I hear the Ghostbusters theme and I check my mobile phone. It's a message from my wife:
-Hi, Mom and Dad say that tonight they're having a barbecue with some friends. Do you want to join them?
In case you didn't know it, I'm the founder, high priest and most devoted follower of a religious cult whose main commandment is: Thou shalt join each and every barbecue you're invited to.
A two-step process immediately begins. First, I proceed to the butcher's to buy some steaks, ribs, pork chops and, of course, lots of good old burgers. Second, I begin to think about the wines that will match best with tonight's carnivore feast. One of the good things about living in Spain is that there is such an abundance of good wines that you always have some new and exciting bottle waiting to be drunk.
Meat and wine, incidentally, share one crucial feature: their red heart. Just picture a melt-in-the-mouth beefsteak with parsley-garlic butter paired with a fruity, opulent Spanish red wine. Let's admit it: life doesn't get much better than that.
At this point, some of you may be thinking: “I wish this guy would stop talking nonsense and talked about what he is paid for: specific wines.”
Fair enough. After all, we're all here for the wine, aren't we? So let's get to the point.
We begin our selection with Románico 2012, a full-blown red made from Tinta de Toro (a sturdy genetic evolution of Tempranillo that might rightly be called Tempranillo 2.0) by the Teso la Monja winery. Practitioners of organic viticulture and followers of the principles of byodinamic farming, which forbid the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, over the last years the people at Teso la Monja have been at the forefront of the Toro DO Renaissance. This Románico 2012 is an ode to fruit, displaying an exuberant nose, with tons of red and black berries, liquorice, menthol and some toasty notes. On the palate, the wine has a tremendous, yet surprisingly gentle structure. Very well balanced, with a tense acidity and delicious tannins that leave a fresh sensation in your mouth. Long finish with an aftertaste of vanilla, ripe fruit and cocoa. Perfect with grilled ribs.
And now for something completely different... Besides being one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean, Majorca also produces some truly interesting wines. Up to this day, though, Majorcan wines have mostly been made from international grapes, thus lacking that ultimate terroir character you expect to find in a truly great wine region. Now the good news: slowly but surely, the island is beginning to discover the potential of its highly distinctive indigenous grapes. Carmesí 2011, by Jaume Puntiró, is a good example of this. A red wine made from organically grown Callet and Mantonegro, both native grapes were handpicked, fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged for 12 months in American oak barrels. Medium-high cherry robe with a crimson rim, Carmesí 2011 displays exuberant aromas of ripe black fruit -cassis, plum and blackberries-, along with some creamy, spicy notes. The palate, however, is quite different. Fresh, precise, crisp and subtle. Ripe tannins, no rough edges and a long finish that brings back subtle ageing notes. A very well crafted wine. Pair it with Angus Beef or Pork Tenderloin.
An old acquaintance: Laya 2013, made by Bodegas Atalaya in the Almansa Designation of Origin, a region in South East Spain. This wine is made from two bold red varieties: Alicante Bouschet (known as Garnacha Tintorera in Spain), and Monastrell (an indigenous Spanish grape better known by its French name, Mourvèdre). After ageing for 4 months in oak barrels, the wine has an almost black colour with blue and purple tinges. On the nose, it is like walking through a Persian market without the Ketèlbey music: spices, flowers, oriental scents and almost any fruit you could name. The palate not only confirms, but enhances those impressions. In short, quite striking for a young red wine. As for the food, why not pair Laya 2013 with a Sirloin steak?
After an old acquaintance, here's a new one. Manga del Brujo 2011 is a wonderful blend of Grenache, Syrah, Tempranillo and Monastrell crafted by the great Norrel Robertson, aka The Flying Scotsman, in the dry, rugged, mountains of Calatayud, a region in the southwest of Aragón, Northern Spain. Some ten years ago, Mr. Robertson, MW, arrived almost by chance to the place many believe to be the historical cradle of the Grenache grape. Since that day, he has been producing increasingly recognized wines. This Manga del Brujo 2011 has a medium-high cherry robe with a ruby rim and displays aromas of wild berries, undergrowth -mushroom and moss-, spices and a hint of cocoa. Smooth and fresh, the palate offers lots of red fruit, toasty notes from the ageing and a solid backbone of acidity. Tannins are slightly rough right now, but this only helps pairing the wine with strong-flavoured dishes like, say, herb roasted lamb chops.
Now let's get back to Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre), the indigenous red grape grown extensively in Southern Spain. Juan Gil 12 meses is made in the Jumilla DO, in the north-east of the Murcia region, by the Juan Gil winery. Coming from more than 40-year-old vines, the grapes were picked by hand, destemmed and cold-soaked. Alcoholic fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks and lasted 25 days, after which the wine was put into French oak barrels. There Juan Gil 12 meses underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged for 12 months. Cherry red with a puple rim, the nose shows spices, eucalyptus and notes of violets. The palate is full of black fruit, along with toffee, cocoa and caramel notes. On the one hand, this wine seems like a distillation of a Sacher cake. Because of its great acidity, though, the wine leaves no trace of sugar in the mouth; instead, it leaves you wanting another glass. An excellent pairing with grilled beef shanks.
We conclude with an old favourite. Sycar 2011 is a blend of Carignan and Syrah made by the Celler Masroig winery in the DO Montsant, right next to the world-renowned Priorat. Aged for 14 months in French (90%) and American (10%) oak barrels, the wine has a high robe with a crimson rim and displays complex aromas of ripe red fruit, vanilla, spices, Mediterranean herbs and, most interestingly, some mineral, black slate or, as locals say, llicorella touches. Smooth and fuity on the palate, Sycar 2011 has great structure and balance, a mouthwatering acidity and some distinctive terroir notes. Great varietal expression of Carignan and Syrah, long finish and crisp, mineral aftertaste. This is a very versatile wine. Try it with steak, lamb or any red meat that you like. An unbeatable value Catalan red.
Six great wines. Which one to choose? Now it's your time to decide.