5 Sep 2009: read the discussion regarding Spanish Pinot Noir on our members' forum.
From £15.99 and 16.38 euros.
For various reasons I have found myself lecturing on the subject of Pinot Noir recently. (Perhaps partly because post-Sideways so many wine drinkers have been converted to Burgundy's fascinating red wine grape?) I go into my spiel about how it's an early ripening variety and therefore has to be grown somewhere cool enough to keep the grapes long enough on the vine before ripening for them to develop some decent flavour. I then go straight into explaining that that's why Spain, for example, doesn't make any Pinot worth drinking.
But now I have to stop myself and remember Hispano Suizas, Bassus Pinot Noir 2006 Utiel-Requena. We're not talking a rival to Volnay here. This is not a delicate Pinot Noir. But it is a thoroughly authentic Pinot Noir that, if it had a Russian River Valley appellation on it, would sell for very much more than the £15.99 (the equivalent of about $28) that Raeburn Fine Wines of Edinburgh are currently asking for it. Utiel-Requena is the Spanish wine region immediately east of Manchuela where purple pager and eminent Spanish wine writer Victor de la Serna's Finca Sandoval estate is located. For that reason, I will say little about it because I know that Victor will be a fount of knowledge on the subject.
As I understand it, altitude is the key to keeping Pinot grapes on the vine here (see the treasured image of snow on the grapes that I found on the admirably detailed www.utielrequena.org), but the region is basically devoted to such big, blustering grapes as Bobal. There is a grand total of six hectares (15 acres) of Pinot Noir grown in the entire DO, of which Hispano Suizas have five. The little Cava subzone within Utiel- Requena presumably explains the presence of the Pinot vines. I tried Hispano Suizas' Tantum Ergo 2006 Cava and was not very impressed - a tomato aroma and no obvious autolysis. But the Bassus Pinot Noir really does have rich, earthy, if full-blown, Pinot character. I wrote: 'Definitely big in style - not burgundy at all - but very satisfying. A bit of tannin, sufficient acidity, and nicely balanced in a heavyweight idiom.'
Here are the winemaking details, as supplied by Hispano Suizas, which suggest that the wine is not overpriced:
Selected grapes from our own vineyards (4,000 vines per hectare ) are picked by hand in small boxes of 15kg max during the morning hours only to prevent high temperatures and unwanted fermentation. Grapes are stored in a cold cellar (8-10ºC/ 46-50ºF ) for three days. The result is a water evaporation and concentration of aromas and flavours. The grapes are sorted again at the winery, destalked and lightly crushed directly over 400-litre open American oak barrels. We introduce a stainless steel cooling system in each barrel to have full temperature control. We start cold maceration at 8ºC (6ºF ) for four days while we submerge the cap five times a day to maximize contact between skins and must. Once fermentation starts we control temperature at a maximum 26ºC (78ºF ). After 15 days we gently press the grapes in a pneumatic press at a max 0.5 bars. The result is aged for seven months in Allier French oak barrels and lightly filter before bottling.
You can now buy Hispano Suizas, Bassus Pinot Noir 2007 Utiel-Requena in Spain from €16.38 a bottle and I should imagine successive vintages will become more streamlined. This attractively packaged wine would be a real puzzle if served blind.