Value Alert – 90pt Gem From Spain for $12!

Several months ago, I attended a La Mancha tasting in San Francisco.  I blogged about it in a post entitled Is La Mancha Ready For Primetime?  Of course, most of us are familiar with La Mancha thanks to the famous book by Miguel de Cervantes entitled The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha (or perhaps for the less literary types such as myself, the Broadway musical The Man of La Mancha) 

These days La Mancha is trying to make a name for itself with its wines.  Here’s the 411 on La Mancha:

  • Part of the Castilla-La Mancha autonomous community
  • Largest of 9 DOs in Castilla-La Mancha, which is the largest continuous vine-growing area in the world
  • Climate – According to a local proverb – “nine months of winter and three months of hell
  • Authorized red grapes: Cencibel (a.k.a Tempranillo, Grenache, Moravia, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah
  • Authorized white grapes: Airén (pronounced “Aye ran”), Macabeo (a.k.a. Viura), Chardonnay, Verdejo, Moscatel de grano menudo, and Sauvignon Blanc
  • Achieved DO status in 1976
  • There are  5 wine classifications rather than 3 typically found in Spain.  In addition to the traditional Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva classifications, La Mancha also has Young (Jóven), and Traditional classifications. The wines classified as “Joven” typically see no oak.  And according to LaManchaWines.com, the Traditional is “Made with the traditional system, reinforced by the latest technological advances. They keep a distance and equilibrium point between the young and aging wines.”  In other words, it’s a New World style.
  • Known for producing wines with great price/quality ratio, and formerly known for producing bulk wines

The orange tag indicates this is classified as a "Tradicional" wine (click to enlarge image)

2009 Bodegas Volver La Mancha Single Vineyard - $11.99 at Costco

2009 Bodegas Volver La Mancha Single Vineyard

My tasting notes follow:

Inky purple-black color with black fruit, clove, allspice, and tobacco aromas. On the palate medium- full bodied, and smooth with well-behaved tannins, and with vibrant black cherry, plum, a touch of black currant fruit and spice flavors. Medium plus finish.  - 90pts

This wine,  which is  classified as “Tradicional,” is a fine example of a wine that can win over New World palates and put La Mancha on many a wine lover’s map, particularly if seeking great price/performance.   It’s 100% Tempranillo.  The grapes were sourced from a 72-acre vineyard planted in 1967.  It’s fermented in barrel and aged 14 months in new French Oak.   Rated 92pt by Wine Advocate.   I’ll be buying more, and highly recommend you give it a shot!   I purchase the wine at Costco.  But it’s widely available.  Click here to find.

Is La Mancha ready for Primetime?

Last week, I attended my first wine event as a member of the “trade”.  The event was hosted by “Wines of La Mancha“.  Since it was my first such event as a member of the trade,  I wasn’t sure what to expect, other than Spanish Wine – which I enjoy, having had wines mostly from the La Rioja, Castilla y Leon, Aragon, and Galicia regions.  It was a walk-around tasting with 11 wineries represented.

It turned out to be a top shelf event at Robert Fountain Studio in the Potrero Hill neighborhood in San Francisco.  In particular, the food served was remarkable, with whole roasted pig being the centerpiece of a bounty that included a wonderful assortment of Spanish tapas-style small plates.

Click images to enlarge

I must confess I knew little about the La Mancha DO.  While doing some “discovery”, I noted little (The Concise World Atlas of Wine), or nothing ( The Wine Bible) was said about La Mancha – thus the event; to heighten awareness of this wine region which lives in the shadows of more renown wine regions in Spain like La Rioja, Catalonia  (Priorat),  Castilla and Leon (Ribero del Duero), and Andalusia, from which Sherry hails.

Here’s the 411 on La Mancha:

  • Part of the Castilla-La Mancha autonomous community
  • Largest of 9 DOs in Castilla-La Mancha, which is the largest continuous vine-growing area in the world
  • Claim to fame – The stomping grounds of the famed literary figure Don Quixote
  • Climate – According to a local proverb – “nine months of winter and three months of hell”
  • Authorized red grapes: Cencibel (a.k.a Tempranillo, Grenache, Moravia, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah
  • Authorized white grapes: Airén (pronounced “Aye ran”), Macabeo (a.k.a. Viura), Chardonnay, Verdejo, Moscatel de grano menudo, and Sauvignon Blanc
  • Achieved DO status in 1976
  • Known for producing wines with great price/quality ratio, and formerly known for producing bulk wines
One of the things I found interesting about La Mancha, is that they have more than the 3 classifications used to designate the ageing of wine common to Spain (Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva).  In addition to the three aforementioned classifications, La Mancha wines are also classified as “Young” (Vino Joven) wine, and Traditional.  The Young and Traditional wines see no oak.  In fact, the Young wines are intended to be comparable to famous (or infamous depending on one’s tastes) Beaujolais Nouveau from France.

It’s always fun for me to try new grape varietals.  I tried Airén, and Macabeo, on a standalone basis, for the first time.  And there were some wines I really enjoyed, and/or found interesting.

My favorites whites:

Anil Macabeo – 100% Macabeo. Tropical fruit, herb nose.  Tropical, citrus palate.  Juicy light-medium mouth feel.  Short finish – 87pts

Allozo Verdejo – 100% Verdejo.  Grassy, citrus, faint vanilla nose.  Stone fruit, citrus palate.  Light bodied with crisp acidity, and slightly bitter on back palate.  Short finish – 86pts

My favorite reds were:

La Villa Real Reserva – Aromatic nose of black currant, oak, and spice.  Black currant, dark cherry, chocolate palate.  Med-long finish – 88pts

Casa Antonete  Gran Reserva – Black currant, oak, leather nose.  Cherry, coffee palate, and smooth tannins.  Long finish – 90pts

Casa Antonete Crianza – Intense cherry/black currant liqueur nose.  Vibrant cherry palate. Balanced. Medium finish – 89pts

Torre de Gazate Reserva - 50/50;Cencibel/Cab blend. Tobacco, cherry, oak nose.  Currant, cherry, spice palate.  Medium finish – 87pts

I was also pleasantly surprised at the prices for the higher quality wines. Most of the wines lived up to their great price/quality reputation.

On the other hand, I found the majority the whites I tasted to be a bit austere for my tastes.  And quite a few of the reds, too tannic for my tastes (And i like a wine with some grip).  I also found that I didn’t care much for the Young wines I tasted. But, I also think the wines may have been served too warm, and I look forward to trying a Young wine again served at a cooler temperature.

The verdict? For me, I enjoyed the wines, though not as much as comparable wines I’ve had from Rioja, Ribero, or Priorat.  However, it’s clear to me that La Mancha is a full participant in the Spanish wine revolution that’s bringing modern wine making techniques, experimentation with other than traditional grape varietals, and new plantings/re-plantings to Spain.  While it’s “not there yet” La Mancha is on the rise, and on my radar!