Friday, August 2, 2013
Bodegas Beronia: 40 Years, With Oak
For over eight years, I've been part of a group of friends who meet weekly and share wine. These are the same guys who I once worked together with on the Real World Winers blog, which I contributed to before the start of The Passionate Foodie blog. There was a love of Spanish wines from the beginning, and when we toast the evening every week, there is a hearty unison of "Rioja!"
One of the first Rioja wines that peaked my interest in Spanish wines was the Marqués de Riscal, and my first higher-end Spanish Rioja, the Bodegas Fernando Remirez de Ganuza Reserva, was stunning and made me seek out more higher-end Spanish wines. In 2007, on my second trip to Spain, I visited the Rioja region, stopping at several wineries and enjoying many excellent wines. It was a wonderful place, with such beauty and history, great people and tasty wines.
Last week, Rioja came to Brookline, bringing with it a great sense of history, a couple passionate people, and plenty of delicious wines, accompanied by compelling Spanish cuisine.
Taberna de Haro, a Spanish restaurant in Brookline, hosted a Rioja event with winemaker Matias Calleja of Bodegas Beronia and Christopher Canale-Parola, the Export Manager for Bodegas Gonzalez Byass and a former winemaker. I previously met Christopher at a recent Sherry tasting, and he was equally as knowledgeable and passionate this time.
The wines of Beronia are imported by The San Francisco Wine Exchange and distributed in Massachusetts by Bay State Wine & Spirits. You definitely should seek out the Beronia wines at your local wine shop.
Back in the 3rd century BC, the region of Rioja was inhabited by a Celtic tribe known as the berones, and they referred to the region as Beronia. The winery chose this ancient term for their name. The winery itself, founded in La Rioja Alta, was established in 1973 by a gastronomic society which wished to produce their own wine. Thus, 2013 is their 40th anniversary and our tasting was partially a celebration of that achievement. At first, the winery only made Reserva and Gran Reserva wines, and found success in their efforts.
With their success, they desired to expand their business and found that Bodegas Gonzalez Byass also sought expansion. With a shared purpose, the twy came together in 1982 and it was then that Matias Calleja was hired. With parents who were growers, Matias has been involved in wine his entire life and has spent 31 years working at Beronia. Though he didn't speak much English, it was clear that this is more than a job to him, that it is a true passion and he couldn't see himself doing anything else.
Matias has a simple wine making philosophy: "Always think of the consumer." He believes you must evolve with the consumer, though you shouldn't lose the typicity of Rioja. Currently, consumers want natural and healthy wines, and that is important to Beronia. They practice sustainable viticulture, desirous of being as healthy as possible, and are always working toward better sustainability. They also try to reduce wine making manipulation, preferring physical rather than chemical manipulations. Certainly very admirable traits.
I then moved onto two other wines, a 2008 Tempranillo Reserva and the 2011 Tempranillo Elaboracion Especial. The Reserva was matured in mixed oak, and provided a nice, balanced taste with tasty red and black fruit flavors, and a spicy backbone. The smooth tannins complemented the lengthy finish, and this was a Rioja you would say is soft and sexy.
On the other hand, the Elaboracion Especial is a more unique wine, and definitely not a traditional Rioja product. It undergoes malolactic fermentation in the barrel and then is aged for about seven months on the lees in the barrel. American oak is used and the barrel toasting is crucial to the taste. The barrels are toasted at lower temperatures over a long time, about 180 degrees Celsius for 26 minutes. This makes the toast penetrate deeper into the barrel, providing more mocha flavors to the wine. This wine was developed based on a lengthy survey of consumer tastes. It is a melding of red fruit and licorice flavors, with mocha, and offers an alluring aroma coupled with a smooth, well balanced and compelling taste. This wine certainly appealed to me and I can see why it is so consumer friendly.
The 2009 Crianza is a blend of Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo which has spent 12 months in mixed oak. This is the wine they produce in the biggest volume, and is is extremely popular in Spain. It is young and fruity (cherry, raspberry and licorice), with mild spice notes. An easy quaffer and a perfect wine for burgers, pizza or tapas.
We neded our meal with two tasty cheeses, Payoyo (sheep and goat's milk cheese from Andalucia)
and Guriezo (cow's milk cheese from Asturias), accompanied by Nueces con aceite y miel (walnuts with salt, Spanish olive oil, and honey). Deborah stated that sweeter Rioja pairs well with creamy cheeses. Amazing cheeses, it is always a pleasure to get to taste a new Spanish cheese, one creamy and the other more firm. French cheese may get far more press but Spanish cheeses are worthy of attention, presenting plenty of diversity, great taste and artisan farmers.
Taste and enjoy the wines of Beronia and I bet you'll start toasting a hearty "Rioja!"