Luis Gutierrez, The Wine Advocate
About this WINE
Telmo Rodriguez is one of the great Spanish winemakers. He travelled and learnt for many years before returning home to Rioja. In addition, he supervises négociant projects throughout Spain. One of his most acclaimed projects is in Ribera del Duero.
The charismatic Telmo has something of the prodigal about him, having now returned to his Riojan homestead to energise the great house of Remelluri. One should not overlook, however, his other properties, which explore some of the lesser-known areas of Spain and in each case seek to make superlative and characterful wines. Ribera del Duero is far from a lesser-known area, so it is to Telmo’s great credit, but to no-one’s surprise, that the wines he makes at Matallana are amongst the very best here too.
For so long, Spain was regarded as a source of inexpensive red wine with only Rioja standing above the parapet. Now there is a plethora of interesting wines in many different styles.
Exciting fresh whites, especially from the Albariño in the Rías Baixas and Verdejo in Rueda, – not forgetting Viura in Rioja - have extended the choice. There have also been interesting developments in that most classical of all wine regions, Jerez - the home of sherry - not so much in modernisation of production, but in developing small-scale bottlings of the highest quality Sherry at remarkably affordable prices.
Modern techniques and a new appreciation of what might be possible have encouraged pioneers to produce some startlingly attractive reds. There are now some thoroughly competent wines from La Mancha, and striking bottlings of Monastrell (known elsewhere as Mataró or Mourvèdre) in Jumilla.
Thankfully, the modernisation of the pedestrian has not held back successful traditional styles of wine. Alongside such modernists as Palacios Remondo and Allende in Rioja, long established houses like La Rioja Alta and CVNE continue to make graceful, old-style wines contingent upon several years’ barrel-ageing before further maturation in bottle. These Reserva and Gran Reserva wines have the gentle fragrance of well-seasoned fruit in partnership with a dash of vanilla oak. There are also subtle differences between regions of Rioja and in the precise makeup of the grape mix, with Garnacha and Mazuelo supporting the dominant Tempranillo.
The only challenger to Rioja's claim to red wine supremacy is the Ribera del Duero, where the same red grape, Tempranillo, defines the wines, though known here as Tinto Fino. Most magisterial of all producers is Vega Sicilia whose Unico wines are not released onto the market before a minimum of 10 years - including at least seven years of barrel ageing.
Grenache (Noir) is widely grown and comes in a variety of styles. Believed to originate in Spain, it was, in the late 20th century, the most widely planted black grape variety in the world. Today it hovers around seventh in the pecking order. It tends to produce very fruity, rich wines that can range quite widely in their level of tannin.
In many regions – most famously the Southern Rhône, where it complements Syrah and Mourvèdre, among other grapes – it adds backbone and colour to blends, but some of the most notable Châteauneuf du Pape producers (such as Château Rayas) make 100 percent Grenache wines. The grape is a component in many wines of the Languedoc (where you’ll also find its lighter-coloured forms, Grenache Gris and Blanc) and is responsible for much southern French rosé – taking the lead in most Provence styles.
Found all over Spain as Garnacha Tinta (spelt Garnaxa in Catalonia), the grape variety is increasingly detailed on wine labels there. Along with Tempranillo, it forms the majority of the blend for Rioja’s reds and has been adopted widely in Navarra, where it produces lighter styles of red and rosado (rosé). It can also be found operating under a pseudonym, Cannonau, in Sardinia.
Beyond Europe, Grenache is widely planted in California and Australia, largely thanks to its ability to operate in high temperatures and without much water. Particularly in the Barossa Valley, there are some extraordinary dry-farmed bush vines, some of which are centuries old and produce wines of startling intensity.