Not much has inspired me in the wine world lately, but two Spanish offerings have stood apart from the pack: the 2007 Clos Erasmus Priorat Laurel and the 2011 Southern Belle Jumilla from Chris Ringland. The former has been in my cellar for a few years while the latter was an unexpected surprise.
I first learned of the Priorat at a Spanish wine tasting at one of my favorite local shops. Several Spanish offerings were poured and this stood out. Not having much experience with the Priorat wines, I was impressed. Priorat wines often use Rhone and Bordeaux grapes instead of traditional Spanish types. The taste is more Rhone in this case than Spain. It’s a Garnacha (Grenache) and Cab mix which gives it a big, deep feel. It’s not too heavy and not oaky, but rather full and ripe. It dumped a bit of sediment and felt like it still had plenty of life left on it. It’s a bit chewy, but quite full-mouthed. The flavor keeps on going for what feels like a minute after each taste. Very good Spanish find. Get it if you can. I’ve only seen it once on the shelf.
The second of the Spanish Armada fleet is the new release from Chris Ringland, the all-new Southern Belle Jumilla. What a shocker to finally see Ringland’s answer to the bombing of his last project at R Wines. Fooling everyone, he took the show to Spain and made a tempranillo-based Bourbon barrel wine. Recall previously that the Southern Belle was a Shiraz-based heavy hitter. Again, the wine is inexpensive, $18.99, but big on flavor. Not nearly as alcoholic as the Australian version (17+%!!) the tempranillo is smoother and lower in alcohol at 15.5%. It’s a long finisher with a smooth mouth feel. It’s nothing like Rioja – no long oaky feel, just open and enjoy. No aging needed, it’s ready now even though it’s a 2011. I can’t find much online about the wine so I’m making a few assumptions. Chris Ringland doesn’t appear as the winemaker, but this certainly has his feel. Until I hear otherwise, I’m saying he made it.
The Laurel has some accolades including this one from Wine Advocate:
The 2007 Laurel, a blend of 65% Garnacha and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, is deep purple-colored with a bouquet of wet stone, Asian spices, black cherry compote, and incense. Dense and sweet on the palate with tons of spice, it is super-concentrated, rich, and smooth-textured. Give this lengthy effort 2-3 years of additional cellaring and drink it from 2013 to 2027. Laurel is produced from the young vines of Clos Erasmus as well as from the results of a triage in the vineyard and cellar of the flagship wine.
Score: 94. —Jay Miller, Wine Advocate, April 2010.
T-scale scoring – Laurel Priorat: 93 points. $45.00 or so. Great red blend that feels more Rhone than Spain. Southern Belle Jumilla: 90 points. Another hit from the rockstar Chris Ringland. $18.99 is a deal!