Before & After: Experimental tasting of two Spanish wines, Part 1

Tonight, in an attempt not to think about the upcoming onslaught of homework as the school term gets going,  I decided to open a couple bottles of red wine to accompany a viewing of the movie, The Hangover (“Am I missing a tooth?”).

The first contender is a bottle of 2008 Borsao, a Spanish red wine blend of 75% Garnacha and 25% Tempranillo, that I picked up at Eugene, Oregon’s oldest wine shop yesterday for $9, and the second is a 2007 Don Ramon Red Wine, also a blend of Garnacha and Tempranillo, for $8 or $9. Both are from Borja, Spain. The Borsao has an alcohol content of 14% and the Don Ramon Red is a blend of 12.5%. I plan to do a before and after taste test of both of them, a sort of head-to-head tasting, first right after I open the bottles and then after two to three days when it has been given room to breath.

Sight:
At first glance, the difference between the two is quite apparent. The Borsao is much darker and more opaque than the Don Ramon, which has a red tint to it. I can actually see through the Don Ramon and down to the bottom of the glass.

Smell:
The Borsao is smooth and buttery on the nose. It has not quite opened up and burns a bit on the first sniffy-sniff. I pick up something woodsy, maybe the tiniest bit of cedar. It could pair well with a soft cheese topped with blackberry preserves and sprinkled with rosemary, it has that same buttery, dark berry, woodsy herb smell to it. My newby nose is conflicted and can’t seem to focus on more specifics. With the Don Ramon, however, there is instant red berries, cranberry perhaps. I need to taste a bit to really get a grip on both of these wines.

Taste:
With the Borsao, I feel like I just bit into a salad of straight-from-the-garden fresh arugula and pears. It is pretty smooth after the first sip, but not as buttery on the tongue as it is on the nose. It is slightly earthy tasting and bitter on the back of my tongue.

What I have learned from Kevin Zraly’s book is that the tongue perceives five tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and something called umami, also called the fifth sense and refers to savoriness. Wine does not have salt and I would not say it is particularly savory, so that leaves us with sweet, sour, and bitter. You can pick up the sweet on the very tip of your tongue, and it  is a taste you do not second guess because you usually taste it right away as soon as you take the first sip of a wine. Bitter takes just a second as the wine slides down to the back of your tongue, and I always taste the sour on both sides of my tongue and on the sides of my cheeks.

Getting back to the Borsao, the bitter is evident on the back of the tongue, and a little sour cherry slightly puckers up the insides of my cheeks as I swish around the wine. I pick up a taste of nearly-ripe strawberries, and the more it opens up, the more delicious it tastes. It has been open for about ten minutes and the initial alcohol on the nose has nearly dissipated.

I take a sip of the Don Ramon and let it roll over my tongue. There are definitely more tannins in this wine, which is not a surprise as the label indicates it is oak aged. It is bitter on the back of my tongue, like the Borsao, and the aftertaste possesses the same strawberry/cranberry combo as I picked up on the Borsao.The label indicates it should have overtones of blackberry, but the tartness and red hue appeals to my palette as more raspberry than the deeper, sweeter flavors of a blackberry.

My consensus on both of the wines is that they are similarly smooth, a little bitter and sour, but overall nicely balanced with a pleasant, fruity aftertaste. I look forward to re-tasting these two wines in a few days after both have had the opportunity to open up a bit. Right now, I think I’ll finish drinking what I have poured into my beautiful, large glasses.

Stay tuned at the end of the week for Part 2, and comment with your thoughts about either these wines or Spanish wines in general!

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3 Responses to Before & After: Experimental tasting of two Spanish wines, Part 1

  1. Ben Simons says:

    Spanish wine is such a great value. The quality of wine that you can find for $8-15 is really outstanding.

    One of the varieties that Texas is having a lot of success with right now is Tempranillo, so I anticipate trying out quite a bit of it in the next year. Thanks for the review of these wines, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the wine holds up for part 2.

  2. I’ve had that Borsao, though not in a long while. If your budget stretches to about $15 for a Spanish red, look for the Mas Donis Barrica 2007 Old Vines Montsant. It’s 85% Grenache, 15% Syrah, so a somewhat Rhôny take on red.

    You mention umami; actually, many have noted that wine offers umami flavors. I find it especially evident in Syrah (though not usually in Shiraz, since this latter’s common fruit/alcohol predominance tends to shout it down), as well as many other reds: Cab, Merlot, Tempranillo, Rioja. It accounts for that meaty, earthy undercurrent that seems to emanate from the deep of a well-crafted red, but it also presents itself in much more feminine, nuanced reds like Burgundy (Pinot) and even Champagne (esp. Pinot-based blanc de noirs). In this case, I associate it with evidence of terroir-driven winemaking, the taste of the soil itself.

  3. Pingback: Before & After: Experimental tasting of two Spanish wines, Part Deux «

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