Wow does Spain have a cool viticultural history; which is of course tied directly to her political and economical history. I want to talk about a wine that we just entered into our inventory at the shop. And yes it is Spanish. It is a garnacha one hundred percent and it is vibrant and approachable and awesome and it’s…get this…seven bucks (a little over eight with tax). But in my usual fashion I have done some research I would like to share with you to kind of give you a background that lives behind the bottle. If you come into the shop and check this bottle out you will enjoy the wine with reckless abandon. It is so easy to drink and goes with simple food such as pizza one might take such a wine for granted. But here we are talking about a wine that comes from one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world. And it was not until the late eighties that Spain was able to embrace modern wine making that we enjoy today.
Spanish wine is often associated with La Rioja, an area in the northern part of Spain along the Oja River, a tributary to the river Ebro (where our wine for today is generally form). This is definitely an important area in the country’s winemaking history for the French populated it in the 1860’s because of a powdery mildew outbreak in the Bordeaux and its surrounding areas. They crossed the Pyrenees to make up for their shortage of wine and as a result the Spanish in this area benefited from their practices. This led to the first appellation system in Spain created by the dictator at the time with Rioja being the first induction in 1926 and from there the love spread. So this is one of the reasons Rioja is so well known. That and the wines can be poetically memorable.
But there is more to Spain than just the Rioja. The Phoenicians were the first to bring wine to the Iberian Peninsula. This ancient civilization was based in the general area of Israel and Syria but their legacy was in Maritime trading. Their routes covered most of the Mediterranean Sea and ended up at the Iberian Peninsula, which is now mostly Spain. After the Phoenicians came the Greeks. The importance of this was the introduction of “systematic vine cultivation.” And it gets even cooler. After the Romans took Greece and all their traditions from Polytheism to art and…well…wine Spain eventually came under Roman rule where her wines enjoyed some substantial travel showing up in England, far reaches of France such as the Loire valley and Germany. In fact I found out that Spanish wine was the wine sent to Roman soldiers out there in the German frontier. It was mostly plonk but it was Spanish. I wonder if this is when garnacha was introduced to France as Grenache? Hmmmmm…I will have to look into that. Anyway, garnacha is important here because it is what’s inside the bottle we are talking about today. But just a skosh more history then we’ll be good.
I just want to put in here that the wine trade survived even after the fall of the Roman Empire. After this fall Spain was quite vulnerable as most countries were without roman protection (even Italy was vulnerable) and was, as a result, invaded by barbarians, first the Visigoths and then the Moors who over took the Visigoths. The interesting thing is the Moors’ prophet (whom I believe was Mohammed) forbade drink but these barbarians loved money and allowed the cultivation and vinification of wine for export so as to enjoy the tax revenue. This was happening around 711AD but was short lived for the Christians came by force and with the religious reconquest and brought Spain into the New World. In 1492 Columbus sailed and discovered the West Indies opening a whole “New World” to Spain. Form 1492 until about the early 1500’s this exploration continued, bringing South America into the picture with Spanish settlers setting up camp and giving Mexican soil its first taste of vitis vinifera.
But in the 1520’s relations between England and Spain began to deteriorate. By the 1530’s English settlers ran back to England in fear of the Spanish Inquisition which was amping up at the time and the two nations fell into confrontation leading to England’s defeat of the Spanish armada in 1588 ending Spain’s title as a sea faring power. Following this with a succession of royal deaths Spain was left in major debt and focused their wine trade on the American colonies. This produced its own problems which you can read a little bit about in this post about a Chilean wine I did last year as well as here for a Mexican wine I posted about. But I won’t go into those historical dilemmas until I focus on that area of the world within our inventory.
Then to add insult to injury that, nasty hungry little aphid, phylloxera came looking for food in the late 1800’s. Although it is documented that the epidemic spread slowly through Spain due to the great distances between wine regions thousands of livelihoods were destroyed. At this point a lot of Spaniards flew to South America to start a new life with areas untouched by phylloxera. Also at this time is when the afore mentioned French exodus took place running from powdery mildew and as a result teaching the Spanish the tricks of their trade from new methods of refinement to the introduction of oak casks (Barrica). I feel somehow we have come full circle and it feels good. Let’s now bring all together with the wine I have chosen to talk about.
It wasn’t until the 1950’s that the wine industry in Spain began to revive. It wasn’t the romantic age of long ago per se, it was mostly over industrialized co-ops pumping out cheap bulk wine by the gallons but it was reviving. And then we finally come to the year 1986. Ah yes, 1986. This is the year Spain was entered into the EU and man did things change in their wine world and this is where come to our wine. Being indoctrinated Spain began to develop an urban middle class and a renewed interest in the country’s wine from people all across Europe. Rioja had been popular in the modern world since the 1960’s but now the EU began to fund other areas of Spain to help encourage this renewed wine culture allowing them to increase the potential of producing quality (which are seeing today on our market in droves). The reason I say this is because our wine today is probably from that spreading of wine appellation love. South of Pamplona in the region of Aragon just north of the province of Saragossa is the wine region Campo de Borja. And this ladies and gentlemen is where our wine is found. Campo de Borja named after the notorious Rodriguez Borgia was granted appellation status in 1980 and is planted with mainly garnacha, an indigenous varietal made famous by the French who call it Grenache.
The wine is made by Bodegas Borsao, which you may know of because of the popularity of their Tres Picos. I had this wine a year or so ago and it was one my first posts and kind of the inspiration of the twenty dollar and under theme. Borsao actually took garnacha and made it their baby. They took care of it and brought the varietal to a new level by helping it to express it self in many forms throughout this area from different plots. There are many wines this Bodega does well but let me talk about the 2006 Vina de Borgia Campo de Borja one hundred percent garnacha that we have for seven bucks and three quarters. This wine is all stainless steel and the vineyards are made up of limestone, sand and gravelly soil that makes for good drainage as well as good minerality.
When I popped the bottle I saw that it had a synthetic cork. No big deal. These days this just means the wine is ready to drink now. No laying down this puppy. Pop it and go. Anyway, I poured my first taste and swirled away. The color was wonderfully transparent with a bright, deep purple hue. The nose was comforting with fresh peppery spice mingling with the ripe fruit of raspberry. After a couple swirls and right before my first sip I caught a hint of soil and as I focused it amplified. The initial sip was as welcoming as the nose. The palate of this wine is vibrant and juicy with soft integrated tannins and again that bright fruit. The pepper come back to say hi on the finish but subtly and it is a nice send off. Probably a result of fairly high altitude.
I put the glass down for a bit and poured a bit more. Did some menial business of shuffling papers reading blogs and staring lovingly at wines on shelves and came back to the glass about ten to fifteen minutes later. The wine had changed. All those aromas of spice and bright raspberry had become intertwined with the tannins which were amplifying a bit giving way to a distinct aroma of smoked meat that just stayed with the wine until it was done. Also when the wine opens the palate changes a bit because of the increasing tannin structure and allowing it to hover over the fruit, which becomes the gentle background. I ended up bringing it over to In Vino after I closed up shop and the wine had changed again wafting perfume and spice sing-songily up into my nasal passages and showing just how soft and gripping garnacha can be.
I would drink this wine on its own or with food. It is bright and transparent meaning good acidity, which goes great with food. And when I say food I mean nothing too fancy. You could have it with some lamb and subtle mint sauce with potatoes or what I would do is order burgers from Royale or a pie From Sal’s pop in a DVD or break out the Cranium or Wine-opoly my wife got me for Christmas and have fun. That is what this wine is…fun. And to top it all off it is seven bucks. So from the Phoenicians to the EU Spain has come a long way. The wines coming from there are better than ever and they coming from places that give individuality to wine no matter the price range. So come on by Alphabet City Wine Co. and pick a bottle or two of 2006 Vina Borgia Garnacha and just have fun. Until next week! Cheers!

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Marco on January 20, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Good luck with the store, man. Next time in the city we’re there.


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