[barrel logo] [oenoLogic]








[frequently asked questions]

home > tasting notes > spain

australia | austria | france | germany | italy | new zealand | other | portugal | south africa | spain | usa |

Announcement: tasting notes have permanently migrated elsewhere. This page and its sub-network will stand for a while, and will always be Google-accessible, but that's where the new action is and will be.

s p a r k l i n g

Oriol Rossell Cava Brut Nature (Cataluña) – Rich and deep; it tastes like red grapes, though it isn’t made from any. It finishes dry and structurally austere, though the length is unquestioned. I know this isn’t a tiny artisanal producer, and I have no idea of how it’s viewed by Spanish wine gurus, but it wipes the floor with all the bland industrial cava we get in the States. I could drink a lot of this. (And, it turns out, I will.) (10/06)

Mont Marçal 2000 Cava Brut “Reserva” (Cataluña) – Leaden, papery and slightly resinous. Utterly boring. (5/06)

w h i t e

Val de Sil “MonteNovo” 2005 Valdeorras Godello (Northwest) – Dull and anonymous. And is that dried peanut butter? (3/07)

RE.6135 PO “Burgáns” 2005 Albariño (Rías Baixas) – Clean, refreshing lemon-lime juice with stickier grapefruit and sweet apple notes, plus a lingering descant of makrut lime. This is balanced and pure, growing in intensity as food demands, but simple and sweetly pretty by itself. (2/07)

Vilafranca “Casteller” 2005 Penedès Blanc de Blancs (Cataluña) – Simple, clean, crisp banana, pineapple and stone fruit with fresh, sea-washed acidity and some finishing grassy notes. No complexity, but it’s not needed here. (1/07)

Parato 2005 Penedès Blanco (Cataluña) – Simple, clean and fresh, showing citrus and grass. Finishes pure and direct, with a little bit of bound carbon dioxide prickle on the back of the tongue. Refreshing, and before we know it a bottle’s gone. There’s no complexity here, but that doesn’t appear to be the point. (10/06)

Sangenís “Celler Cal Pla” 2001 Priorat Porrera Blanco (Cataluña) – Almost shockingly bronze, and evidence that the cork was not a perfect physical seal points to the culprit. Still, there’s old wood spice and a mild motel iron structure to a fully mature blend of fermented flowers and extremely overripe peach residue. Though this description might not indicate so, it’s a good wine…though certainly not a great one. (10/06)

Sanz “Villa Narcisa” 2004 Rueda Verdejo (Castilla & León) – Grassy, limestone-dusted grapefruit from a quarry-side orchard, with briny acridity and a sharpening finish. Interesting. (9/06)

Lopez de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” 1989 Rioja Reserva “Viña Gravonia” (Center-North) – Dry toast with spiced butter and preserved lemon spread, dotted by buttered marshmallows. Long, with fine acidity and a drying element on the finish that eventually becomes a slight burn. Controversial, and though I finally decide that I like it, it’s definitely not for everyone. (8/06)

Ameztoi 2005 Txakolina (Northwest) – Terrific, showing intense minted lime and a vivid, vivacious, crystalline texture full of zesty yet invisible bubbles. It’s not sparkling, exactly, it’s just alive. (7/06)

Codax 2003 Albariño Burgáns Rías Baixas (Northwest) – Wet, juicy-fruity melon and grapefruit with good acidity but a sticky, almost gummy mouthfeel. Not bad, but it would benefit from more brightness. (5/06)

Nora 2004 Albariño Rías Baixas (Northwest) – Simple, juicy quaffing wine, full of light tropical/stone fruit and a sticky texture somewhat assuaged by slightly unintegrated acidity. Fun. (5/06)

Viñedos de Nieva “Pasil” 2004 Rueda “Pie Franco” (Castilla & León) – Lightly spiced chalk and soda water, showing clean and pure. Quite refreshing. (1/06)

R. Lopez de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” 1989 Rioja “Reserva” “Viña Gravonia” (Center-North) – Still vivid and – say it ain’t so – possessing something that might easily be labeled fruit, which I point out should necessarily exclude it from our evening. Nonetheless, it’s nice, showing baked pear, baked peach, and a bright, spicy finish. (12/05)

R. Lopez de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” 1987 Rioja “Reserva” “Viña Tondonia” (Center-North) – The color…well, basically, there’s no way to describe the color other than “fill the cup, please.” Sour plum, blood orange blossoms and dried flower petals mark a long, complex, and surprisingly pretty wine. Pretty, but with a lot of depth. (12/05)

R. Lopez de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” 1976 Rioja “Gran Reserva” “Viña Gravonia” (Center-North) – Dark brown, with caramel laced with cidered apple and baked potato. It’s juicy and long, with pretty decent acidity, but it’s also rather heavy and thudding. (12/05)

Bodegas dos Victorias “José Pariente” 2004 Rueda Verdejo (Castilla & León) – Big, fun, juicy lemon-lime and ripe green apple with good acidity and pure sunshine extraction. Yummy. (11/05)

Telmo Rodriguez “Basa” 2003 Rueda Blanco (Castilla & León) – Slightly tropical fruit, simple and fine. Don’t ask for more – you won’t get it – but there’s nothing wrong here. (8/04)

r o s é

Muga 2005 Rioja Rosado (Center-North) – Light, almost seductive pale orange and red fruit with dried earth tones and little hints of baking spice. Very, very pretty. (10/06)

r e d

Piñol 2005 Terra Alta “Ludovicus” (Cataluña) – 35% garnacha, 30% tempranillo, 25% syrah, 10% cabernet sauvignon. Structured and balanced, with a cedary, black-fruited cabernet component forming the majority of the core, fair acidity, and a helix of brighter red and earthier aromatics spiraling the center. A very nice wine, an excellent value, and probably ageable. (5/07)

Palacios 2005 Bierzo “Pétalos” (Northwest Spain) – Very aromatic, but while there are dark flowers, black truffle and purple-black fruit to be ferreted forth, the majority of what’s on display is a flat, varnishy layer of smooth wood that deadens and muffles the wine, bringing its finish to an abrupt, oaky end. Disappointing. (4/07)

San Alejandro “Las Rocas” 2001 Garnacha “Viñas Viejas” (Calatayud) – Iron, dried blood and black chanterelle with a beautiful silken graphite texture and the memory of dark fruit. Gorgeous and fully mature. (3/07)

Palacios 2005 “Pétalos” Bierzo (Northwest) – Big-shouldered and dark, with a flatscreen impenetrability; a two-dimensional wine of great breadth but little depth. Black, almost charred fruit and the blackest dirt vie with asphalt-like texture (there is acidity, but it brings little to the mix) for supremacy, and the texture wins. There’s nothing wrong with this wine, but it’s not much fun to drink…unless one finds being struck repeatedly by a hammer “fun.” (2/07)

Piñol 2005 Terra Alta “Sacra Natura” (Cataluña) – Big, loud wine, full of flavor, ripe tannin and satin-textured earth, but with certain educated delicacies underneath the volume. Fruit tends towards the black and sun-drenched, with concentrated berries dominating. This is a very summery wine that probably works better in the chill of the winter, with a surprising bit of equilibrium to match. (1/07)

Vinicola de Castilla “Señorio de Guadianeja” 1990 La Mancha Tempranillo “Gran Reserva” (Central Spain) – Old, sweaty oak, malted milk chocolate and rum. This is a big, heavy wine with decent acidity, very drying tannin (which feels like it comes primarily from wood), and an unpleasant finish of wood-derived vanilla and chocolate. A victim of its winemaking. (12/06)

Finca Sandoval 2002 Manchuela “Salia” (Central Spain) – Medium-bodied and smoky, with earth-infused black fruit. Restrained and soft, but quite supple and tasty. A bottle tasted a few weeks earlier was a little more alive and less yielding, though it could be the context. (12/06)

Lopez de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” 1970 Rioja “Gran Reserva” (Center-North) – Wet mildew and sharp red cherry-laced acidity on a bed of spore-ridden late autumn leaves. The finish is strongly reminiscent of bare earth, with a few hungry worms wriggling their way towards the last scraps of food. Is this a positive note, one might be inclined to ask? I don’t have an actual answer to that question. (12/06)

Compañia Vinicola del Norte de España “Cune” 1982 Rioja “Gran Reserva Imperial” (Center-North) – Still very primary, with graphite-textured structure and good acidity supporting raspberry and red cherry fruit. Everything is not only in separate rooms, the rooms are walled off from each other and the doors are bolted. This needs a lot more time. (12/06)

Luzon Verde 2005 Jumilla (Levant) – Big, obvious berries in a soup-like presentation, with some thudding, ponderous subwoofing overwhelming whatever elegance or structure is attempting to emerge. There’s enough earthy baritone that there’s at least a minor chance things will improve with age, but right now this is clumsy and highly unpromising, though it will probably appeal to lovers of wines in this style…of which there is certainly no lack these days. (12/06)

Olivares “Altos de la Hoya” 2003 Jumilla Monastrell (Levant) – Corked. (12/06)

Olivares “Altos de la Hoya” 2003 Jumilla Monastrell (Levant) – Thick and featureless at first uncorking, but eventually unclenching and releasing dark, earth-mother aromatics and sun-roasted blackberry residue. It’s tannic (though not abrasively so), it’s thick (though not sludgy, considering what it is and the vintage), and it’s fairly ponderous…more fun (eventually) to smell than to drink. Still, time will probably help this wine. It couldn’t hurt, anyway. (12/06)

Viña Perdrosa 1996 Ribera del Duero (Castilla & León) – Dill, stale wood and old fruit. Gets slightly better and spicier with air, but ultimately the stewed green herbs and wood dominate. (10/06)

Gancedo “Sestal” 2002 Bierzo Mencia (Northwest Spain) – Balanced, with black and red fruit, aromatic flowers on a bed of rich organic earth, and fine structure. While quite flavorful, this is in no way overwhelming; it’s warm-climate, but it’s balanced and pure. Ageable? Probably…a short while at least. Very nice. (10/06)

Muga 1998 Rioja “Prado Enea Gran Reserva” (Center-North) – Tight, tannic and oak-laden, with obvious fruit (that only emerged after extended aeration) and spiky acidity. By the end of the night, there’s a little more spice to the fruit. Of course this is a wine meant to age, but right now it’s obvious and more than a little clumsy. (10/06)

Faustino VII Rioja (Center-North) – From a blasé list of nondescript mass-market beverages (we’d probably be better-served ordering sangria; I want a rosé, but it’s not available by the glass), this is smooth, plain and utterly ordinary. There’s red fruit. That’s it, and that’s all the descriptor this wine deserves: just red fruit. I may fall asleep from utter boredom. (10/06)

Dos Victorias “Viñas Elias Mora” 2004 Toro (Castilla & León) – A big, doofus-fruit wine full of blackberry, black cherry and blueberry, with walnut-infused tannin adding some structure. The finish is so short as to be almost absent. In other words, while it’s perfectly pleasant for what it is, and good enough for the price, it won’t survive pointed questioning, or even a stern gaze. Drink, don’t think. (10/06)

Barbier “Clos Mogador” 2002 Priorat (Cataluña) – Elegant and plush, with the leather-and-graphite texture of a top Bordeaux, though with brighter acidity and a more mineral-driven aroma. Stones dominate, though there’s a hint of bubblegum (from the garnacha, though it’s important to note that it’s neither unpleasant nor candied in this context), and the elegance turns to graceful strength on the finish. This is one of the small collection of Priorats that I actually like (most are, for me, far too overworked), and it’s a true beauty. (10/06)

Pujanza 2002 Rioja “Norte” (Center-North) – Bright, fruity cherries with untamed, wilder berries lurking in the background. Whatever they’ve done to their French oak, they’ve made it taste profoundly American: coconut, rather than vanilla. Though there’s no dill, which is a good thing. It’s big, boisterous, spicy-hot, and coconut-infused…in other words, it’s zinfandel. That’s not necessarily a criticism, because I do get a good measure of goofy enjoyment from the wine, but it’s a little dismaying nonetheless. (10/06)

San Alejandro “Las Rocas” 2003 Garnacha (Calatayud) – Thick, dense strawberry jam and toasted creosote. It’s “coming together” in its own HGH-enhanced way, and is now almost drinkable. (10/06)

Muga 2002 Rioja Reserva “Selección Especial” (Center-North) – Coconut-infused wood. There’s very little else. Just the wood, and the coconut. (9/06)

Téofilo Reyes 1996 Ribera del Duero (Castilla & León) – Caramel nougat and thick, dark, sticky fruit. It’s not as awful as it sounds, but it’s sludgy and one-note and, ultimately, pretty boring. (8/06)

Lopez de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” 1976 Rioja Gran Reserva “Viña Bosconia” (Center-North) – Dill and smelly feet, with crabapple tartness and a hot finish. (8/06)

Castell del Remei 2001 Costers del Segre “Gotim Bru” (Cataluñya) – Boring, straightforward red and black fruit with blasé, anonymous earth and moderately balanced wood. Textbook red wine…but who wants to drink a textbook? (6/06)

Bodegas Riojanas “Monte Real” 1994 Rioja “Gran Reserva” (Center-North) – Gorgeous, sweet-textured red fruit (cherries and plum juice) and gritty tannin. Pretty…no, make that exquisite. (4/06)

CVNE “Viña Real” 1981 Rioja “Gran Reserva” (Center-North) – Dill and espresso dusted with chocolate powder, beautifully rich vanilla, and baked earth, finishing with a dessert-y dulce de leche character. I am nearly alone at our table in not loving this, but there’s just nothing but wood (and dill-flavored wood at that). (1/06)

Unión Viti-Vinícola “Marqués de Cáceres” 2001 Rioja “Vendimia Seleccionada” (Center-North) – Awful. Horrible. Wretched. Dead and decaying hamster guts slathered will dill-infused chocolate are not what I’d call appealing, except perhaps to vultures and other carrion-eaters. Stay far, far away. (1/06)

San Alejandro “Las Rocas” 2001 Garnacha “Viñas Viejas” (Calatayud) – Insistent strawberry and plum pit with dried roadside tree bark, a warming palate impression, and a decent amount of support and structure. Whether this wine is falling apart or closing down is anyone’s guess at this point, though the emergent heat hints at the former. On the other hand, it is a fairly hot-climate red, and some obvious alcohol isn’t necessarily a reason for anxiety. Plus, with an hour or so of air, the enticing blood and iron aromas that were present in the wine’s youth re-emerge. Still, I’ll probably be drinking most of mine sooner rather than later. (1/06)

J. Girona “Castell del Remey” 1929 “Reserva” (Cataluñya) – The bottle is in shockingly good condition; low neck fill, mushy but otherwise intact cork, a good solid red liquid within. The cork starts disintegrating upon contact with a regular worm-type corkscrew, but a two-pronged tool removes it intact and with little difficulty. At first, there’s just some oxidative fruit remnants and alcohol, but with a little swirling and encouragement the faded core of what must have been a rather gutsy wine emerges for a last, lingering look around. Like the faded remnants of a cool autumn leaf-fall, with subtle urgings of red cherry carried on a dusty breeze, this pulses for a moment, pauses, and then fades finally and decisively away. But even that brief moment of pleasure is a remarkable one. (12/05)

San Alejandro 2001 “Las Rocas” Garnacha “Viñas Viejas” (Calatayud) – Solid, dark and earthy fruit; clean, though the graphite-textured tannin that made this such a brilliant wine on first release is sticking out a bit, and the wine is starting to show the outline of its bones. (11/05)

s w e e t  ,  f o r t i f i e d  &  u n u s u a l

Domecq Amontillado 51-1a (Jerez) – Thick. Feels sweet but tastes dry. What’s unquestionable is that it tastes salty, with drying nut skins and candied almonds in abundance. Warming and long. This is immediately appealing and yet elusive, as if it’s still holding something back. It’s miles above run-of-the-mill Sherry. (5/07)

Toro Albalá “Don PX” 1971 Pedro Ximénez “Gran Reserva” (Montilla-Moriles) – Sultana molasses, hazelnut syrup and awesomely sweet brown sugar, with burnt cinnamon cap mushroom on the finish. Absolutely delicious, though about an eighth of a glass is more than enough. (3/07)

Lustau Tintilla de Rota (Andalucía) – I think I’ve had this wine more often as a party trick (“hee-hee, it’s ‘red Sherry’”) (even though it’s really not) than as an actual beverage, so it’s nice to contemplate it a little more seriously. Candied red fruit – think Christmas cakes of various sorts – with a touch of tannin and a lot of tooth-abrading sweetness. It’s good in very tiny sips, but I wouldn’t want to drink much of it. Perhaps it’s better as a party trick after all. (1/07)

Lustau “Almacenista” Oloroso Sherry “Angel Zamorano” (Andalucía) – Restrained, whole-spice-box dust with concentrated burnt-nut tones and a moderate, but persistent, sweetness. Like oloroso through gauze, almost. It’s lovely and very easy to drink, but at this price I’d expect something a little more striking. Something with a little more verve. (1/07)

El Grifo 2002 Malvasía “Dulce” (Lanzarote) – Pure volatile acidity. Something less than fun went on inside this bottle. (12/06)

Mas Estela Garnatxa de l’Empordà “Estela Solera” (Cataluña) – Sweet roasted nuts and caramelized orange with toffee, burnt coffee, and a thick, heated edge. The finish is watery, and the overall effect is decidedly average. (10/06)

Castilla “Montecristo” Moscatel Dulce (Navarra) – Moroccan spice perfume, peach and mixed citrus candies. Simple but nice. (10/06)

Alvear 2003 Pedro Ximénez (Montilla-Moriles) – Blended chocolate, coffee and prune with raisin-studded plum pie and an endless, sticky finish. Very spicy, with a little apple-toned acidity emerging somewhere in the sugary din. This is to wine as crude oil is to high-octane gasoline. I do like PX, but a little goes a long, long way. (10/06)

Hidalgo “La Gitana” Manzanilla (Jerez) – Salty, dry and balanced, with a pure, lively aspect. Uplifting…and as many have long insisted, a discernable bit better in a fresher, closer-to-the-source state. (10/06)

Valmiñor Licor de Hierbas (Rías Baixas) – An albariño distillate infused with herbs and sweetened…I think with albariño must, but I’m unclear on this point. It’s entirely herbal on the nose, but the palate is dominated by sweet white chocolate. What’s more striking is how it manages to be almost entirely free of heat. It’s very interesting, and were we not pressed for space, I’d probably find a bottle to bring home. (10/06)

Lustau Almacenista Palo Cortado Sherry “Vides” 1/50 (Jerez) – Dark, fire-roasted nuts that consistently suggest sweetness, but never quite achieve it, settling instead for an intense, warming richness. The alcohol is a little more intrusive than normal. (9/06)

Toro Albalá “Don PX” 1971 Pedro Ximénez “Gran Reserva” (Montilla-Moriles) – Prune motor oil that’s still amazingly primary (though I’m led to believe that this isn’t exactly 100% 1971 wine, but rather more of a solera), yet with beauty and elegance as the wine lingers…and lingers, and lingers, and lingers. Old PX is the longest-finishing wine I’ve ever encountered, which I guess means that one should studiously avoid bad examples. Thankfully, this isn’t one. (7/06)

El Grifo 1998 Malvasia Dulce (Lanzarote) – Not as vivid as it was in its youth, but with all sorts of sun-drenched yellow fruit with a slight rounding-off of the edges towards caramelized pineapple. Fun. (5/06)

El Grifo 2002 Malvasía Dulce (Lanzarote) – From 500 ml. Sun-infused sweet golden melon with spiced peach pulp and baked lemon-apple brightness, soaked with concentrated but not overbearing sweetness. Just beautiful. (4/06)

s p i r i t s

Conde de Osborne Brandy de Jerez “Solera Gran Reserva” (Jerez) – Feeling somewhat refreshed by the wine and food, I once again put myself in the staff’s hands, asking for a brandy of some sort. I receive this: simultaneously bitter and rich, with spicy fruit and a keening flor-like note (perhaps just the power of suggestion, perhaps not). Complex and warming. Delicious. (10/06)

r e g i o n s

australia | austria | france | germany | italy | new zealand | other | portugal | south africa | spain | usa |


Copyright © Thor Iverson