With my focus on native varietals in each country and region in Europe, it was fun to add both Prieto Picudo and Albarin to the portfolio from the region of Leon in Spain. The Leon wine region is about 200 miles north-northwest of Madrid within the vast region in Spain that is named Castilla y Leon. Relative to the better known region of Ribera del Duero in Castilla y Leon, the Leon wine region is about 120 miles northwest of the center of the Ribera del Duero.
Mentioned above are also two pretty obscure grape varietals which are Prieto Picudo, which is a red grape, and Albarin, a white grape. Both are mainly grown only around Leon although their is some Albarin grown to the north in Asturias on the north coast of Spain and, adding to possible confusion with the Galician grape Albariño, there is some Albarin also grown in Galicia.
As for Albarin, although the name is almost the same as Albariño, there are no common genetic characteristics at all and there are interesting aroma and flavor characteristics such as lime, lychee, mint, and orange which are definitely not shared by Albariño. As for Prieto Picudo, although the name sounds sort of fun and interesting like a lot of other varietals around Europe with somewhat exotic sounding names, most of those names actually only have very prosaic meanings in their native languages. Prieto Picudo is no different as it literally means "dark pointed" which is a pretty good description of the color and shape of the clusters.
What is remarkable about Prieto Picudo are the aromas. I enjoy immensely the tremendous variety of aroma and flavor characteristics across the broad range of varietals in the portfolio and as for aromatics, Prieto Picudo is so rich and complex that it is tempting to just enjoy the aromas and to not even drink the wine! But, each sip brings a delightful experience of rich dark fruits along with hints of spiciness.
Adding to the expressiveness of both Prieto Picudo and Albarin is the geology of the area which is mainly an underlying plate of limestone with a top layer of alluvial sand and stones. There is also some amount of iron given the red color of the soils in the vineyards and that also adds to the richness of the wines. The elevation in the area is also relatively high at around 2,500 feet which results in wide diurnal temperature changes which keeps the developing grapes fresh in what is a very harsh and dry overall climate.
And, as for the producer itself, Bodegas Tampesta is also similar to the family run wineries that I work with all over Europe in that they have a strong dedication to maintaining the heritage of viticulture in their area and to produce very high quality and expressive wines from native varietals. What is also interesting in working with such smaller family wineries is that their strong dedication also extends to their considerable financial investment in state of the art fermentation equipment for maintaining the freshness and expressiveness of their wines.
Such a focused approach to quality is also a delightful difference between such wineries and the "larger producers" across the wine industry whose wineries I've also visited. As opposed to the focused commitment to excellence of the smaller producers, a lot of the larger producers look like aging chemical plants with huge vats of overproduced wines as such large producers focus more on revenues and less on quality.
The vast plains and bright blue skies of Leon
The aromas are an interesting mix of grassy and herbally notes but include white flowers, honeysuckle, and citrus blossoms. Flavors include pear, green apple, honeydew melon, and bitter almond. There is a medium body, good balance and acidity, and there is a minerally and refreshing full finish with an interesting hint of bitterness.
Food pairings would include sole, crab, shrimp, seabass, swordfish, clams, seafood pasta and salads, veal, pork, chicken, Asian noodle and vegetable dishes, creamy Mexican food, enchiladas, and charcuterie.
"Maneki" Albarin 2018
The Maneki cuvee is aged in oak barrels for one year before then having one more year of aging in bottle. Aromas include lemon pie, asian spices, and citrus blossoms and flavors include green apple, Meyer Lemon, and honeydew melon. There is a medium body, good balance and acidity, and a round and rich full refreshing and minerally finish.
Food pairings would include sole, seabass, clams, swordfish, seafood salads and pasta, ceviche, veal, pork, chicken, Asian pork, chicken, and vegetable dishes, Mexican pork and chicken dishes, chile verde, and medium, creamy, and rich cheeses.
Prieto Picudo 2018
Aromas include blackberries, dark cherries, dark plums, blueberries, and vanilla. Flavors include blackberries, dark plums, strawberries, nectarines, sour cherries, cocoa, and pomegranate. There is a medium body, good balance and acidity, and full saturated finish.
Food pairings would include filet mignon, short ribs, beef stew, veal stew, lamb, pork tenderloin, carnitas, Mexican beef, pork, and chicken dishes, sausages, clams, mussels, tuna, swordfish, charcuterie, and cheeses including Manchego and rich and creamy cheeses.