I knew it was going to be a good seminar when I could see the line-up of attendees curling around the corner of the hallway at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Saturday, March 3rd, 2018. People approached the front table asking, “is that the line-up to get in?” Yes, yes it was.
Folks eagerly awaited the doors to swing open, signalling their chance to run for seats; and did they! As I headed to the designated media area, and before I could even sit down, elderly ladies were flinging purses in hot pursuit of those precious front row seats in front of Spanish winemakers, proprietors, and other influentials. I was stunned.
But one thing is true when it comes to passion; nothing really will stop you from getting what you want. And people wanted to know more about Spain’s Blockbusters.
We weren’t about to taste those value-driven wines that most of us are familiar with in our market. No, we were about to embark on a palate journey unlike any other. The average bottle price leaned into the not-your-everyday-wine territory of $76.00, so blockbusters it was.
Rhys Pender, Master of Wine (MW), moderated the panel as we embarked on our tasting. Pender’s opening remarks taught us about Spain as a wine growing region, and he talked about diversity. A key point: Spain’s wines are “effected by the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Oceans” which varies not only grape-growing conditions, but also terroir. Pender labeled Spain as “an exciting country”.
Excitedly, Pender noted that there are many new, small wine regions emerging in Spain. “Other regions are starting to pop up on the map,” Pender stated, “And old regions are coming back into prominence.”
Before introducing the first speaker, Pender wanted us to know that we were in for a ride, and that Spain’s blockbusters are “intense wines with history”.
A few glorious white wines began our journey. The Arinzano Gran Vino White was first up to bat, and Manuel Louzada said this 100% Chardonnay-based wine is “as sexy and exciting as Chardonnay can be”. Not floating on the “ABC” boat, I quite enjoyed this Chardonnay. It was a pleasure to taste this full-bodied, apple & sweet spice-driven wine for $89.99/btl.
The Baron de Chirel Verdejo was highly likeable with its intense, fresh fruit notes. Jose Luis Muguiro Jr. communicated that this Verdejo was made from 100 year old vines. A second delicious white wine.
We quickly went into red wine territory. Darrell Jones, representing Anciano, brought the 35 Year Old Vines Garnacha. This was a fun, red wine that did not see any oak. It was juicy and fresh. Jones’ main message was told through a unique simile. “Unlike us humans, with old vines, you get juicier fruit and more intensity.”
One of my favourite wineries at the festival was Bodegas Faustino from Rioja. Carmen Oros, winemaker and the only the only female on the panel, eloquently spoke of the family’s winery created in 1861. “The property is 100% in the family,” she stated, and this 2005 vintage wine is, “A nice example of the Gran Reserva tradition in Rioja.” During the festival itself, I brought a number of people to the Faustino booth, so that they could try the red & black fruit driven wine which also had notes of smoked salt and black raspberry. A savoury finish followed. At $39.99/btl, this is a steal.
CVNE‘s Tony Batet presented his 2010 Imperial Gran Reserva with pride. Made from a blend of Tempranillo, Graciano, and Mazuelo, this particular wine is only created in the best vintages, and it was a pleasure to experience the jammy notes with a micro white pepper finish.
The Baron de Chirel red made from 70% Tempranillo was a firmly grounded red with grippy tannin. Dark plum and spice dominated the scene with some rose and cola notes peaking through.
The seventh wine on the list was a gorgeous red from Muriel Wines. This 2015 Rioja named “Conde de los Andes” was fruit-driven and savoury all at the same time. Grilled herbs and raspberry made me want another taste. And as if I wasn’t already swooning, the 100% Tempranillo-based wine from Cooperativa San Pedro Regalado out of the Ribera del Duero region called Llano de Elena caught my attention with its spicy & savoury notes and red berry influence behind the toastiness from the oaking program. Rhys Pender, post-tasting of this wine, called the Ribera del Duero “a pretty extreme region”, and Javier Delgado-Aurteneche educated us on how intense the diurnal swing is for their vineyards.
Miguel Gill, representing Bodegas Tridente, brought the Rejon 2014 for us to try. This Tempranillo-based wine is made from 130 year old vines, and Gill informed us of its “low production” status. This wine is “quite different to drink very young”.
Moving into Monastrell-based wines, we listened as Daniel Castaño explained how “well adapted to a […] really dry climate” this grape is. The Familia Castaño 2014 “Casa Cisca” from Yecla at $58.99/btl exuded a mix of red and black fruits, black pepper, and a beautiful smokiness.
The final two wines were a mix of the bold and beautiful with a focus on blended reds from Jumilla and Priorat, respectively. The “El Nido” from Bodegas Juan Gil danced over my palate with notes of everything from cherry cola to black tea to plum and fennel. It was an absolute dream wine. According to Loren Gil, the grapes are “hand harvested and then a manual selection of grapes” is done. Great care is taken with this wine, and might be one of the reasons why the price point is at $185.00/btl. The Gratavinum GV5 Priorat, an organic and biodynamic wine, brought terroir to the table, with notes of graphite and spice, and the finish was focused on the tannin which showed an essence of cinnamon. This was a bold wine made from Cariñena, Garnacha, and Cabernet Sauvignon. $88.99/btl.
After only a mere few hours, I felt as though I had traveled through Spain in a mere few sips. The brilliance of these Spanish wines reflect the intensity of passion in the producers, the heartbeat of the land, and the kind of celebration that wine can truly offer the world. Until next time…
Special thanks to all of the organizers, volunteers, panelists, and moderator Rhys Pender for an amazing educational session!
For more information about the wine festival, visit www.vanwinefest.ca.