Photo © Julien Perry
Having spent most of his career focusing on wines from Burgundy, France, master sommelier Chris Tanghe has had to delve into a whole new world of Spanish wines for his list at Aragona. The thoughtful list is testament to his palate and exhaustive tastings of the country’s best. Here, his top picks.
VALUE WINE HE’S MOST PROUD OF ON HIS LIST
2011 Bernabeleva Navaherreros Tinto ($45)
Madrid is a really cool up-and-coming region. There are lots of vineyards planted around the city of Madrid, but most of the grapes were historically used to make everyday-drinking wines for people who lived in the city. Now though, there are all of these old vines there, and these rock–star winemakers are recognizing the quality and making some really amazing wines. This wine is absolutely stunning. This winemaker has a pet project with another winemaker from Bodegas Marañones called Comando G. We have those wines on the list, too, but they’re really expensive. The entry level is like $210 on our list and the main cuvée is $325 or something crazy like that. I’ve tasted only the entry level one and it definitely could hang with Château Rayas, for sure. Well, the Bernabeleva is almost as good a wine as the Comando G—for a fraction of the price. It’s just one of those really fun finds. It’s the more elegant side of Garnacha, which can often be kind of over the top. This is more the restrained, beautifully perfumed side.
MOST AMAZING DISCOVERY ON HIS LIST
2010 Descendientes de José Palacios Moncerbal ($175) and Las Lamas ($175)
Descendientes de José Palacios from Spain’s Bierzo region makes an entry-level Mencia called Pétalos which is delicious—to me, it’s a very classic Mencia. But they also make a couple of single-vineyard wines from Corullón, Moncerbal and Las Lamas. They’re are tiny production and it’s just kind of a different side of Mencia that’s super powerful, but at the same time really silky, texturally. They’re really fascinating. They’re more dark-fruit based, not the typical red fruit that you’d expect from Mencia.
MOST IMPRESSIVE INEXPENSIVE BOTTLE ON HIS LIST
2011 Antidoto Ribera del Duero ($12 by the glass)
We pour this Ribera del Duero by the glass. It’s from the eastern section of Ribera called Soría, which is lesser known and it’s planted with fewer vineyards. There’s more of a diurnal shift, meaning a big temperature difference from day to night, and it really shows in the wine. They’re more red fruited than black fruited, as they tend to be in the rest of the region. This one’s actually made by a Frenchman, Bertrand Sourdais, who is part of Domaine de Pallus in Chinon. This is his new project in Ribera. It’s super inexpensive and it’s a really beautiful example of Tempranillo.
TWO MORE WINES FROM HIS LIST THAT HE JUST LOVES
2001 La Rioja Alta Ardanza ($120)
I love La Rioja Alta. It’s just a stalwart, traditional house; the quality is incredible. Most of their cuvées are mostly Tempranillo blends, if not exclusively Tempranillo. You stick your nose in the glass and it’s Rioja, there’s just no question about it. I love that about it. And 2001 is an epic vintage for Rioja. That and ‘94 are the best vintages in 20 years. They’re just incredible—that fruit, that kind of desiccated, floating cloud of coconut and dill and other fines herbes on top—that’s just classic.
2010 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Prephylloxera ($150)
This Nerello Mascalese from Mount Etna in Sicily comes from vines that are 130 years old. It’s very dense but silky, kind of how I would describe Mencia, with bright red-fruit wine, but this wine has clear-as-day, smoky, hot lava–rock minerality. And it has an almost gamey quality, too, like a juniper-crusted roast venison on the fire. My grandfather is a big hunter, so we have venison all the time and it reminds me of that. It would be the perfect wine with some grilled venison. All of Terre Nere’s cru wines are great too; they have four other crus plus this one, which comes from a little tiny plot within the cru called Calderara Sottana. I love all of the crus. The vineyards are quite close together, but they’re all pretty different in character, so it’s a cool lesson in terroir. You could taste all of those crus side by side and really appreciate the differences, even though they’re made with the same grapes.
2008 Agustí Torelló Mata Barrica Gran Reserva Brut Nature ($90)
This is a really great cava. This Barrica version has a little more yeastiness and richness from some time in oak. There’s none of that latex, rubber-glove aroma to this, which is something that I really don’t like in a lot of cavas. It’s super clean and pure with lots of crisp yellow apple and spicy brown pear, ginger, and a lot of yeasty brioche character and toasted nuts. Their tête de cuvée is not half as good as the Barrica, which is half the price. Cava’s one place I’ve really been wanting to find a lot of great wines and it’s really difficult; the texture is just off, the bubbles are huge.