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No wood chips here!

3 June 2012

Most wines are aged in barrels, and as a result, they acquire some of the characteristics of the wood. That is fine, except when the winemaker goes overboard and the wood dominates the grape (e.g. California Chardonnay where oak chips are added during maturation to accentuate the wood even more). A side effect of overuse of wood is that wines lose their local character–after all, French or American oak is the same everywhere in the world!

So, it is refreshing to find two wines that reflect their grapes and the terroir, partly because they have not been matured in barrels, thus allowing the other aspects to come through.

The first is Muret Oro 2009 from Vinae Mureri in Aragón. It is a wine costing around €5 per bottle, made with 100% Garnacha grape, one of the indigenous Spanish varieties, from very old vines. The use of a local grape varity combined with the absence of wood gives this wine a unique nose and flavour, and considering the price, it is hard to beat. I tasted it at our monthly wine tasting at the office last week and have ordered a case. My spontaneous tasting note from the evening was “really smells like shit, excellent“.

The second wine I tried this week is from Finca Collado in Villena, right here in Alicante province. It is on first look a more conventional wine: a 2009 Merlot, matured in oak vats, but again, no barrel time, and despite being a conventional grape, it has a distinctive character, reflecting the soil and the location, about 60 km inland at about 500-600 meters altitude.

A side benefit of drinking local wine is that you get to meet the wine makers, who more often than not turn out to be delightful people. Here is the couple who own the Finca Collado, first Maricarmen serving me a glass, and then the bodegero (on the right) in conversation with a local wine critic:


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