Monday, May 24, 2010

JO GO TO SPAIN - Part 4.3 - Laureano Serre's vineyards

One last thing about the visit casa Laureano Serres. During the last post I did not get into his various vineyards for a reason. If you look at the sketch above, it's all spelled out for you. His friend Joan and I were joking and busting his chops a bit when he pulled this out, "Que profesional!" But the truth is, though, this sketch is far more interesting and to the point, far more indicative of someone who is involved in his winemaking on all levels, than any glossy catalogue someone could pay to produce. Better for the environment, as well.


Laureano Serres, Joan Ramon Escoda and I tasted/drank 25 wines. No we did not empty 25 bottles. Yes, we did drink on occasion and did not spit every time we tasted.

Tasting a new wine (well, an interesting and tasty new wine) can be exciting. A producer line-up of largely unfamiliar wines is both exciting and a thorough education - not to mention a terrific introduction to a vineyard(s), to a certain facet of a grape varietal, perhaps to a winemaking philosophy, and of course to the winemaker overseeing the whole process. That fateful Saturday evening in Pinell de Brai served as an introduction to Laureano Serre's Mendall winery, to Joan Ramon Escoda's Celler Escoda Sanahuja and on the whole to the Spanish natural wine community.

Though I wish I had a transcript of the tasting, which was conducted primarily in castellano, with some interjections in catalan and even a smattering of english, all I have is my notes, which may be lacking in detail or accuracy; I encourage anyone who is more familiar with these wines than I am to comment and share your thoughts or feel free to correct any errors in factual information here. Sometimes, when a whole new world is introduced to you in short order, impressions are not fully recorded, facts may not always be 100% straight.

2008 Mendall Vinyes Arrancades

Peculiar wine from unusual circumstances. Mildew was rampant in Laureano's prized 100 year old macabeu vineyard. He chose not to treat it. As a result, the maturation process lasted a long time. Many leaves fell off. Finally, by late October, the grapes were picked and produced this orange-ish colored wine. Intense, mineral, funky, natty aromas and an exotic flavor profile that suggest an orange wine though there was no extended skin maceration whatsoever. A unique wine for sure.

2007 Mendall Vinyes Arrancades

Has 10% garnatxa blanca. This was done in a flor style. As Laureano did not top off his tanks, a flor somehow developed and he went with it. Just like with the mildew in the aforementioned Arrancades (sensing a theme here, yet?) Delicious wine, slightly salty and like a sous voile savagnin with more fruitiness due to the different varietal and mediterranean climate.

2006 Mendall Vinyes Arrencades

This one has a little garnatxa blanca as well as colombard. Though less expressive on the nose, it has more acid on the palate. Less mouth coating and more linear. Good.

2005 Mendall Garnatxa Blanca

If I recall correctly this wine was opened nearly a week ago? Laureano said that initially it showed very oxidatively and then dramatically opened and freshened up. There was indeed great acidity and freshness on this wine.

2005 Mendall 5 anys i 1 dia

This wine was in stainless steel tanks for five years. Untouched. 11 mg total sulphur, 11.2% alcohol, garnatxa and macabeu. Winemaking on the fringe? Yes, perhaps, but a whole lot more interesting than a bottle of over-sulphured viura, over yeasted albariño, or fruity fruity verdejo. I hope the Spain nay sayers are paying attention....

2009 Mendall L'Abeurador

Fresh fruit on the nose. Compared to the last wine this is rather straight ahead and clean. Intense fruit, a bit of hazlenut on the finish. 2 dias maceration on skins here. This may be the easiest to like of all the whites we were to taste.

2008 Mendall Terme de Guia

Macabeu, garnatxa blanca, colombard. Raisins and orchard fresh apples on the nose. Fresher flavors on the palate than the nose.

2009 Mendall Terme de Guia (1.5l)

A colder fermentation was used on this bottling. Tasty, less intense character with more acid.

2008 Mendall L'Abeurador

Back to this bottling, the 08 vintage. A warmer fermentation was employed. This tasted fresh and bright.

A wine from Laureano's friend and fellow natural winemaker Joan Ramon Escudo...

2007 Celler Escoda Sanahuja Els Bassots Conca de Barbera

Chenin Blanc. One of those wines that you can smell will assault your gums and teeth with acid (in a good way). A bit reductive, but mineral as hell and delicious. Joan described this best by calling it "un gin tonic natural." Agreed.

2009 Mendall Cara Bonica

A play on the word spanish word for carbonic maceration. Cute label of a 'cara bonica' drawn by Laureano's daughter. Rich, sweet, fresh fruit. Warm climate generosity of fruit expression, but with freshness. This is cab, merlot and cariñena with a one week carbonic maceration.

2007 Mendall Cara Bonica

A bit less fresh. Still pleasant to drink, but comparably heavy and missing the delicious primary quality of the '09.

2009 Mendall Finca Espartal

This is primarily garnatxa with a bit of cariñena, all fermented with carbonic maceration. Red fruits, skins and pits aromas of berries and plums are all here. My tasting notes after this simply read: "vino de amor."

2008 Mendall La Terme de Guia

Notes very skimpy. Here they are: "Carignan. 14%. Acid."

2007 Celler Escoda Sanahuja "La Llopetra" Conca de Barbera

PN from calcareous soils. One year in barrica (2-3 years average age). Dark fruits on the nose, a bit reductive similar to Joan's white. Acid and tart cherry/plum fruit stand out on the palate. This wine is completely sans soufre (8mg/l total sulphites). Once again, I am taken aback both by the incredible acidity and austerity of this wine, as well as by how well it takes to oak aging. Similar to Joan's chenin blanc, this is serious natural wine, well made and not for casual sipping.

2006 Naranjuez Pinot Negra Vino de Mesa

12.5% pinot noir from Granada - what? 950 meters above sea level, these grapes were harvested on September 18th. The character is intense, sauvage, and serious, with good acid. Not cheap at around $45, but interesting for sure.

2006 Celler Escoda Sanahuja Les Paradetes Conca de Barbera

50% garnacha, 25% cariñena, 25% sumoll (100 yr old). 12-13 months in oak, 25% new. Juicy, fresh berry with good acid.

2009 Vamos? Vamos!

Only 190 magnums of this collabo between Joan and Laureano were bottled. Egged on by Thierry Puzelat, the two joined forces by combining their cariñena (Laureano) with merlot and cab franc (Joan) in a fresh, delicious drink me now bottle. My TN reads, "Wow!" so it has to be good, right?

2009 Cariñena (component from Vamos? Vamos! blend)

This is the funky, berry part of the equation!

2005 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano

Closed, tough dark fruit. Sulphur, particularly notable in this natural set. I told Laureano not to open this but he just felt compelled (perhaps because he saw me eyeballing it earlier on?) It might have even been a magnum - I don't remember. Damn, infanticide....

2006 Barranco Oscuro "Rubaiyat"

Another one from Granada. Acid! Berry y muy brutal. Somehow this smelled sort of like a white wine (?) All syrah, I believe.

2004 Barranco Oscuro

No notes. I do remember this one being very tough to taste and get a read on.

Yes! "R" Blanc

Fun wine. Another flor style, dubbed yes for a one line email that importer José Pastor allegedly sent to Laureano regarding this wine: "Yes!"

2008 Mendall Mal de Sofre

This was opened a week ago. It was oxidized and showed a most unusual resemblance to Cynar, the Italian artichoke bitter. Laureano proceeded to tell me a story about Cynar in a Quentin Tarantino movie, I really do not remember more details than that.

And so ends this installment of the trip dialogue. If anyone has read through all of that nonsense and is still here then I must thank you for truly being a good sport. Tasting notes, at least those for public consumption, generally suck. That having been said, a tasting like this seemed best described in tasting note format.

Next up: The big, the boutique, the gravity fed, and the pumped/sterile filtered in Rioja.