Wojciech Bońkowski
Wine & tea writing

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Almaviva 1998

Preaching to the unconvertible
Went to see S.’s family tonight. Her brother-in-law is a wine buff, with a fairly decent cellar. Our tastes are very divergent: he likes Spanish wines a lot, so seeing him is always a good occasion to catch up with Iberic tastes (which, on my own, I almost never feel attracted to).

I brought a bottle of Valdelosfrailes Cigales Prestigio 2001. Valdelosfrailes belongs to Matarromera, a large producer from Ribera del Duero (the group’s other brands are inexpensive Emina and top-drawer Renacimiento). The overall quality is very reliable, although the style is somewhat commercial and safe. I have always liked the offerings from Valdelosfrailes, especially the Vendimia Seleccionada which I find one of the best value for money Tempranillo wines from Castile. I have never before tried the Prestigio, though. In all honesty, it is a little banal. There is good concentration but on the palate, the wine shows why Cigales will never be Ribera del Duero: depth and complexity are moderate, and the 14 months of American oak are showing. I don’t see this wine improving further (in fact, it might have shown better a year or two ago, with fresher fruit). From his cellar, R. generously offered the Almaviva 1998. I drink Chilean wine even more rarely than Spanish, and don’t think I ever tried a 10-year-old prestigious bottling like this. A very good wine but needs drinking now. Upon opening at cellar temperature, it is a little reticent, and shows a certain Bordeauxesque meatiness to the profile. Colour starts to acquire a warm reddish hue, aromas are blended into a harmonious and inviting if not terribly sophisticated or complex whole. Mouthfeel is comfortable, with well integrated oak and no greenness (which I detect in the majority of even the most expensive Chileans). With time in the glass, there is more sweetness and obvious New World character, although the French influence is always detectable. This is really quite good and drinking nicely now, but on the other hand, it doesn’t really have a lot of dimension. When I think current releases cost upwards from 40€ per bottle, Almaviva is quite overpriced.