A few years ago, on a press trip to a wine region in Southern Europe, the Polish wine writer Tomasz Prange-Barczyński showed me an app on his phone. It was an altimeter which determined one’s altitude by GPS. As an export manager talked on about how the vineyard we were in was 400 metres above sea level, Tomaz showed me it was more like 350. As soon as we were back at the hotel wi-fi, I downloaded the app.
Now why, gentle reader, you may ask, would anyone exaggerate the height of their vineyards? The answer, like so many less than great things these days, lies with climate change. The higher the vineyard the cooler the air around the vines, and cool air is in short supply in much of the world’s wine producing lands. And, if a region can combine a relatively cooler climate and lots of sunshine, then it’s pretty close to the best of all grape growing worlds: ripe fruit, but with fresh acidity. The wines of Spain’s Ribero de Duero region are grown at 800 to 1,000 metres above sea level in the highlands northwest of Madrid, and one that’s in the LCBO’s Vintages program now is a great, and affordable, example of the good things that can come from altitude and sunshine.
The 2018 Monteabellón 5 Meses en Barrica ($20.95 | LCBO# 338871) is a 100% Tempranillo wine that’s full big red fruit (raspberry to dark cherry), held up with firm but velvety tannic structure and finishes with a pleasing note of bitter almond. It’s fresh and wants food; grilled meats. It’s name alludes to five months in barrel (split, says the Monteabellón website, between French and American oak). I believe we are meant to take this as “only five months in barrel” since this brief by conventional Spanish wine making standards, and the traces of treatment are slight indeed: just a seasoning over the fruit. At $20.95 its just over my every day under $20 budget, but I think worth the exception and certainly worth a try.