Tag Archives: Verdejo

Codorniu Raventos

Rioja vs Ribera del Duero: A Tale of Two Tempranillos

Can you taste the difference between Tempranillo from Rioja and Ribera del Duero in a blind tasting?

The question was posed to a group of wine professionals last week. We had gathered at St. Cecilia in Buckhead for a lunch and tasting with two Spanish winemakers: Diego Pinilla of Bodegas Bilbainas in Rioja and Jorge Bombin of Legaris in Ribera del Duero. The wineries are part of the Codorníu Raventós group.

Both winemakers offered a glass of what they felt was the characteristic Tempranillo of their region. They then offered a brief history of their winery and how the location affects the Tempranillo grape, to assist us in guessing each wine.

Spain wine mapBodegas Bilbainas is located in the city of Haro in Rioja Alta (within the darker shaded portion in orange on the map). It was established in 1901, and was the first bottler in Rioja. With the Atlantic Ocean 100 miles to the north, the vineyards are influenced by the Atlantic climate. Clay soils give the vines water little by little, and mountains protect the vineyards from getting too cold.

Legaris is located along the Duero River in the Ribera del Duero region (within the darker shaded portion in yellow). It was established in 1999, bringing together tradition and innovation. The vineyards are planted at an average elevation of 2800 feet, and are influenced by a harsh continental climate with hot summers and low rainfall. Pebble soils reflect the sunlight back towards the vines.

Based on the terroir and growing conditions, Tempranillo from Rioja is typically higher in acidity with floral and red fruit notes. Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero is typically higher in alcohol content with black fruit notes.

Then it was time for the blind tasting. After knowing what differences to look for in the wines – acidity, alcohol and fruit – it was clear that the wine on our left was from Rioja, and the wine on the right was from Ribera del Duero.

The wines were revealed: Viña Pomal 2010 Reserva from Bodegas Bilbainas and Legaris 2011 Crianza.

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Organic Wines for Less than $20

Organic wines can be confusing.  Some are labeled organic while others are not, and the definition of what makes a wine organic can vary among winemaking countries.

In general, organic wines are made from grapes that are free of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers, and they don’t have added sulfites.  Most wines have a small amount of sulfites as a byproduct of fermentation, though additional sulfites are often used to preserve the wine.

For a wine to be certified organic in the United States it must be made from organically grown grapes, contain no added sulfites, and have information about the certifying agency.  If a wine does not have the USDA seal but indicates it is made with organic grapes or organically grown grapes, it can include added sulfites.  In other countries with organic regulations, organic wines must meet the standards set by a government agency.

Further complicating the concept of green wines are the terms “sustainable” and “biodynamic.”  Sustainable winemaking attempts to lessen the carbon footprint of the vineyard.  Instead of man-made chemicals, growers use natural fertilizers and cultivate plants that attract animals and insects that are beneficial to the vines.

Biodynamic winemaking incorporates the concept of organic farming with a broader worldview.  A biodynamic vineyard is thought of as a living system that is closed and self-sustaining.  Many things are done by hand, including harvesting grapes or plowing the vineyard (sometimes horses are used), and winemakers only use indigenous yeasts.  Throughout the year growers will treat the soil to enhance its life.

The best way to tell if a wine is organic is to read the label.  Or you can save yourself the trouble and look for one of these great tasting green wines:

2008 Familia Zuccardi Santa Julia Organica Torrontés ($11)
Organic
Malbec is to red wine in Argentina as Torrontés is to white wine there.  This wine is floral and crisp, with an explosive bouquet of rose, orange peel, lime, white peaches and aromatic herbs followed by ripe flavors of citrus, peaches and a spicy finish.

2008 Leth Grüner Veltliner ($17)
Organic
This lush white from Austria has ripe peach and buttery apple flavors with a long spicy and creamy finish.  A slight effervescence makes this a fun wine to drink.  Like most Grüner Veltliner, this is a very versatile wine and can pair with seafood, shellfish, spicy dishes and Asian cuisine.

2008 Aguaza Sol-E-Cic-O Almansa ($12)
Sustainable
This is a white blend of 50% Monastrell, 25% Verdejo and 25% Sauvignon Blanc.  It’s intensely silky with notes of green pears, banana, ripe lime and a hint of spice from the Monastrell.  It’s a perfect wine for a sunny afternoon.

2005 Old River Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon ($18)
Organic
This is a medium-bodied blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon and 24% Cabernet Franc from California’s Mendocino County.  Smooth and well-balanced, this red has compelling aromas of dark fruits and earth.  Flavors of cherry, plum and strawberry are enhanced with a hint of vanilla from 8 months in new French oak.

2007 Finca Luzon Verde ($9)
Organic
This red wine is made from 100% organic Monastrell grapes.  For a wine that costs less than $10 it has quite a big taste.  It’s a bold and peppery red from the Jumilla region in southern Spain, bursting with black currant, spice, smoke and vanilla.

2007 Paolo Scavino Rosso Vino da Tavola ($18)
Organic
This Italian red is 40% Nebbiolo, 25% Barbera, 25% Dolcetto and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Aromas of currant, cherry, mocha, pepper and smoke introduce a concentrated flavor of red berries and black pepper.  Good acidity and smooth tannins lead to a ripe finish.

2006 Jorge Ordoñez Muscatel Malaga Seleccion Especial #1 ($17)
Sustainable
This dessert wine is sweet without being syrupy, with flavors of honey, jasmine and tropical fruits balanced out by a lively acidity.  375ml

I tasted these wines at the Organic Wine Party: Green Wine Demystified at the Chelsea Wine Vault, part of the New York City Wine & Food Festival.  All the wines can be purchased at Chelsea Wine Vault or ordered online at chelseawinevault.com.