“Its not what you know but who you know” – so goes the old saying. It couldn’t be truer in my case as I’ve struck up a friendship with one of the employees of my local Wine Rack. We seem to be pretty like-minded in our tastes when it comes to wine – maybe because we share the same name – so whenever I pop in (about once a week!) and he’s behind the counter I get him to run me through what’s new, what’s hot and what’s not. Don normally comes up trumps with most of his recommendations – this latest one being no exception.
Hand-picked from 100% tempranillo, the most important grape in Rioja, this wine is not from Rioja but from Valdepenas, a hot, dry region of Spain approximately 120 miles south of Madrid and part of the vast appellation of La Mancha. The relatively harsh climate of the area combined with the unique soils of limestone and clay make it an ideal place for the vines to struggle and for the fruit to gain a unique character.
Vinified in a controlled temperature and aged in 100% American oak barrels for at least 2 years, this wine is not for the faint-hearted. It stays in bottle for another 3-6 years before release to round off any harshness and attain a perfect tannin-fruit balance.
Not as deep in colour as I expected, it is ruby-red with amber tones indicating age and plenty of alcohol at 13%. On the nose there is a complex and refined blend of vanilla oaky-wood, dark fruits and exotic spices, especially pepper. On the palate the wine has a velvety-smooth texture, is warm and full-bodied and has an ideal, superbly refined balance between tannin, fruit and toasty oak with a long, dry finish. Warning though – if you like unsubtle, non-oaky fruit-bombs then don’t try this wine – you won’t like it!
Seeing as it is no push-over, it is an ideal wine to accompany strongly-flavoured food – red cured meats, game and mature cheeses all being a good match. I should imagine it would be great with certain tapas as well as barbecued red meats.
Marks out of 100 – 85.
It is available from Wine Rack for £8.99 a bottle or £ 5.99 when you buy 3. At that price it is worth buying a case as it is a good introduction into Spanish wines and is half the price of some Rioja’s I have tasted that are no better.