Friday, September 26, 2008


I’ve said before that I can be a real S.O.B. to suppliers when I want something that is not available normally to me, so I was really excited when my supplier for Terlato Wines International (importer of Chapoutier and Santa Margherita, as well as broker for Cuvaison, Sanford and Markham, among others) told me “yes” (it was only after I asked twice) on getting the newest Michel Rolland project, the wines of Olvena, from the Somontano region of Spain.

Somontano is nestled in the northern portion of the province of Aragon, just south of the Pyrennes Mountains and the French-Spanish border. Its D.O. (Denominacion de Origen) was awarded in 1985, and its potential has been explored by such winemakers as Sarah Perez and now, internationally known enologist Michel Rolland, who has teamed up the Addas family in Somontano, a first in Spain for Rolland.

Though most known for such varietals as Tempranillo, Viuda, and little known Moristel (not the same as Monastrell), Bodegas Olvena has begun using such non-traditional Spanish varieties as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.

Of the wines from Olvena I brought in – and none of these wines have been reviewed here in the states yet – I thought I’d share with you my notes on the four most affordable of the lineup:

1. Chardonnay 2007 ($13.99)
2. Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2004 ($13.99)
3. Crianza 2004 ($17.99)
4. Cuatro 2005 ($34.99)

First up, I tried the Chardonnay 2007, which is a light- to medium-bodied white, showing more in common with its Burgundian counterpart than something from California: ripe peach, apricot and Golden Delicious apples in the nose, and on the palate, hints of nutmeg and starfruit, with juicy apricot and nectarine flavors and well-balanced acidity. The presence across the tongue is vibrant, lively, and certainly one that would impress even the most die-hard New World Chardonnay fan. It is definitely not flabby, displaying only gentle nuances of oak and cream. Very nice!

Next, I tasted the blend – the Tempranillo (50%)/Cabernet Sauvignon (35%)/Merlot (15%) 2004. This medium-bodied red has a lot of dried cherry and cedar in the nose with hints of red flowers and dusty earth tones. Immediately on the palate, there are strong tannins that I would have expected to have softened being an ’04. Yet the cherries continue, with red and black currant, Darjeeling tea, mocha powder and espresso notes swirling around, with good acidity and leading into a dry yet sustained finish. A hearty meal featuring grilled pork chops or a beef empanada with chiles would lend well to this wine.

I was really anxious to try the Crianza 2004, a straight Cabernet Sauvignon aged 10 months in oak. Violets and black cherries float up from the glass, engaging the senses. I taste a lot more dried cherries, with hints of cocoa, chicory, Provencal herbs and cranberries. While dry, and possessing good tannic grip, it’s not overwhelming, with traces of pomegranate and currant peaking through. It is nicely balanced, and built for near-term drinking or short-term cellaring.

Finally, I opened up the Cuatro 2005 – a blend of 45% Tempranillo, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 15% Syrah. The price tag would bar this from being an everyday drinker, so obviously, my expectations are a bit high. Slight hints of licorice and red currants intermingle with plums, cherries and coffee. Its vaguely floral, though its fruitiness stands out. Its palate is livelier with more fresh red berry fruit, baking spices, red and black teas, and cloves. Strong, firm tannins grip the palate, leading you into a very lingering, cherry-berry finish. It’s a really nice wine that should fare well with a few years in the bottle.

All-in-all, these wines are not what I expected from Michel Rolland. Known for big, monster fruit bombs that go for the big Parker scores, these wines from Spain show excellent restraint and sense of place. And you’ll find these only at Liquor Direct.

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