The Oxford Dictionary defines “Rare bird” as “an exceptional person or thing; a rarity.” Knowing that the world of wine is full of such remarkable and evasive creatures, I thought it would be a good idea to try to spot some of them.
So, today I am going to talk about my favourite rare birds, i.e, uncommon wines. Whether made from long-forgotten and only recently recuperated grape varieties, or whether vinified in a peculiar manner, all of them share one feature: they are shamelessly idiosyncratic wines.
Speaking of old grape varieties and singular techniques, one thing comes to my mind. How many of them have been lost forever? That is, how many amazing grapes have been neglected and abandoned because of the changing tides in the wine industry? How many ancestral, unconventional winemaking techniques have been lost in the name of progress?
We all know how it goes. A new wine trend starts, grows, receives the blessings of a wine guru, becames talk of the town, ultimately reigns supreme and, as a consequence, after short span everybody in the business is doing more or less the same thing. Desperate to stay in vogue, many producers abandon their traditional winemaking methods and overlook their own countries' native grapes. This is how, in the exhausting process of always keeping up with the latest market trends, something magical is lost. Sadly, this phenomenon has happened and still happens pretty much everywhere -Spain, of course, being no exception to the rule.
Curious, isn't it? So, what if we were the rare birds, not paying enough attention to the richness of our world and always too ready to exchange a biological and cultural heritage of inestimable value for the latest wine fashion? Isn't that a true rarity, and not a very charming one for that matter?
I don't have an answer to that question. I was just thinking aloud...
Here, then, is my selection of six truly singular wines. I hope that you'll enjoy them as much as we did. Maybe, who knows, one of this rare birds will turn before your very eyes into an unexpected bird of paradise.
We begin with a Rosé wine, Pago del Vicario Petit Verdot 2013. A native to Bordeaux, Petit Verdot has found a new home in Spain, as the grape needs lots of sun and heat to fully ripen. Still quite unknown, this Vintage Rosé by Pago del Vicario was macerated for 8 hours and fermented in stainless steel tanks at a low temperature. Fresh and fun, the wine has a clean, low cherry robe with a violet rim. The nose is full of candies, tropical fruits and exotic spices. Tight and crisp on the palate, Pago del Vicario Petit Verdot 2013 displays notes of passion fruit, pineapple and pomegranate along with balsamic notes and hints of spices. Well balanced acidity, long finish and an aftertaste of strawberry milk candy.
Now a surprising white. García Viadero Albillo 2013, by Bodegas Valduero, is made from Albillo, an indigenous, little-known, scarcely cultivated white grape from Castilla y León. Coming from a 10 hectares estate at an altitude of 900 metres above sea level, the grapes were brought to the cellar and cold-soaked at a temperature of 4ºC. Gently crushed, the wine juice was then fermented at a temperature of 19ºC for two weeks. Not filtered prior to bottling, García Viadero Albillo 2013 has a pale straw colour with green tinges. Slightly hazy and fizzy, this Albillo has a tremendously expressive nose, with notes of green apples, white flowers, jasmine, lemon and shaddock peels, fresh-cut grass and even some buttery touches. Full, vibrant palate that shows citrus notes of lemon and shaddock, along with ripe pineapple, pears and pastry cream remembrances. Significant acidity, medium-long finish and a lemony aftertaste. Chapeau!
Even more surprising, Cristiari Blanc 2013 is a white wine made from the extremely rare varieties, -as far as Spain is concerned-, Müller Thurgau and White Pinot Noir. Crafted by the Vall de Baldomar winery at the Costers del Segre DO, the grapes were delicately pressed and only 60% of the resulting juice was used to produce this wine. Racked by gravity and fermented at a temperature of 16ºC, the wine has a straw yellow colour with golden nuances. Lightly fuzzy, the nose displays white flowers and fruits, leaving a fresh citrus sensation. If we move the glass, we find aromas of fresh herbs and tropical fruits. The palate of this white wine is light and crisp, with notes of stone fruit, watermelon and passion fruit, all framed by a lively acidity. Very clean on the mouth, its aftertaste leaves some dry and bitter notes. A wine in white satin.
Colet Vatua!, by Caves Colet, is a sparkling wine made in the Penedès DO following the traditional method (from now on, incidentally, the sparkling wines produced in that region of Catalonia will bear the name Classic Penedès). This Vatua! is made from a unique blend of Muscat of Alexandria, Parellada and Gewürztraminer and was aged for 18 months in the bottle. The wine has a pale straw colour with golden tinges and a constant stream of very little bubbles. On the nose we find notes of dried fruit, bread crusts, brioche and even some brine. Fresh, wide and dry on the palate, with flavours of ripe pineapple, some floral hints and, again, some dry fruit. The sparkler Vatua! has a serious demeanor and a bold structure. Optimal acidity, long finish and fruity aftertaste. Good job guys!
Now let's travel to Andalusia, more than 1000 kilometers south of Catalonia. La Encina del Inglés Blanco 2013 is a rare bird from the Mountains of Málaga whose name is an hommage to the 18th and 19th century British travellers that visited the region as part of the Grand Tour. Crafted by the Finca La Melonera winery, this white is a blend of three local grapes: Moscatel Morisco (White Muscat with little berries), Doradilla (aka Palomino) and Pedro Ximénez. It has a clean, bright, pale yellow colour with a golden hue at the rim. The nose is somewhat restrained, with hints of white fruit, exotic spices and white flowers. On the other hand, the palate is refreshing, young and full of citrus notes. The acidity is quite dominant at this point, so maybe some months in the bottle will do the wine good. Anyway, an interesting, worth following project by Finca La Melonera.
Our last choice is a red. Sers Singular 2012 is a varietal wine entirely made from Parraleta in Somontano, Aragón, a region in northern Spain. Never heard of Parraleta? Ok, we must confess that we hadn't heard of it either until we tasted this wine. Crafted by the Sers winery, only 4500 bottles were made of this Singular 2012, all of them aged for 5 months in new oak barrels. This enigmatic red wine has a dense, high ruby robe with a brick-red hue at the rim. It shows aromas of vanilla, toffee, red fruit and also a panoply of balsamic and spicy notes like black pepper and liquorice. The palate is full of red fruit, with hints of balsam and cedar and an earthy sensation that connects you the land. Long and refreshing thanks to its pronounced acidity and savoury tannins, the wine leaves an aftertaste of forest fruits over a mineral background. In short, Sers Singular 2012 is an expression of terroir.
Six confidential, off-the-beaten-path wines for adventurous wine drinkers.
Which one to choose? Now it's your time to decide.