March 23, 2005

Spanish Wine

I belong to a wine club that meets monthly, and has done so for (as of next month) eight years. I know that for some people the words "wine club" will cause their eyes to roll back in their heads and conjure images of delicate, mincing sips of wine followed by face-making and spitting, or words like "well-rounded" or "full-bodied" that the uninitiated suspect would better refer to the backsides of those indulging.

This is because they've only experienced uber-formal wine tastings as some sort of prestige / social climbing event where people attempt to impress each other. It can be hard to convince folks that we

a) don't spit out the wine unless it's amazingly bad; and

b) are more likely to describe a bad wine as tasting like the floorboards of a '69 Cadillac hearse than more rarified language.

Still, despite that, we occasionally get new members, and sometimes they aren't scared right off by our rambunctious behaviour and casual approach. We're certainly not a club for the faint of heart or delicate sensibilities.

Last night was a long-overdue revisit of Spanish wines, and we fared rather well. All seven of the wines were at least drinkable, and five of these got good marks from most of the participants. This time were were not only limiting our intake to Spain as a region, but specifically the red wines of Spain. The clear winner of the evening, with almost universal approbation, was the 2000 Bodegas Estefania "Tilenus" from Bierzo, Spain, at $30.99. The lowest rating was probably the 2003 Bodegas Solano "Fandango" Tempranillo from Utiel-Requena, Spain at $9.95. It wasn't a bad wine, although a little sour. I wouldn't be sad to have a glass handed to me at a party, for example, but it's not good enough to make me want to buy it. There was a good range in quality between those two, including a wine that was quite a bit pricier than the Tilenus.

Something that set the Tilenus apart and made it particularly interesting on paper was that it is made entirely from a grape called "Mencia" which is indigenous to Spain and, to my knowledge, has not been cultivated commercially anywhere else.

There has been a sudden increase in the number of Spanish wines available in British Columbia LD stores lately, and all the wines that we tasted last night are listed as new arrivals that are available on a temporary basis. Perhaps some of the better ones will be picked up by the increasing number of wine shops that have opened recently, but certainly - if you like Spanish wine, now's the time to stock your cellar.

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