The Great Match

On Thursday September 20th the Great Match was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion, an annual showcase for the wonderful world of Spanish wines and products. Industry people were let in at one o’clock, and kicked out at five sharp, to make room for the paying public who sampled tapas from some great Spanish restaurants.

These type of events are often marathons, and can be very taxing without discipline. With over 600 wines to choose from and a considerable amount of schmoozing, staying on task is the only way to go, which means spit, and only swallow what’s really good.

I happened to be looking for a good Albarino and Ribera del Duero, partly for the restaurant (Ostia), and partly for a chef friend of mine (Diego) who is getting hitched and seeking advice for the nuptials.

Many of the usual suspects (wine distributors) were present, and an afternoon of swirling glasses was interrupted only by the line for food at the table provided by Solera.

The hidden pearls of these tastings are always what I am after, followed by new vintages of known wines, and revisiting stuff I didn’t like in the past.

Starting with the whites, I gladly tasted several albarinos, two of which stood out from the pack. Both the Turonia and the Albarino de Fefinanes (both 2005) expressed outstanding balance and terroir. For an oaked version from DO Ribeiro, the Coleccion Costeira Treixadura Barrel Fermented 2006 also made a good impression for its style.

The wines from Ribero del Duero were not showing well, indicating that you Riberos usually require decanting or more time in the bottle before consumption. The offerings from Emina did however shine a bright spot. Despite 14.5% alcohol, the 2003 Emina Prestigio exhibited great integrated tannins, fruit and balance.

There were scores of great Navarra wines to taste, from Vina Sardasol reserve 2001 to Chivite Gran Feudo 2001, but the knockout wine of the evening was the Reserva Especial from Senorio de Sarria. The wine was flat out fantastic with a healthy price tag of $50.00 per bottle.

The usual suspects were present, from Montecillo, Torres, Faustino, and Marques de Riscal, to name a few. It was good to sample some standout efforts from Rioja producers like Miguel Merrino, Monte Real, and Vina Albina. With some bottle age, these wines expressed the elegance and beauty of la Rioja.

I found the cavas to be what I expected, yeasty and enjoyable to drink, save for a 2004 reserva from Agusti Torello, a 100% macabeo wine with distinct characteristics and great craftsmanship.

Last but not least, on to Jerez, where sherry reigns supreme. I’ve heard many an Englishman come into my restaurant proclaiming that sherry is the premier wine from Spain. After tasting olorosos, palo cortados, amontillados, and PX bottlings from Moe, Lustau, Sandeman, Tio Pepe, and Domecq, it is difficult to put up an argument.

For now I will enjoy all the diversity that Spain has to offer, old world and new, with its place among the world’s great wines both merited and secure.