From Spain to France
Simon tasting our lovely reds this week
Our three reds this week remind me of a time when I was traveling through Europe with a friend. At 18 years of age it was a somewhat daunting trip, but a fun one. We had arrived in the coastal town of San Sebastian and, after failing to find an accommodation that didn’t cost us half our budgets, we decided to camp in our tents outside of town. After making the trek back we were ready to experience the nightlife and famous tapas.
The night was off to a grand start when all of a sudden we heard shouting to our left. Upon closer inspection, our immediate sense of alert subsided when we saw where the shouts were coming from. A group of enthusiastic Australians were banging a bottle of wine inside of a shoe against a wall, frantically trying to get to the liquid inside. About 5 or 6 people were involved in the process. Some physically, some shouting for moral support. I didn’t know this at the time, but apparently if you find yourself without a corkscrew, using a shoe to protect the glass and then banging the wine against a hard surface seems to do the trick. As skeptical as I was, low and behold, five minutes later they emerged victorious and were ready to savor the sweet nectar inside. We all cheered for them and moved on with our night. As entertaining as it was, I don’t recommend you do this unless you have absolutely no other choice.
Our first red this week comes to us from just a few hundred kilometers south of San Sebastian.
Bodegas Frontonio Telescopico Garnacha 2017 ($29)
A very unique wine from a property that is as far from mainstream as it gets. Winemaker Fernando Mora and his two partners craft beautiful Garnacha-based wines in their garage-style winery in the little known region of Valdejalón north of Calatayud. The three partners intentionally sought out this region for its immense potential. The loose soils, low rainfall, large diurnal temperature changes, and overall Mediterranean climate make this a hotbed for pure, elegant wines. Their 2017 Garnacha is full of strawberries, red currant, raspberries, hints of nutmeg and vanilla, and faint blueberries. It is a wine of great structural elegance with a focused core, and rich character. A treat of a glass whose producers are starting to receive high praise from much of the wine world.
Over to the Northwestern part of Spain we go for our next wine,
Casal de Arman Ribeiro 2016 ($25)
This red comes to us from the Ribeiro region in Galicia. Another great region for wine production, as the cooling influence from the Atlantic Ocean ensures the ripening process slows at night and therefore fresh acidity is retained. Warm, dry days promote concentrated fruit development leading to very balanced, fresh, and complex wines. The Gonzalez family has been making wines in Ribeiro since the 19th century. Their Casal de Arman property is particularly stunning with its terraced vineyards on the banks of the Avia river. This red from 2016 is a blend of three indigenous grapes (Sausón, Caiño Longo, Brancellao) and is just lovely. Deep notes of dark cherry and blueberries with a wild, bright, lively character and a crisp, refreshing element coming from the Atlantic influence.
Christophe Pichon Saint Joseph 2019 ($33)
Up to the Northern Rhône in France we go for our last wine where the Pichon estate is now in the hands of the family’s third generation. The estate owns 16 hectares of vines across four regions of the Northern Rhône (Côte Rôtie, Condrieu, Cornas and St. Joseph), the latter from which our wine this week is born. This is a great example of elegant Syrah with all of its peppery goodness. Saint Joseph as an appellation is known for a slightly more pronounced pepper aspect coming through in the wines. This one is no different with its great notes of smoke, white pepper, dark fruits and a purity that makes this so drinkable. A wine that will keep you warm in these winter months, and the perfect companion for a roast pork!