Spanish Wine - Rioja & Bierzo
As a veteran specialist in importing French regional wines, we are never sure whether to be embarrassed or proud that one of our 'Top Ten' best-selling red wines hails from Rioja. We have always believed in serendipitous discoveries and when Tom was holidaying with Spanish-based friends in 2015 he was delighted to come across a Crianza that he felt was a cut above most of the competition. Indeed, he was so impressed by the wine in question that he paid a visit to Bodegas Petralanda in Fuenmajor where it was produced and despite his strangulated Spanish, managed to secure an inaugural allocation.
Made from a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Mazuelo that is raised for 2 years in American oak barrels and 3 years in bottle before release, it was created by entrepreneur Iñake Petralanda Uria Zearra to supply his restaurant in Bilbao. Ready to drink from release and ideally suited to full-flavoured, characterful cuisine, its ripe red fruit characteristics are offset by mellow forest-floor notes and supple tannins. A fringe benefit of Tom's trip to the winery was his discovery of a 'Gran Reserva' produced from pure Tempranillo. It too has a prolonged maturation in barrel and bottle and the finished wine is even denser, more structured and ageworthy than the Crianza. With a wealth of dark berry scents and an inky palate of concentrated black fruit with peppery undertones, it makes a fine foil for game and wild mushroom dishes.
An even more recent Iberian innovation was brought to our attention by roving winemaker Antoine Graillot. He has colluded with the celebrated 'natural wine' enthusiast Raúl Pérez to co-produce an audacious old vine Mencia, from parcels of vines in Otero and Valtuille, called 'Encinas'. Made from whole bunches of grapes that are fermented in concrete and raised in oak vats, it has a beguiling bouquet of violets and fennel and a lively red fruit palate underscored by lively mineral notes and fresh acidity. It drinks well lightly-chilled and is perfect with pâté and picnic foods.