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Comparative Tasting: Southern Wines from Portugal, Spain, Greece and France

I think we had this topic before, but aren’t there countless excellent wines in the Mediterranean regions to discover? The difference might be that this time I can at least come up with something like a link between all these wines.
The first two stem from the Douro river region in Portugal. The third one is a Spanish Ribera del Duero, the same river than the two before but on Spanish soil.
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Oscar (who brought the first 3 wines) thought it would be interesting to compare the styles of two neighbour regions. The fourth wine is a Greek Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot Cuvée called Biblia Xora, produced in the hills of Makedonia (North-Eastern Greece, no more link here : )). Finally I contributed a Southern French wine from Faugères in Languedoc.
Let’s get it on!

2002 Reserva Adamastor, Douro DOC, Portugal

This is the younger of the two Douro wines. It has a really beautiful, shiny cherry-red colour. Its nose is rather indefinable, more in the red berries direction though, but we couldn’t distinct any precise fruit. On the palate, I personally enjoyed the tannins which were still young but had a texture of very small and smooth particles. At the same time these tannins gave a very fresh feel when swallowing. The wine went through barrels of French oak, which gave it a very discreet wood flavour. Here again, the fruit was hardly definable, but after retrying the wine at the end, some Black Cherry and raspberry came through. All in all a pleasant drinking wine we thought, and went on.

2000 Reserva Campelo prestige, Douro, Portugal

This Douro wine is two years older than its fellow. The colour is a darker but still shiny red. Its bouquet has strangely a certain bluntness mixed with indefinable red fruit, as its fellow. Maybe it needs just some more time. On the palate, this wine seems more balanced, with less tannin than its younger colleague. Here the red fruit becomes more contour and remind red currants. Again French wood gives it a discrete support. Finally the wine has a medium length.
After re-tasting the wine a little later, its bouquet has opened, scenting more of forest and mushrooms, giving it a little Barolo touch and adding a slight complexity compared to its younger colleague. One could imagine it well with well seasoned meat dishes: a harmonious, yet powerful companion.

2001 Vina Pedrosa Reserva, Bodega Perez Pascuas, Ribera del Duero, Spain

This wine grows on the shores of the same river than the 2 Portuguese wines before. Nevertheless, the Ribera Del Duero region accounts for the most appreciated wines in Spain and has a worldwide reputation which is close to Medoc or St Emilion. So, it could surely be unfair to compare this bottle with the two precedents.
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But anyway, what is more interesting is to notice the technical differences between this first league wine and its uprising neighbour. Like comparing David and Goliath. Is Goliath powerful but gammy, conservative and dusty? And is David, dynamic vibrant and explosive?
In the glass first, its colour is an elegant, darker red. The nose has a powerful scent of Vanilla which undoubtedly stems from American Oak barrels (24 months says the label). This already differentiates it from its Portuguese neighbours who prefer to show pure grape expression (using more discrete French oak) rather than external perfume addition. Nevertheless we can smell juicy fruit under the Vanilla coat, reminding mixed wild berries. On the palate, the oak taste is persistent, but the fruit has enough power and claims dominance. After a while then, the cliché of a conservative and lame wine bursts, as other layers submerge and give the wine complexity, which detaches it irrevocably from its Portuguese fellows. Now, as we taste liquorice, herbs and the mixed berries become more distinct, the oak costume adds elegance and the tannins add power.
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The Tempranillo grape now shows off its qualities (The same variety is also blended in our Portuguese wines; there it is called Tinto Roriz). One could still argue that the wine has an artificial touch, but as the tannins indicate, it is still young and the strong oak might attenuate over the years. Maybe this is also the answer to our question: Ribera Del Duero wines are made to last, while Douro wines are mostly being drunk while still young (I’m not talking about Port wines here ;))

2004 Biblia Xora, Makedonia, Greece

So now we have a big 2500 km jump towards east heading to the hills of makedonia in North-eastern Greece. There, near the city of Kavala, Greek winemakers Evangelos Gerovassiliou and Vassilis Tsaktsarlis created their estate, in a region were high elevations and oceanic climate provide a longer vine growing period than in other greek regions. (more here).
This wine is a classic blend between Cabernet and Merlot. It has a nice dark red colour with purple reflections. We found it has a very aromatic nose reminding herbs, but also red berries and a little vanilla. Later we also identified a fresh scent, possibly a hint of eucalyptus. On the palate, we the fruit reappears, accompanied by a robust structure with medium-strong tannins. This wine again might have some ageing potential. It also has a smoky, meaty taste which makes you want to chew the wine. All in all a very pleasant and balanced wine, made in a classic style but with a little “Greek” edge to it.

2003 Réserve Maison Jaune, Domaine Alquier, Faugères, France

This is our last wine of the tasting. The Domaine Alquier (more info here) is one of the most reknown estates in Faugères besides Barral and Chateau de La Liquière. I don’t have exact information on the wine but I assume it’s a cuvee of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. Knowing that southern French wine need some time to develop their full aroma, I decanted this one some hours before. It had a nice dark but somehow shiny colour. Its nose was very different from the other wines, a very exotic scent of passion fruit and or unripe berries (like a fruity acidity or an acid fruitiness). I nearly said it smelled like raspberries, but Oskar said I smell raspberries too often in every other bottle, so let’s say you might smell a hint of raspberries (After retasting the wine an hour later I also found it had a little black cherry in the nose). On the palate we unanimously assigned the wine a straightforward acidity level; which might mean the wine could benefit from a little more ageing. The fruits on our palate were the same vitamin loaded varieties we identified with our nose. The smooth tannins also added a little menthol-like freshness but at the same time indicated some ageing potential.

What’s our conclusion then? It was interesting to see the difference in styles between a top notch Ribera wine and its Portuguese Colleagues. Also, the jump to Greece and France, both with completely different grape varieties, wasn’t really consistent for a comparative tasting, but still showed us different but attractive styles. But actually there was still a common point between all these styles: they all had the typical warmth and strength of Southern wines.
So you still might want to know which wine was outstanding here? I guess the Ribera had the most complexity in the end, but with exception of the second Douro wine, all the wines would benefit from a little more time to age.

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