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The Sommelier’s Corner Wine Blog: This entry, our intrepid Wine Conoisseur, Christopher Delalonde discpvers what Spain has in store…

“Spain is probably one of the most dynamic productive countries in Europe, when it comes to wine. It has an army of endemic varieties as well as 6 different names for the tempranillo, according to where it is grown. There are also some very typical white varieties such as albarino and godello that are very fashionable at the moment.

I was having dinner with a friend of mine, and our theme is always blind tasting-to keep up with old and new traditions! After sharing a few drops of white wine, we move onto the ‘big one’ which I had just purchased.  A bottle of Vega Sicilia 1994 (Parker 98/100) from a new and previously unknown cellar to me which thus required me, as a professional, to judge the storage of the wine before placing more orders.

1994 is one the Vega’s vintage wines which I have not tasted for years, so the combination of work and pleasure was matched to perfection!

As usual, it was at the very last minute that we managed to catch up with each other- as I am very focused on the restaurant business at the moment-and I had been unable to do anything more than carry the bottle to our meeting with extreme care.

Upon un-corking our Vega, a typical nose was developing in the glass: black fruit, stone fruit earth and vanilla from oak!  Lots of oak was still showing and dominating the flavour profile at this stage.

Perhaps, I should mention as an aside, that vanilla flavours, and some others like cloves or cinnamon, are linked to new oak barrel staves which is used in wine-making to enhance the structure as well as exposed the wine to oxygen. The choice of barrel staves is part of the art of wine making as it dictates the specific exposure of the new wine to the chosen oak and air thereby affecting the ultimate flavour of the wine.  

I am not sure if you know but, vanillin is a common molecule found in oak trees, and when talking about barrel production the oak trees families split in two main branches –European and American. The American side (quercus saliflery) has a much larger amount of vanillin in its core and therefore tends to implement more aromas into the wine.  Californian wineries are famous for using European barrels as well as American ones (oak provenance) in order to balance the seasoning in the wine-making process.

Famously, back in Europe, the Rioja region and the Ribera del Duero in Spain have used American oak for decades in their wine-making tradition.  In turn, it helps to give their wine a particular and classic trademark which, I might add, aids us in spotting them in blind tasting!

So back to our Vega, it was very typical in its profile of expression, but was not really what I wanted! I like oak for what it brings to the wine, but not when it over powers it.  Thus, as much as this wine was beautiful and balanced, the WineWeaver wine aerator came in handy once again by exposing this monster wine to air in order to soften and mellow the strong spice structure.

So, we poured the powerful Vega into the WineWeaver’s large bowl over a decanter and could immediately smell the fruitiness, the earth and the leather-savoury characters coming through. The wine aeration process let it all fall into place giving us the enjoyment of a more balance product throughout the palate. The tannins got leaner and softer with that exposure to additional air though WineWeaver and we were fully satisfied with the experience of drinking our 1994 Vega wine.”

Christopher Delalonde, Master Sommelier

Sommelier’s Corner Wine Blog


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