A member of our Boston blind tasting group, Rich Schnitzlen, recently re-merchandised 70% of the inventory that fills my town’s wine shop. The fact that we have only one store of any kind in the entire town, and its proprietors added the wine shop last year following a town vote allowing the sale of alcohol makes it that much more interesting. Rich has impeccable knowledge and a discriminating palate so I was not surprised by the incredibly exciting new inventory. Besides a few other bottles, I took home the (***1/2 $12) 2009 Bielsa Vinas Viejas Garnacha. It came with Rich’s fullest recommendation.
I opened the wine with pizza, but it’s not a pizza wine. Don’t get me wrong, it drank great with the dough, cheese, and sauce that Boston calls pizza. Actually, the wine was utterly compelling; much more than a pizza wine. I started dreaming how this wine would pair perfectly with rotisserie duck, Asian spiced rare tuna steak, deeply flavored Bolognese sauce, or glazed pork roast. It lept to the head of the class of a sea of $12 Garnachas which mostly marry a beautiful Garnacha nose with a bit too much jammy fruit.
Bielsa is part of the Jose Pastor Portfolio, a lineup reflecting traditional Spanish varietals and approaches, comprising some of the most interesting Spanish wine brought into the US. A disproportionate amount of compelling Spanish wine I have tasted hailing from lesser known regions like Bierzo and Ribera Sacra are Jose Pastor import selections too.
The primarily old vine 2009 Bielsa Vinas Viejas from Campo de Borja earns a rightful place in this portfolio, with rich fruit and a sweet nose of blueberry and black cherry, adding unavoidable cocoa to the aromatics. What set it apart from other Garnachas for me is its grace; a silky delivery of so much rich fruit. An elevated brightness to the wine’s flavor helps it avoid giving off any impressions of thick jam. There is a balance between fruit, acidity, and aromatics that renders the wine as “pretty” and well knit. The wine combines a background of old world style accompanying the heightened fruit and aromas of the best examples of modern day Garnachas. In total, the wine outclasses its price and would be a fine buy at $35.
I will be filling my own cellar with a case and won’t be breaking it out again with bad Boston pizza.