Easter is almost upon us and many of us will be preparing traditional roast lamb.
Spring lamb has such a delicate flavour that you are probably rightly thinking about serving elegant old Bordeaux or perhaps reserva or Gran Reserva Rioja. Excellent choices, but remember that lamb is the most commonly eaten meat in Spain and local lamb is served with local wines from Catalonia to Valencia to Castilla Y Leon so this week I have a mini-focus on some lesser known Spanish reds all of which match lamb.
Catalonia has lots of contrasting regions from the Mediterranean coast to the harsh arid climes inland and the cooler hilly areas. You could fill columns and wine shelves with the wines of the region from Cava in Penedès to the concentrated stony (slate) elegance of Priorat to the everyday value of Tarragona and relative good value of Monsant and Conca de Barberá.
Penedès-based Torres have been experimenting in the greater Catalunya region with some excellent results such as their Milmanda chardonnay from Conca de Barberá. More importantly they have been using warmer parts of the region to test heat-resistant vines in preparation for climate change and with some notable success. Purgatori (recommended below) is grown on land once owned by the Abbey of Montserrat and is a blend of old vine carinena, garnatxa and syrah and is excellent value as well as being delicious.
Terra Alta is the most southerly denominación de origen in Catalonia and is one of Spain’s least known. However, its best known winery Herència Altés is now imported here by Cassidy Wines. The Altés family has been growing grapes here for generations but the estate name is still relatively new and its beautiful new winery only months old. The vineyards are in the process of conversion to organic viticulture. There is a focus on pure grape flavours throughout their range and I was pleased to see on their website that as well as lots of stainless steel they are using large 2,500 and 5,000 litre foudres plus of course lots of fashionable concrete eggs.
There are some delicious reds from older vines which may filter out into shops later such as the peppery-juicy La Peluda made from ‘Hairy Garnacha’ and the high-altitude old vine Benufet Garnatxa Blanca.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
JJ O’Driscolls Ballinlough, widely available
JJ O’Driscolls have this on special offer next week and it will be open for tasting with a selection of other wines next Holy Thursday. Marques de Riscal were instrumental in bringing the joys of Rueda and the local Verdejo grape to prominence and this Sauvignon is ripe and exuberant with apple and crisp lemon-lime flavours; their Rueda is also €10.
O’Donovans, Quay Co-Op, Fields Skibereen, Clontarf Wines, Mortons Galway
I mentioned the white Albet i Noya a few weeks back and their entry-level red is just as good — arguably the best value organic wines in the country. This bright juicy Joven has sweet damson and red fruit aromas, red and black fruits on the palate (especially blackberry) and not a little elegance.
The Corkscrew, Wicklow Wine Co; www.wicklowwineco.ie
Jumilla is in Eastern Spain not far inland from Alicante. This is 70% Monastrell along with some Syrah and Tempranillo and from a vineyard at 750m above sea level. Bright cherry red and packed with generous prune and black cherry fruits - a, juicy, sensual wine with some savoury elements - perfect for grilled lamb chops rubbed with olive oil and herbs.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
1601, O’Donovans, No. 21, JJ O’Driscolls, Matsons, World Wide Wines, Vanilla Grape, Corkscrew
White Grenache was once much more common in the region but has been rather supplanted by red wines all chasing the success of Priorat. This is from a mix of old and young vines and has long lees ageing to bring out the grape’s all important textures and aromas.
Again a mix of old and young vines and lots of maceration — bright juicy red fruit aromas with touches of blackberry, supple and fleshy with integrated tannins and complex herbal touches on the finish. One of the best expressions of Grenache I’ve tasted at this price point. Watch also for the Cutpage blend with added Carignan and Syrah.
The Corkscrew www.thecorkscrew.ie
This is one of Torres excellent boutique wines with low production so not widely available outside Spain. Rich toasted black fruits mixed with allspice and touches of mocha and tobacco, a palate packed with rich complex dark fruits, supple soft dark chocolate tinged black fruits, lingers nicely. If this had cost twice as much I would not have been surprised.