Descendientes de J. Palacios, Petalos del Bierzo, 2004
Wine rambling-wise, Spain has not been among my preferred hunting grounds. As with Italy, I've not yet figured out what makes it tick as a wine country, and some of the more stream-lined reds I've tried have not encouraged me to invest more energy. Which is my loss, as afficionados and Spain experts will be quick - and correct - to point out. A notable exception over the last few years has been this red that Alvaro Palacios (of Priorato fame) makes from the Mencia grape in the little known northern Spanish region of Bierzo. This was the last of three bottles, and none of them failed to satisfy. So here's making it up to Spain:
Let's start with the colour, which indicates some maturity, with some brick red shining through on the edges. Even while you're examining it, the nose hits you with a stew of vegetables, among which red beets are the most prominent. It makes sense that the mencia grape is closely associated - by some even seen as identical with - Cabernet Franc. Vegetables also dominate the palate at will, together with a surprisingly slender body and still present tannins.
This has precious little to do with the musclebound, oaky reds that have made Spain's reputation as Europe's Australia. Instead, I'm pleased to report that this vegetal and mineral red belongs with the wild Cabernet Francs of the Loire and the spicy Blaufränkischs of Austria, among the pack of leaner, meaner wines.
A food wine, surely, and a more than competent match for Osso Bucco a la milanese.
Well, I have a few potentially very exciting Spanish reds here, but I will admit I have recently let Spain drop of the radar a little. Maybe this will make a good new year's resolution for 2011...