I’m slowly learning that it’s naive to say “I don’t like wines from X country, or I don’t like X grape.” I used to hate white wine, scoff at merlot, and eschew anything from Spain. But wine is an agricultural product. It’s made from grapes that grow in different kinds of soil all over the world, aged for different amounts of time, and put together using dozens of different methods. One grape will not always taste the same. A little chardonnay seedling raised in Burgundy will turn out differently from one coddled in Oregon. Nurture is far more influential than nature when it comes to the adult personality of any wine. So it’s important to try them all, always keep an open mind, and learn to love wines by their producer, vintage, and flavor profile than by their inherent nature. If you think, for example, that you don’t like Spanish wine, give the Cerro Anon Rioja Reserva 2010 from Bodegas Olarra a chance. It changed my opinion about an entire country.
This wine is a blend of tempranillo, garnacha and a mix of mazuelo and graciano. The color is striking. Cherry red with ruby highlights, it’s the kind of wine you want to be photographed holding. On the nose it’s overwhelming yet tender, with notes of cedar and smoky tobacco. It’s so round on the palate that you can feel the flavors somersault on your tongue, but the firm tannins keep it easygoing. An enjoyable, spicy finish make it interesting, while plum and dried cherry flavors make it tasty. This wine reminded me of Audrey Hepburn; classy and graceful but not overly refined or stuffy.
Mom loved it too. She was most inspired by it’s alluring smoky smell; like a dark speakeasy that opens up into a welcoming, lively party. Most websites suggest pairing it with lamb, but I’d rather pair it with a friend at a candelit bar during happy hour. Especially if that friend claims to dislike Spanish wines.