Spain; Syrah, naturally

Moving is a tough job. Moving internationally is worse, I can tell you. First there’s all the packing (everything has to be disassembled. Everything.), but worst of all for a winelover is that you can’t really take your ‘cellar’. Or rather, I didn’t. I left it all in the good hands of my brother who will lovingly drink them all. And save a few for when I visit, I hope.

The other thing with moving is that you don’t know your way around. That goes for everything, including wines. I now live in Madrid, and for the past month I’ve been mostly drinking supermarket wines, because I hadn’t found the time for discovering wine shops. Of course there’s Lavinia in the centre (a temple for wine, or so I’ve heard), but I live up north and haven’t made the journey yet. I however have made some friends lately, one of whom advised me on a small wine shop in a barrio nearby; La Viñeta de Carmelo in Montecarmelo. Today after Dutch-time dinner (tired kid…) I hopped on the Metro and went for a visit.

David, the owner, runs a very good looking shop there, not only with wine but all sorts of deli products. The wine selection is mostly Spanish (as fits a shop like this), but quality stuff only. After I asked for elegant, perhaps unusual wines, he immediately knew what I meant, and showed bottle after bottle. Good guy, speaks English (even though he says he doesn’t speak much), and a nice shop. What I’d call a good find.

One of the finds from there is the wine I opened tonight: the 2005 Lucía Syrah, from Bodega Marenas (bottle 1063/1800 if you have to ask). It’s named after the winemaker’s daughter, Lucía, who was born in 2005. It’s a wine with no D.O., and it’s what I’d call an ‘authentic‘ (‘natural’?) wine. That is to say, both in the vineyard and in the cellar the grapes were treated with respect; no chemicals in the vineyard, hand picked, hand made, no additions in the cellar, unfined, unfiltered etc etc. No sulfites were added, either.

Bodega Marenas - 2005 Lucía syrah

Bodega Marenas - 2005 Lucía syrah

On to the wine itself. It’s a bit like coming home. A wine where the first whiff sends shivers along your spine. In a good way. A good looking, slightly opaque glass of wine, cherry red with a garnet rim. An elegant wine, with depth. Sweet and savoury notes intermingle on the nose; sandalwood, licorice and a meaty note blend in with deep dark fruit. A tiny bit of volatile acidity that gives it an edge. The nose opens up more and more during the evening.

In the mouth it starts opulent, with a good, deep concentration. After that the acidity kicks in, balancing the mouthfeel and keeping it elegant. Very long taste, with medium tannins of the sandy type. These should integrate even further the coming years, and the acidity should keep it going for quite some time.

The Bodega and the vineyards are in Montilla, near Cordoba, Andalucia. They produce red wines in a white wine area; that’s also the reason why there’s no denominated wine zone on the bottle; the D.O. Montilla-Moriles is only for whites and fortified wines.

I know Spain is Tempranillo country. I respect that. But if you see what even relatively young Syrah can do in these areas, it’s amazing to think what you could do with old vines. When I drive through the countryside here, I’m reminded of Swartland, in South Africa. The place I fell in love with earlier this year when doing cellar work at Lammershoek. The climate is very similar, especially the differences between day and night. I think that Syrah, especially at altitude, could bring incredible wines. If you treat the vines right, let them express terroir, force them to dig to get to the (limited) water supply. I for one am definitely going to keep looking for Syrah around these places. Let’s see what’s been made so far. Or make it myself.

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About Richard

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