Domus Pensi – Terra Alta, Spain

Somehow both fresh and leathery on the nose.  Ripe red and black fruits on the front end, flowing quickly into tannin-laden leather notes and a faint hint of violets.  This is a young one, but a beauty.  All those powerful notes, but still somehow manages to hold a medium body, feeling fresh and clean in the mouth.  It went equally well with heavy Italian sausage as it did with lighter Portuguese seafood paté.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Domus Pensi 2013
  • Winery: Altavins Viticultors SL
  • Region: Terra Alta
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: 45% Cabernet, 30% Garnacha, 15% Syrah, 10% Merlot
  • Price: ~$25
  • Where to Buy: Total Wine

Altosiós 2011 – Costers del Segre, Spain

This one takes a while to open up – it needs to breath a bit.  But once it has, a complex bouquet of roses, cocoa, slate, and faint tobacco notes gets things started.  The opening attack has more acid than expected, with somewhat lemony notes and red fruit.  Not exactly what you would expect from the bouquet, or color of the juice.  The red fruit gives over to an echo of luscious pear and grass, before chewy tannins come in to help deliver raisiny cocoa and hot stone notes (yes, that’s a thing, thank you very much).  This wine was a blind faith purchase from Javi at Vinalium.  There will be more such purchases in the future.  It was gorgeous with fuet and piquillos, and opened up in exactly the way Javi described that it would.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Altosíos
  • Winery: Bodegas Costers del Sió
  • Region: Costers del Segre
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Syrah, Tempranillo, Garnacha
  • Price: 17 Euros
  • Where to Buy: Vinalium, Barcelona

Vinalium, Barcelona, Spain

Go here.  Wine shops are not all created equal, nor are they equally endowed with knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and patient owners that are happy to have an actual exchange about wine, rather than rush to sell you on whatever bottle they are getting margin on at the moment.  I knew I’d found a kindred spirit when we stumbled upon the subject of the prevailing wine rating system – Javi and I shared our mutual disdain for the commercial, silly 100-point system and how certain wine illuminati manage to warp the market with high-ranking reviews of often pedestrian offerings.

Yet I digress.  At Vinalium you will find a focused selection of wines from all regions of Spain, including some commercial favorites, all at friendly prices.  However, it’s in the sections devoted to regional offerings and smaller producers where you’ll find some exciting stuff.  From Cava to Penedés, Empordá to Montsant, Javi and Karen, his American partner and wife (whom I did not get to meet) have your number.  To top it off, they run a thriving online store that will deliver cheaply and quickly in Barcelona, as well as abroad.

So what are you waiting for – go!

Vinalium, Carrer de Casanova 33, 08011, Barcelona, Spain

Perelada Finca Espolla 2011 – Empordá, Spain

The moment you open this beauty, the heady balsamic notes come rolling off the glass, letting you know that you have indeed popped a bottle of Empordá wine.  Blackberries and balsamic do a dance with lower notes of vanilla and chocolate on the nose.  This one hits the front palate hard with black fruits, tarry leather, and floral-laced hit of acid.  Having first experience their wines at a wine festival on the Costa Brava (gracias, PGJ), I actually expected to be bowled over by the tannins.  Not so here.  As the dark fruits give way to cherries, vanilla, and cocoa flavors, balanced tannins come in to help the long, lightly peppery finish, hold its notes.  This one really surprised me in that I expected it to be good, but not a cherry-pepper vanilla cocoa bomb of Catalan love!  I had this with assorted fuet, aged roncal, piquillos, and cherries – and the peppery notes just kept giving.

  • Rating: Stunning
  • Name: Perelada, Finca Espolla 2011
  • Winery: Cavas de Castillo Perelada
  • Region: Empordá
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnatxa
  • Price: 15 Euros
  • Where to Buy: Barcelona wine shops

Tamaral Roble 2013 – Ribera del Duero, Spain

Fresh blackberry and currant on the nose, with faint nutmeg spice.  Violets and dark berries, laced with a faint strain of vanilla come together to finish with a solid, abrupt tannin finish.  A chewiness, with peppercorns and aromatic herbs, lingers after the finish.  A nifty little wine, well balanced and nimble, how a Mazda Miata might compare to a Ferrari.

  • Rating: Everyday Red
  • Name: Tamaral Roble 2013
  • Winery: Bodegas y Viñedos Tamaral
  • Region: Ribera del Duero
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Tempranillo
  • Price: $17
  • Where to Buy: Calvert Woodley Wines & Spirits

Bula 2013 – Montsant, Spain

IMG_3786Mazuelo, Garnacha, and Syrah. A powerful iteration of the Montsant DO. It comes on strong with bursting black fruit, currant, rose petals, and leather flavors and a full mouthfeel. The tannins are slighter than most Catalan wines, but present enough to provide some structure. Strawberry and flint notes on the nose are subtle, with everything stretching out into a nice, warm peppery finish. This is a great Everyday Red at $13-16 at your local Whole Foods.

  • Rating: Everyday Red
  • Name: Bula 2013
  • Winery: Aviva Vino
  • Region: Montsant
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Mazuelo, Garnacha, and Syrah
  • Price: $13-$16
  • Where to Buy: Whole Foods, Washington D.C.

Menut 2013 – Priorat, Spain

img_3648Chocolate, cherry, and raspberry on the nose. Cocoa and tart berry pie flavors and tight, tannic mouthfeel. This is a big beast of a wine. Gorgeous and effervescent (figuratively, not literally). Musty leather and tobacco come together with muscular tannins to make a full body that’s better when slightly warmer than I normally drink a red – right at 70-72 Fahrenheit. Goes great with just about anything, but particularly robust and rich Spanish hams or paella. I picked this one up at Astor in SoHo NYC for around $20-24, and will do so again.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Menut 2013
  • Winery: Clos Martinet
  • Region: Priorat
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Grenache and Merlot
  • Price: $20-$24
  • Where to Buy: Astor Wines & Spirits*, 399 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10003

*The 2013 isn’t available online, but the 2014 can be purchased via this link.

Castillo de Anna Gran Reserva 2005 – Valencia, Spain

This has all the hallmarks of a classic Spanish wine: flowers and red fruit on the nose, dark, chocolaty, leathery, and mossy notes with tight tannins on the finish. For whatever reason – perhaps in the traditional style – the bottle tells nothing about the varietals. I picked this one up at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill in DC for $15.

  • Rating: Everyday Reds
  • Name: Gran Reserva 2005
  • Winery: Castillo de Anna
  • Region: Valencia
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: N/A
  • Price: $15
  • Where to Buy: Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, 300 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002

Coma Vella 2010 – Priorat, Spain

The nose bursts into a froth of red fruits, violets, white pepper, and freshly hewn wood. This is a deep ruby-garnet, medium to light bodied beauty. Not exactly what I’d come to expect from Priorat. The typically Catalan tannins put a muscular structure on what would otherwise be a light bodied day-drinker. Strawberries, blackberries, and membrillo play on the palate with a faint cocoa-melting-to-slate tannin finish. As she opens up, the body deepens and becomes more powerful, with flavors of cassis, chewy cocoa, pepper, and faint vanilla come on. At 15%, and with plenty of acid, she’s got a kick to her that accentuates and stiffens the spine of the tannin. Very interesting Priorat estate bottling. I picked this up as a recommendation at Goñi Ardoteka in San Sebastián, Spain. Just over 43,500 bottles made. This was bottle No. 03983. Online research says that you can grab a bottle for $30-50.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Coma Vella 2010
  • Winery: Viticultors Mas d’en Gil
  • Region: Priorat
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: N/A
  • Price: $30-$50
  • Where to Buy: Goñi Ardoteka in San Sebastián, Spain

Abadal 3.9 2009 – Pla de Bages, Spain

IMG_0012A powerful nose of baked berry pie, leather, crushed flowers with a hint of jasmine at the end. Some strawberry notes develop as it sits open in the decanter. A really amazing bouquet worth lingering on. Chewy leather, cocoa, and dark red fruit at the front end with a powerful, typically Catalan, tannic finish with stone and slate. This is a fascinating and powerful expression of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. About 30-45 minutes after decanting the nose shifted to a strong maple note – sheer stunner. Truly a roller-coaster; it opens, concentrates, opens again. A deep black garnet color. Cherry popsicle near the end. Yes, I said cherry popsicle. Melted. Cherry. Popsicle. I picked this up in Barcelona on Patricia’s recommendation. Damn glad I did. Wine Searcher can’t seem to find a bottle in the U.S.

  • Rating: Stunning
  • Name: Abadal 3.9 2009
  • Winery: Bodegas Abadal 
  • Region: Pla de Bages
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah
  • Price: $25
  • Where to Buy: N/A