Two from Barahonda

Hello friends. Our Mencia offering in late January generated huge levels of interest, and cemented for me that there is great interest in Spanish wine, especially if it’s reasonably-priced and terroir-expressive. Not always the easiest combination to find, but the Olé Imports book has it in spades, so let’s dive back in.

For a reminder on Olé, here is our introductory text from the Mencia offering:
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John House, the man behind the new Ovum wines project that we featured back in December, recently informed me that he is also the west coast sales director for Olé Imports and asked me if I was interested in tasting terroir-driven wines from Spain.

In our current era of over-oaked Rioja and over-extracted Ribera, terroir-driven Spanish wine is an oxymoron at worst, an anachronism at best. But John is a terroir freak (as evidenced by his hunting down of oddball southern Oregon Riesling vineyards for Ovum), and I was intrigued.

So we tasted through the lineup, and I came away deeply impressed. Olé has struck a rich, broad vein of Spanish reactionaries: winemakers making earth-driven wines during an age of cloying fruit ripeness. The broader wine press has taken notice, with no less than Robert Parker himself weighing in:

Wine Advocate (Robert Parker): “When Olé Imports began in 1999, there were only three wines in their portfolio, and one of the two founders, Patrick Mata (the other founder being Alberto Orte), was not even old enough to consume alcohol! A great success story, this tiny boutique company searches out, as they put it, ‘unique terroir-driven wines of extraordinary value.’ Often such sayings are hyperbole, but not in the case of Olé Imports… These wines are among my favorites from this motivated company. While none of their wines are household names, readers should seek them out as they represent sensational values from viticultural regions throughout Spain.”
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Today we’re in Yecla, a region with a two thousand year winegrowing history, and a transition zone between a coastal Mediterranean climate and an inland continental climate. The dominant grape in Yecla is Mourvedre (called Monastrell in Spain), and it thrives in Barahonda’s high-altitude (2300 ft) estate vineyards, which are substantially cooler than neighboring areas. The soils here are limestone and chalk with clay and gravel subsoils. I can tell you that these are non-nutritive soils, low in organic materials, but this photo offers a clearer picture. It’s quite something to see those gnarly old head-trained vines growing straight out of that moonscape, and as you can imagine, this soil keeps the natural yields quite low and therefore the concentration quite high.

Barahonda is among the oldest producers in Yecla, operating since 1925, and they have helped fuel the resurgent interest in Mourvedre from this ancient winegrowing region. This is again one of the rare Spanish producers that Parker reviewed himself (instead of delegating to Neal Martin), and the combination of score, price, and prose has made these wines difficult to source. Because of that, I did jump in on the Barahonda wines as a short pre-order, just like I did with the Mencia a few weeks ago. The wine is scheduled to arrive in a few weeks, so the wait will be a bit longer than typical for Full Pull. But the reward is again a good one: our list has first dibs on a good chunk of this parcel.

2011 Barahonda Sin Madera (Mourvedre)

Let’s begin with Sin Madera, Barahonda’s 100% Mourvedre that sees no new oak and is 100% whole-cluster fermented. The purpose with this bottling is to express the unadulterated purity of Yecla Mourvedre, and it does so beautifully, with an aromatic pastiche of plum and rocks and the spice of new leather giving way to a pulsing, vibrant palate. If purity is the goal, the goal has been achieved.

Wine Advocate (Robert Parker): “($15); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

2010 Barahonda Barrica (Mourvedre-Syrah)

A few differences here. First, the addition of 25% Syrah into the blend. Second, these come entirely from the oldest vines on the estate, all 60 years or older (amazing given the tariff). Third, an extra year of aging before bottling. And fourth, that maturation takes place in barrel, a combination of French and American, mostly neutral. All of that adds up to a wine with more depth, more concentration, and more nuance of game and black pepper to complement all that pure, dark Monastrell fruit.

Wine Advocate (Robert Parker): “($17); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in a few weeks, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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