This months Wine Blogging Wednesday topic, selected by Rob Bralow of Wine Post, was to choose a wine you know well and have enjoyed many times, but have never written about. In addition we were supposed to time how long we enjoyed the wine, and take double that amount of time to write this post. Immediately hearing of this idea I couldn’t think of a better wine to write about than one of my favorites for over four years now; the Condado de Haza Ribera del Duero from Spain. For this particular post I focused on the 2005 vintage.
I first encountered this wine while on vacation in the Adirondack Mountains in Lake Placid, New York dining at the Interlaken Inn and Restaurant. My husband and I were already fond of Tempranillo and this bottle stood out on the list for us so we tried it and fell in love. The wine left a lasting impression then…and we have been buying it every vintage since.
It is a wine I love to bring to dinner parties or events where I can introduce new people to the varietal or even just a quiet evening at home to remind me of when I first fell in love with this wine. I even recently gave a former employer a bottle as a gift when I was driven nuts by the fact that he claimed to dislike (as he pronounced the varietal) “temp-er-eee-ohh” based off one experience with an American producer. He claimed that the varietal tasted like “sludge”. I couldn’t let anybody get away with such harsh statements (not to mention such butchering of the pronunciation, which is correctly pronounced “tem-prah-knee-yo”) of one of my favorite varietals without giving this particular wine a try. I never heard if he actually drank the wine or not, as I left before finding out, but I have no doubt that if he did he will never generalize that grape again seeing how beautiful of a wine it can turn into.
One of my favorite things about this wine is that it is widely distributed, so I have been able to easily find it in most cities I have traveled to. Therefore you, too, should have no problems finding it when you seek it out (and I know you will after reading this).
Ribera del Duero is located just north of Madrid along the Duero River, and southwest of the more famous Rioja region, producing wines of similar quality and style. The wines produced in this region are almost always from red grapes, the majority of the production being Tempranillo (known here as Tinto Fino).
In this region you will find the wines classified (and on a sticker on the back label of the bottle) according to grape quality and how long they are aged. Crianza refers to younger wines from decent vineyards, that have been aged a minimum of two years before release. Reservas come from better quality vineyards and must be aged a minimum of three years. Gran Reservas come from the best vineyards and must be aged at least five years before their release. You will most likely find the Crianza wines as Reservas and Gran Reservas represent a small percentage of wine made in this region and are not made in every vintage.
Condado de Haza is one of four wineries owned by Alejandro Fernández, the famous winemaker who’s flagship wine Tinto Pesquera (also from Ribera del Duero) is often compared with Vega Sicilia wines (arguably one of Spains best, and most expensive, wines). He is a winemaker held in very high regard in Spain and throughout the world.
Alejandro Fernández first discovered the vineyards for the Condado de Haza in the mid-1980s, but did not produce the wine as we know it today until the mid 1990’s. Today the vineyards are planted with almost 200 hectares (almost 500 acres) of Tempranillo vines. That makes for a lot of wine… a lot of awesome wine! Plus, the 2005 was rated a top 100 wine (number 34 to be exact) with Wine Spectator, if you are in to that kind of thing.
Very dark in color the wine was rich, intriguing, and smoky on the nose with lots of dark fruit, black cherry, cassis, and leather followed by a rich mouth with more dark deep fruit flavors, spice, espresso, and vanilla. The wine finished long with some bold tannins.
I intentionally paired this wine with a grilled flank steak with a red wine reduction sauce and roasted potatoes knowing that this vintage would likely still taste a bit young with noticeable tannins. The steak did an excellent job at softening the tannins. This was a great example of when to pair a wine like this with red meat. The animal fat on the steak lightly coats your mouth, thus softening the tannins on the wine and making it more smooth and velvety. The reduction sauce was light bodied, yet full-flavored, and complimented the dark fruit in the wine. Another option would be waiting a few years to drink the wine in order for the tannins to naturally soften. But who wants to wait when you’ve got such a great wine at your fingertips??? Not me! Well I suppose I could, I just really wanted to open up this particular bottle to write about it here.
Winery (Bodega): Condado de Haza
Region: Ribera del Duero, Spain
Grapes: Tinto Fino (Tempranillo)
Aged: 15 months in American oak barrels
Retail: $30-$35 (and worth every penny!)
In terms of timing, I decanted this wine about 20 minutes before dinner, enjoying one glass with dinner, and then finishing the rest sitting next to a warm fire in my living room. Total time enjoying this wine, about one and a half hours. This is not one to gulp down, but instead to slowly sip and appreciate how great it is. I highly encourage you to try this wine if you like delicious deep flavored wines without having to dish out too much money for it. You won’t regret it.