Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ole! Wine Blogging Wednesday is Back!

I was late discovering Wine Blogging Wednesday - the online wine gathering conceived over six years ago by a New York blogger, Lenn Thompson, as a monthly, virtual conclave. The concept is simple enough. It's been previously recapped as, "people interested in wine, the world over, would coalesce each month around a single theme." Each month, a different host blogger determines a topic for that month. Anyone interested submits their postings or e-mail comments to the coordinator. Those musings are then consolidated and shared.

WBW had already been around for five years before I stumbled across it while surfing. I'd only participated a whopping three times before WBW seemed to lose its steam. WBW69 saw everyone revel in the Grenache varietal. Then it simply disappeared.

So, it was with great enthusiasm that I discovered that Gabriella and Ryan Opaz, of the Catavino blog, after liaising with Lenn, announced that they were going to host WBW70 and take a chance that there'd be enough interest to resurrect one of the web's longest running online wine events. They've called upon everyone to "seek out Spanish wines that you've never had before," to be creative and to "hunt for unique styles" and "unheard of regions."

My only "problem" is that I am way behind on my postings for the bottles that we've already emptied but that I haven't added to The List - that List more-or-less being the raison d'etre of this blog. Oh well. I'll just have to take a bit of a leap over those three or four dozen wines that are patiently waiting to be posted and work my way up to giving these bottles an actual number on The List. Unfortunately, it's not the first time that's happened. (Editor's Note: I've finally caught up with those earlier wines and I'm now amended this post to give the WBW wines their numbers on The List. Phew!)

As for Spain and the task at hand, you can't seem to pick a more topical theme than that for a wine-lover nowadays. I'm not sure that I'd say the Vancouver market is flush with unique styles and unheard regions, but we are seeing more and more Spanish offerings on the local shelves - and everyone's biggest drawing point is that there's plenty of bang for buck. Indeed, we had some fun trying some of the local offerings when Spain won our World Cup of Wine last summer.

In a way, though, WBW70's Spanish adventure may be a tad early for us Vancouver types. At the end of March, the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is happening and this year's featured region is Spain. We'll be awash with dozens of Spanish wineries and hundreds of their wines. But, that'll be then, this is now.

I decided to go with three wines for this posting and ended up trying wines from three different regions. Not normally being one for three bottles in one night, we needed to make a bit of an event to accomplish this feat. Boo and I managed to coerce Mr. D. to join us for dinner and we opened a different bottle for each course.

725. 2006 Marques de Gelida Brut Exclusive Reserva (D.O. Cava - Spain)

Paired up with some Manchego and Gran Capitan cheeses, assorted olives and serrano ham, we started the evening off with some bubble. I wanted to try something other than the Freixinet or Cordoniu Cava's that tend to dominate our bottle shop shelves, but I'd always shied away from this particular wine previously because I thought the bottle was maybe a little too gimmicky - what with the shrink wrap and all. I needn't have been wary.

Marques de Gelida is found in Penedes, part of the Catalonia region in North-East Spain and the traditional home of Cava production. Although the Cava denomination is a little quirky in that it is the only Spanish D.O. that isn't necessarily tied to one region. So long as the D.O. regulations are followed - in particular, that the traditional method of making sparkling wines (Methode Champenoise) and the permitted grapes are used - Cava can be made in a number of regions in the country. That being said, 95% of all Cava is still made in Penedes.

This Marques de Gelida Cava (they have a number of them) uses the three original varietals - Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada - but it also adds some Chardonnay, now that the latter varietal has been allowed since 1986. Aged 3 years in order to merit the "Reserva" label, the wine didn't have the most exciting of mousses or endless bubbles, but it did have a much brighter palate of lively fruit than we'd expected. Boo is not one for yeasty, biscuity sparklers. So, this was more up his alley and all three of thought it'd be worth grabbing another bottle down the road.

726. 2005 Bodegas Abadia Retuerta Rivola Sardon de Duero (Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon - Spain)

I figured we'd try making paella for the first time. Having made my fair share of jambalaya over the years, I thought what the heck. Our main course red was one Mr. D and I picked up the other night on the recommendation of one of the sommeliers at an Everything Wine tasting. There was no doubt here; we had another hit in our glasses. I'd never run across the winery before but it appears to be making quite a name for itself as an up and comer among Spanish producers.

Only founded in 1996, the winery consists of 1700 acres in the North central part of Spain - spaced out over 54 separate blocks - it's also the home of a 12th Century Romanesque monastery. Indeed, local records from the 1600's show that the resident monks of the day produced 125,000 litres of wine and monopolized the regional market. The estate is located just outside the boundaries of the prestigious D.O. Ribera del Duero and, therefore, is required to produce all of its wine under the "Vino de la Tierra" denomination - much like Vins de Pays wines in France or IGT wines in Italy. Regardless of the denomination - or lack thereof - Abadia Retuerta is located on the region's "Golden Mile," a strip of influential wine estates along the Duero River. The winery is happy to point out that Spanish superstar, Vega Sicilia, is only two miles or so down the road.

The Rivola is a 60/40 blend of Tempranillo and Cab Sauv and we were pleasantly surprised by the heft and structure we found for a Spanish Tempranillo. We figured that it could easily pass for a Bordeaux blend of nice pedigree. At $33 in our market (high I know), it still comes across as a good value.

727. N.V. Alvear Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927 (D.O. Montilla Moriles - Spain) (375ml)

I'm not so sure that we needed the creme brulee because this fortified wine could easily have been dessert by itself. With this bottle, we've moved down to the South and to Andulucia. Not for everyone, it's thick and unctuous but this PX (as it's also known) hits the spot for a "sticky" lover like me. Once again, I didn't know what I was buying when I picked up this half-bottle some time ago while in Seattle. It turns out that Alvear is the oldest producer of wines and sherries in Montilla Moriles.

The wine is made from 100% Pedro Jimenez and the dark amber colour belies the white grape varietal that is its origin. The varietal is an early ripener that likes the heat of Andalucia and the grapes are very high in sugars. Once harvested, the grapes are left to dry in the sun until they're raisined. The juice that is pressed, therefore, starts concentrated and rich and the winemaker needs to add grape alcohol during fermentation to preserve sweetness and prevent too much conversion of the sugars into even higher alcohol levels.

The wine is then added into a solera system - the production method that is generally reserved for sherry. The key concept of a solera is fractional blending - a solera being the collection of barrels used in the process and it sees a mixing of the barrels such that a portion of the wines produced over each of the years makes it into the finished product. The "1927" contained in this wine's name refers to the year in which the solera was initially started. There won't be much of that vintage left in the solera, but there will be some and the longevity of the blend can't help but add to the complexity of the wine.

You don't need a lot of it, but, if you like some pure sweetness at the end of a meal, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything sweeter. I'd say we were three for three on our bottles - and I celebrated a further benefit. I get to add the Pedro Jimenez varietal to my application for the Wine Century Club. I'm getting up there now.

All in all, a good night. So, welcome back WBW. Here's my hope that you stick around for another 70 (or more) editions. Now, if only I can get caught up on The List before WBW71 comes around.

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