Each to his own opinion….

September 8th, 2009 | Uncategorized

Usually when I mention journalists, it is because they have written something flattering about one of our wines, but not on this occasion. For the very first time I am making a post because I feel moved to disagree with a comment about a particular wine….. and it is not one of ours!

The journalist in question is a guy called W. Blake Gray, who used to write for the San Francisco Chronicle, but then a year or two ago moved to the L.A. Times.

Following a visit to Rias Baixas he recently wrote an informative piece about our denomination, except that one or two of his tasting observations left me a little puzzled.

I have always agreed with the old adage that one man’s meat is another man’s poison, which is part of what makes the wine world so interesting – we don’t all like the same wines. However, in this case I do find the closing paragraph of his article at the very least a little misleading, if not a bit of an exaggeration. I quote:

“I don’t think I’ve tasted a better 2008 Albariño than Martin Códax, with green apple and peach flavors and excellent balance. And at $14.99, it’s the cheapest of all the major exports. Gallo’s efficient distribution has a huge benefit. Don’t you love it when the least expensive wine is best?”

Now, I have the upmost respect for our local co-operative Martin Codax and the job that they do for our region – indeed they do make some very good wine, but to say they are the best, does a great disservice to many other top wine cellars in our region (including our own). Great quality/price possibly, excellent value for money perhaps, but to state clearly that it’s the best?

But it is not just this judgement that puzzles me, he goes on to remark about another wine from our other co-operative:

“I really liked a non-exported Albariño fermented in Galician oak, which combines the understated toastiness of French oak with the dill and coconut notes of American oak. In fact, I liked most oak-fermented Albariños I encountered in Rías Baixas. Yet, the fashion for un-oaked wines is so strong that more than one winery said their American importers refuse to handle their oak-fermented bottlings. I hope that changes.”

Dill and coconut? – My own understanding of why our regions oaked wines are not extensively exported is just a little different….. As Angela will attest, I have never been wholly convinced that Albariño marries well with oak, despite the fact that we actually make a little ourselves. I simply feel that the delicate Albariño grape does not have enough weight and body to support the use of oak (except perhaps in a very ripe vintage, when the alcohol, glycerol and therefore mouthfeel, is a little elevated). In a ‘typical’ vintage, Albariño could potentially be a little lightweight, and just leave leave the consumer with a sensation of oak and acidity. For my own palate oak fermented Albariño is little like oak fermented Chablis….. no thank you!

Oh, and by the way, one last observation that he made, once again about Martin Codax:

“That’s thanks to a stubborn ninth-generation winemaker at Martin Codax, he does what he wants. That includes rejecting more than 30% of the grapes the co-op’s members brought him last year.”

Impossible! Martin Codax is by far the biggest producer in our denomination, and each year presses at least a couple of million kilos of Albariño grapes. If they rejected 30% of their grapes as claimed in this article, then the repercussions for our entire area would be disastrous – not to mention that it would leave them desperately short of wine. Sorry, Mr Blake Gray but this sounds like a bit of a tall story to me, or at the very least, is a bit exaggerated.

A. J. Charles McCarthy

Controversial footnote for conspiracy theorists:
L.A. Times = California
California = E&J; Gallo
E&J; Gallo = Martin Codax
Any connection? (Gallo does get a significant mention in the text)

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