Bassus Pinot Noir 2008, Bodegas Hispanos-Suizas, Uteil-Requena, Spain
…………………….Yes, a Pinot Noir from Spain, a contradiction in terms perhaps, but this wine is exceptional! Utiel-Requena is in Valencia. It is a DO (Denominación de Origen) which was created in 1957 and is literally between the towns of Utiel and Requena. Grape growing and wine production in the area dates back to 7th Century BC.
The area has a continental climate which sounds great for a holiday, but due to the frequent hailstones and frost, it is considered one of the most severe grape growing climates in Spain. The temperature can rise to 40⁰C and drop to -10⁰C. The unbearable heat is moderated by a cool wind known as the Solano which blows in from the sea, 70kms away (as the crow flies). The anticipation leading up to harvest must be “nail-biting”.
The winery was built in 1905 and restored recently in 2009… Rafaela, Pablo and Marc are responsible for this outstanding operation. Their Pinot Noir vines are planted on chalky clay soil at 4000 vines per hectare which is low compared to some vineyards in Burgundy where 7500 to 10 000 is common. Harvest is carried out by hand, carefully choosing only the best bunches, and placed into plastic containers which can hold up to 15kgs. Harvest is done first thing in the morning to ensure the grapes are kept at optimal temperatures. The grapes are kept in a cold storage room for three days before being sorted and de-stalked.
The “three wise men” have chosen new 400 litre American oak barrels which always influence a distinguished vanilla characteristic. The preference here is cold maceration, so the lids of the barrels have been removed and the use of an ingenious system of “radiators” ensures the maceration temperature is maintained at 8⁰C for a period of 4 days.
The Cap is punched daily and as soon fermentation begins the cold water which runs through the radiators is turned off to allow the temperature to rise to 26⁰C.
It is impossible to stay calm when the first hit of aroma bounds out of the glass and awakens the senses. A bouquet of violets laced with cinnamon and black pepper. On entry the full but soft tannins seem sweet and velvety.
My pairing for this wine is Monkfish wrapped in Pancetta served with St Enodoc Asparagus and a sophisticated curry sauce.
The pancetta softens the tannins, which allows the intensely flavoured wine to flourish. The body matches that of the monkfish. The cassis, dark cherry and pepper marries well with the curry sauce, enhancing the crunchy asparagus, leaving a long finish of violets and red fruit on the satisfied palate.