Posts Tagged ‘Ribera del Duero’
Spain US Media Tour Day 2: Our team assembled on our coach around 9 a.m. Some had decided to mingle with the hip local scene on the hotel roof top bar, others had gone to bed at an 'early' 1 a.m, a few later still. Despite jet lag and limited sleep, for the most part we were bright, energetic, and excited to get to our first stop.
The two hour bus ride served as a chance for some to sleep, but most of us took the time to watch the scenery, and get to know more about the other journalists we would be spending the next 5 days and nights with.
Valdubón is in a part of Ribera del Duero, and is a bit isolated from some of the other known wineries of the region. Whether that was for a specific reason such as land price special terroir, etc we were never able to ascertain.
The winery was founded over 8 years ago, and acquired by Freixenet early in operation. Freixenet had retained the original team and winemaker, and let it run operations with what appears to be a great degree of autonomy, a model we would discover repeatedly the next few days.
We were warmly greeted by winemaker Javier Aladro, who had been with Valdubón from the start. As we started our walking tour, he illuminated us on the challenges of this region.
Ribera Del Duero is the land of Tempranillo, and presents a very challenging, low yield, wine growing environment. The soils are poor with low yield, making vines struggle. Rainfall is a meager 400 milliliters per year, on average. Low grape yield isn’t great for accountants, but for winemakers means the grapes are more concentrated and expressive. The summer here is very short, rarely over 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees F), with a large temperature swing in evenings. Threat of hail can start a full month before harvest, right after August crop thinning, making each year a nail biting experience.
Given my recent experiences with Paul Dolan in Mendocino, I have organic & biodynamics on the brain, so I enquired about organic farming practices. I received a bit of a blank look and a shrug back, so I let it go. Many old world, European vineyards are farmed in organic like practices by default, chemicals didn’t exist or later weren’t affordable. Pressure from mildew and other challenges was low in this area, and this is no know viticulture practice to prevent hail or short summers.
An Undiscovered Red Style – Cosecha
I promised in the initial article I would try and illuminate readers on something new each article – today’s lesson is about Cosecha, pronounced ko-say-cha.
Today was the first many of the group (and myself only recently) would discover Cosecha. Cosecha is a style of Tempranillo (which is also referred to as Tinta del Pais) similar to Crianza, and Reserva.
A Cosecha is made from Tempranillo, and is designed to be a light, fruity, aromatic, quaffable red. All of the vinification is intended to capture the fruit and aromatics. It's fermented in stainless tanks, at a controlled lower temperature, and stays on the skins generally for 7-10 days. It is then racked to another stainless tank, put through secondary malolactic fermentation, and then racked one more time in the spring and bottled. A Cosecha is meant to be lighter in color, bright, young, fruity, and easy to drink.
2010 Valdubón Cosecha
This 2010 Cosecha didn’t disappoint, and indeed was a crowd pleaser of the day, ranked as 2nd favorite by many in the group. Color was medium red, darker than some others we would have. The nose was full of strawberry & violet, bright red fruits in the mouth. There was a slight presence of tannins, again unlike some other Cosechas we would try later. This wine was domestic (Spain only, and sells for $5-6 euros. Drink this alone. Pizza. Pasta. Burger.
Valdubon Roble 2009
This wine was made in a similar method to the Cosecha, but then spends 4 months in new oak, 25% French, 75% American. This wine is distributed in the US, for $12 retai
l. The oak shows on the nose, with vanilla notes. The color is darker red, with bolder red fruit and blackberry tones. It’s a nice stepping stone between Cosecha and a Crianza, and most US wine drinkers would enjoy this wine, especially at $12. Personally I preferred the lighter style.
By regulation, to be declared a Crianza, the wine must be aged for 2 years, with at least 6 months in oak barrel. Two-thirds of the barrels for this vintage were American, 1/3 French, all barrels 0-2 years old. The vines the grapes were picked from average 40 years in age, producing a more concentrated flavor.
The wine was clearer than the previous two, and deeper red. The nose shows blackberry, spice, vanilla, red and black fruit in mouth, with moderate tannins on the finish. It drinks well now, with plenty of structure that would allow it to age, and improve in bottle.
2006 Valdubón Reserva
Again from 100% Tempranillo, a Reserva by law must age for at least three years, and spend at least 12 months in oak barrels, this vintage being 19-21 months, 50% French Oak, 50% American, 0-2 years old, and is racked every 4 months. The wine is very dark, intense red, with black cherry and spice on the nose, excellent red fruit, acidity, hint of minerality in mouth, with an excellent finish. The extra time in bottle has allowed this wine to mature nicely.
The King – Valdubón Honoris 2006
Almost without exception, this elegant wine was the favorite of the day, and is a highly decorated wine, including the 2010 Repsol Guide award, naming it a top 6 Spanish wine.
The fruit for this wine comes from very low yield, 60+ year old vineyards. The fruit is hand picked into small containers and transported for meticulous sorting, then crushing. Cold soaked for 6 days, it is then fermented in 7500 kilo large French oak vats. Once primary fermentation is complete it is racked into new French barrels for 20 months.
The nose is incredible, complex, with the fruit still bright, a mix of red and black fruits, elegant in the mouth, incredibly well balanced, with a lingering finish. A stunning wine.
Lunch was (of course!) another 5 course affair, featuring ‘baby lamb.’ Aren’t all lambs babies by default, aka not full grown? These are really babies, six weeks old on average, and only ever fed milk. It cuts with a fork. The amazing meal was paired with several of the wines. As a special touch, we got to sample the Spanish equivalent of Grappa, distilled from the 3rd pressing of grapes. Not as harsh as true grappa, (made from pressed skins with water added) but fiery nonetheless.
Back onto the coach for a 90 minute ride to the medium city of Logrono, and to a famous street full of Tapas bars. You’d think we’d grab sleep, but most were busy. I edited and uploaded a photo album, and met in the lobby with my peers for a quick beer and off to dinner at 9.
We only made it to 3 stops, each with great wine lists, and a wide variety of Tapas, ranging from squid to suckling pig. Of course, accompanied with wine.
The spirit of adventure and exploration called to a group of us, and instead of returning back to try to get 6-8 hours sleep, we explored a few of the local establishments, and continued our bonding. Luckily Day 3 had a 1045 a.m. start and less transport time.
The Heredad Collection Spain Tour
Spain. A country I had somehow never visited, a hole in my travel experiences I was keen to fill. I had attended several great Spanish tastings earlier this year sponsored by Vibrant Rioja and LaMancha Wines, and was looking forward to touring numerous wine regions, and tasting through a wide range of wine styles and varietals.
The itinerary of this whirlwind 6 day tour can be found in Simple Hedonisms heads to Spain on a 6 Day Media Tour of Rioja, Priorat and Ribera del Duero; Simple Hedonisms will cover each day in a separate article.
About Grupo Freixenet (Or its not just Cava)
Freixenet is a large wine producer, the 9th largest in the world, with a total production capacity across its many brands of 230 million bottles, or 19.1 million cases of wine, per year. (In Europe they refer to production capacity in releases in bottles, not cases, like we do in the US.)
Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine, is what they are globally recognized for, and they produce 80% of all cava. However they have wineries all over the world, some quite small, producing a wide range of wine varietals and styles. Indeed just for cava alone, there are many more variants produced that we unfortunately don’t see as they are exported. (We will tease you with some later.)
A few people who weren’t familiar with the breadth of wines in the Freixenet portfolio, wondered if my 6 day experience was limited mostly to the $10 black bottle, widely sold in the US. I knew it wouldn’t be, and was excited for an opportunity to help educate and enlighten my readers about a group of estate wineries known as the Heredad Collection. Little did I know how much my eyes would be opened.
Day One – Madrid
After 14 hours of air transit time, I arrived in Madrid. I had a few hours to kill, resisted the urge to nap. (Something I would regret later when sleep would be a precious commodity.) But, I was glad to get to see a little of Madrid on foot.
My expectations for accommodations was modest have traveled through other regions, especially Italy, where even a Marriot in Milan can be a pair of hard twin beds pushed together.
This hotel, the Hotel Urban was gorgeous, comfortable, modern but very tasteful. The high class bar was set.
Dinner, The Pace is Set
At 845 we left for dinner, a jet lagged but enthusiastic group, most having also traveled all day. In addition to the writers noted, we were joined by 4 of Freixenet’s top sales managers, and Freixenet/Gloria Ferrer’s US newly appointed head of communications, Cindy Friedman.
The location was stunning, and first class, and a good preview of what we could expect the entire tour. The Restaurante el Teatro Real, located in the former Ballroom of Queen Isabel II, was a regal display, as we walked through 3 richly appointed foyers before reaching an expansive dining room.
The meal and wines were mouthwatering and perfectly paired. Unfortunately I
was too fatigued and a tad out of sorts coming down from an Ambien I used to sleep a few hours on the plane) to take detailed tasting notes and food pics. Fortunately, we visited most of the wines again later over the next 5 days.
As we commenced with an Albariño from the Rias Biaxas region , under the label Vionta, my eyes were immediately opened up to the experience I was about to embark on. I have been tasting quite a few Albarinos, especially domestic, and this was stunning. Bright, full of crisp stone fruit, great aromas, and wonderfully balanced mouth feel and weight.
Next we tasted Elyssian, a sparkling Pinot rose cava – an anomaly as cava is traditionally made from the white wine grapes of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo 3 unique Spanish grapes, not the traditional Pinot Noir & Chardonnay many sparklings and champagne are made from. It was the first night, and we were already far off the ‘black bottle’ path.
Dinner was 6 courses all paired with a wine, over 3 hours. each it seemed better than the last. Unlike how we eat in the US, each was appropriately sized. This became the norm for the entire trip.
Apologies to readers in my jetlag I didn’t capture more, however I promised to share articles in a summary post from other writer.
Without a doubt, the course that blew everyone away, and for most was never bested, was Iberian pork. The pig is fed a diet of acorns, a rich nut, and the impact on the meat was incredible. The cut was like a pork loin, sliced into strips, but the texture and flavor was unlike any pork dish I ever had, or any meat for that matter. Rich in texture, but not fatty, it melted in your mouth.
I will post larger album of pictures for each days events and activities. Day One can be found here.
The Next Five Days – Follow Adventure, Learn, Enjoy
We will break out each day’s experiences along with photos. Simple Hedonisms is all about helping it’s readers broaden their horizons, shatter myths, and expand your wine palate. In each article there will be one or more educational topics I think will be new information for many readers. I hope you will follow along, enjoy, and learn.
Without giving too much away in the first of these six articles, this was one of the best multiday wine experiences I have had. The hospitality , openness and welcome of the Spanish people was unparalleled. Americans and Europeans alike have much it could learn from this country.
The food and entertainment experiences remarkable. The wines were of exceptional quality and value, produced by passionate people, often eye opening and a treat each day to taste; something I can’t always say as a wine writer.
Additionally, my travel companions, both the Freixenet team, and the journalists, proved to be great companions. The environment, while fun, was one of working, paired with limited sleep (often self imposed) and a fast pace. Its was one where a married couple, well acquainted, could have easily bickered and irritated each other. Yet we worked together, supported each other, and learned from each others unique experiences. I consider myself fortunate to have met each and every one, something I wouldn’t say easily. I was one of the wine ‘geekier’ of the wine writers (although I can’t hold a candle to Charlie) and I hope I provided back value, and not annoyance, myself.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the adventure over the next two weeks as it unfolds here. Salud!