This week with Maestrazgo Wine Club, we’re going to be looking at an appellation that is relatively new to Spain having been founded in 2003; Vino de Pago, quite simply’Estate wine’ or more correctly, ‘single-vineyard wines’. It was ostensibly introduced to create further diversity amongst the Spanish wine market and to celebrate top-quality individual estates, that may or may not have already been part of an existing DO. The official description of the appellation is as follows:
“a rural site with particular edaphic and microclimate characteristics which differentiate it from its environment and where wines of singular features and qualities are obtained. Besides, the grape production, the winemaking and the bottling must take place within the pago strictly following the production rules stated by the specific ministerial decree for each pago”.
This last bit is quite interesting, as it creates a great deal of diversity within the appellation. Basically, whilst there are certain requirements needed to be part of the appellation in the first place; lower yields, grapes that can only come from that individual estate, wine that has to be bottled on the estate and so on, each Pago is effectively different from the others and certainly unique from the land around it. As a result, we get a lot of very interesting wines from these areas, often using international grape varieties and different methods of production. If you were to compare it to the Cru system of Burgundy for example, it is intrinsically different in that historical context is not important at all; it’s really all about innovation and creating something different – a very different take on the concept of terroir indeed!
The other interesting part about Vino de Pago is that the 17 estates that currently make up the appellation are all in regions not especially famous in the minds of 21st century consumers, notably Castilla-La Mancha, Valencia, Cariñena, Utiel-Requena and Navarra. Whilst there is an allowance for wineries joining from DOC Rioja or DOQ Priorat to label themselves the very lovely sounding “Vino de Pago calificado” this has not yet been an issue as no wineries from either of these two regions have applied to join the Vino de Pago appellation. This clear divide is explained by Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW writing for Decanter.com who says: ‘I would say Vino de Pago only exists in those regions where producers are not proud of their classic appellations, such as Navarra, La Mancha and Valencia. Instead of fighting to raise the quality of their natural regions, producers and politicians preferred to invent a new legislative animal, unrelated to either terroir or tradition.’
Not to be confused with the private organisation ‘Grandes Pagos de España’, the following 17 estates have qualified for Vino de Pago since its inception in 2003:
|Dominio de Valdepusa||Castilla-La Mancha||2003|
|Finca Élez (Manuel Manzaneque)||Castilla-La Mancha||2003|
|Dehesa del Carrizal||Castilia-La Mancha||2006|
|Prado de Irache||Navarra||2008|
|Campo de la Guardia||Castilla-La Mancha||2009|
|Pago Florentino||Castilla-La Mancha||2009|
|Casa del Blanco||Castilla-La Mancha||2010|
|Pago Calzadilla||Castilla-La Mancha||2011|
|Pago de Los Balagueses||Valencia||2011|
|Pago de Chozas Carrascal||Utiel-Requena||2012|
|Vera de Estenas||Utiel-Requena||2013|
|La Finca Bolandín||Navarra||2014|
We’re going to have a look at 5 different Pagos covering the 3 of the major regions defined above. Starting with:
Otazu Chardonnay 2015 – Otazu joined Vino de Pago in 2008, becoming the third estate from Navarra to do so. They focus on Cabernet Sauvignon/Tempranillo blends for their red wines and Chardonnay for their whites. Otazu Chardonnay 2015 is a young, fresh and ripe style of Chardonnay with no oak contact but still a good 14% ABV. Expect good acidity and tropical fruit flavours in the style of warm-climate Chardonnay
Finca Terrerazo 2014 – A winery from the Valencia area that joined the appellation in 2010, El Terrerazo focuses on local grape varieties such as Bobal and Merseguera grown at high altitudes of around 850m above sea level. This, combined with the continental climate produces small volumes of very intense grapes, including their signature; old vine Bobal. Finca Terrerazo 2014 is a 100% Bobal wine, aged for 21 months in French oak and built to last. Expect lots of powerful, bright berry and cherry fruit over significant oak influence and spice.
Serendipia 2013 – Pago de Aylés is currently the only winery present in the appellation from Carinena, a wine producing region in the old kingdom of Aragon, south-east of Rioja and Navarra. The winery has two very different production portfolios, with one focusing heavily on using the name of Pago de Aylés as a marketing tool and the other labelled after Arabic fables. We will be focusing on the latter, with Serendipia coming from an Arabic Fairy Tale concerning the three Princes of ‘Sip’ – Grenache, Merlot and Syrah as single varietal wines, in this instance. Expect ripe fruit aromas, powerful pepper spice and some sweet American oak to round it off.
Arínzano La Casona 2008 – Arinzano was the first Vino de Pago from Navarra, or indeed in the North of Spain, sometime they celebrate quite enthusiastically on their website. The estate is very large with over 120 hectares given to Vino de Pago wines, mainly focused around indigenous varieties with smaller proportions of French varieties blended in. This is the case with Arinzano La Casona, with a more traditional blend of 75% Tempranillo and 25% Merlot with 14 months of ageing in French oak; actually quite a popular blend in regions such as Ribera del Duero. Expect plummy fruits, chocolate and some spicy tobacco flavours after 7 years in bottle.
Marqués de Griñón Emeritus 2010 – This is where it all started. Dominio de Valdepusa was the first estate to be granted Vino de Pago certification in 2003 and they have gone on to become arguably the most famous of them all. Located near Toledo in Castilla y La Mancha, they focus heavily on international Bordeaux varietals, often blended together in traditional proportions, albeit with the twist of the Spanish climate. We’re going to finish the evening with their flagship wine; Emeritus 2010. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot are vinified separately prior to spending 22 months getting to know one another in French oak. A powerful, spicy and fruit forward wine in youth, this could last a decade or two quite happily, although I know of one particular bottle that won’t make it past this Thursday!
The line-up is ready, the table is set and we’re ready to drink our way through these 5 delicious wines as we continue our exploration of the world of wine in Barcelona, Spain. The tasting is fully booked but if you live in Barcelona and would like to come along one evening, check out our wine-tasting group on Meet-up. The next newsletter will be going out on the 1st November along with the wine tastings for that month. Happy drinking and I hope to see you soon!