THE drinking of good wine continues to be so fashionable in Spain that old bodegas keep bringing out new wines made with their best grapes.
Some of these old bodegas have even set up new wineries in order to give us something new.
This is the case of Coderniu, once associated mainly with cava in the Penedès area. For its latest acquisition, Codorniu has built a new winery in Curiel de Duero, near Peñafiel, which is part of the Ribera del Duero Denominación de Origen (DO) zone. The winery's first two wines were presented in Palma last week at La Vinoteca in Calle Bartolomé Pou 29. The wine is called Legaris and those who attended the presentation tasted the crianza 2000 and the reserva 1999. The name is an unusual one and it has more to do with grammar than it does with winemaking although that also comes into it.
Legaris is the second person singular of the Latin verb lego which means to harvest the fruit. Legaris would translate as: you will be harvested.
Both wines are varietals made with the tinta fina grape, which is the same as Rioja's tempranillo. The winery has two vineyards. One is in Curiel de Duero (54.5 hectares) and the other is in San Martín de Rubiales (32 hectares). The cellar where the casks are stored extends over an area of 1'200 square metres and it is big enough to cover the winery's plans for the future.
It now houses just over 1'000 casks, but this will be increased gradually to a total of 4'500. Under Ribera del Duero's DO rules, crianzas and reservas are aged in oak for a minimum of 12 months. Legaris uses casks made with American and French oak, as well as some with a mixture of both. Hungarian casks are also employed at certain stages. In all cases the casks are toasted, thus giving the wines additional complexity in colours, aromas and flavours. This winery uses different types of barrel for crianzas and reservas, because both wines have different characteristics.
The wine destined for reserva is the first to go into the casks and it is usually richer in colour, in tannins and in alcohol and it can withstand the strong discharge of aromas and flavours which the new casks supply. For this reason the reservas usually get more time in the new casks and especially the French ones with their finegrained oak which allows for the absorption of more oxygen. The crianza wine is transferred to the casks at a later stage and is therefore more stable and less concentrated. The winery uses seminew casks for the crianza those that are one or two years old. Crianzas also have a short time in new casks to give them a bit more complexity in aromas and flavours. The grain in the wood of oak casks indicates their capacity to absorb oxygen. Finegrained oak is more porous and therefore allows more oxygen to penetrate and be absorbed by the wine. Oak with a thick grain is denser and therefore less porous, so less oxygen comes into contact with the wine.
American oak is thickgrained and French oak ranges from very fine grain to less than fine. Allier is the finest, then come Nevers, Vosges and Limousin. During the cask's construction, damp heat is applied to the wood to make it more pliable and at a later stage the inside of the cask is toasted.
The enologist, by combining different types of oak with different degrees of toasting, can achieve a rich mix of aromas and flavours. The final taste of a wine depends on whether or not he gets the right combination. The Legaris enologist has taken great care with the 2000 crianza and the 1999 reserva and has given both of them rich bright shades of red.
Most of those I talked to at the tasting preferred the crianza and it's easy to see why.
It has abundant aromas, which the nose picks up immediately. Add that to its splendid colour and this wine has got off to a magnificent start.
And when you finally taste it, it doesn't disappoint: in the mouth it comes over vivaciously and packs in plenty of flavours that linger on the palate. The reserva is a much more complex wine, which is what you expect from a reserva with its longer ageing in oak. It needed time to open up and none of us gave it that time, so we preferred the more readily available attractions of the crianza. Even so, the reserva had a powerful presence in the mouth and I'll look forward to trying it again under proper tasting conditions. The crianza sells for a most reasonable 12.90 euros and the price of the reserva is 23.50 euros.
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