Well, that’s a boring choice, my wine guy said as I plucked a bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from his shelves for my Saturday night dinner. “Why don’t you try something new? Something.. Spanish?“
I’m not usually one to be told what to do, especially not when it comes to purchases, but I do love a challenge. And to many people, Spanish wine sure is a challenge. “Alright, I’ll play your game, you rogue!” I said, “Show me what you’ve got!” and into his realm of custom Spanish imports we went in order to find something interesting. The bottle we eventually emerged with was a golden white 2011 Morgadio from Adegas Morgadio winery made from 100% Albariño grapes. A beautiful bottle of wine, at least by the looks of it, that I promised to take with me, give a good home, a taste and an honest opinion.
What he probably didn’t know was that I intended to do so on this very blog for the world to see, but there you go, you give me a challenge and dammit I’ll rise to the occasion!
Now, this should be interesting for at least three reasons:
Reason the first: Spanish wine has been given a pretty bad rap in Denmark in the past. It’s probably not fair and it’s probably mostly owing to a saturation of the market by low priced, often downright unpleasant reds that took place years ago. The fact remains, though, that Spanish wine is stigmatized property ’round these parts and there mere sight of it still makes a lot of us go “Ooh, I wonder if this could possibly be any good?” – Well, can it? We shall see, I’ll have to confess to being one of the haters.
Reason the second: I’m madly, passionately and deeply in love with French white wines! That, coupled with the confession above, probably doesn’t make things look brighter for our subject of the day. The thing is, though, I can’t help but think that the French make wonderful white wines. They’re classy, beautiful, complex… And expensive! Wines from other European countries place less emphasis on brand value and heritage, so a lesser known Spanish wine might actually be better value for money, who knows?
Reason the third: I am, or at least have been, a grape Nazi! When it comes to grapes, I like the old, classic, purebred varietals: Chardonnay and Riesling are huge personal favorites and I treasure them for their acidity, purity and subtle finesse, I love the grassy character of Sauvignon Blanc and lavish the oily, tropical fruit of a good Pinot Gris. I’ll look at typical white blends with some curiosity, but once we get into the realm of 100% completely unknown (to me) varietals, the comfortable, little wine snob in me gets a little nervous.
Luckily, though, the only thing stronger than my conservativeness and pseudo-snobbish narrow-mindedness is my curiosity, so when someone says “try this completely unknown wine of a completely unknown varietal in a fancy, pretty bottle” well, dammit, I’ll try the completely unknown wine of a completely unknown varietal in a fancy, pretty bottle – and I’ll tell the world what I think!
A new face of Spanish wine?
If ever there was a time where reasonably priced Spanish wines were a little, uh, tacky and cheap looking, those days are definitely over if one is the take Morgadio as any sort of indication. The bottle is a study in simplistic beauty, looking more like a bottle of olive oil than a bottle of wine.
The composition of the wine is 100% Albariño, a white varietal grown in the Galicia region of Spain as well as northwestern Portugal. Albariño is generally considered to be similar in aroma to Viognier, Gewürztraminer and Petit Manseng which suggested that a fruity, tropical experience lay in wait. Try as I might, I have been unable to dig up much information about the winery. Whatever little I found can be read here and suggests that Adegas Morgadio played an important part in refining and setting new standards for production of the apparently well-renowned Albariño grape that I had till recently never heard of.
As such, the wine I was about to enjoy remained a bit of a mystery, but an intriguing one at that. I eventually resorted to deciphering the label, to gain some understanding of the wine, but the only bit of it that I was able to partially decipher apart from the name and grape varietal, was the suggestion that the wine be enjoyed at around 10C. This is a bit on the warmer side for whites, but a good indication that some complexity and depth may be waiting within the first glass.
Speaking of the first glass, it – and subsequent glasses for that matter – pours an absolutely beautiful golden yellow with a hint of a greenish tint and a pretty noticeable viscosity. It’s an aesthetic wine to say the least and you kind of get a feeling that the producers are going somewhere with the olive oil look.
After a whirl and a sniff, it appears pleasant but not overpowering on the nose. Primary notes are of juicy, tropical fruit: pineapple, peach, citrus and a bit of honeysuckle with a tiny whiff of maturity and some lightly toasted notes, presumably from the barrel aging.
Mouthfeel is reasonably thick and creamy, and the taste is powerful yet surprisingly well-balanced. Tropical fruit flavors are predominant in the mouth with notes of candied citrus, orange and apricot chiming in as well.
Pairing suggestions for Adegas Morgadío include fish and seafood. I tried my bottle with a bit of cod and lumpfish roe, new potatoes and baby asparagus. A little more acidity on the backend would have been nice here, but this was a cockup on my behalf.
There are some subtle cooked/candied fruit flavors setting in, possibly a sign of some beginning secondary flavors from bottle aging and I imagine this might have been crisper and straight forwardly fruity in its younger days. No matter, though, along with the slightly toasted, oaky notes this makes for an overall interesting development and, frankly, a well-balanced and harmonic drinking experience. The acidity is well-integrated and noticeable, but in no way pronounced. It serves as a backbone to the fruit, but I could have wished for a bit more bite.
“I was always a Francofile, I probably always will be a Francofile, but this is pretty nice!” – Johan, honest blogger.
If I’m to be honest, and a little tough, I’d have to say that this wine is straight-forward and not terribly complex but downright drinkable. It leaves something to be desired in terms of the complexity that I often find in my French darlings, but on the other hand it’s just a really well-balanced and very enjoyable effort. I was always a Francofile, I probably always will be a Francofile, but this is pretty nice! I’m probably scoring this a little low simply because I could find more interesting French wines in the same price range, but in the end, it all boils down to what you’re looking for in a wine, really. If you’re into beautifully balanced fruity whites with a mere hint of sweetness and a not too pronounced acidity, this may just be your thing!
With the way this is drinking now, I suspect it may still have a few years left in it and that it may actually improve further, given some time. I may have to try that and get a few bottles nestled in the cellar next to my French beauties that I safeguard so diligently. While I may not yet be a total believer in Spanish wine, this experience has certainly shown me that there are actually solid whites being produced outside of France.
Want a second opinion? As I got this ready for posting, I did a quick Google search and discovered that international wine gurus Robert Parker and Steven Tanzer rated this wine 89 and 90 points respectively. More reviews are available here.