Friday, November 13, 2015

"My Spain" A Seminar and Tasting with Karen MacNeil

Author of The Wine Bible, Karen MacNeil, was in Houston this week to share some of her thoughts on the wines of Spain with local wine trade and media at a seminar and tasting held before the Spain's Great Match event. On the panel with Karen were Camarata at Paulie's wine bar owner, David Keck, and wine educator, Mark Rashap of The Iluminated Bottle.


The Tasting:
  1. 2014 Bengoetxe Txakolina, Txakoli de Getaria (SRP $19)- Txakoli, pronounced sha-KO-lee, is from the Basque region in northern Spain and is made from an indigenous grape called Hondarribi Zuri. The wines of the region are typically bone dry and are defined by citrus, a briny minerality and what Karen describes as "a buzz of acidity". This dry white wine made from organically grown grapes had a smoky/savory character that Karen said was more unique to the producer, Bengoetxe, than the region. Fresh and food friendly-perfect with sheep cheeses and Serrano ham, versatile enough for poultry and seafood.
  2. 2014 Fillaboa Albarino, Rias Baixas (SRP $20)- Karen called this one "a complete sensory wine", one that provides pleasure from beginning to end. Aromatic, but not perfumed, with fruity aromas of fresh peach and melon with pineapple flavors, refreshing acidity and a bit of salinity in the lingering finish. This dry, white wine is produced in what is known as Green Spain along the northwestern coastline. David referred to it as "a wine with a Viognier nose and a Riesling palate".  Crisp, pleasant and easy-drinking, it makes a great pairing for coastal cuisine.
  3. 2014 Bodegas Abad Dom Bueno Godello Joven, Bierzo (SRP $15)- Bierzo is located west of Rias Baixas in the rocky mountains of northwestern Spain. This dry white wine is produced from the indigenous thicker-skinned Godello grape variety from a more inland vineyard with heavier clay-based soils giving the wine a rich texture and what Karen calls "the good bitterness" or a slight bitter phenolic character in the finish. Delicate peach and grapefruit aromas and flavors with a stony minerality, a slight autolytic character and a light peppery finish, an excellent wine for heavier vegetarian or poultry dishes 
  4. 2014 Pago de Valdoneje Vinas Viejas, Bierzo (SRP $15)- This dry red wine was made from Mencia grapes from old vines planted in the 1920's. Mencia tends to produce more savory rather than fruity wines. Mark introduced this as "a really groovy wine" which showcases the terroir of the region. Rich and deep with leather and black cherry with grippy tannins and good acidity and a gaminess in the finish. David described it as burly, smoky and oaky with chunky tannins while Karen called it a "mountain structured red". It is big and bold and beckons you back for more.
  5. 2007 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Rioja Riserva (SRP $33)- Karen described this dry, red wine as having "a sweet, langorous, addictively complete beat." A high quality, traditional Rioja with coconut, leather, cherry, earth and spice with a light lingering dill note in the long finish.
  6. 2014 Alvaro Palacios "Camins" Priorat (SRP $22)- The rocky, black granite soils of Priorat support a variety of red grapes such as those used in this blend- Garnacha, Carinena, Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot. David said he likes Priorat wines because they have a sense of place  and you truly taste the soil. He called this wine "aggressive, yet balanced with power and structure." Intense with dark fruit, black pepper and an earthy note, Karen said this wine's allure comes from a "sense of corruption" or "an unspeakable darkness underneath the fruit."
  7. 2010 Numanthia, Toro (SRP $45)- Powerful, structured, intense, tannic and raw; Karen called this "the wine equivalent of Burning Man". The terroir of Toro delivers the more powerful structure to this Tempranillo wine which was then aged almost two years in new French oak. The panel felt this wine had a long life ahead of it and would continue to improve as it became further integrated. 
  8. Gonzalez Byass Apostoles Palo Cortado Sherry (SRP $55 for half-bottle)- A blend of Palomino and Pedro Ximenez, this rare style of Sherry has pronounced caramel and dried fruit aromas with a rich texture and a never-ending finish. Aged for thirty years, Karen said the addition of Pedro Ximenez is what changes the dynamic of this sherry and adds the textural richness. 
As the room grew quiet as many in the room pondered this type of wine for their first time, Karen said, "It's drinking us" and it seemed to be true.

All of the wines are highly recommended and worth seeking out.