Wine, who doesn’t love wine. Wine is dinner with friends talking your hearts out, lunch at the family table solving the world, or the perfect companion at the end of a long, long day. I’m Argentine, so I know my basics, I like my Malbecs and Cavs, red is for meat, white is for fish. But to be honest, wine is also that mysterious and tempting stranger hard to figure out; so when I attended my first wine tasting, I was both excited and nervous.
The second Mouth Full of Words featured the Spanish winery La Rioja Alta S.A. Maria Saénz de Santa María was our guide into the marvelous world of Spanish wine. Twenty persons, some connoisseurs, some newbies, eight bottles of wine; the perfect setup.
We started the night with Lagar de Cervera, an Albariño wine from Galicia (Spain). Then Maria asked the feared question, “Does any one want to share what did the flavor reminded you?” Silence fell on the table, for a minute I felt like in school, “Don’t pick me! Don’t pick me!” A valiant hand rose at the other end of the table, “It tasted like mangos, and oranges.” “Exactly!” confirmed Maria, “Of course, mango and orange,” we concurred. As she explained the origins of the bodega, the particularities of the region, the tradition in its making, Maria also assured us that wine tasting is about stopping to think about the flavor, relating it to memories. “Each wine has a personality,” she said. “Stop and think,” I reminded myself. “Lagar… she would be bright, citrusy, fresh,” I wrote on my notes.
The second guest was Áster, a tempranillo dandy from Ribera del Duero (Castilla-León, Spain) that would make an entrance wherever he goes. As we tasted the wine, María explained us the differences between Vino Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva, about the color and the ageing on the barrels and bottles. We all felt more confident about our comments: youthful, charismatic, potent, balsamic, berries. “I bet, Áster would have the wicked smile of those who know who they are, and what they are capable of…” I jotted down.
The third appearance was Torre de Oña, a firm blend of tempranillo and mazuelo from the Rioja Alavesa region (Spain). American and French oaks contribute to its balanced taste. María detailed the importance of the wood and the barrel making in the wine making process. La Rioja Alta takes great care in following traditional methods like grape reaping and barrel making by hand. Julio Saenz, the Master Wine Maker, decides percentages, mixes, timing, and even sometimes chooses not to produce a vintage just to assure the best quality in every bottle they serve. You can taste that care. Torre the Oña: elegant, modern, easy going, darker yet polished. “He would listen to you, and tell you everything is going to be alright. Goes well with grilled meat,” noted.
As the evening progressed, delicious Spanish cheeses and charcuterie were served to accompany the wines. Smiles, conversation and laughter also increased, by the time our fourth guest arrived, we have found more than one similarity with our neighbors. Viña Alberdi, a tempranillo reserva from La Rioja Alta (Spain), made an appearance, intense but comforting flavor, some strawberry hints… a classic. This is the one that brings everybody together to the table, affable, familiar yet rich. “The one you call and will always make you laugh… long nights solving the world and dreaming away, a celebration wine,” period.
With the last glass, came the goodbyes, warm smiles to wine lovers/apprentices companions. Big thanks to the hosts and guide for kindling a new appreciation for the wine making process, sparking huge curiosity about the wine world, and a future trip to Spain… in all, a wonderful experience that keeps you wondering for the next one.
These fabulous wines can be found at some local stores: Whole Foods, Goody Goody, Kroger and Cork. Ask for them, you won’t regret it… Salud!