2020 Bodegas Atalaya “Laya”, Almansa DOP, Spain (Alcohol 14%, Residual Sugar 5 g/l) LCBO Vintages $16.95 (750ml bottle)
It took me a little while to come around to this wine, as upon the evening I first tasted it I had been enjoying a crisp dry German Riesling immediately beforehand. At that moment in time the jump from a vinous Ariel (pure intelligence) to a vinous Caliban (brutal and sensuous) was a little too much for my palate, but reassessing it the following evening, I found it to be a rather fascinating wine.
A blend of 70% Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet, a cross of Petit Bouschet and Grenache) and 30% Monastrell (Mourvèdre), this wine exhibits some of the appealing rusticity I often find with both of these grapes. The rusticity doesn’t come from any archaic winemaking practices, as this is an ultra-modern wine, but from the rusticity that I feel is inherent to both of these varieties. Here, both grapes are sourced from dry farmed old bush vines in the still relatively unknown Almansa DOP in the southeast of Spain.
Alicante Bouschet is a teinturier, that is a grape with red flesh, a bit of an anomaly in the world of grapes, and hence it has been used for centuries to add a healthy load of colour (not to mention tannin) to many a wine. That is certainly the case with this wine here, as this pours a gorgeous dark, deep purple in the glass.
Aromatically this wine is quite a noseful, and is simply packed with extremely ripe blueberries and blackberries augmented by hits of dark chocolate, old-fashioned black liquorice pipes, cracked black pepper, vanilla bean, and underbrush.
It makes for a dense mouthful too, medium-full bodied, with a nice granular tannic grip from the Alicante and enough acidity to keep all that dark, ripe fruit in the right spot. The extended finish delivers a pleasing earthy/mineral element.
This is certainly a Caliban wine I can get behind, especially when served with slow-braised sausages and fennel. It’s such a superb wine for such warming autumnal dishes.
(Four out of a possible five apples)
Bodegas Atalaya is represented in Ontario by Profile Wine Group.
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