Sunday, 21 September, 2014

Published February 21, 2014
A sampling of Spain's most iconic wines
Wines by producers Pablo Alvarez, Alvaro Palacios and Peter Sisseck are a good contrast to lighter-bodied Burgundies, says NK YONG
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Tasting notes: Alvaro Palacios (above) presenting his original winery Alvaro Palacios in Priorat and Pablo Alvarez presenting the iconic Bodega Vega Sicilia, among others. - PHOTO: NK YONG

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'THE rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain . . .' Those immortal lines from the musical My Fair Lady came to mind one Sunday in January, when not rain, but wine came down on us from Spain, thanks to three of the country's most famous producers:

  • Pablo Alvarez, presenting not only the iconic Bodega Vega Sicilia, Ribera del Duero, but also Bodega Alion, also in Ribera del Duero; Bodega Pintia in Toro, two other Spanish wineries newly established by him, and Macan, his new joint venture in Rioja with Benjamin Rothschild;
  • Alvaro Palacios, presenting his wines from his original winery Alvaro Palacios in Priorat, Palacios Remondo, the original Palacios family winery in Rioja, and Descendientes des J Palacios in Bierzo;
  • the wines of Peter Sisseck from his original winery Dominio de Pingus in Ribera del Duero, with the debut showing of his new wine, Chateau Rocheyron Grand Cru Saint Emilion!


Flor de Pingus 2010 and 2009

Both Dominio de Pingus and Vega Sicilia sit on a plateau 600 metres above sea-level, thus experiencing a refined continental climate, with wide diurnal temperature differences especially in the summer.

Both vintages are very black red, 2009 darker than 2010. Rich aroma of very ripe fruit and liquorice. Stronger in 2009 with a touch of mint. Dense big wines, very ripe fruit, with taste of liquorice, caramel, mint, dried fruits especially prunes and plums. 2009 is denser.

Pingus 2010 and 2009

Both intensely almost black-red, with 2009 darker. Aromas of very ripe sweet fruit, lots of caramel, liquorice, coffee and good minerality. 2010 is more elegant and super-concentrated, while 2009 is perhaps a touch better balanced.


Alvaro's original winery which he started in Gratallops in the Priorato region, as a member of the Gratallops group led by Rene Barbier.

Gratallops 2011

Eighty per cent Garnacha (Grenache), 20 per cent Carinena (Carignan)

Black-red, lovely but with a faint nose of very ripe fruit; attractive palate of sweet ripe fruit, coffee, pears, soft tannins and good length. A very pleasing wine.

Finca Dofi 2011

Hundred per cent Garnacha.

A more serious wine, from very old vines. Black-red, with a sweet ripe fruit nose, palate of very ripe black berry fruit, chocolate, orange peel, touch of mint, and a long finish with citrusy notes. Very complex.

L'Ermita 2011

Alvaro's flagship wine. Ninety per cent Garnacha, 3 per cent Garnacha Blanca, 7 per cent Samso

A huge wine, black-red, with the aroma of very sweet ripe berry fruit, a very dense concentrated wine with thick texture, touch of mint, and a long finish. Needs another decade!

La Montessa 2011, Palacios Remondo

From the family winery in Alfaro, Rioja, which Alvaro took over on the death of his father a few years ago.

Eighty per cent Garnacha, 18 per cent Tempranillo, 2 per cent Mazuelo.

A soft, very drinkable and likeable wine, good fruit, good length.

Propriedad 2011, Palacios Remondo

Hundred per cent Garnacha.

A more serious wine than Montessa. Darker red, with a light caramel-orange nose, good tannic structure, liquorice and black coffee on the palate. Needs ageing.


Villa de Corullon 2011

Ninety per cent Mencia, 5 per cent white grapes.

Good dense black-red, with a very sweet, ripe berry fruit aroma, coupled with a palate of liquorice and very ripe raisins; very big wine. Good introduction to Alvaro's Bierzo wines!

Las Lamas 2011

A single vineyard wine.

A huge wine that's black-red, with a sweet citrusy and caramel bouquet. Very concentrated, with a very dense sweet palate, liquorice, lightly minty, lightly tannic long finish.

La Faraona 2011

Alvaro's most exclusive wine from Bierzo, which comes from a small plot of vines in the middle of a very steep hill slope of 800 metres elevation.

Black-red with a faint aroma, dense, minerally, very ripe fruit, very precisely defined, a bit of an aristocrat, very long lightly tannic finish. Needs another 10 years.


Pintia 2010, Bodega Pintia, Toro

Pintia is always a most enjoyable and drinkable wine from Vega's Pintia estate in Toro, to the west of the Ribera. Fruity and characterised by good balance and complexity, the 2010 is a worthy example. It has a lovely luscious seductive nose, with a very sweet thick-textured entry, thickly liquorous, but good minerality, with a long smooth finish. An excellent, well-priced easy-drinking wine.

Alion 2010, Bodega Alion, Ribera del Duero

Alion was acquired by the Alvarez family to produce a Ribera wine more in tune with contemporary wine tastes in contrast to the Vega, which continues serenely on the same course it has done since its inception.

This is like the Pintia, very likeable and very drinkable. Black purple, with a caramel butterscotch nose, big wine, cedar and coffee, and liquorice on the palate. Very long and quite aristocratic in style.

Macan 2010, Bodegas Benjamin Rothschild & Vega Sicilia

Hundred per cent Tempranillo.

Very black red, with a very dense black coffee on the palate with a touch of liquorice, cedar and mint. Long smooth finish. A medium-priced wine which should gain many followers. The problem is one would have to wait years for it to be ready to drink.

Valbuena 2010, Vega Sicilia

Ninety per cent Tinto Fino, 10 per cent Merlot.

This is always a most attractive wine, a junior edition of Vega's main wine, the Unico. Black-crimson, with vanilla, tangerine on a seductive bouquet; creamy texture, with orange, caramel and coffee on the palate, and very very long. A beauty.

Unico Gran Reserva 2004, Vega Sicilia

Hundred per cent Tempranillo.

Pablo Alvarez believes this to be the successor to the famous 1970 Unico.

Impenetrably black, with a lovely, seductive and elusive nose, touch of aniseed; concentrated sweet ripe fruit, slightly minty, goes on forever. Unico has never been a block-buster wine. Its hallmark is the suggestion of aristocracy in its bouquet and taste, a reserved nature and complexity being its strengths. This is very young, just been released, and will need another good five or more years to reach full maturity.

Unico Gran Reserva 1994, Vega Sicilia

A great vintage 10 years older than the preceding. A light orangey tint on the nose, a huge concentrated wine, refined and elegant, very complex, very long. Goes on and on. An aristocrat of a wine in its elegance and refinement.

Unico Gran Reserva Especial, NV

(Blend of 1990, 1994 & 1996 vintages of Unico Gran Reserva vintage.)

Beginning to show brown tints in the otherwise deep red. A very very complex wine, with great class, refinement and elegance. A softish palate, very ripe fruit, very refined.

An appropriate finale to this near-monumental tasting of some of Spain's most iconic wines, entertainingly presented by Alvaro Palacios and studiously by Pablo Alvarez. Peter Sisseck unfortunately could not be present and his wines were presented by his great friend Alvaro Palacios.

This third session of the Paulee, which consists of Spanish wines, followed the Saturday's complete day of Burgundy wines. It was designed to act as a counterpoint to the extensive tasting of Burgundies, with the lighter-bodied Burgundies set off by the heavier-textured Spanish. That contrast could not have been more emphatically presented. The white burgundies proved very welcome and refreshing, as well as being in themselves very brilliant.

Disclaimer: I am involved in the distribution of Peter Sisseck's wines