TN: A large Ribeira Sacra / Mencía tasting (plus a random bunch of other wines)

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Otto Forsberg
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TN: A large Ribeira Sacra / Mencía tasting (plus a random bunch of other wines)

#1 Post by Otto Forsberg »

Our last tasting of the crazy 2020 was on the reds of Ribeira Sacra with a couple of Veronica Ortega Mencías from Bierzo.

While Mencía is one of the great Spanish red varieties (at least in my books) and Bierzo seems to get a fair share of love for Spanish reds, I've never been particularly fond of Bierzo reds: to me, Mencía seems like an Iberian cousin of Pinot Noir, i.e. a delicate red variety that performs best in relatively cool climates. However, on my palate many Bierzo wines feel like the producers are trying to make Mencía into something it doesn't excel in: bold, concentrated and often quite extracted wines that might feel light and delicate if compared to the massive wines of neighboring Toro and Ribera del Duero, but otherwise rather blocky and clumsy if compared to how fresh and delicate wines Mencía can produce in right hands.

In this tasting it was possible taste the difference in ripeness between many of the Ribeira Sacra wines we had and the Ortega wines, the Ortega wines were nevertheless remarkably fresh, precise and hands-down gorgeous for Bierzo wines. I know Ortega is not the only producer making Mencía in this style in Bierzo, but this kind of pure and precise is all too rare there and I wish the overall Bierzo style would change more towards this kind of expression. Even if the old Mencía vines in Bierzo can produce remarkably bold and concentrated grapes, I really don't think it benefits the variety if the wines are made into massively extracted and heavily oaked style. For those who have a fondness for Mencía and love lighter and more sophisticated (I guess some prefer terms like Burgundian or feminine) wines; Veronica Ortega is definitely a producer one should not overlook. Her wines are simply outstanding!

And fortunately many of the Ribeira Sacra wines were really wonderful as well. However, it was quite surprising that Dominio do Bibei - the producer many of the attendees were most enthusiastic beforehand - turned out to be relatively glossy, modern and polished in this company. The Bibei wines were solid, well-made wines in all aspects, but the overall consensus seemed to favor the fresher, less glossy and more crunchy style most other producers seemed to emphasize.

Before the tasting we had a couple of nice blinds to awaken our senses (not pictured) and after the main tasting a small bunch of enthusiasts (yours truly included) stayed behind and kept on blind tasting some more wines.
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Last edited by Otto Forsberg on April 8th, 2021, 7:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: TN: A large Ribeira Sacra / Mencía tasting (plus a random bunch of other wines)

#2 Post by Otto Forsberg »

  • NV Bodegas Altos de Torona Albariño Brut - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas (30.12.2020)
    100% Albariño bubbly, bottle-aged with the lees for a minimum of 15 months, then aged in bottles for another 6 months post-disgorgement before release. No idea how old this bottle was. 13% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Medium-deep golden yellow color. Big, ripe and rather sweet-toned nose with fruity aromas of juicy peach and wizened apricots, some petrol notes reminiscent of aged Riesling, light floral nuances of honeysuckle and a hint of exotic spice. Very attractive! The wine is dry, full-bodied and rather vinous on the palate with a broad mouthfeel and quite concentrated flavors of honey, rather pronounced phenolic bitterness, some apricots, a little bit of developed petrol character, light sweet notes of tangerine, a mineral hint of chalk dust and a sweet touch of ripe Golden Delicious apple. The acidity feels medium-to-moderately high; the smooth, creamy mousse comes across as quite persistent, lending good sense of freshness to the otherwise quite robust mouthfeel. The finish is dry, long and somewhat bitter with flavors of sweet apricots, some honeyed richness, light juicy notes of ripe orange, a floral hint of honeysuckle and a mineral touch of chalky bitterness.

    A very impressive, bold and surprisingly vinous sparkling wine that made me wonder if the wine was really made to be a sparkling wine from the get-go, or whether the grapes were initially supposed to be vinified into white, but then instead vinified into a bubbly? The wine felt so ripe, concentrated and vinous that at times it felt more like an impressive white wine with bubbles than a classic sparkling wine. Nevertheless, a very positive surprise. Many guessed a German Riesling Sekt, which wasn't a surprise, given the somewhat petrolly character of the wine. However, after a few misses I managed to finally identify the wine correctly as a sparkling Albariño. All in all, a very enjoyable effort and positively distinctive for a sparkling wine. Very nice!
    (92 pts.)


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  • 1995 Château Fonréaud - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Listrac-Médoc (30.12.2020)
    A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (52%), Merlot (45%) and Petit Verdot (3%). 13% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Somewhat evolved, pale brick-red color with a subtly maroon rim. Funky and slightly bretty nose with nuanced, attractive aromas of wizened dark plus, some woody notes of pencil shavings, a little bit of ripe blackcurrant, light licorice tones, a little bit of barnyard funk, a hint of licorice and a touch of dusty earth. A proper claret nose, if anything. The wine is dry, silky and medium-bodied on the palate with evolved flavors of wizened blackcurrants, some woody notes of pencil shavings, light bretty notes of leathery funk, a little bit of barnyard, a hint of fresh red plums and a touch of tart lingonberry. The overall feel is balanced and still enjoyably firm and structured, thanks to the high acidity and textural medium tannins that slowly pile up on the gums. The finish is dry, gently grippy and quite long with complex flavors of wizened blackcurrants, some woody notes of pencil shavings, light sour cherry bitterness, a little bit of bretty leather, a tart hint of lingonberry and a funky touch of stable floor.

    A classically built, balanced and very enjoyable old-school claret. Instantly recognizable for an evolved Bordeaux - probably half the attendees were in Bordeaux just after the first sniff and the first taste only confirmed this. There was mainly some disagreement whether the wine was from the left or the right bank, but most people guessed the wine wasn't of the highest pedigree - for example a few guessed (Bas-)Médoc, I guessed Haut-Médoc. Nevertheless, a very lovely effort and a great example how a "lowly" Cru Bourgeois can bring lots of pleasure - perhaps even more than many of the more modern Cru Classé wines, made in the contemporary, warmer vintages...
    (92 pts.)


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  • 2019 Guimaro Ribeira Sacra - Spain, Galicia, Ribeira Sacra (30.12.2020)
    100% organic Mencía, vinified in stainless steel, bottled unfined and unfiltered. 12,5% alcohol.

    Pale, very translucent pinkish raspberry red color. Youthful and very primary nose with candied aromas of raspberry marmalade, strawberry, some gummi bear tones, a little bit of ripe boysenberry and a hint of blueberry jam. Overall a very fruit-forward overall feel that feels not unlike a southern Beaujolais Nouveau. The wine is youthful, fresh and primary on the palate with flavors of ripe raspberries and cherry juice, some herbal spice, a little bit of tart red plums, light bitter notes of lingonberries and sour cherries, a hint of crunchy cranberry and a touch of candied primary character. Overall the wine feels quite soft and very accessible due to its soft medium-plus acidity and very mellow, almost nonexistent tannins. The finish is fresh, lively and somewhat more acid-driven with quite long flavors of tart lingonberries, some primary notes of raspberry candies and gummi bears, a little bit of herbal spice, light stony mineral tones and a hint of blueberry jam.

    A very youthful, fresh and light little red that feels like a Beaujolais Nouveau made from Mencía. It is enjoyable and very drinkable, but also very linear and rather harmless, lacking the depth and Burgundian complexity of the best red of Ribeira Sacra. A perfect little weekday wine for lighter fare. Most likely will be much better after a year or two after the wine loses its estery primary aromatics, but otherwise doesn't feel like it is built to age, so probably best to drink within the next 4-5 years. (85 pts.)

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  • 2016 Dominio do Bibei Ribeira Sacra Lalama - Spain, Galicia, Ribeira Sacra (30.12.2020)
    90% Mencía with the remaining part being a blend of local varieties (Brancellao, Garnacha, Mouratón and Sousón). Fermented in 500-liter demi-muids and tronconic oak vats. Aged first for 14 months in used 300-liter French oak barrels, then for another 7 months in tronconic 4500-liter oak vats. 13,5% alcohol.

    Deep and luminous blackish-red color with a youthful blueish ruby hue. Vibrant, somewhat dark-toned and slightly spicy nose with aromas of ripe black cherries, some peppery spice, a little bit of toasty oak spice and mocha character, light blueberry tones, a hint of dark-toned plummy fruit and a touch of wild strawberry. The wine is ripe, light-to-medium-bodied and rather crunchy on the palate with flavors of juicy dark fruits, some blueberry tones, a little bit of toasty oak spice, light crunchy notes of crowberries and a hint of mocha oak. The structure relies on both moderately high acidity and firm, subtly grippy medium-minus tannins. The finish is juicy, gently grippy and quite long with flavors of blueberries, some fresh plummy fruit, light crunchy notes of cranberries, a little bit of toasty mocha oak, a hint of peppery spice and a touch of vanilla.

    A nice, fresh and quite Burgundian Mencía - although I didn't remember this wine being this oak-forward from its earlier vintages. I wonder if they've replaced a number of the oak barrels recently or if these barrels weren't as "used" as the ones employed in making the vintage 2011 (which was the previous vintage I tasted)? There's good sense of focus and freshness, but unfortunately the winemaking shows a bit as well. Hopefully some additional aging might let the oak tones integrate a bit better over the years - and at least the wine seems built to last some aging, seeing how youthful it still is at the age of 4 years. Nevertheless, great value at 15€. Expect the score to go up as the wine ages.
    (89 pts.)


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  • 2018 Fedellos do Couto Lomba dos Ares - Spain, Galicia, Ribeira Sacra (30.12.2020)
    A blend of Mencía (about a third), accompanied by Bastardo, Caiño Tinto, Negreda, Garnacha Tintorera, Aramón etc. from the border between Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras. Grapes are organically farmed and hand harvested, co-fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeasts in tanks, macerated for 40-60 days. Aged for 10 months in used French oak barrels ranging from 300 to 500 liters. 12% alcohol.

    Translucent, medium-deep strawberry red color. Fragrant, quite dry and slightly wild nose with aromas of phenolic peppery spice and flinty smoky tones, some crunchy cranberry, light reductive nuances of gunpowder, a little bit of fresh wild strawberry and a sweeter hint of dark plums. The wine is dry, crunchy and very lively on the palate with a noticeably light body and bright flavors of tart lingonberries and moderately pronounced sour cherry bitterness, some crunchy crowberries, a little bit of reductive gunpowder smoke, light flinty tones, a hint of tangy salinity and a touch of astringent chokeberry. The structure relies almost solely on the very high acidity, as the tannins are almost nonexistent here. The finish is dry, lively and acid-driven with crunchy, medium-long flavors of sour cherry bitterness, some crunchy cranberries, a little bit of tangy salinity, light gravelly mineral tones, a hint of flint smoke and a touch of tart dark-toned berries.

    A fun, delightful and lively little red, but perhaps a bit too modest - the wine isn't that far off from a deep-color rosé. Although I love fresh and delicate red wines, this wine is so light it feels it is almost lacking in substance and could be overwhelmed even lighter entrées. This is a very drinkable and well-made little wine, but could use a bit more weight and concentration. Probably best drunk chilled, on its own on a hot summer's day - and thus perhaps not at its best drunk in the middle of the darkest winter. Priced according to its quality at 14€.
    (87 pts.)


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  • 2018 Fedellos do Couto Bastarda - Spain, Galicia, Ribeira Sacra (30.12.2020)
    Mainly Merenzao (aka. Bastardo aka. Trousseau) with small amounts of local varieties in the mix. Hand-harvested, fermented spontaneously in stainless steel, macerated gently with the skins for 40-60 days, aged in neutral French oak barrels. 12% alcohol.

    Luminous, very pale and fully translucent pinkish Campari-red color with a youthful ruby hue. Looks more like a medium-deep rosé than a red wine. The nose is sweet, perfumed and wonderfully fragrant with seductive aromas of brambly raspberries, some cloudberry marmalade, light phenolic notes of peppery spice, light crunchy cranberry tones and a lifted, floral hint of brett. The wine is lively, crunchy and juicy on the palate with a rather light body and pure flavors of ripe cranberries and lingonberries, some sour cherry bitterness, a little bit of ferrous blood, light smoky tones, a hint of gravelly minerality and a touch of tart crowberry. The structure relies more on the high acidity than on the relatively light tannins that slowly pile up on the gums. The finish is lively, gently grippy and quite acid-driven with long, dry and crunchy aftertaste of cranberries, some lingonberry bitterness, a little bit of aromatic bretty lift, light fragrant notes of orange rind, a crunchy hint of crowberry and a ferrous touch of blood.

    A wonderfully pure, fresh and crunchy Ribeira Sacra red. Tasting this side-by-side with Fedellos do Couto's Lomba des Ares and Cortezada, this wine came across the lightest of the three in appearance, looking nothing more than a moderately deep rosé wine. However, on the palate this wine showed much more depth and substance than Lomba des Ares, which came across as a bit too underwhelming in style. This wine might be light and delicate, but it is not lacking in stuffing. Wonderful purity, sense of focus and good intensity of flavor. It's surprising how Trousseau manages to make so Jura-like wines even when planted in Spanish soil! Very enjoyable and probably will continue to improve in a cellar. Needs a little bit of breathing in a decanter to blow off its reductive qualities. Good value at 22€.
    (92 pts.)


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  • 2018 Fedellos do Couto Cortezada - Spain, Galicia, Ribeira Sacra (30.12.2020)
    A single-vineyard Mencía from organically farmed fruit. Vinified in stainless steel and plastic vats, fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeasts and macerated for over a month with the skins. Aged in used 500-liter demi-muids made of French oak. 13% alcohol.

    Youthful, medium-deep and moderately translucent ruby-red color with a somewhat blue hue; definitely the deepest color of the 2018 Fedellos do Couto reds (Lomba dos Ares, Bastarda and Cortezada). The nose feels pure but also somewhat brooding with dark-toned and slightly sweetish aromas of blueberries, some dark plums, light herbal notes of tarragon and rosemary, a little bit of brambly black raspberry and a hint of stony minerality. The wine is lively, very dry and subtly funky on the palate with a medium-plus body and focused, slightly concentrated flavors of sour cherries and phenolic bitterness, some leathery notes of brett, a little bit of blueberry, light tart notes of fresh red plums, a hint of Band-Aid and a touch of gravelly minerality. The structure relies both on the high acidity and on the firm, somewhat grippy medium tannins. The finish is lively, crunchy and rather clean with a little bit of tannic tug on the gums and long aftertaste of tart lingonberries and cranberries, some bretty notes of leathery funk and Band-Aid, a little bit of phenolic smoke, light ferrous notes of blood, a hint of tangy salinity and a touch of almost quinine bitterness.

    A very nice, crunchy and somewhat dark-toned red that is quite distinct from the other two Fedellos do Couto reds. Tasting the three side-by-side, this was both the darkest in color and showed more sense of weight and concentration than the other two - although that is not to say this was particularly concentrated or weighty red, because it certainly wasn't. Stylistically all these three wines felt very Burgundian, but if the other two (Lomba dos Ares and Bastarda) were more Pinot-like, this was more like a Gamay - think of a high-quality Chiroubles or Brouilly, for example. All in all, this is a lovely and vibrant Mencía that combines vibrant fruit with a subtly undercurrent of bretty funk that adds a nice rustic color to the flavors without overwhelming anything. Drinking really nicely now, but most likely can improve at least for a handful of years. A bargain at 12€.
    (92 pts.)


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  • 2015 Adega Algueira Brancellao Ribeira Sacra Serradelo - Spain, Galicia, Ribeira Sacra (30.12.2020)
    100% Brancellao. Fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeasts in tronconical oak vats and aged for 12 months in used, neutral French oak barrels. 12,5% alcohol.

    Translucent, moderately evolved pomegranate color with a somewhat mahogany core and a thin, colorless rim. Ripe, sweet-toned and surprisingly mature yet attractive nose with aromas of wizened dark fruits, some rich syrupy tones, a little bit of strawberry jam, light black cherry tones, a hint of earth and a developed touch of meat stew. The wine is dry, somewhat tertiary and firm on the palate with a medium body and evolved flavors of blood, crunchy cranberries, some leathery funk, a little bit of wizened dark fruits, light earthy tones, a bitter hint of phenolic spice and a touch of bruised apple. The overall feel is quite structured with the high acidity and moderately grippy medium tannins. The finish is dry, lively and rather grippy with long, evolved flavors of crunchy cranberries, some bruised apple tones, a little bit of dried figs, light phenolic notes of peppery spice, a hint of sour cherry bitterness and a touch of smoky earth.

    A delightful and stylish but also quite obviously rather prematurely evolved Ribeira Sacra red - at least I wouldn't expect a wine only 5 years old to be this developed and oxidative in style. I don't know if our bottle was just showing premature oxidation or if the wine has actually evolved this fast. Nevertheless, it is a very enjoyable, developed red but at least this was drinking more like a wine that was 15-20 years old. Good stuff, despite its evolved overall quality. Nevertheless, I hope this was just an off bottle and the wine actually is much younger than this. Not that cheap at 27€, but delivers for the price.
    (90 pts.)


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  • 2015 Adega Algueira Merenzao Ribeira Sacra Risco - Spain, Galicia, Ribeira Sacra (30.12.2020)
    100% Merenzao (aka. Bastardo aka. Trousseau). Vinified as whole bunches. Fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeasts in 600-liter oak vats, followed by a short maceration on the skins. Aged for 12 months in 225-liter French oak barriques. 13% alcohol.

    Youthful, moderately translucent ruby red color. Dry, fresh and quite peppery nose with attractive, subtly reductive nose of wild strawberries, some crunchy redcurrants, a little bit of gunpowder and peat smoke, light toasty oak tones, a bretty hint of leathery funk and a touch of rowanberry juice. The wine is ripe, medium-bodied and textural on the palate with savory flavors of ripe dark fruits, some sour cherry bitterness, a little bit of gamey meat and leathery funk, light gravelly mineral tones, a sweet hint of toasty oak spice and a sanguine touch of iron. The overall feel is balanced and enjoyably structural, thanks to the rather high acidity and medium tannins that slowly pile up on the gums. The finish is lively, crunchy and enjoyably acid-driven with quite lengthy flavors of tart lingonberries, some wild strawberries, a little bit of toasty oak spice, light rusty notes of iron, a bretty hint of new leather and a touch of sour cherry bitterness. The tannins make the wine end on a gently grippy note.

    A beautiful, harmonious and thoroughly classic Ribeira Sacra red with a great combination of ripe fruit, crunchy acidity, nice tannic backbone and a gravelly undercurrent of stony minerality. The oak does peek through at times, but seeing how youthful the wine is now, at the age of 5 years, I have no doubts that the woody tones will integrate with the juicy dark-toned fruit in time. Feels a bit more weighty and substantial than your average Ribeira Sacra red, but without losing the delicate, Burgundian overall character. A fine wine, priced according to its quality at 31€.
    (94 pts.)


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  • 2015 Dominio do Bibei Ribeira Sacra Lacima - Spain, Galicia, Ribeira Sacra (30.12.2020)
    A blend of old-vine Mencía (75%), Brancellao (25%), Mouratón (3%) and Sousón (2%), all fruit destemmed. Fermented in 500-liter open-top oak casks. Aged in used barriques for 17 months, followed by another 5 months in tronconic vats. Total production 3786 bottles.

    Luminous, moderately translucent ruby red color. Dark-toned and moderately sweetish nose with aromas of ripe, plummy fruit, some toasty oak spice, a little bit of chocolatey oak, light licorice tones, fruity hints of blueberries and boysenberries and a touch of cocoa nibs. The wine is ripe, silky and quite dark-toned on the palate with a rather full body and quite intense flavors of sweet-toned dark plums, some phenolic bitterness, a little bit of toasty cocoa oak, light crunchy notes of cranberries, a ferrous hint of blood and a touch of savory oak spice. Although the wine feels quite weighty and concentrated for a Ribeira Sacra, its high acidity manages to keep the wine pretty fresh and lively while the somewhat grippy medium tannins lend good firmness to the palate. The finish is spicy, somewhat grippy and slightly bitter with a quite lengthy aftertaste of peppery spice, savor wood tones, some ripe dark berries, a little bit of toasty cocoa oak, light rusty notes of blood, a tart hint of lingonberry and a touch of red plums.

    In our tasting of Ribeira Sacra wines, the Lacima wines were noticeably weightier, more concentrated and somewhat more oaky than all the other wines we tasted (Guimaro, Fedellos do Couto, Algueira). However, they retained good sense of balance and freshness, despite their somewhat different nature, somewhat indicative of more heavy-handed winemaking. We tasted Lacima 2015 and 2016 side-by-side and while the two wines were quite similar in style with their ripe fruit and somewhat obvious, toasty oak character, the 2016 was much more enjoyable with its somewhat fresher, red-toned fruit, while this 2015 felt a bit bulkier and softer with its slightly sweeter, more darker-toned fruit character. If 2016 was about berries, this 2015 is about dark fruits. Although Lacima is supposed to be from the upper tier of Bibei wines, I wasn't that impressed; I enjoyed more the lighter, more precise and delicate style of Ribeira Sacra over this more Bierzo-ish style. Nevertheless, good value at 31€. Most likely the wine will continue to improve for at least a handful of years and keep for much longer.
    (89 pts.)


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  • 2016 Dominio do Bibei Ribeira Sacra Lacima - Spain, Galicia, Ribeira Sacra (30.12.2020)
    A blend of old-vine Mencía (68%), Brancellao (22%), Mouratón (5%) and Sousón (5%), all fruit destemmed. Fermented in 500-liter open-top oak casks. Aged in used barriques for 19 months, followed by another 5 months in tronconic vats. 13% alcohol, 0,2 g/l residual sugar, 5,1 g/l acidity and pH 3,7.

    Luminous, moderately translucent ruby red color; slightly lighter in color compared to Lacima 2015, tasted alongside. Somewhat dark-toned, quite savory and slightly wild nose with aromas of ripe black cherries and boysenberries, some blueberry juice, a little bit of toasty mocha oak, light licorice tones, a hint of stony minerality and a touch of cedar. The wine is ripe, textural and silky on the palate with a medium body and layered flavors of dark plummy fruit, some ferrous notes of blood, light toasty oak notes of mocha and cocoa, light crunchy notes of redcurrants and tart lingonberries, a brambly hint of raspberry and a touch of ripe blueberry. The structure relies slightly more on the high acidity than on the quite friendly medium tannins. The finish is dry, quite long and textural with flavors of tart lingonberries and quite pronounced sour cherry bitterness, some woody notes of toasty oak, light crunchy notes of cranberries and raspberries, a little bit of dark, plummy fruit, a hint of cocoa and a sanguine touch of iron.

    A ripe and textural but also fresh and enjoyably crunchy Ribeira Sacra that has a somewhat oaky imprint to it, but enough bright fruit to carry itself with grace. Comparing this to Lacima 2015 that was tasted alongside, this wine feels more berry-driven and red-toned compared to the more dark-toned fruit of the 2015. While I enjoyed the firm and somewhat more grippy tannic backbone of the 2015, this vintage is otherwise more up my alley with better sense of freshness, focus and sophistication. The wine could really use some aging, though, as the oaky tones are still pretty much to the fore and will require quite many years before they integrate with the fruit. At least the wine feels like it can take on some aging, so cellaring it should pose no problems. Solid value at 31€.
    (91 pts.)


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  • 2017 Verónica Ortega Bierzo VO Versión Original - Spain, Castilla y León, Bierzo (30.12.2020)
    The last vintage to be produced from the same Valtuille plot where ROC comes from - only ROC grapes come from the higher part of the vineyard, whereas the VO grapes come from the lower part of the vineyard, where they ripe earlier, become more concentrated and can be harvested before the remaining vineyards. Aged for 16 months in large 2400-liter oak vats. 13,5% alcohol. Bottle #2579.

    Very deep, dark and only somewhat translucent ruby red color. Beautifully fragrant and very seductive nose of perfumed floral tones, sweet dark-toned berries, some cherry tones, a little bit of raspberry marmalade, light balsamic notes of volatile lift and a hint of marmaladey fruit candy. The wine is dry, dense and quite chewy on the palate with a medium body and rather extracted yet not overdone mouthfeel. Intense flavors of sour cherry bitterness and tart lingonberries, some waxy tones, a little bit of gravelly minerality, light lifted notes of balsamic VA, a ferrous hint of blood and a touch of crunchy crowberries. The overall feel is ripe and concentrated without any sense of extraneous weight. The silky mouthfeel is supported by the high acidity and textural, moderately grippy tannins. The finish is intense, rather grippy and very firm with rather concentrated flavors of sour cherries, some tart lingonberries, light floral notes of violets and roses, a little bit of sweet raspberry, a hint of gravelly minerality and a touch of sweet, marmaladey boysenberry. The bright acidity and textural, powdery tannins make the wine end on a very firm yet mouthwatering note.

    A beautiful, harmonious and wonderfully complex Bierzo Mencía that shows the sense of ripeness and concentration the region is known for, yet doesn't come across as heavy and ponderous as all too many Bierzo wines can be. Despite the sense of concentration, the wine is remarkably poised and fresh, combining wonderful sense of freshness and elegance with the ripe, at times even quite extracted fruit. Extremely tasty stuff. Feels much more impressive at the moment than the ROC 2017 that was tasted alongside, although most likely things will change in the future. This wine is drinking enormously well right now, but most likely will continue to improve for years more. Outrageous value at 19€.
    (94 pts.)


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  • 2017 Verónica Ortega Bierzo Roc - Spain, Castilla y León, Bierzo (30.12.2020)
    The wine is named with the initials of the late older brother of Verónica Ortega. From very old (up to 80-100 yo) vineyards, whole bunch fruit. Spontaneous fermentation, gentle maceration over 20 days, aged for 14 months in used oak barrels. 13,5% alcohol, tasted blind.

    Very deep, dark and only somewhat translucent ruby red color with a youthful, subtly purplish hue. Clean, somewhat reticent and slightly closed nose with pure aromas of licorice, some sweet black raspberry, a little bit of stone dust minerality and a hint of ripe boysenberry. The wine is concentrated, lean and moderately full-bodied with clean and rather focused flavors of boysenberries, sour cherry bitterness, herbal stemmy notes, some sanguine notes of iron, a little bit of leathery funk, light stony mineral tones, a fruity hints of wild strawberries and slightly wizened red plums and a lifted touch of balsamic VA. The overall feel is firm and balanced with the moderately high acidity and powdery, textural tannins. The finish is complex, somewhat grippy and rather bitter with somewhat lean aftertaste of ripe red plums, licorice root, some stony mineral tones, a little bit of sour cherry bitterness, light brambly notes of black raspberries and an ethery hint of volatile lift.

    A very lean, somewhat tough and slightly closed Bierzo that shows the typically pure and concentrated style typical of Ortega, but coming across as very tightly-knit and not particularly expressive. Based on how well ROC is known to age, I suspect this wine is just opened way too early and is in a slump right now - most likely this will drink really well after some years of cellaring, but offers much less right now. There's still quite a bit to enjoy here already, but the wine suffers in comparison to the VO 2017 that is drinking really wonderfully right now. This wine, on the other hand, feels now very promising, but undeniably lacks the charm for immediate drinking purposes. Let the wine wait for at least a few years more - and preferably something along the lines of 10 years. Terrific value at 22€.
    (92 pts.)


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  • 2015 Clos Cantenac - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (30.12.2020)
    100% Merlot. First cold-soaked with the skins for a week, then fermented for 5 days and finally macerated for another two weeks with the skins. Aged for 14 months in French oak barriques (40% new, 60% 2nd use). 14% alcohol. Total production 12,500 bottles.

    Dark and almost fully opaque saturated blackish-red color with a deep black cherry rim. Brooding, dark-toned and rather sweetish nose with aromas of licorice, juicy dark fruits, some cherry tones, a little bit of toasty mocha oak, light vanilla tones and a woody hint of pencil shavings. The wine is ripe, silky and rather oaky on the palate with a full body and quite plush flavors of ripe blackcurrants and dark plummy tones, some toasty mocha oak, a little bit of sweet strawberry, light cocoa tones, a hint of savory wood spice and a touch of vanilla. he structure relies more on the moderately high acidity than on the rather soft and gentle tannins. The savory finish is medium in length with rich, layered flavors of licorice, ripe blackcurrant, some savory wood spice, a little bit of bitter spice, light cocoa notes of oak, a hint of wild strawberry and a touch of juicy red plum.

    A rather nice, soft and accessible Merlot. Feels rather ripe and modern in style with quite obvious oak influence and very fruit-forward overall character. The tannins really don't call for any further cellaring, as they are very soft and resolved already, but the oak could use quite a bit of aging before it integrates with the fruit - although the wine is so woody I'm not sure if the oak will ever integrate fully with the fruit. Nothing that bad here, the wine just isn't made in a style I enjoy - this feels more like a wine that caters to the taste that enjoys modern Napa Cabs and the likes. I wish the Château would change the ridiculously huge and heavy bottle into something smaller, though. (86 pts.)

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  • 2014 Cline Cellars Carignane Ancient Vines - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Contra Costa County (30.12.2020)
    The fruit is sourced from four different vineyards planted between the early 1900's and 1940's. Fermented in stainless steel and aged for 8 months in French oak barrels (35% new). 15,5% alcohol.

    Dense, inky and fully opaque blackish-red color. Surprisingly fragrant, fresh and attractive nose with aromas of licorice, ripe forest fruits, some savory woody tones, a little bit of wizened dark fruit, light floral tones and a boozy hint of alcohol. The wine is very intense, full-bodied and somewhat extracted on the palate with a rather noticeable alcoholic presence along with concentrated flavors of sunny, plummy fruits and blueberry jam, some vanilla oak tones, a little bit of extracted woody bitterness, light boysenberry marmalade tones, a liqueurish hint of boozy alcohol and a touch of fresh red plum. The overall feel is rather hot but otherwise surprisingly balanced, thanks to the moderately high acidity. The gentle tannins feel very mellow and friendly - a wine of this size could really use a bit more grip, in my opinion. The finish is very warm, juicy and gently grippy with long flavors of boysenberry jam, some vanilla, a little bit of wizened dark fruit, light sanguine notes of blood, a hint of toasty oak spice and a boozy touch of alcohol.

    I have to admit - this was much better than what I expected. I did not have high hopes for a Californian Carignan aged in 1/3 new oak barrels and clocking at whopping 15,5% alcohol, and I expected the wine to be a jammy, oaky, alcoholic mess. However, the wine managed to come across as surprisingly fresh and balanced despite its big size, chewy overall feel and rather pronounced alcohol. Sure, there's a lot of alcohol here and there is no denying it (the first comment I heard of this wine was "there seems to be quite high alcohol here"), but the oak influence feels surprisingly modest in relation to the concentrated fruit and the level of acidity is remarkably high for a wine this ripe. All in all, the wine is still very youthful and probably it can continue to keep nicely in a cellar - although it really doesn't call for any further aging, nor does it strike me as a wine that would develop that much over the years. Good for immediate consumption. A surprisingly nice wine for what it is, solid value at 16,90€.
    (89 pts.)


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  • 2012 Guy Bocard Chardonnay Bourgogne - France, Burgundy, Bourgogne (30.12.2020)
    13% alcohol.

    Pale lemon-yellow color. Ripe, slightly sweet-toned and subtly waxy nose with aromas of juicy golden apples, some honeyed tones, a little bit of cantaloupe, light leesy tones and a hint of succulent white peach. The wine feels fresh, balanced and medium-to-moderately full-bodied on the palate with flavors of sweet Golden Delicious apple, some leesy notes of creaminess, light steely mineral tones, a little bit of ripe and zesty citrus fruits, a tropical hint of banana and a subtly evolved touch of lemon marmalade. The high acidity lends good intensity and sense of structure to the wine. The finish is fresh, bright and medium-to-moderately long with dry flavors of freshly picked red apples, some white peach, light mineral notes of tangy salinity, a little bit of crunchy pineapple, a leesy hint of creaminess and a zesty touch of lemony citrus fruits.

    A very nice, fresh and nuanced Bourgogne Blanc that has seemed to benefit from the few years down in the cellar, as the wine showed a bit more depth and intensity compared to the bottle I had two years ago. Nothing too complex, but the wine isn't particularly developed yet - I can imagine the wine will easily continue to improve for many more years. A very nice wine for an entry-level white Burgundy. Great value at 13€.
    (89 pts.)


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  • 2017 Gala Vinarstvi Ryzlink Vlašský Hermes - Czech Republic, Moravia, Mikulovská, Perná (30.12.2020)
    The flagship Welschriesling of the winery, made only from the selected high-quality grapes from their best vineyards. Fermented and aged in new and old oak barrels and acacia barrels for 10 months before release. 13,5% alcohol.

    Light-to-medium-deep lemon yellow color. Juicy and somewhat sweet-toned nose with aromas of honeysuckle and ripe pear, some leesy notes, a little bit of spicy red apple, light sappy notes of herbal spice, a hint of steely minerality and a touch of wet stones. The little wood character the wine has shown in the past seems to have integrated with the fruit. The wine is ripe, lively and concentrated on the palate with a medium body and intense flavors of fresh red apple, steely minerality, some leesy notes of yeast, a little bit of crunchy green pear, light tangy notes of saline minerality, a hint of cantaloupe and a touch of honeyed richness. Wonderfully bright and high acidity. The overall feel is both very nuanced and impressively structured. The finish is lively, long and acid-driven with nuanced flavors of tangy salinity, zesty lemony tones, some cantaloupe, light leesy notes of creaminess, a little bit of steely minerality and a hint of fresh, crunchy pear.

    A very impressive, nuanced and structured effort for a Welschriesling; this continues to be probably the most impressive Welschriesling I know. Overall the wine shows relatively little development from the bottle I had a year ago - the subtle nuances of oak the previous wine did show seem to have integrated with the fruit, but otherwise the wine is still very youthful, precise and mineral with very few signs of age. It will obviously benefit from any further aging one is able to give it. All in all, this is an outstanding white, be it a Welschriesling or not. These top-level Gala wines are easily some of the most impressive wines of the Czech Republic.
    (93 pts.)


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  • 2012 Vins del Tros Terra Alta Lo Morenillo - Spain, Catalunya, Tarragona, Terra Alta (30.12.2020)
    Wine made from the grapes of century-old Morenillo vines, an exceedingly rare Terra Alta variety bordering extinction; fermented and aged in French oak barrels. Bottled unfiltered and unfined. Annual production of 1,140 bottles. 14,5% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Evolved and somewhat translucent reddish-mahogany color. Lots of deposit in the bottle - careful decanting recommended. Very evolved, slightly oxidative and subtly wild nose with aromas of raisins and wizened boysenberries, some licorice, light lifted notes of sweet VA, a little bit of wet dog, an oxidative hint of nuttiness and a touch of prune. The wine is tertiary yet still very lively on the palate with a medium body and very evolved flavors of raisins and prunes, some licorice, a little bit of stony minerality, light lifted notes of nail polish, oxidative hints of nuttiness and soy sauce and a touch of crunchy cranberry. The structure relies very much on the high acidity, as the tannins feel very resolved and only slightly grippy. The finish is quite tertiary yet surprisingly fresh with moderately long flavors of raisins, some pruney notes, a little bit of licorice, light crunchy notes of cranberries, a rusty hint of iron and a lifted touch of nail polish.

    A very nice, fresh and tasty little wine, but also one that was noticeably more evolved than I expected for its age. Even though I've had quite a many Morenillos, including this Lo Morenillo a few times, the wine was so evolved that I couldn't even start to guess Spain, let alone Morenillo - it was pretty impossible to get any varietal characteristics from a wine so evolved. I wonder whether this was a prematurely evolved bottle is if Morenillo just isn't a variety that can age for particularly long. All in all, I was surprised to learn this was Morenillo - and even a relatively young for one! A confusing experience.
    (88 pts.)
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Re: TN: A large Ribeira Sacra / Mencía tasting (plus a random bunch of other wines)

#3 Post by Robert.A.Jr. »

Otto Forsberg wrote: April 8th, 2021, 5:40 am [*]1995 Château Fonréaud - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Listrac-Médoc (30.12.2020)
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (52%), Merlot (45%) and Petit Verdot (3%). 13% alcohol. Tasted blind.

Somewhat evolved, pale brick-red color with a subtly maroon rim. Funky and slightly bretty nose with nuanced, attractive aromas of wizened dark plus, some woody notes of pencil shavings, a little bit of ripe blackcurrant, light licorice tones, a little bit of barnyard funk, a hint of licorice and a touch of dusty earth. A proper claret nose, if anything. The wine is dry, silky and medium-bodied on the palate with evolved flavors of wizened blackcurrants, some woody notes of pencil shavings, light bretty notes of leathery funk, a little bit of barnyard, a hint of fresh red plums and a touch of tart lingonberry. The overall feel is balanced and still enjoyably firm and structured, thanks to the high acidity and textural medium tannins that slowly pile up on the gums. The finish is dry, gently grippy and quite long with complex flavors of wizened blackcurrants, some woody notes of pencil shavings, light sour cherry bitterness, a little bit of bretty leather, a tart hint of lingonberry and a funky touch of stable floor.

A classically built, balanced and very enjoyable old-school claret. Instantly recognizable for an evolved Bordeaux - probably half the attendees were in Bordeaux just after the first sniff and the first taste only confirmed this. There was mainly some disagreement whether the wine was from the left or the right bank, but most people guessed the wine wasn't of the highest pedigree - for example a few guessed (Bas-)Médoc, I guessed Haut-Médoc. Nevertheless, a very lovely effort and a great example how a "lowly" Cru Bourgeois can bring lots of pleasure - perhaps even more than many of the more modern Cru Classé wines, made in the contemporary, warmer vintages...
(92 pts.)


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It’s been a while since I've had this Chateau, but your closing comments resonate with me. I’d rather drink these classicly-built, mature Bordeaux over the more modern-leaning new releases any day of the year. Not even close for me. They bring great pleasure. Just had a 2000 Sociando this week, same mold.
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Re: TN: A large Ribeira Sacra / Mencía tasting (plus a random bunch of other wines)

#4 Post by Phil T r o t t e r »

Otto Forsberg wrote: April 8th, 2021, 5:40 am [*]2019 Guimaro Ribeira Sacra - Spain, Galicia, Ribeira Sacra (30.12.2020)
100% organic Mencía, vinified in stainless steel, bottled unfined and unfiltered. 12,5% alcohol.
Thanks for the notes Otto. I really should get more into Mencia. I had the Guimaro Sacra Finca Meixeman 2012 (which sees some oak) a while back and was quite pleased with it (last one drank in 2018 was the most enjoyable).

I found the Ortega Roc (2015) that I'll go pickup. There is also Descendientes de J. Palacios Villa de Corullon Bierzo and, not Bierzo, but Fuentes del Silencio Las Quintas Crianza. Any thoughts?

That Altos de Torona bubbly also piqued my interest. It also had me lookup the winery which I did not know. It's quite a large winery and holdings for the region. Now if I can only find it here... that will be the challenge.

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Re: TN: A large Ribeira Sacra / Mencía tasting (plus a random bunch of other wines)

#5 Post by Markus S »

That Fedellos bastard is quite good. Be a yearly purchase if it wasn't so hard to find.
Surprised you don't like mencia. Seems right up your (obtuse grape) alley.
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Re: TN: A large Ribeira Sacra / Mencía tasting (plus a random bunch of other wines)

#6 Post by Otto Forsberg »

Markus S wrote: April 8th, 2021, 8:22 am Surprised you don't like mencia. Seems right up your (obtuse grape) alley.
[scratch.gif]

What are you talking about?
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Re: TN: A large Ribeira Sacra / Mencía tasting (plus a random bunch of other wines)

#7 Post by Otto Forsberg »

Phil T r o t t e r wrote: April 8th, 2021, 7:47 am
Otto Forsberg wrote: April 8th, 2021, 5:40 am [*]2019 Guimaro Ribeira Sacra - Spain, Galicia, Ribeira Sacra (30.12.2020)
100% organic Mencía, vinified in stainless steel, bottled unfined and unfiltered. 12,5% alcohol.
Thanks for the notes Otto. I really should get more into Mencia. I had the Guimaro Sacra Finca Meixeman 2012 (which sees some oak) a while back and was quite pleased with it (last one drank in 2018 was the most enjoyable).
I've had a few Guímaro wines, and of those, Finca Meixeman has been hands-down the best one. This regular Ribeira Sacra wasn't particularly memorable and while better, I've found Camiño Real just a nice little red, nothing truly interesting.
I found the Ortega Roc (2015) that I'll go pickup. There is also Descendientes de J. Palacios Villa de Corullon Bierzo and, not Bierzo, but Fuentes del Silencio Las Quintas Crianza. Any thoughts?
Desc. de J. Palacios is probably the best-known producer in Bierzo. Some of their wines can be great in their own right, but I've found them often very ripe and glossy, often quite oaky as well. Their nego-wine Pétalos is a nice little everyday red and that Villa de Corullon is - to my understanding - pretty much the same wine, but made exclusively from estate fruit and to slightly higher standards. It's often quite big, heavy and rather oaky. Can be very good in that concentrated blockbuster style, but doesn't really represent my idea of fine, sophisticated Mencía.
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Re: TN: A large Ribeira Sacra / Mencía tasting (plus a random bunch of other wines)

#8 Post by Arv R »

I had my first Dominio de Bibei a month or so ago....one of those rare times I had to go find something else immediately to drink. Not my thing. At least the rest of the bottle is in popsicle tubes in the freezer for making stews/sauces etc.

That's kind of odd that a Cline bottling snuck its way into your event! I didn't know they were exported. Been a long time since I tasted any of their stuff but I remember liking their zippy zin a generation ago.

Also, your notes remind me of Hanes commentary (in the positive sense) Thanks for sharing/posting.
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Re: TN: A large Ribeira Sacra / Mencía tasting (plus a random bunch of other wines)

#9 Post by James Billy »

Only 2 varietal Mencias from RS. Is it usually in a blend there? Is Bierzo usually varietal?

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Re: TN: A large Ribeira Sacra / Mencía tasting (plus a random bunch of other wines)

#10 Post by Otto Forsberg »

Arv R wrote: April 10th, 2021, 6:45 pm I had my first Dominio de Bibei a month or so ago....one of those rare times I had to go find something else immediately to drink. Not my thing. At least the rest of the bottle is in popsicle tubes in the freezer for making stews/sauces etc.
That's odd! I've always thought Bibei wines were pretty great, and they still were - only they were outshined by the less glossy, more delicate expressions of Ribeira Sacra we had. How was your bottle so bad?
That's kind of odd that a Cline bottling snuck its way into your event! I didn't know they were exported. Been a long time since I tasted any of their stuff but I remember liking their zippy zin a generation ago.
Well, that bottle actually came from my cellar! [wow.gif] I don't know how much of them is exported, but I bought that one from a German internet shop.
James Billy wrote: April 10th, 2021, 9:03 pm Only 2 varietal Mencias from RS. Is it usually in a blend there? Is Bierzo usually varietal?
Yes. Ribeira Sacra is sort of like Chianti Classico; just as Sangiovese is the main variety in Tuscany, Mencía is in northwest Spain. However, even though there are some varietal Sangioveses in Chianti Classico, many producers tend to blend a little bit of local varieties in their wines rather than making varietal Sangiovese wines. It's the same thing with Mencía and Ribeira Sacra.

Bierzo is virtually always varietal Mencía.
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Re: TN: A large Ribeira Sacra / Mencía tasting (plus a random bunch of other wines)

#11 Post by Robert Panzer »

Cool lineup, Otto.
I am unfamiliar with the Fedellos do Couto wines; they sound interesting.
One producer to seek out that I don't see featured: Castro Ventosa Bierzo wines, particularly the '18s; this is the home estate of Raul Perez. I'd look to find the Villegas (a remarkably ethereal/weightless creature) and the Vino do Villa (the Valtuille village wine) which is a phenomenal value.
Disclaimer: I import Algueira, work with Guimaro through their national importer (I think the '18 Camiño Real is another phenomenal value), and work with Castro Ventosa through their national importer.
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Re: TN: A large Ribeira Sacra / Mencía tasting (plus a random bunch of other wines)

#12 Post by Otto Forsberg »

Robert Panzer wrote: April 11th, 2021, 8:27 am Cool lineup, Otto.
I am unfamiliar with the Fedellos do Couto wines; they sound interesting.
They definitely are! They are from the lighter end of the Ribeira Sacra spectrum, where the onder end might be represented by Dominio do Bibei - not big, but definitely bigger than Fedellos do Couto. They are quite natural, yet not particularly "natty" or funky - just wonderfully pure, ethereal and delicate in style.
One producer to seek out that I don't see featured: Castro Ventosa Bierzo wines, particularly the '18s; this is the home estate of Raul Perez. I'd look to find the Villegas (a remarkably ethereal/weightless creature) and the Vino do Villa (the Valtuille village wine) which is a phenomenal value.
I've had one Castro Ventosa wine - Valtuille Cepas Centenarias - and that was really wonderful! Just like Ortega's wines, it was remarkably fresh, bright and remarkably lightweight - despite the sense of concentration from the centenarian wines. Also Perez's La Vizcaina wines are just outstanding. Very unlike the stereotypical ripe, bold and concentrated style of Mencía more typical of Bierzo.
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