the paste, there were still plenty of wines to taste and vintages to track.
The event was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, and was more fun for me this time around, hauling my friend Chris, a Williamsburg native, who works for me at Pata Negra four nights per week, eager to soak up some Spanish wine knowledge.
My primary goals were to ascertain how vintages are drinking, and also to find some gems that may be hidden in the deep rough. We tasted over 100 wines, slowed down by some friendly industry conversation. There was no real time to eat; the lines were long.
The wines of Ribera del Duero were drinking well, as well as the verdejos, crisp whites from the Rueda. I finally found a winery from Toro which I actually liked, from Bodega Palacio de los Frontaura y Victoria, who was pouring a 2005 Frontaura and Dominio de Valdelcasa. Both wines were plush and bloody, what I expect from tinto de Toro.
Of the Riberas tasted, Torremilanos crianza 2005, Astrales 2006, Federico Roble 2007, Arrocal 2004, Valduero Reserva 2004, and Figuero Roble 2006 were all drinking well. It proved that the 2005 and 2006 vintage can be trusted. Usually wines from the Ribera need time in the bottle, and most of these could benefit from that time.
Of the verdejos sampled, I enjoyed the Villa Narcisa 2008 from Javier Sanz most, followed by Blanco Nieva and the bestselling Naia.
Priorat made a small splash, represented by Vall Llach’s Embruix 2005, Solanes 2005, and Nita 2007. The wines were plush and rich, deeply berried and round.
I have to shout out the sherries, but then again these are always the wines of these tastings. The value from La Gitana and Solear cannot be overstated.
The wine of the tasting for me came out of left field, a cava named Rimarts done in the style of brut nature. It was delicious, refreshing, and organic, full of minerality and bubbles, a serious effort from a small producer.
Perhaps the hidden producer of the tasting award goes to some ecological wines from Navarra. The most curious of the line-up being a boxed tempranillo/bobal blend named Charla from Valencia. This 2003 three litre quaffer hopes add to the boxed wine comeback, and I am listening. Earth 3.0 Tempranillo 2008 and Casita Mami garnacha/graciano from 2004 were drinking very well. These wines were aromatic and funky in the right barnyard sort of style.
It was a bit disappointing that some of the wines showcased exhibited similar flavor profiles, a sure sign that winemakers are listening to critics like Parker and Penin. If the wines taste similarly, leading to higher scores and inflated prices, the same epidemic could occur in Spain as to Australia, and to certain extent California, where consumers lose faith in the market value of homogenous tasting wines, and refuse to pay the exorbitant prices. Winemakers need to stick their guns, and consumers need to start really assessing what critics are saying.
I am still pleased with the increased awareness in Spanish wines and foods, and am encouraged in a more educated consumer market here in the U.S. Enjoy Spain!