About The Author:

"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.

Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: rogerthewineguy@gmail.com.

(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bierzo, A Great Little Wine from Spain

When it comes to great bold taste and value pricing, wines from Spain have always been a source for wine aficionados. Grenacha and Tempranillo have dominated the choices for red wine drinkers, albarino for white wine fans and cava for lovers of sparkling wines. Rias Baixas and Rioja and the Douro Valley D.O.’s dominate in most American wine drinkers selections.

There are some other great Spanish D.O.s worth seeking out. Etim and Priorat and Monsant all produce some great wines. For uniqueness and value, there’s also a tiny little D.O. called Bierzo tucked away in the northeastern corner of Castille & Leon. Formerly a part of Galicia, this wine district is the honored home of the indigenous Iberian Peninsula grape, Mencia. Mencia (called Jaen in Portugal) originally was used to produce some very light, pale and fragrant red wines. Producers are now utilizing very old vines (in the 50-80 year range) to bottle some bigger wines capable of body, structure and good ageing characteristics. Mencia’s origins are still somewhat of an unsolved mystery. It was once erroneously thought to be a clone of Cabernet Franc and that confusion may have arisen because a strain of Cabernet Franc introduced to Galicia in the 1800’s was, for a short time, called Mencia.

The Wine Guy had a recent opportunity to enjoy a great representation of Mencia when he gathered with family and friends for a pre-holiday celebration at Postino’s Wine Bar on Central Avenue in Phoenix (see attached photo). Their wine merchant, Brent Karlich, makes an effort to offer some great standards as well as some good interesting wines to explore on his periodically changing wine list at both Postino locations in Phoenix. A great selection of soups, appetizer plates and salads, frequent opportunities for price discounts on wine and good table service also combine to make Postino’s a go-to place for enjoying wine and food.

Our selected wine, a 2007 Bodegas Martin Codax Cuatro Pasos Bierzo, was asterisked as one of Brent’s recommended wines and came highly recommended by our waiter as well. Cuatro Pasos is virtually all Mencia. Some vintages of this wine will occasionally be balanced with a little Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouchet). It yielded about 14% alcohol (at the upper end of the required 11 to 14% for this D.O.) and was aged for 3 months on four different kinds of French and American oak. The Wine Guy found it full of great fruit aromas. There was definite cherry on the nose but that transitioned more to blueberry, raspberry and plum on the palate. Subtle notes of coffee and moist leather were present throughout with very moderate oakiness. The fleshy tannins yielded a lingering chewiness on the finish. It was a thoroughly enjoyable wine and paired well with the Bruschetta assortment and the meat and cheese assortment plate ordered by my favorite foodie, Mrs. Wine Guy.

The background of this wine is almost as interesting as its taste. Cuatro Pasos translates from Spanish as four steps (as in footsteps). It’s label has four bear paw prints, a reference to a legend of four bear footprints once found in an 80 year old vineyard utilized as one of the four vineyards from which grapes were sourced for this Mencia cuvee. “Four Steps” also refers obliquely to the four steps in making good wine: selection of land, care of the vines, suitable climate, and carefulness in vintification. As mentioned before, the wine utilizes four different types of oak in the ageing process. The wine also utilizes grapes from four different Bierzo region vineyards. Their soil content offers low lime and high concentrations of quartz and slate providing great acid and mineral balance to this wine. The winery itself, Bodegas Martin Codox, was founded in the 1980’s by four winemakers and was named for a thirteen century Galician Troubadour whose seven musical poems are the only surviving middle age classical pieces from this region of Spain. Cuatro Paso (Four Steps) is a great name selection and it’s a great value selection in a versatile, affordable Spanish red wine. Try it for yourself!

Note to Grapevine Readers:

If you’re exploring Spanish wines, you may want to enjoy some of my earlier published blogs on this topic. They include:
“Tempranillo, The Little Early One” published on 8/17/09
“Torres: Spain’s First Family of Wine” published on 10/22/09
“A Visit to Freixenet Sala Vie” published on 12/16/09

Look for them in the blog archives or use the title to search.

For more information on either of the Postino’s locations, visit www.postinoswinecafe.com.

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