Castell d'Encus Taleia 2015
An interesting take on the classic Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, the Taleia from Raül Bobet’s project in the far reaches of the Costers del Segre is far from an imitation of Graves. First of all one look at the stunning vistas from his vineyard at 1000m meters above sea level dispels any notion of the gentle, bucolic and gravelly landscape of Bordeaux. Secondly the chalky soils that Raül chose to plant his Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon is more similar to Sancerre than Graves. The wine is fermented in a combination of new French oak, tanks and stone lagars with indigenous yeasts so the resulting wine is relentlessly mineral but with an added depth and richness on the palate.
At 1000 meters in altitude, farming at Castell d’Encus is an interesting proposition. Surrounded by mountains, the site is prone to snow, frost, and attacks by ravenous birds so extensive steps must be taken to protect the vines and fruit from the depredations of nature. As is the case with other regions where the vines struggle to thrive, the finished wines benefit from the suffering. Despite the youthfulness of the vineyards, the finished wines are remarkably complex and nuanced, and show the potential of moving back to places long abandoned. Because the climate is so extreme Raul has selected more northerly varieties to cultivate: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Riesling and Albarino. What indigenous varieties were planted up here so long ago, will never be known, it seems that he’s doing just fine with these – as recently remarked by Luis Guiterrez, “These are some of the most exciting new wines throughout Spain.”
Known for bold reds, crisp whites and distinctive sparkling and fortified wines, Spain has embraced international varieties and wine styles while continuing to place primary emphasis on its own native grapes. Though the country’s climate is diverse, it is generally hot and dry. In the center of the country lies a vast, arid plateau known as the Meseta Central, characterized by extremely hot summers and frequent drought.
Ribera del Duero is gaining ground with its single varietal Tempranillo wines, recognized for their concentration of fruit and opulence. Priorat, a sub-region of Catalonia, specializes in bold, full-bodied red blends of Garnacha (Grenache), Cariñena (Carignan), and often Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Catalonia is also home to Cava, a sparkling wine made in the traditional method but from indigenous varieties. In the cool, damp northwest region of Galicia, refreshing white Albariño and Verdejo dominate.
Sometimes light and crisp, other times rich and creamy, Bordeaux white blends typically consist of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Often, a small amount of Muscadelle or Sauvignon Gris is included for added intrigue. This blend was popularized in the Bordeaux region of France (where it also comprises outstanding sweet wines like Sauternes and Barsac), but is often mimicked throughout the New World, particularly in California, Washington and Australia.
In the Glass
Sémillon provides the background to this blend, with a relatively full body and an oily texture. Sauvignon Blanc adds acidity and lots of bright fruit flavor, particularly white grapefruit, lime and freshly cut grass. Used in smaller proportions, Muscadelle can contribute fresh floral notes, while Sauvignon Gris is less aromatic but offers ripe, juicy fruit on the palate. These wines run the gamut from unoaked, refreshing, and easy to drink to serious, complex and barrel-aged. The latter style, usually with a higher percentage of Sémillon, can develop aromas of ginger, chamomile and dried orange peel. The dessert wines produced by these blends, often with the help of "noble rot" called botrytis, can have lush stone fruit and honey characteristics.
Crisp, dry Bordeaux white blends are the perfect accompaniment for raw or lightly cooked seafood, especially shellfish. A more structured, Sémillon-based bottling can stand up to richer fish, chicken, or pork dishes in white sauces. These blends also work well with a variety of vegetables and fresh herbs, like asparagus, peas, basil and tarragon. Sweet dessert wines are traditionally enjoyed with strong blue cheeses, foie gras or fruit-based desserts.
Sauternes and Barsac are usually reserved for dessert, but astute sommeliers know that they can be served at any time—before, during or after the meal. Try these sweet wines as an aperitif with jamón ibérico, oysters with a spicy mignonette or during dinner alongside hearty Alsatian sausage, poached lobster in beurre blanc sauce or even fried chicken.