Okay, it happened again last night. I opened up a Spanish wine from my cellar – highly rated (95 points) – and the description by the reviewer was full of “fruit” references (which I love).
But then when I opened it…not much on the nose, more wood than fruit in the mouth. Reminded me of Bordeaux. Not my style!
And I know it isn’t a bad bottle…because these things have been happening for a couple of years now.
So what’s up?
Only a few years ago, Spanish wines were a key part of my cellar. Riojas took the lead, as they could age beautifully and the oak would never really overpower the fruit. Tempranillo based wines from other regions were there as well (Pesquera is still one of my favourite wines), as well as Mencia based wines (very Zinfandel like). Lots of fruit, not jammy, nice mix of herbs and earth.
But since then, everything seems to have changed.
It started with Garnacha (the Spanish version of Grenache). I quickly learned that one of my favourite grapes from the Rhone tasted way different when made into wine in Spain! Oak was part of the reason (made the wines too woody), but even the un-oaked ones seemed to lack fruit/have too much herbs and wood.
Then I started to notice a similar trend in some of the Rioja Reserva wines. After 5 or so years (when I normally start drinking them), there seemed to be less fruit than before, and – again – -more wood.
And then it seems to have been extended to just about all other Spanish reds (although I haven’t tasted a new Pesquera recently).
So what gives?
Probably two – related – answers.
First, the style of wine making may very well have changed overall. Bordeaux remains the reference point for many in the wine world, which means less fruit focus and more emphasis on wood, herbs and other flavours. So it could well be that Spanish winemakers are going more in that direction
The other reason is that my tastes – and maybe even my taste buds – have probably changed! Age does many things to people, and it should be no surprise that both what I taste (and what I like) has changed as I have gotten older.
The one thing that I am pretty sure it isn’t is that Spain is making bad red wine. Too many reviewers that I respect continue rate many of the wines highly for that to be the case.
But it shows, once again, how important individual style and taste is, and how those can change over time. The good news is there is lots of other wine out there for you – and I – to enjoy!