So it Goes…

This week’s decent drinking

A few months ago, somewhere in the middle of Spain I stood gazing at a higgledy-piggledy collection of unkempt tatty bush vines rising out of a pebble-strewn field. “Why the hell would anybody want to make wine here?” I wonder. We’ve bumped up to this plateau, 850 meters above sea level, in a 4×4, fresh from inspecting a brand new state-of-the art winery in the valley below.

These very vines, sixty years and more of age, were the lure that caused wine company Baron de Ley to make an investment they probably won’t see a profitable return on for a good few years, a considerable act of faith. The region is called Cigales.

Cigales sits just above Ribera del Duero, currently Spain’s sexy red wine region sporting famous names such as Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Aaalto, Malloleus and Pesquera. While Ribera has always made good reds, Cigales was mainly famed within Spain for its rosados or rosé wines. Most of the vineyards in Cigales are tiny plots, passed down through generations, from whose grapes the owning families made ‘hobby wine’. Bushes bearing white or red grapes were clustered together and harvested as one crop. The whites were rarely identified by name; the red was the familiar tempranillo, known here as tinto del pais, roughly translated as ‘local red’. The climate of Cigales is high continental, with hot summers and cold winters and large daily temperature fluctuations benefit the vines, allowing them to ‘rest’ at night, although protection against frost is a must.

Back at the winery, we tasted wines, some experimental and offering potential for future cult status. Museum Real 2003 Reserva, the company’s flagwaver is hand harvested, hand sorted and gravity pressed, with two years in French oak barriques, followed by two years bottle ageing before being put on sale. It has much in common with a fine Rioja Reserva. The old bush vine grapes however bestow a massive concentration, making Museum Real a fine, muscular, powerful wine that imposes its personality on the taster.

The other day I found a bottle of the 2003 in my cellar. it seemed just the job for a pissy-downy afternoon with a couple of friends. The wine has a concentrated and complex nose, yielding plums, cassis and cherries, with pronounced hints of rosemary and thyme and an extended finish. Big it is but at the same time it’s replete with finesse and we liked it a lot.

Museum Real 2003 Reserva is fairly widely available in Ireland, at around €17.99 and can also be enjoyed at The Port House, as in its homeland, with a selection of tapas.