I taste a lot of wine and certainly more than my share of great wine. Every-once-in-a-while, I taste something really unique. Every-once-in-a-great-while, I taste a something both great and unique. Great in terms of flavor and unique both in flavor and process. These are three of those:
Ramirez de Ganuza Trasnocho is such a wine. Trasnocho means “overnight” and the wine is aptly named. After the fermentation and maceration for Ramirez de Ganuza’s excellent Rioja Reserva is complete, the tanks are drained and the free run wine is put into barrels to age. That’s when the trasnocho process starts. Plastic bladders are inserted into each of the drained tanks which still contain skins and pulp wet with trapped wine. The bladders are then filled with warm water and allowed to gently press the skins overnight. This smaller proportion of “overnight” wine that seeps from the tanks is kept separate and aged 2 years in all new French oak barrels. The result is Trasnocho Reserva. For me, it’s easy to think of the excellent Ramirez de Ganuza Reserva as the Ch. Margaux of Rioja while the utterly unique Trasnocho fills the role of Ch. Latour.
REMIREZ de GANUZA Trasnocho Reserva, Rioja, 2009 ($109.99)
A blend of 90% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano, 5% Viura-Malvasía from average 60 years vines, transported in boxes of 12kg and thermo-regulated specially designed cooling chambers during 24 hours (4-6°C degrees) prior to fermentation. Selection of grape on tables and separation of shoulders and bunch tips. This wine is elaborated from de-stemmed cluster shoulders (the ripest part of the bunch) only (the rest of the bunch is used to make an inexpensive carbonic maceration wine). Fermentation in 7,000 liter stainless steel tanks. After the tanks are drained, a bladder is inserted into the top of each tank, filled with warm water, and left overnight (hence “Trasnocho”) to gently press the remaining wine from the skins. This unique press wine is then aged 24 months in all new French oak barrels. Purple-red color with well-formed legs; dry, full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium-chewy phenolics. Supple, ripe, juicy with some density but still elegant with spice and subtle-newer-leather to go along with the pure red Tempranillo fruit. Delicious and innovative but still identifiably Rioja. Avoids becoming a caricature. Layered – Textured – Dimensional. Utterly unique. BearScore: 96+.
HENRIOT CUVE 38
In 1990 Joseph Henriot set aside one vat (a “cuve”) to which toadd a portion of outstanding Blanc de Blancs each year, capturing the essence of every harvest in a sort of solera. The idea was to create a perpetual blend of 100% Chardonnay from 100% Cote de Blancs grand cru vineyards (Mesnil-sur-Oger, Chouilly, Avize and Oger). In 2009, the first 1,000 magnums were drawn and put through the Champagne process. After another 5 years aging on the lees in Henriot’s cellars in Reims, the wine was disgorged and given a final dosage of less than 5 grams per liter. Each year, another 1,000 magnums will be released.
HENRIOT Cuve 38, Champagne, NV ($599.97 through 12/31/17)
100% Chardonnay all from Grand Cru Vineyards aged through a special reserve wine solera bottled in Magnum only re-fermented using Methode Champenoise, aged another 5 years on the yeasts and finished with a less-than-5-grams-per-liter dosage. Pale-gold-straw in color and fully sparkling; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and scant phenolics. Deep dense, unique wine. Pure expression of Chardonnay and chalk, mineral and yeast but most of all development. The wine evolves in the glass as if slowly flattens and warms. It really succeeds as wine, not just as sparkling wine. My first impression score was 94+. Three hours later it was 97. Two days later (the still 2/3s full magnum stored cold and tightly stoppered) it was 100.
This is stunningly good, utterly unique Champagne that almost demands decanting to help it develop in a reasonable time. Or you could keep it for a few years and then … WOW! Only three magnums came to Texas. Available only at Spec’s at 2410 Smith Street in Houston.
Ch. Montus is the producer who put Madiran on the world quality wine map. The wines from Montus offer an elegant expression of Tannat, the red grape of Madiran and now the adopted grape of Uraguay. This La Tyre takes it to the Nth level. What’s unique here? First off Tannat as a base for a world class wine. And then, a very new world process applied with classic results.
Ch. MONTUS La Tyre, Madiran, 2009 ($138.99)
100% organically grown Tanat from a 25 year old vineyard southwest exposure on 5 hectares at the highest point (260 meters) in Madiran. Windswept, steep slopes, highly permeable, covered with smooth large stones with subsoils of brown and red clay. The grapes are totally de-stemmed and given a cold 4 week maceration with only occasional punch-downs (no pump-overs). The juice is then fermented (both alcoholic and malo-lactic) at 28°C in all new French oak barrels. The new wine is aged 16 months with infrequent racking before bottling. It then gets another 2 years of bottle age prior to release. Black-purple color that stains the glass with well formed legs; dry, full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium chewy phenolics. Stunning rich ripe fresh red and black fruit Tannat with spice and earth and oak. Finesse with power. Layered, textured, dimensional. BearScore: 96.