When I attended a vertical tasting of L'Eglise-Clinet in June during VinExpo in Bordeaux, a Spanish gentlemen came up to me with four bottles of his wine in his hands. He looked friendly, and at the same time, very proud. "I want you to please try my wines," he said. "They have been very highly rated."
Honestly, I get this quite often when I am on the road. But I am interested in all wines, and they guy didn't mind me speaking my bad Spanish. So what the hell, I thought. I gave the bottles to a friend who was driving down to my house after the tasting in his Ferrari. I was not sure where he was going to put them since the car has very little luggage space. But they did finally turn up. And I tasted them last night after I came across them in my house cellar.
The wines were from Bodegas Mas Alta in Priorat. Three were from 2006: La Basseta, La Creau, and Artigas. He also gave me a new wine from the estate called Els Pics. It was a 2007. Anyway, to make a long story short, I was impressed, even a little dismayed, how concentrated these wines were. They were so jammy and powerful. I really thought I was drinking Australian wines. Granted, they would probably all be rated outstanding, with the exception of the Artigas, because of their showy concentration. But I really couldn't drink much of the wine, even with our grilled Florentine steak.
My favorite wine of the bunch was the Els Pics, a blend of 60 percent Grenache, 35 percent Mazuela (Carignan), and 5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. I loved the berry and cherry and vanilla aromas, with a full body, and ultra-fine tannins. It had a silky and refined texture. I guess the blend gave the wine a better balance than the other wines that relied mostly on Grenache with some Carignan. Granted, La Basseta and La Creau were from very old vines. But they seem slightly pushed and intentionally picked very overripe. Maybe I am wrong.
It made me think back to the days in the 1980s, when I used to regularly go to Spain, and the reds were delicate, refined and balanced. Priorat was not even popular then since it came into vogue in the 1990s. Most of the best reds of Spain never left the country. And you could easily find gorgeous bottles of Rioja or Ribera del Duero that were 20, 30, and even 50 years old in restaurants, and they were still beautiful to drink. Time goes by quickly! I'm just thinking out loud, I guess. I have tasted many of these new-wave Spanish wines, and I do find them fascinating. I am not sure I can drink some of them. They can just be too much. Yet, some call it progress.
Tom J Wilson — Canada — August 10, 2009 6:05pm ET
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