Sunday, July 5, 2009

La Tienda: Locally Available Albariño Challenge.

Since Miguel introduced me to Galician albariño wines (sometime in November 2008) and pairing them with traditional/regional dishes, I've been enjoying these wines a lot and often. Around a month or so ago, I thought to organize a taste-off among the locally available albariños and proposed the idea to Miguel who readily agreed and organized the menu therefore with chef Javi (or is it "Xavi"?) Lecumberri of La Tienda.

The taste-off/dinner took place this past Friday, 3rd July 2009. We were six on the tasting panel: Miguel, Rene, the Stockbroker, Johnny R, Greg C and myself. Due to the wines' having to be kept chilled in an ice bucket and, consequently, the bottles were wet, hiding the labels would have been quite difficult so the tasting was not done blind - anyway, rest assured that we are all men of honor and, aside from the Stockbroker, none of us are in any manner connected with the wine industry. All the competing wines were purchased, no "freebies" from the suppliers (besides, since albariños are very affordably-priced wines, nobody, especially those on this panel, could conceivably be beholden to any supplier therefor even if any were).

Miguel, Rene and I arrived early to set things up and waited for the others picking at a plate of chorizos. By around 7pm, we were complete and the tasting commenced. Since albariños are casual wines meant to be consumed fresh and with seafood-based dishes (chef Javi went to Seaside Market that same afternoon to get us the freshest catch), many were on the table, along with baskets of warm bread, for the tasters.

The seafood dishes for the albariño tasting were suahe, boquerónes, pulpo á la Gallega, escalivadas, kokotxas de bacalao al pilpil (Miguel had flown in some real kokotxas de bacalao from Spain), almejas and and pimientos rellenos de bacalao.

Suahe and Boquerónes


Kokotxas de bacalao al pilpil

Pimientos Rellenos de Bacalao

Pulpo á la Gallega

The competing wines were, by the rules, to be readily locally available and at least 70% albariño in composition. Because of a mistake on my part, Terry Selections' 2007 Condado Laxas was not included, and, because some of the tasters had already passed less than favorably on Barcino's 2007 Pazo San Mauro Albariño in a previous dinner, the latter was also not included. There were, thus, 5 competing albariños that evening: 2006 Pazo de Barrantes Alabariño (sold by Ralph's), 2007 Códax Burgáns (sold by Barcino), 2007 Códax Albariño (sold by Barcino), 2007 Laxas Albariño (sold by Terry Selections) and 2007 Terras Gauda Albariño (sold by Premium Wine Exchange).

2007 Códax Burgáns (Barcino) and 2006 Pazo Barrantes Albariño (Ralph's)

2007 Laxas Albariño (Terry Selections)

2007 Terras Gauda O Rosal (Premium Wine Exchange)

2007 Códax Albariño (Barcino)

Albariños are generally recognized as fresh, floral, dry, minerally, vibrant, relatively low in alcohol content, generally presenting notes of, some say: peach, apricot, others say green apple citrus, etc. Since these wines are basically of the same grape, all from Rias Baixas (Galicia) and, except for the Pazo Barrantes, all from vintage 2007, the members of the panel were, thus, able to more easily concentrate/focus on purity, balance, clarity, freshness, food-friendliness, typicity, etc. I will not include all the individual tasting notes in this post asit will be too long due to much repetition.

The results were definitive, as follows:

  • 1st Place - 2007 Laxas Albariño with 28 points (4 votes for 1st place and 2 votes for 2nd place - many commented on best over-all balance), Terry Selection.

  • 2nd Place - 2007 Terras Gauda Albariño with 24 points (2 votes for 1st place, 3 votes for 2nd place, 1 vote for 4th place - comments on elegance and finesse), Premium Wine Exchange

  • 3rd Place - 2007 Códax Burgáns with 17 points (1 vote for 2nd place, 3 votes for 3rd place and 2 votes for 4th place), Barcino.

  • 4th Place - 2007 Códax Albariño with 15 points (3 votes for 3rd place and 3 votes for 4th place), Barcino.

  • 5th Place - 2006 Pazo de Barrantes Alabariño with 6 points (6 votes for 5th place - a common opinion was that it lacked balancing acidity, one noted it was flabby and cloying, one noted that it was atypical of albariño), Ralph's.

The academic part of the evening over, we were all able to kick back, relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. Since each of us brought at least one bottle of red each, a wide assortment of reds for dinner were available. There were reds from all over: Rioja, Priorat, Napa, Pomerol, Piedmont, Chile, Australia, etc. - everyone had chuleton on their minds, obviously.

Not all bottles were opened immediately, but some were already being decanted for aeration. Miguel then told the staff that we were ready for dinner proper.

We sarted with platters of Paella de Verduras (made with basmati rice), followed by a huge Besugo al Horno for whatever albariños were left, followed, and, thereafter, Chuleton for the reds.

Paella de Verduras (with basmati rice)

Besugo al Horno

Chuleton with fries

There were simply too many reds on deck, much more than we could finish and remain reasonably sober, so only a few were opened.

2005 Kapcsándy Family Winery Estate Cuvée State Lane Vineyard - A very young bordelaise blend from Napa, I understand that with this vintage, Denis Malbec, formerly cellar master of Château Latour was involved. It was opened for sheer curiosity as some tout this as the next Cali cult wine. Decanted for aeration for around 2-2½ hours before hand, it was still very primary, showing a dense, concentrated, somewhat syrupy texture and very full body.

Typical big Napa cab blend, it blasted out crème de cassis, super ripe black currants, espresso, lots of toasty oak/vanilla, cough drop, sweetish licorice, cinammon, toffee and a touch of caramel. Not really my type of wine despite Robert Parker's 94-point anointment, but, with proper age, it would surely please those fond of big Napa cabs.

2001 Yarra Yering Dry Red Nº1 - From Rene, purchased during his most recent business trip to Australia. Surprisingly much more suave and reserved than most all Aussie bordelaise blends that I have tried. It shows a cleaner over-all character, just-over medium-bodied, with cassis, some discreet cherry and raspberry, bit of cedar and a faint earthiness. Not bad at all, quite pleasant, actually.

2002 Cims de Porrera Solanes Priorato - Greg's bottle, opened to go with the chuleton as the main pairing wine. "Cims de Porrera" means the heights or summits of Porrera, the latter a village in the DOQ of Priorat at the Catalunian foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. The winery is owned by the Pérez family, one of the 5 late-'80s "pioneers" who put Priorat on the world's wine map (the others being Rene Barbier through Clos Mogador, Álvaro Palacios through Finca Dofí, etc.).

Solanes is actually Cims de Porrera's second wine to its Classic line, the latter of which I bought several of the 2001 vintage from Säntis around 3 years ago. 2002 was a middling vintage so no Classic was made, and research shows the fruit that usually goes into the Classic line went into the Solanes that year.

This wine showed good restraint instead of the usually almost-over-the-top (for me) overly ripen/extracted/concentrated/oaky style that has been popular as of late - likely the vintage speaking. The wine is just a few notches over medium-bodied, with a smooth, slightly spicy character. Its dark fruit is smooth enough but with good presence, the wood well-integrated, the tannins nicely in check.

Though it does not possess a commanding character, I think it is more food-friendly for that. It was able to stand up to the chuleton, complementing it well, while allowing the latter to take center stage as was planned. Good call, Greg, to bring this wine for pairing.

In the meantime, the Stockbroker, always very generous wit his deep bench of wines, had pulled out a special red that got Johnny into a vinous swoon - as well it would.

1995 Château L'Evangile - From Pomerol, a wine I first tried with him and the Doc several years ago. I can't seem to find my notes on it, they must have been one of those that got lost before I started my blog. This château is the Rothschild's (Lafite, not Mouton) flagship Pomerol, the vineyards of which neighbor those of fellow appellation stars Pétrus and La Conseillant.

Warm, comforting, quietly powerful with great depth and good complexity, presenting serious, earthy dark plum, dark cherry, mocha, touch of licorice, cedar and some underlying loam, cassis and discreet minerality. Not quite full-bodied, excellent balance, harmony and typicity - a beautiful wine. Much, much better, in my opinion, than the '96 L'Evangile that I bought a few bottles of back in 2005.

Dessert was a traditional Leche Frita from Javi, for which the Stockbroker opened...

2004 Celler de Capçanes Pansal del Calas - Hailing from Montsant, this sweet red wine reminds me of a heftier version of the vin du naturel of Rasteau more than Banyuls because the subject wine's chocolate notes are subtle. Old vine grenache dominant, this viscous and chewy wine's sweetness is properly moderate (I do not like overly/cloyingly sweet wines) with dried cherry/dark fruit/fig, semi-sweet chocolate, roasted walnuts, touch of chestnut, bit of vanilla, and a mere hint of cinammon. Very nice, especially at its price - P1900 at Premium Wine Exchange.

Johnny had left earlier due to a family emergency. We wish his family well. We lingered a bit, finishing off whatever we wanted of the wines and headed for home relatively early since I got home way before midnight. Thanks to all, especially chef Javi who went to great lengths to prepare an excellent meal for us. I must say that the chuleton was particularly delicious that night and the fries were sheer perfection. Muchisimas gracias.


Miguel said...

I really had a great time...thanks fro thinking about doing this.

We should do this more often.

Noel said...

Definitely we should. Hmmph!!!

Heh heh heh.


Ines said...

Nice!I've tried the Laxas and the Codax Albariños, and they are lovely indeed! I'll make a point to try out the Terras Gauda.

On a side note- those almejas look fantastic- is that off the menu as well?

Rene said...

Thanks for organizing this tasting dinner...I had a great time. By the way, the Yarra Yering was a 2001.

Miguel said...

Ines - I'll reply for Noel since I know he is out of the Country... Yes most of the dishes are off the menu, except for the main courses.

Miguel said...

Noel----hmm yes Hmmph!!! rin sila...hahahaha but next time if they dont come we are DEAD...hahaha

Chinkee said...

Galing talaga your wine notes. You're the Weinmeister, no doubt about it:-)

I had a feeling Laxas would win. It is the favorite of the group obviously, based on past dinners I've read about.

By the way, I recognized one of your friends (Johnny) from a telenovela my mom is addicted to. And I mean ADDICTED, like crack! Sometimes I'm "forced" to watch it too, so I know. Hehe. Seriously, its quite addictive...

Noel said...

Dear All,

I apologize for the delay in my responses. As Mig stated, I was out for a few days. Anyway, I'm back.


Yes, those are really good albariños and the almejas were, indeed, excellent - off the menu, though, as Miguel stated.


It was great fun, buddy. I just thought up the tasting, Mig and Javi did all the organizing for the reservations and pairing menu.


I know, Catha said something to me about not being invited to this. Heh heh heh.


Thanks, you are too kind. The Laxas was a clear winner as the votes bear out. Only Jojo and Greg didn't vote it 1st place, but voted it 2nd.

Yup, that's johnny in the telenovela alright. Didn't you meet him when we saw you guys at JSG a while back (when Marc made us Paella à la Marc)? Johnny was with us then.

Best to all,


A said...

That telenovela must be the same one that Johnny was reading a script for when we had the Oz tasting at Je Suis before...

Catha said...

Ha! Thats why JC is my friend. He always invites me.