Sunday, July 31, 2016

Respecting the past and innovating for the future at Trias Batlle

Trias Batlle's winemaking dates back to 1932 when Josep Trias Battle was among the many Spanish winemakers in Penedes who produced bulk wine.  Today the family makes delicious wines which, although small in production, are crafted with intentions of greatness.  But, the clan still remembers the winery's humble beginnings with gratitude, and in honor of their grandfather, third generation winemakers Pep and Rai Trias preserve a small plot of 65 year old Xarel-lo vines.

It was in this compact parcel of gnarled vines that I got to enjoy the fresh country air and taste through a selection of Trias Batlle wines.  

The Trias Batlle Cavas I tried were all terrific:

Brut Nature Reserva - this blend of the three traditional Cava grapes - Macabeu, Xarel-lo and Parellada - was aged for 24 months.  It had a fresh nose, stone fruit flavors, and a pleasing bitter almond finish. 

Brut Nature Gran Reserva - the longer aging on this Cava (four years) produces rich baked bread and white flowers aromas , flavors of chamomile, almonds, and white peaches, and a long finish. 

Brut Reserva - this was an outstanding Cava, also made of the three traditional grapes and aged for 18 months.  The wine was deliciously fresh with high acidity and grassy nose, but then had a surprisingly rich and creamy mid-palate.  

Brut Rose - made from 100% Trepat, this deep pink colored Cava had delicious strawberry on the nose and palate was a fitting aperitif with jamon.

Trias Batlle also produces a number of still wines that are impressive in their execution.  

Blanc de Blanc - made of the three traditional Cava grapes along with 10% Muscat.  It had a great balance of acidity, rich stone fruit flavors, and the floral impact of the Muscat on the nose.  

Rose - produced with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, this deep pink wine has a robustness that is rare in a rose.  Along with black cherry flavors, there is a whiff of white pepper on the nose and palate. 

Red - this is a really fresh and lively red made from 60% Tempranillo and 40% Merlot.  Well integrated tannins make this a pleasing, quaffable red. 

Xarel-lo Barrel Fermented - this was the stand-out of the still wines from Trias Batlle.  The 100% Xarel-lo had flavors of apricots, almonds, and had a rich mouthfeel and very long finish. 

Cabernet Sauvignon - this was a lighter rendition of a Cab, with a combination of cherries and blackberries on the palate.  It was a red wine that one could have at the height of summer without feeling overwhelmed. 

As I toured wineries in Penedes, I grew to understand that this region makes not only the world-class sparkling wine, Cava, but also a growing number of very fine still wines.  Meeting Pep and Rai Trias, I got the sense that more experimentation would ensue and that we would be hearing more about this winemaking family that honors tradition but embraces innovation. 

Diversity of Costers del Segre shows in wines of Celler Cercavins

Costers del Segre is the largest designated wine making appellation in Catalonia, Spain.  It's also one of the most open, allowing red and white wines to be created with many varieties of grapes and still be permitted to put the region on the label.

I met the three partners who own Celler Ceravins in Costers del Segre recently and learned about their dynamic young winery that in working with a broad assortment of grapes.  We walked on the rocky, arid soil that brings distinctive minerality and concentration to their wines. I also had the wonderful opportunity to dine alfresco on a typical Catalan meal of cannelonis filled with finely ground meat and topped with bechamel, snails, roasted meats, and more - enjoying the company of these enterprising gentlemen, all while taking in the blooming beauty of Costers del Segre in spring.

Here are some of the highlights of the Celler Cercavins wines I tasted:

Guillamina is a crisp and fragrant blend with 54% Sauvignon Blanc, and the balance being White Garnacha, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Albarino. This lush wine has a fresh lemon finish and is altogether appealing.

Guilla is another white wine made from 100% Macabeu, a grape best known as one of the trio in Cava.  This fresh wine had a nose of lemon curd with buttery notes, and a lot of tart lime on the palate.  It gets four months aging in American and French oak barrels which adds some richness to the flavor profile.  Its long finish adds to its sophistication.

Bru de Verdu 2014 is a red wine with strong blackberry and black pepper flavors, smooth tannins and a very long finish of black cherries. It's a deeply fragrant red that can cellar for years.  Produced from Syrah, Merlot, and Tempranillo, it was aged for 14 months in French and American oak.  This bold, lush wine won a bronze medal from Decanter in 2016 and 2015.

Collecio 2012 - This wine is 100% Merlot. With a ruby color, it has a stewed black plum aroma and spiced cherry flavors, well-integrated tannis, and a long finish.

My time in the Costers del Segre opened up a new world of wines to me in a part of Spain best known for Cava. I came away from my visit to Celler Cercavins with an appreciation of their innovative winemaking in this striking landscape.

Wines of Celler Cercavins are available at New York City restaurants Barraca and Macondo.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Dry Muscat wows as Patricius Winery releases shown in New York

The wines of  Patricius Tokaj were poured in New York CIty this week at the Austrian themed restaurant, Blau Gans in Tribeca.  The winery, situated in the historic Hungarian wine region of Tokaj,  produces both traditional sweet wines as well as dry wines, which are mostly single varietal bottlings.  

At the media luncheon, the following wines were featured: 

Dry wines: 

Dry Yellow Muscat 2015 - The winery is really excited to present this wine, as it showcases a deliciously different aspect of the Muscat grape that many consumers don't expect.  This wine is vinified completely dry - and it is a great alternative to other light-bodied aromatic wines such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.  It was paired with starter courses of smoked salmon as well as spaetzle. 
Dry Furmint 2014 - This medium weight wine has a good balance of acidity and fruit, making it a versatile wine with food. It paired at the lunch with main courses of trout and schnitzel. 

These dry wines also had fresh new packaging - with clear bottles so the appealing pale gold color of these white wines were nicely displayed as well as simple, elegant labels that give consumers the information they need in clear graphics without a lot of fuss that "old world" wines sometimes include. 

Sweet wines: 

Katinka 2012 (late Harvest) - This charming wine is not-too-sweet with enough acidity to carry the residual sugar.  It was nicely paired with a spicy paprika appetizer. 
Tokaj Aszu 2004- this is the wonderful sweet wine that has made the name Tokaj famous around the world.  This vintage was stunning with honey and apricots, lovely acidity, and a super long finish. It was delightfully paired with apple strudel. 
Tokaj Eszencia 2000 - the free run juice of the botrytized berries that are used in Tokaj Aszu. Impossibly rich and it will last for many generations. This was best sipped by itself, to appreciate the deep dark toffee and spice flavors. 

Patricius winery is bringing fresh new approaches to some of the world's oldest grown grapes with a knowing style that's sure to please today's consumers.