Tasting wines from Gonzalez Byass
On THU evening I attended a private dinner organized by Cramele Recas at Mesogios restaurant in Bucharest where I tasted some wines produced by Gonzalez Byass. The purpose of this unexpected tasting was the visit of Gonzalez Byass Regional Sales Director – Mr Oscar Bayo in Romania. Aside from Recas representatives and Mr Bayo, the other participants were Vali Ceafalau from Vinul.ro, and two other wine bloggers: Nicusor Cazan and Razvan Jurca. The atmosphere was friendly and Mr Oscar Bayo did a good job explaining us the history of the company and gave full details about the wines we tasted.
The company Gonzalez Byass has been established in 1835 in the Jerez region, it is still a family owned business and it is now at the 5th generation. They produce wine in different regions of Spain: Rioja, Toledo, Jerez, Somontano, Penedes and Cava.
We started the tasting with a dry sherry Tio Pepe Fino Muy Seco served with appetizers. Sherry is made from 100% Palomino grapes. After fermentation is complete, sherry is fortified with brandy and reaches 15% alcohol. Because the fortification takes place after fermentation, most sherries are initially dry, with any sweetness being added later. Tio Pepe Fino Muy Seco has a pale yellow lemon color and a sweet-sour nose dominated by aromas of bitter fruit seeds, brown sugar and almonds. The pairing with olives is perfect. While on its own you can feel the alcohol, in the company of olives the wine blossoms. Mr Bayo also recommended serving sherry with sea food dishes, sushi and most types of cooked fish. We had our sherry with a crab salad and Jamon Iberico, but for me the olives were the best pairing.
Next wine was a young Tempranillo coming from a selection of the best vines of their Plot 23, fermented and kept for 9 months in stainless steel tanks, than aged for 6 months in new French and American oak. The wine is designed for every day drinking and is made to emphasize the fruity character. Finca Constantia Parcela 23 Tempranillo 2009 is a ruby red-purple colored wine, with a big fruity nose, showing initially some strong volatiles, medium bodied, with red fruit jams and hints of coffee on the palate, smooth and mellow tannins, and a medium fruity finish. (82/100)
The second course of the meal was grilled tuna with rice. The wine served was a Rioja and the iconic wine of Beronia winery: III a.C. Gonzalez Byass owns about 20 ha of vines in Rioja, but controls another 840 ha through long term contracts. That’s about 10% of the entire Rioja region. Beronia III a.C. 2008 is a blend of 92% Tempranillo, 4% Graciano and 4% Mazuelo coming from 55-60 years old vines and aged for 15 months in new French oak.
The wine has a dark purple almost opaque color. The wine is made in a modern style. The nose is youthful and developing, very fruity and oaky, with rich aromas of black and blue fruits: blackberries, cranberries, black cherry, mixed with spices: cloves and cinnamon. Opulent in the mouth with plump fruit, this full bodied wine has a rich texture, concentrated, with velvety tannins, well balanced, with lots of waves of black and blue forest fruits washing the palate and the cheeks with a sweet sensation. The additional flavors of black tea leaves and coffee give this wine a good complexity and stop it from being just a massive fruit bomb. The finish is long and intense, with a refreshing mocha and black tea bitterness. This is a massive, almost body-builder wine. (90/100)
Third course of the meal was a mix of grilled octopus and king prawns on a bed of stewed tomatoes. A traditional style Rioja wine was served: Beronia Reserva 2006. A blend of 90% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo, the wine was aged for 18 months in mixed American and French oak barrels. Beronia produces a Reserva each vintage and a Gran Reserva only in the best vintages.
Beronia Reserva 2006 is a more traditional wine and has a red ruby-maroon color. A classic Rioja nose, youthful, but developing, still fruity, with hints of dry tomatoes, mushrooms, sweet red fruit and coffee bean. Medium bodied, juicy, with classic aromas, red fruit, earthy and tobacco palate, and good grippy tannins. Well structured with a medium plus finish and vanilla in the aftertaste. A true expression of classic Rioja. (87/100)
The highlight wine of the night was, for me, the Beronia Gran Reserva 2001. It was a great match for the earthy aromas of the octopus. Blend of 88% Tempranillo, 8% Graciano and 4% Mazuelo, aged for 24 months in mixed American and French oak barrels. 2001 was an exceptional vintage for Rioja.
2001 Beronia Gran Reserva has a ruby red color with a brownish rim. A well developed and maturing nose, complex, exhibiting both primary and tertiary aromas of red fruit, brown sugar, a bit salty – anchovies like aroma, grilled bell pepper, game and coffee. The wine is in a point where the primary aromas will gradually start to fade away, so if you like primary sweet fruity aromas in your wine, it is recommended to start drinking this wine. Firm tannins with good grip on the palate, with flavors of vanilla, balsamic notes, spices, red fruit, well balanced and complex. Medium plus finish with good freshness and spicy. (90-91/100)
The dessert was accompanied by a Nectar Pedro Ximenez Dulce having 370 gr of sugar per liter. Death by sweetness. An oxidative dark brown color(the wine spent about 9 years in American oak following the Solera system). A rich nose with intense aromas of figs, caramel, dried fruits, dried grapes-sultanas, nuts and spices. Unctuous on the palate, velvety mouth-feel and a long and persistent sweet finish. One glass of this wine and is enough. A bit too sweet for my taste.
Before leaving, we also sampled a glass of Lepanto Pedro Ximenez Solera Gran Reserva: entirely produced in Jerez from 100% Palomino grapes, it spends its first 12 years in barrels that previously contained Tio Pepe and its last 3 years in barrels that previously contained the best Pedro Ximenez Noe. (36% alcohol)
Gonzalez Byass has a large portfolio of products – we counted together with Mr Bayo about 94 distinctive products in their catalog – but there is quality and attention to details for all of their products.
* The products of Gonzalez Byass are imported into Romania by Cramele Recas