Spanish wines are in the spotlight

March 5, 2012

Spanish wine rarely gets the ink it deserves.  Descendientes de Jose Palacios Petalos Bierzo 2009 falls into that category. Rated from 90-92 points by the majors, WS placed it No. 26 on the best of 2011 list. Bierzo, located in northwest Spain, is known for Mencia, a varietal grape peculiar to the region that thrives in a cool climate, hillside vineyard with mineral-rich soil. When this micro-climate is coupled with low-yield thick gnarly old vines, the resulting wine is often concentrated and complex.

The 2009 is lovely. Best, it can be found priced under $20, when buying a case. Wine dark purple, it opens to a huge bouquet of black cherry, violets, Asian spice, licorice and some cedar. The palate is equally complex, with spicy dark berry flavors riding a medium body provided by a properly integrated tannin/acid/fruit frame. The long finish has hints of oak and a pleasant vinous strength that is cleaned up by the judicious use of acidity. Palacios provides a ton of wine for its price. I’m going to high end of range at 93 points, two for price/value. Drink it now through 2019.

For those who took my advice on Rene Barbier’s Clos Mogador Priorat 2006, now may be time to pull the trigger. True to form, the price of the 95-plus points by everyone on release has fallen back to a reasonable $70, after cresting in the $100-115 range. The 2006 is still opaque purple, suggesting it needs more time. A blend of Grenache, Cab, Carignan and Syrah, treat it like classified Bordeaux; the complex nose is blackberry, toast, spice truffle, black cherry and graphite. On the full-bodied palate, layers of flavors of black fruit, spices, ripe tannins and minerals all ride an appropriate acid frame through a reverberating, but pure, long finish. Although quite a bit was produced, I think prices have bottomed and Mogador 2006 is not to be missed.

Doix Costers de Vinyes Velles Priorats 2004-07 from Mas Doix were rated 97, 98, and 98. These, heavily touted by Parker, immediately escalated into the $120/bottle range. Look for all to pull back in the spring, but not too much, because there is decidedly less production. Around 1,800 cases of each.

Remember Chris Ringland? If you enjoy his wines look for: Jorge Ordonez, 2007 Bodegas Alto Moncayo Veraton, Campo de Borja.  The Alto Moncayo Project is made by one of Australia's best and most influential winemakers: Chris Ringland. This is an in-your-face, blockbuster Grenache, a  typical Ringland  banger that is opaque  violet-colored with aromas of red and dark berries, sandalwood, cut rose and spice. The flavors are equally spicy with concentrated raspberry and blackberry riding a bright minerality and a bit of smoke. Through the finish the acidity cleans up the after notes of spices, licorice and raspberry, spiciness and lingering notes of licorice and red berries; 93 points; pay $24 or less.