Ever visited the land of Don Quixote – La Mancha, Spain? I had the opportunity to do just that, without a plane ticket. The wines of La Mancha came to our own backyard, Dallas! A USA spring tour of “Wines Worth Discovering” sponsored by the La Mancha region of Spain occurred in Dallas with the Meadows Museum on SMU’s campus serving as a back drop. This event occurred last week, Saturday, May 12th, and is well worth the review.
Taking a visit to the SMU Meadows Museum is quite a treat. The museum is named after Algur H. Meadows, oil financier and Texas philanthropist. During business trips to Spain in the 1950’s, he was inspired by the Prado Museum in Madrid to start his own collection of Spanish art. In 1962, he gave SMU funds for the construction and endowment of the museum and his collection.
The Meadows Museum now houses one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Spanish art outside of Spain. With works dating from the 10th to the 21st century, the internationally renowned collection presents a broad spectrum of art covering a thousand years of Spanish heritage.
I can’t imagine a more appropriate and beautiful venue to discover the wines of La Mancha, located in central Spain, a region I hadn’t visited – at least by wine standards. When most of us think of Spanish wines, we think of Tempranillo which is the main grape used in the Rioja region. These wines are very popular and are quite inexpensive (under $10/bottle) for the quality. During the 1990s, Tempranillo started experiencing a renaissance in wine production worldwide. Tempranillo wines are ruby red in colour, while aromas and flavors can include berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather, and herb.
But here comes La Mancha region wines - look out! The trade show offered a formal wine tasting of 6 wines led by Michael Green, 25 years of experience including nearly two decades as Gourmet Magazine’s wine and spirits consultant will provide a unique perspective on these extraordinary wines. “The diversity and quality of wines coming from La Mancha today is remarkable, and I think they will surprise a lot of people,” notes Michael Green. “It’s a region whose time has come.”
The wines to be poured at the tastings are crafted from grape varieties that flourish in La Mancha, including the white grape Airén (the most planted grape in the world) and the popular Spanish red Tempranillo (which goes by the local name Cencibel), as well as other indigenous and international varieties such as Viura, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, all of which find a suitable, and sunny, home in La Mancha.
Let’s start with the formal wine tasting. I sit down at a chair in front of 6 glasses, each with a 2 ounce tasting of various wines. Michael Green is the “host” and walks us through the presentation of the 6 wines. When tasting wines, it is always good to start with the lightest wine and finish with the heaviest – as a general rule: whites to reds.
We start with Espanillo Organic Airen Joven 2011. It is quite light; one could compare it to a Pinot Grigio with a bit of a twist, or perhaps a Portuguese Vinho Verde. $6 retail. Next is Tomillar Sauvignon Blanc 2011; aromas of wet grass & spring time. $11 retail.
Then we started on the reds. First up: Torre de Gazate Tempranillo 2011. It is atypical of a Spanish Tempranillo. Much like a lighter red similar to a Beaujolais. $9 retail. Next is La Cruz Vega Syrah 2011. Of the formal tasting, this was my favorite as was my friends'; well-balanced (acid vs. fruit). If you find it too young for your palate – add manchego! Next is Vega Demara Tempranillo Roble 2011; spent 90 days in American oak barrels. Next is Casa Gualda Crianza 2008 – our first blend: 50% Tempranillo, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. The producer of this wine described it as a wine you order for you and your date on the third date! A more serious wine. $14 retail. The last red of the formal tasting was Allozo Reserva 2005 (100% Tempranillo). Very much terroir based – I could smell the earth, the dirt of where the grapes were grown. $16 retail.
The Grand Tasting presented over 100 red and white wines from 15 wineries from the D.O. (designation of origin) La Mancha. You may ask “How do you sample so many wines in less than two hours”? My way is to walk up to each table (winery) and ask if I could only try one wine of yours, which should it be? This is my way, there are so many other ways to decide what to sample. All whites? All reds? A certain varietal (grape)? All of one winery? What people are talking about? What labels appeal to you? The list goes on and on.
Top Five La Mancha Wines at Grand Tasting:
1. Bodegas Verduguez Imperial Toledo Oaked Selection-Roble 2009
Blend of Tempranillo, Syrah & Merlot
2. Bodegas Verduguez Coeli Del Cielo
Sparkling Medium Sweet Rose
3. Dominio De Punctum 2011
Nortesur Chardonnay – organic
4. Vinicola De Tomelloso 2011
5. La Cruz Vega 2011
Syrah – well balanced – acid vs. fruit – if too young for your taste, add food – perfecto!