Hispano-Suizas. A Vertical Tasting of Impromptu Sauvignon Blanc 2006-10.


Pablo Ossorio, Winemaker.

  February has turned into a busy month with a potential 18 tastings to go to…so far! Tonight Félix Martinez of Vera de Estenas was presenting the new vintage of the flagship barrel aged Chardonnay Viña Lidon and Pago de Tharsys a top bodega were presenting their cavas in El Corte Ingles – either tasting worthy of the 30 mile round trip to Valencia to participate!

However tasting choice of the night was Pablo Ossorio, winemaker of the year and enologist at Bodegas Hispano-Suizas of DO Utiel Requena who led a tasting of wines from the first five vintages of their barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc – ` Impromptu´.

Valencia just does not have a long tradition of bottling wine , never mind bottling a white wine from the Mediterranean and keeping it beyond the end of the year. A tasting like this is as rare as hens teeth!

So it was off to Beal´s Cash and Carry on Calle Alcira, a wonderful Aladdin’s cave of wines to participate in a historical occasion!

Pablo is a natural speaker and took us easily through a presentation on the history and wine-making processes at the Bodega in the El Ponton hamlet of Requena. He explained that the bodega planted in 2000 at the beginning of a project aimed deliberately at producing mediterranean wines to lay down for the future. Bearing in mind that this area does not exactly have this sort of history and which does not have  a climate or soil which is recognised as likely to achieve this it might have been  considered a bold move to say the least!

Bottles from the Range.

  The soil on the Utiel-Requena plateau is a mixture but largely consists of stony, sandy but healthy soil, if poor in organic material, and well-drained. It generally sits over a limestone base. Nor, at 600-800 metres above sea level would you consider the altitude ideal. Of course, those of us who now know better are well aware that the area produces wonderful wines….or at least has the potential to do so.

Herein  lies the key. If you set out to use nature, understand the vines and how to adapt them to the weather, which as we will see can be totally different every year, the soil, but above all ensure health of the vines and the most rigorous winemaking techniques from picking to bottling you stand a very good chance of making fabulously good wine.

At Hispano-Suizas this is clearly understood. Like so many other new properties, some of which  I have visited, the attention to detail is immense. The grapes are planted at about 4000 to the hectare with a space of no more than a metre between plants. Plants are restricted to small production, the harvest is conducted in small boxes and the grapes are chilled to -10 degrees and kept until three separate harvests have been conducted. These select grapes higher in acidity, at a good blend of acidity and sugar and the last with higher  sugar content. This ensures that grapes with floral notes, acidity and freshness are blended with those with better potential alcohol and flavour.

Tasters at Beal´s enjoy the wines!

Once harvested the grapes are destalked and sent to cold maceration for 36 hour. They are then passed through a pneumatic press at no more than 0.5bar to ensure a gentle pressing of the juices but by now full of aromatics. Then they go to open 400 litre oak barrels for fermentation at 14-16 degrees C with cold water passed through the must in  pipes. The worry about oxidation is largely that- a worry as carbonic gas from the fermentation sits on top of the wine protecting it.

After the fermentation batonnage takes place on the lees to ensure maximum roundness in the wine. Yes you lose some of the floral notes but the gain is in the body and the ageing potential of the wine.

So, what are we talking about here? Well for a start wines which hit 93 in the Penin guide and which Robert Parker has given a thumping 90 points- clearly something worth tasting!

And so to the 2010, just released. Now this is a wine from a wet year with all sorts of problems with odium and  mildew. However here we have a wine which is a nice yellow colour ( ok, partially down to the wood ) but which has bright gold flashes and long slow legs. On the nose it is fresh, youthful , with citrus scents and a nice touch of toastiness. In the mouth young with nice acidity, tropical fruits, especially mango and passion fruit, with good volume and a long warm finish. A good start. A nice wine with lots of potential but which needs time in bottle.

So to the 2009. Only two-thirds of the rain experienced in 2010, none of it  in June to August which meant a dry ripening period. A little deeper in colour, gold flashes and long slow legs. On the nose more tropical fruit from riper concentrated grapes and a touch more toastiness. Later I found a hint of sweet anise. In the mouth initially drier, but more concentrated fruit which frankly has yet to emerge totally! This has minerals, orange skins and mandarins in the mouth over a nice acidity.

The Impromptu lable.

The 2008 was made in a year with rain levels halfway between the two previous vintages and more of it between June and August. A similar colour to the 2009, perhaps a little paler it is still clear and bright with good legs. ABV for all the vintages is around the 13.5-14% mark.

On the nose there was more tropical fruit more honey and I found it quite perfumed. In the mouth it is immediately elegant, beautifully balanced with the best integration of alcohol so far. A long dry finish shows marmalade and the deepest toasty flavours.

Now, the 2007. Halfway between the 2009 and 2008 vintages for rainfall at 448ml per metre squared. A dry spring with a wetter summer. This is a fuller straw coloured wine , clear and bright from a vintage with superb flowering and good leaf production. Again I found the nose quite dry and minerally, white flowers and more vanilla, croissants! In the mouth the flavours are far more citric with lime predominant. It is well-balanced but does have a shorter finish.

Finally the first vintage 2006. This is from the driest year with just 346 ml which means practically no rain at all! Moreover the year was hotter between May and August, even  into mid-September. The wine was also made at a warmer temperature, Pablo believing the standard wine-making books which say don´t chill below +4 degrees! The grapes were also from the very young vines.

For me this was a wonderful wine! Gold, old gold almost, with green flashes and long legs. On the nose very sweet, almost concentrated raisins! Honey.

In the mouth this is a dry wine with age, bitter almond, dry nuts and warm for the alcohol on the finish. Still a wine with plenty of life which would be good with fish patés, smoked fish or foie gras! ( Sad there is none available!) Fantastic- loved it!

Well this was a tasting which lived up to its promise and so much more! Interesting because you could clearly see and taste how the different weather conditions affected the wines year by year. Promising because without a doubt the five vintages show good ageing potential disproving the myth about mediterranean white wine only being good for its current vintage. For me best wines are equally the 2010 for its potential and the 2006 for its glorious age….it won´t have suited the Valencian taste but that needs educating! Next best was clearly the 2008 and third equal the 2007 and 2009 for entirely different reasons.

Ok. I need to visit because I know the Cavas and reds are fantastic……expect  a new blog on this pioneering property in March!

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