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Artadi: Tasting Magic of Terroir and Tempranillo

Posted: Thursday, 05 March 2015 10:53

Artadi: Tasting Magic of Terroir and Tempranillo

March 05: Juan Carlos Lopez de Lacalle, owner-winemaker of the premium Rioja winery Artadi was in Delhi this week to showcase his entry level Viñas de Gain white and red wines and the top end El Pison-both reds with 100% Tempranillo, at a special evening hosted by H.E. Gustavo Manuel de Arístegui y San Román, Ambassador of Spain in India at his residence in Delhi, writes Subhash Arora who was pleased and intrigued with the wines

Click For Large ViewSome Tastings are flashy, others discreet; some are meaningful and others are meaningless. Some are with larger crowds while others like this are for a smaller group of professionals who can nose their wine glass with some knowledge and where one can have a meaningful discussion, said the Ambassador of Spain H.E. Gustavo de Arístegui who opened his home and heart to welcome about 80 people to taste the exquisite iconic Rioja wine El Pison that had impressed the then Robert Parker- owned  Wine Advocate for the 2004 vintage, receiving 100 points. The Ambassador conceded he had never met the owner-winemaker Juan Carlos Lopez but was a personal fan of El Pison.

Juan Carlos and his family own three wineries-in Rioja Alavesa, Alicante and Navarra but he was particularly fond of Rioja. His 4 generations have been growing grapes and making wine but selling it as bulk wine until this viticulturist set up Bodegas y Viñedos Artadi in 1985 and within 25 years changed it to one of the most revered wineries; it was selected as the Cellar of the Year 2014 by the well-known Spanish wine guide, Guia Peñin. He has a range of single vineyard wines that score generally over 95 but Juan Carlos who was accompanied by his export manager Paloma Bianca could carry only 3 variants- two being his entry level Gain and the top level El Pison that fetches up to over $500 a bottle depending on the vintage (and presumably the WA points).

We started the evening with the white Viñas de Gain 2010. Made from Viura (Macabeo used in Cava) grapes, this is a typical Rioja white wine grape. Although it was a very fresh and clean wine with medium length and acidity, it failed to overly-impress as an unusual wine and did not change my personal belief that Rioja does not weave the magic around white wines as they do with the reds.

Click For Large ViewThe next two reds, particularly the last-El Pison, did show the magic of Terroir, Tempranillo and Juan Carlos. While most of the Rioja doc (Denominacion di  Origen Calificada-equivalent of but much more stringent than the docg in Italy) use Grenache and a handful of Graciano to reinforce Tempranillo, Juan Carlos was categorical that he believes 100% Tempranillo shows off the purest expression by itself. Viñas de Gain 2012 was a very well balanced wine with good fruit and bouquet that was restrained initially but after a few minutes and some swirling, it started engaging the nose in a seductive way. The flavours opened up with spices like clove, black pepper adding layers of complexity to the red fruit.

The Grand Finale that seemed premature was sooner than one would have liked. It did bring out the   passion, expertise and winemaking prowess of Juan Carlos. This wine was very concentrated, darker inky colour, almost chewy tannins but tons of fruit on the palate. The end was complex and very long. Even though the alcohol was 14.5% it was well integrated and the wine had a beautiful structure and balance. It was the epitome of a full-bodied wine, opulent yet suave- but generally tight and not yet willing to open conversation with the palate.

Click For Large ViewI was surprised that the first or even this wine was not decanted though I would have imagined this could have done wonders for the short spectrum one had. The people who were tasting were not professional tasters looking at the crystal ball and predicting its future. He emphasised that he never likes to decant a wine and would rather have it open in the glass. One could appreciate that if it were served at a dinner and poured in the glass for 30-60 minutes. Many people came to me and sought my opinion because all they could feel was the austerity and the €200+tag that the bottle carried! But Juan Carlos is a wine magician and he must have something up his sleeve.

It is a bit brave to come to the Indian market where the high taxes in Retail and higher margins by the duty-free outlets would make the wine too expensive for millionaires but it surely did raise the status of Spanish wines in the eyes of those present. A start has to be made somewhere for such wines and this was the first baby step thanks to Ambassador Gustavo de Arístegui who is committed to promote any Spanish wine event and generally spends the entire evening circulating amongst  the guests freely. Perhaps due to the small number of audience and the whole embassy staff helping him host, the care and attention to detail, the generous food service and the warmth were as much in abundance and unique as the fruit in El Pison.

Hopefully, Juan Carlos will be back next year on the follow up mission with El Pison 2004 tucked away safely in his suit case and will open and pour the liquid in the bottle into a decanter so that the wine may perform its dance routine on the palate.

Subhash Arora

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Tags: Juan Carlos Lopez de Lacalle, Rioja, Artadi, Viñas de Gain, El Pison, Tempranillo, Gustavo Manuel de Arístegui y San Román, Rioja Alavesa, Alicante, Navarra, Bodegas y Viñedos Artadi, Guia Peñin, Viura

       

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