Las mejores botellas no alcanzan siempre un objetivo preestablecido, dice al recordar sus mejores experiencias recientes (Our Critic’s Best Wine Moments of 2019) Eric Asimov, crítico de vinos del periódico The New York Times. Por el contrario, hay algunas que no puedes olvidar porque tienen un significado y porque relatan historias. Dos de estas doce inolvidables experiencias, las ha vivido con vinos españoles.
Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Gran Reserva 1942
Classic old Rioja has been one of wine’s best-kept secrets. It has the capacity to age gracefully and evolve with complexity and nuance over time. Until recently, it was even possible to find it at affordable prices.
Nowadays, old Rioja has its superstars like R. López de Heredia. But little-known gems are out there, like Monte Real Gran Reserva from Bodegas Riojanas. This was reinforced in April at a tasting of a dozen different vintages stretching back to 1942.
Among more recent vintages, I loved the young, pure, complex 2001. And the 1964, from a great Rioja vintage, was graceful and lovely in every way. But for me, it was hard to top the 1942, made in an era when all the grapes were trod by foot, and when barrels were considered a means of transporting wine rather than aging it. Though almost 77 years since the vintage, the wine was pure, complex and energetic. Its ruby color was just browning around the edges, and the flavors of spicy red fruit were tempered by touches of leather and herbs.
This great wine has seen a lot of history. May we all emerge with so much still to offer.
Familia Torres Costers del Segre Pirene 2018
Early in May, I headed to Catalonia to visit Familia Torres, a large Spanish winery that had become an industry leader in fighting climate change. Aside from taking many steps as a company to limit its greenhouse gas emissions, it was also taking practical steps to adapt to a warming planet. In pursuit of greater freshness, it has planted vineyards at higher altitudes. And it is experimenting with ancestral Catalan grapes that had largely been abandoned because they ripened so late and were so acidic, traits Torres now seeks.
Among those grapes was one called pirene (pea-RENN-ay), a red variety that Torres had planted in its Sant Miquel vineyard, 3,000 feet high in the foothills of the Pyrenees near the town of Tremp. After visiting the vineyard, I had lunch with Miguel Torres Maczassek, the general manager of Familia Torres, and we sampled the 2018 pirene. It was bright and lively, fresh, floral and herbal, a delicious, refreshing drink. Why had this grape been discarded for so long?
Mr. Torres speculated that the grape had been popular when Europe was naturally warmer, from about A.D. 950 to 1250. In the years that followed, as the climate cooled, the Catalans had less use for late-ripening grapes like pirene, so they virtually disappeared. Torres is now experimenting with six such recovered grapes. Imagine how many others have yet to be discovered in the historic wine-producing world.
Foto: Familia Torres Viñedo Sant Miquel (Costers del Segre)