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Moat of Montsant
Montsant is a term to remember. Regal, saintly, the word screams castle on a hilltop. Funny that it’s actually more like the moat around the castle, despite the term that sounds a lot like a Mountain-Saint hybrid. The true mountain of this part of Spain (Catalonia – home to Barcelona and Cava) is Priorat, a region famous for amazing red wines. You’ve heard of Rioja? This is the ONLY other region in all of Spain with a DOCa – translated as Awesome Wine Region.

More Wine, Less $$$
Montsant though is the entire region that surrounds the Priorat castle on the hilltop. Same grapes, less $$$. When you find the bottle, buy the bottle since it’s pretty under the radar and it’s the rare find on the shelves. These guys seem intent on making it more available so h/t not just for the map, but for the work they’re doing.

Syrah – Spanish blend
Syrah is the majority contributor to this wine so its name shows up as Grape #41, although Garnacha throws its 45% into the barrel too. Pretty typical blend from this part of Catalonia even thought the traditional mix had a lot more Garnacha and a lot less of the other.

Shiraz – more crocodile per bottle
We Anglos in particular have a love for Syrah. Actually, it’s more a love for Shiraz, which sounds less French and more Australian. Same grape but more crocodiles.

Masquerade! Paper Faces on Parade
Australia turns out ridiculous amounts of Shiraz, puts a Yellow Tail label on it, and sells it to supermarkets in the US and Britain. They’re been doing this gig this the 1980s and it’s still not old. Sorta like Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, it hangs on for decades because it’s just that loved. Expect the infatuation to continue.

Addictive Yellow Tail
Yes, Australia puts out high-end ridiculously delicious Barossa Shiraz and France has really smooth, silky Syrahs going back centuries but it’s hard to look past the Yellow Tail kangaroo staring at us in the face. If someone had put a Yellow Tail crocodile on our shelves, you better believe we’d buy that too. We bought those crazy tennis shirts back in the day with the crocodile and those were French tennis shirts… with collars. Clearly we’re obsessed.

Seven of us dinner-goers tried this bottle (and ordered a second since one glass wasn’t enough) at Landmarc, known mostly for outdoor seating and less of a wine mark-up than most restaurants. Surprisingly for a large group, everyone loved this wine. And people had ordered fish, chicken and burgers. Not exactly the easiest food to match a wine to – but all seven of us came away impressed.

“Chalky” and “dark” were the two words I heard the most at the table, although truth be told, we were talking lots more about everything else and very little about the wine. Other reviewers who actually paid attention add in “blueberries” and “mineral” to their descriptions and they probably thought a lot more about their descriptions. Really though, it’s a fun wine and clearly a crowd-pleaser.

Detail Up!
Finca l’Argata 2008 Joan d’Anguera from Montsant in Catalonia, Spain (h/t to those guys for the image)

Random Googles:
* Syrah is pronounced by the pretentious and the French (especially in SE France where’s it’s famous) as si-hah. The rest of us call it Sir-Ah.
* Shiraz is Australia’s name for the grape, which is also a city in Iran. Shiraz’s Ur-story anyone?
* Spain uses it mostly as a blending wine with Spanish grapes – Montsant and Jumilla both use it in their blends and both regions make great wine at prices mortals can purchase.

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I like friends
Sometimes it’s good to have friends. Sure, there are all kinds of benefits that come with friends. You enjoy life more, you live longer, and you get to try more dishes at large-group gatherings. On top of all that, sometimes your friends introduce you new wine grapes. Definitely not at the top of the list, but a cherished benefit nonetheless.

No More CFA – woot
Godello is the grape that came out of Saturday’s gathering of friends. Mr. Reebok had just finished the third (and last!) of the grueling CFA exams and was being reawakened to the joys of everyday life. Out of the fridge of Miguel Seleño came the Godello, along with an acclamation that it’s what Albariño was a few years ago. I took that to mean: a) acidic, b) unknown outside the die-hard wino world and c) white wine. True on all accounts but also: d) from Spain, e) from NW Spain (Galicia) and f) from one of the five named wine growing regions in Galicia.

Spain do 69
The Spanish system of identifying grape growing regions involves the D.O. (denominación de origen), and Galicia has 5 of the 69 Spanish D.O. wine regions (click through for a great PDF map of all 69). Albariño generally comes from Rías Baixas (the western-most D.O. in all of Spain) and Godello generally comes from Monterrei (right on the border with Portugal) or Valdeorras (where Godello is the only authorized white grape).

Godello is a wine that people have a hard time describing. Some describe it with mysterious-sounding incantations “fascinating complexity” or “rich in aromatic potential.” Others pick and pluck from other regions in an attempt to pull together what its essence is – “minerality of a great Chablis with the acidic snap of a Sauvignon Blanc.” One guy (but what a guy!) just called it “the greatest white-wine grape in all of Spain.”

My impression based on exactly one bottle of Godello is that it’s really similar to Vinho Verde but somewhat sweeter. Lots of acidity, lots of citrus (lime mostly, but some grapefruit and lemon too) and some green apples. Godello screams summer, seafood and beach sand.

Detail Up!
Godello Terra do Lobo 2009 from Monterrei D.O. in Galicia, Spain

Google Randoms:
* Monterrey, Mexico’s Second City (sorry chicago), takes its name from Monterrei, the D.O. wine region where Godello is grown
* Galicia’s five D.O. regions are: 1) Rias Baixas (albarino), 2) Ribeiro, 3) Ribeira Sacra, 4) Monterrei (godello), and 5) Valdeorras (godello).
* Terra do Lobo = Land of the Wolf. Probably the reason they have a picture of a moon on the label too – perfect wine to bring to your Twilight party. Go Team Jacob.

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Messi, Mazuelo and Graciano
Tempranillo rules Spain like it owns a Barza jersey and answers to Messi, there’s no disputing that. But behind Messi is a whole team of supporting grapes that make Tempranillo what it is. Two of those grapes are Mazuelo and Graciano, little known grapes who tend to shy from the spotlight but set up Tempranillo for the MVP Award when it counts.

Spanish Night of Fellini
Personally, I missed the Barza (3) – Manchester (1) final where Messi won his MVP and Spain erupted in a fit of hysteria not seen since oh… the EXACT same thing happened two years ago when Barza defeated Manchester for the final. Fortunately, my brother arrived direct from Spain with a bottle under his arm (and another stashed in his suitcase), with stories of Spanish victories, appropriate wine intake levels and early morning Fellini-esque tales of Spanish celebrations.

Fauns and Fantasia
Mazuelo is the more famous of the two, although it’s only the Spanish who call it that. The rest of Europe calls it “Carignan” and knows it as the grape from the cheaper parts of France that led to the famous “wine lake.” Not sure how “wine lake” came to mean a bad thing since it seems like an amazing faun-centric scene from Fantasia, but France managed to make “wine lake” a bad thing. They produced way more than France (or anyone else) could consume and had to turn hundreds of millions of bottles of wine into industrial alcohol. Surely a faun is crying somewhere.

Graciano’s All Muscles
Graciano grows pretty much only in La Rioja, with some outposts around the world. Mostly, it’s used as the muscle in the body-building world of Old Wines (Reserva and Gran Reserva under the Spanish system). Spain used to consider Graciano a key ingredient in Rioja wines but it’s a hard grape to grow and it’s not as common to find as it once was back in the yesteryears of the 1970s. That said, the grape is coming back and even some entire bottles are now made from 100% Graciano. Mostly though, it remains a blending wine to ensure that Tempranillo has staying power and will be running around Barza’s field for decades to come.

Red fruit, lots of fun on the mouth – long smokey finish without annoying tannin power

Detail Up!
2006 Beronia Reserva from Rioja, Spain

Random Googles:
* Californians call Graciano by its awesome persian name – Xeres
* Mazuelo – what NOT to serve to my favorite wine writer
* Mazuelo, aka Carignan, was the #1 most planted grape in France in the late 1970s. The #2 grape (Grenache) had about 1/3 as many vines planted. Two words – “Wine. Lake.”

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This grape tricked me. It shouted out from the menu and when it shouted, it shouted “New Grape!” Unfortunately, Cencibel is a grape that is already reviewed in a prior post (see if you can guess by the time the hyperlink shows up below).

Man of La Mancha
Coming from Spain, and from La Mancha, this grape promised to be as new as Don Quixote breaking into the chivalric romance genre in 1605 and 1615 (apparently, it’s two volumes). Turns out, this grape is as known as food to the mouth of Quixote’s erstwhile and gluttonous companion, Sancho Panza. Despite the tantalizing newness promised by the word “Cencibel” and its subsequent unmasking as another Spanish grape, it’s hard to dislike this Cencibel wine.

Here’s the joint description of the grape based on the hemming-and-hawing between my sister and I as we sat at the bar in pre-dinner, not-yet-hungry expectation.

Detail Up!
Cencibel from La Mancha – 2007 Pago Florentino Vino de Pago (h/t for the image too)
Light tannins, thinner throughout, some blueberry, bit sweet

Google Clues
* This grape is typical of Spain and might be its most popular grape, particularly in Rioja
* New world and old world makers now flock to this wine that means “little early one” due to the early harvest
* Cencibel also goes by the name “Temp…..

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This week is full of grapes that won’t register in my brain if they were listed together on a sheet of paper. Macabeo is one grape that’s instrumental in every teenager’s life at the discovery of Cava but still manages to stay under the radar since it’s almost never on the label. “Cava” shows up quite a bit on the label (or the cork in this case), even though this wine isn’t a true Cava. It’s a vino de aguja aka a petullant aka a frizzante aka a fizzy wine. Not really a fully bubbly but a half bubbly, this wine has bubbles that hang around together at the surface of the wine but don’t follow the beads of bubbles that a fully fizzy wine like Champagne or a true Cava has. This one has bubbles that randomly swagger to the surface instead of following ant-like the trail of their effervescent cousins.


Enough about fizzy wine though, this Blanc Pescador wine actually has 3 grapes. The only one with 50% power is the Macabeo since the other two place around in that 25% range and won’t be mentioned. The smell on this wine isn’t the typical acidic nose of a seafood wine, which is curious with a name like “White Fisherman” (the translation of Blanc Pescador). This wine smells a lot more like peaches and full bodied fruit, even though it’s taste is that fresh and constant taste you’d want in a wine that stacks up to shellfish (PEI mussels in my case). How they managed to stuff nectarines and yuzu into this wine and keep it looking clean as a light yellow gemstone I have no idea. Nevertheless, they succeeded with this wine and even after an hour of pouring a glass there are a few bubbles undulating up to the surface. Weird.


There’s really nothing I’ve said about the grape other than it’s part of Cava but there is a fair amount about Macabeo. Like it’s name isn’t Macabeo outside of Spain – it’s Viura (scallop in Spanish, which is perhaps why they called it something else, despite it pairing well with scallops). They grow it along the southern un-trendy part of France in Languedoc-Roussillon, in the Rioja region and south of Barcelona where the Cava fields bubble happily in the sun (at least that’s how I imagine it).

Detail Up!
Blanc Pescador by Castillo Perelada

Google Randoms
* The hottest lady in wine crushes on this “cinderella wine” in her spare time.
* This is the white wine they mostly plant in northern Spain so if you’ve ever had a White Rioja, chances are you’ve had this
* This Blanc Pescador wine made the Top 16 list of Best Vinos de Aguja. No idea who decided Top 16 was better than Top 10 or Top 20. Top 16 Wines – catchy.

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