1. Vino de la Tierra is a very hot category today in Spain. By EU law it is not considered a "quality wine". It actually falls under the Tabel wine category along with the lower sub-category "Vino de mesa". Vinos de la Tierra (VdT) are subject a to fewer rules and regulations than Denominacion de Origen (DO) wines. They cannot put the aging categories of Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva on their labels, but they can put the vintage on the label (unlike table wine). There are 41 areas that are designated Vino de la Tierra. Two of the hottest are VdT Castilla Leon and VdT Castilla (La Mancha), but there are many great wines coming out of other areas as well.
Some wineries make this category because their vineyards are not within a designated DO area, others are making it because they don't want to deal with the DO bureaucracy and want more freedom in making their wines.
Examples of very well known and excellent VdT wines are: Mauro, Leda, and Abadia Retuerta, all from Castilla Leon. Recently I had an excellent one that was VdT Iles Baleares. It's called Son Bordils Negre and is made of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Manto Negro, Callet, Tempranillo, Monastrell, and Syrah! It was a 2003, had 12 months in French, American, and Hungarian oak and costs only 12 euros. It was one of the favourites of my class that evening…beating out some blockbuster wines. The only wine that scored higher that night was the Santa Cruz de Artazu 2004 from Navarra (100% Garnacha…awesome!)
The Son Bordils Negre was a lean elegant wine with cherry, mineral (wet stones), and anis. The nose was closed at first, but kept getting better over 3 hours. In the mouth is was medium bodied, elegant, with refreshing cherry fruit and great acidity. It had some smoky oak notes and a long finish, with a refreshing bitterness. Tannins were very present, but smooth. A very original wine from the islands!
2. Most recently my biggest wine surprises have been in the lower category of Vino de Mesa. I was so focused on Vdt, that I had neglect the hot wines cropping up here! These wines have very few rules, but also some serious limitations…for instance you cannot put the vintage on the label. Wineries, therefore, have to get creative about it…one winery puts it on the top of the cork and puts no capsule on…another puts a simple 02 on the label….
I'll mention three different wines:
- A Vino de Mesa from Murcia from Bodegas Lavia. Lavia is made from Monastrell and Syrah and is aged 6 months in new French oak…10€. Very mediterranena..high alcohol, with plum and anis. In mouth a very candy-like fruit…red licorice? Very full-bodied and a little hot, smooth with a nice finish. Nothing to blow you away…but very nice. 10€
- A Vino de Mesa from Penedés (Cataluña) from Heretat Mont Rubí. Durona (2003 on the cork) is made from Sumoll, Garnacha, Cariñena, Shiraz, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has to be a Vino de Mesa because of the inclusion of Sumoll, an indigenous variety that's not allowed under DO. Powerful, yet elegant…with bright cherry fruit. Very persistent in mouth…this wine was very easy to drink and kept getting better with aeration. 15€
- A Vino de Mesa from Madrid! This one was recommended by the excellent folks at Casa Lucas…you can check out the review I did on this fantastic wine bar. This was called Montazo and is made of the Garnacha grape by one of the wine gurus of Spain: Telmo Rodriguez. It had a pale color and a very mineral nose: graphite. Very complex, but closed initially. Later it became floral with plum and anis. Great acid in the mouth…I usually don't mention refreshing with many Madrid wines! The mineral mouth lingered a really long time. Unique and original, thoroughly challenging, yet original! 15€
Bottom line: Check out some of these new wines in these lesser categories...this is the cutting edge of Spanish wines!