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Gonzalez Byass at Osteria de Toro

By June 13, 2013No Comments
For those who know of Gonzalez Byass from Spain, the first wine style that comes to mind is Sherry, and ‘Tio Pepe’ in particular. Wine enthusiasts are generally aware there is some age behind the name, but the 170-plus years may surprise most. But those who delve into the brand a little more deeply soon learn that the company is far more than sherry, with nearly 2,000 ha of estate vineyards and six wineries in different regions making a very broad range of wines as well as quality brandies and spirits. The company has a staggering 50 million bottle production, with wines that are ultra-modern as well as very traditional. Gonzalez Byass is not only a major Spanish player, but a global one. www.gonzalezbyass.com

Sergi Rostoll
Gonzalez Byass Asia-Pacific Regional Sales Director

Gonzalez Byass’ Asia-Pacific sales director Sergi Rostoll was visiting Wellington again from his base in Shanghai. His last visit was a memorable one with wines matched with a superb menu at the now-closed Ambeli restaurant, back in April last year. (Click here to read my report.) This year he conducted a relaxed tasting with an updated selection of his wines for wine and hospitality trade at the very popular Osteria del Toro Mediterranean-themed restaurant in Tory Street. Manager Kelli Williams arranged a wonderful selection of tapas and small plates to accompany the wines, and the flavours and theming of both was extremely harmonious and apt. Sergi’s presentation was a very informative one, and I offer my brief notes made at the time.

The Wines
The introductory, arrival wine was Vilarnau Cava Brut NV (RRP $26.50). At 15,000 cases made annually, it is a drop in the Cava ocean when considering what the big players of Freixenet and Codornui do, but the point of difference is the spotlessly clean fruit which is very modern and international. Though spending around 15 months on lees, it’s still very fresh and more nutty rather than savoury and funky. Quite a delight, this is what the young and contemporary market is enjoying, along with the likes of Prosecco and uncomplicated methode wines.

A culture shock for many people came in the form of Tio Pepe Fino Sherry (RRP $23.00 – 375 ml). Those who have worked in the wine and hospitality industry for a few years know and love ‘Uncle Joe’, and have seen how its integrity has been protected by ensuring fresh stock is what is on the market by shipping in small amounts and regularly. Education is the other major factor, and Sergi reminded us that once opened, a bottle of Tio Pepe would need to be consumed after a few days, and preferably kept in the fridge. This has the classic pungent flor yeasty aromas and tang. While dry and penetrating, the mouthfeel is soft in its slipperiness, and there is almost a lusciousness allied to quenchability.

Then came the new release Vinas del Vero ‘La Miranda de Secastilla’ Garnarcha Blanca 2011 (RRP $25.50), from the Somontano region near the Pyrenees in the north-east. Sergi recounted how the supplying vineyard for this relatively rare varietal was ‘discovered’ by the winemaker on a mountain bike ride. A full, broad, rounded and weighty wine, this surprises with its combination of exotic white florals, stonefruits and nutty flavours. Sure, there’s a touch of heat, but also a degree of opulence. The wine found favour with the tasters who expressed an interest in the other wines from the region which is over 800 metres a.s.l. altitude.

Generally, the world is unaware of the greatness and complexity that fine Sherry is capable of. The wine style is enigmatic if not an anachronism in today’s preference for delicate and clean. However, one sip of the Gonzales Byass ‘Apostoles’ Palo Cortado Sherry (RRP $57.50 – 375 ml) would be enough to convert a newcomer to a believer. From a solera over 100 years old, the material bottled has an average of around 30 years. Mahogany-tawny colour, this is full with deep aromas and flavours of dried brown fruits, nuts and complex woody rancio characters. Showing some sweetness, this is poised between being off-dry and opulent. The alcohol warms the palate and waves of flavour unfold, carried by a fine, granular texture to an extremely long and lingering finish.

From the traditional to the new wave, a Finca Constancia ‘Parcela 23’ Tempranillo 2011 (RRP $24.50). The Toledo district of La Mancha is a hotbed of modernity and the wines are New World up-front fruit-driven charmers as demonstrated by this wine. Very dark, deep, black-red in colour, this is packed with bold boysenberry and jam aromas with notes of spices that waft through the nose. Sweetly ripe with jammy flavours, this has a little heat typical of the region, and a firm, taut core, but supple tannin edges. This isn’t going to make old bones, and is best to be enjoyed over the next 3-4 years.

Back to the classics, two Rioja wines from Bodegas Beronia were served. The Beronia Rioja Crianza 2009 (RRP $28.50) is a blend of 90% Tempranillo, 8% Garnacha and 2% Mauelo, aged 12 months in mixed American and French oak. This has a strong expression of sweet red fruits, savoury and earthy in character, the mouthfeel light, accessible and juicy. There is a nod to the modern style of red, but with the restraint and elegance expected of Rioja. Going up a step in richness and taking a different path is the Beronia Rioja Reserva 2008 (RRP $37.50). This is 93% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano and 2% Mazuelo, aged 18 months in mixed American and French oak. Darker in colour and with darker red fruit aromas, along with sweet and aromatic oak intermixed with savoury and earthy pungent notes. There is no denying the greater weight, richness, depth and layering of flavours and the more prominent oaking. The concentration, firmness and acidity are also a step up, but the fruit sweetness more than compensates. Clearly a superior wine, and one with matching possibilities with more serious foods. While the overriding impression was classical Rioja, there is certainly a fruit focus and a modern aspect to both of these wines.

The final wine served was the Gonzalez Byass ‘Nectar’ Pedro Ximenez Dulce Sherry. (RRP $21.00 – 375 ml), a real gem of a sweet wine offering incredible value. Dark mahogany with hinys of olive green, the bouquet exudes aromas and flavours of raisins and prunes, intermixed with figs and fruit-cake. The textures are smooth, and a line of freshness provides a modicum of cut to prevent the unctuousness dominating. There are more luscious and thick PX Sherries, with greater nuances and complexities, but this has stylish finesse. We did what the sherry producers often tell us secretly what to do – pour some over ice-cream, and it made a superb sauce. Then we finished off our glasses.

Wines from the Gonzalez Byass portfolio

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