The New Pinnacle of Spain

Possessing the most vines and vineyards amongst all wine-producing countries in the world, Spain is, somewhat counter-intuitively, just the third largest by volume. This curious discrepancy is largely due to Spain’s climatic conditions as well as its unwavering loyalty to gnarly old vines. A sizeable part of the country is semi-arid and, unlike New World countries, 30-year-old vines are hardly considered “old vines” in Spain.

With the en primeur allocation system in place and shareholders in New York to answer to, top Bordeaux estates often have to replace old vines with new plantings so as to maintain production level; Spaniards can afford to take their time – after all, who would object to concentrated wines from old vines? These factors, coupled with the country’s idiosyncratic elaboración (wine maturation) system, whereby producers traditionally release their wines only when they are ready to be consumed, are music to the ears of savvy oenophiles.

To the neutrals, it is almost unfair that Spanish wines do not command prices that their quality deserves. All Old World wine-producing countries are in various degrees subject to the strictures of heritage and tradition, e.g. the birth of Super Tuscans and IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) was not without controversy. Yet, the Italian precedent may have given Spain additional confidence to legislate proactively culminating in the creation of VP (Vino de Pago) classification in 2003.

Unlike DO (Denominación de Origen) and DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada), which apply to the entire region and sanction certain grape varieties and wine styles, VP concerns only individual estates and vineyards, which must be limited in size and able to demonstrate unique characteristics, whilst abiding by requirements as stringent as a DOCa. VP is particularly useful for high quality wines produced outside of the DO, DOCa and VT (Vino de la Tierra) framework, and indeed producers from lesser-known wine regions, e.g. Aragón, Castilla-La Mancha, Navarra and Valencia, which currently constitute the entirety of VP producers.

Detractors are quick to point out, however, that many VP estates tend to focus on international varieties, and that it is unclear whether VP sits below, on a par with or above DOCa. The PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) classification under EU law, indeed DOP (Denominación de Origen Protegida) in Spain, encompasses VP, DOCa and DO. It would appear that VP sits on a par with, or slightly above, DOCa.

A monopole of Bodega Otazu, Pago de Otazu DOP is an estate-specific VP situated in Cuenca de Pamplona, Navarra. The viticultural history of Pago de Otazu, Spain’s northernmost VP, can be traced back to the 12th century. Samples provided by Imperial Wine Cellar International Ltd., exclusive importer of Bodega Otazu in the Greater China region; E:; T: +852 9626 3125

Bodega Otazu “Señorío de Otazu” Chardonnay Fermentado en Barrica 2009

A single-varietal Chardonnay aged for nine months in barrel and 18 months in bottle. Radiant citrine with brilliant yellow diamond reflex, the exuberant nose offers nectarine, green almond, salted butter, crushed rock and acacia. Anchored by rounded acidity and firm minerality, the delectable palate delivers dried apricot, oregano, pine nut, crème bavaroise and rock salt. Full-bodied at 14 percent, the creamy entry continues through a saline mid-palate, leading to a nutty finish. A gourmand’s philtre, equals to a solid Saint-Aubin Premier Cru. Merely 6,000bts produced.

Bodega Otazu “Señorío de Otazu” Tinto 2009

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Merlot aged for 16 months and barrel and 36 months in bottle. Reddish black with carmine-maroon rim, the aromatic nose presents blackberry, clove, caffè espresso, leather and charcoal. Buttressed by abundant acidity and tasty tannins, the potent palate furnishes chokeberry, black pepper, liquorice, pu-erh and cigar ash. Full-bodied at 14.5 percent, the dense entry persists through a muscular mid-palate, leading to smoky finish. Masculinity in a bottle, the natural partner of embutido. Merely 18,000bts produced.

Bodega Otazu “Altar” 2008

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Merlot aged for 18 months in barrel and 40 months in bottle. Saturated garnet with carnelian-crimson rim, the scented nose reveals boysenberry, mulberry, spice box, coffea arabica, tobacco and peach blossom. Underpinned by ultra-fine tannins and ebullient acidity, the urbane palate unveils blackberry, cassis, allspice, Keemum red tea, cocoa and sandalwood. Medium-full bodied at an unobtrusive 14.5 percent, the poised entry evolves into a melodious mid-palate, leading to a lingering finish. A statement wine, rivals the finest of Rioja. Merely 8,000bts produced.

Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain,
France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages

Categories World of Bacchus