2009 Vega Moragona Tempranillo

8 08 2011

Most neo-minimalist Spanish wine label ever?

This morning I got up just after 5:00 so that I could get into work an hour earlier than normal.  I did this to churn through a rapidly-expanding to-do list so that I could get home before 6:00 to put the baby down while my wife headed off to work.  I will likely do the same tomorrow.  On arriving home, I was definitely not looking for a complex and challenging wine to break down and analyze; I was looking for liquid stress relief, a vinous housecoat and slippers to ease the day into submission.  I’m happy to report that I found it, and it came from an unexpected locale.

The Vega Moragona hails from a fairly new wine region in central Spain, the Ribera del Jucar.  Until recently, RdJ was on the eastern tip of the huge, sprawling and grotesquely hot La Mancha region, located just south of Madrid and home to boatloads of (mostly) cheap, dull, nondescript wine.  However, in 2003, as a result of the unique soils/territory and increased quality prevalent in the area, Ribera del Jucar broke free and became its own DO (Denominacion de Origen), a legal territorial designation officially separating it from the La Mancha pack.

Tempranillo is Spain’s national grape and the predominant source of the country’s top wines from Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Toro, among multiple other high-quality regions.  It is a bit of a chameleon grape, coming across totally different depending on the style in which it is made.  In traditional-style Spanish reds, the Tempranillo grapes are aged in oak for an extremely long time (sometimes over a decade) and then aged further in bottle before their release to market, and the resulting wines are medium-bodied, papery dry, extremely delicate and tasting of dried red fruit and earth, a quintessential yet unique Old World drinking experience.  Wines from Rioja (the cool ones, anyway) are often like this.  But there’s another side to Tempranillo, one that is starting to come to the forefront on the Spanish wine scene:  when the grapes spend less time in barrel and are crafted in a more modern style, the wines come out thick, full, fruity and ripe, with an acid and tannin structure that could rival a good Cabernet.  It’s almost hard to believe it’s the same thing coming out of the ground.  One look at this ultra-modern pictographic label gives you a pretty good clue what style the Moragona is made in; the fact that the grape is actually named on the label (not required by law in Spain and never seen in more traditional bottlings) is another big hint.

Before I continue, I have to point out that I’m a little distracted writing this because a rabbit has been sitting in my front yard starting directly at me for the last half hour.  Maybe a wine lover?  It’s a little creepy:

Stalker bunny.

Anyway.  My educated guess about the modern styling of the Vega Moragona was instantly confirmed with a glance at the colour, which was a vibrant bright purple, unlike the garnet-orange hue of more traditional Tempranillos.  The nose was super easy to love, with gobs of ripe blueberry underlined by backup aromas of cherry Nibs, cloves/baking spice and trail dust.  Unlike its quieter, more restrained, super-aged alter-ego, the Moragona Tempranillo had a huge soft lush body and a quilt-like texture.  While all of the flavour descriptors I could come up while tasting were highly sweet foods — blueberry jam, bubble gum, cherry cola, Twizzlers licorice (both red and black, strangely) — the wine wasn’t actually sweet at all, and its thick, chalky tannins and potent acidity on the back end steered it towards a notably dry finish.  I think the high ripeness and fruitiness of this Tempranillo, combined with its elevated alcohol level (14.5%), gave an impression of sweetness even when there was no sugar left in the wine.  It’s a bit of a mind trip that way.

Cork Rating: 1.5/10 (It's fake, and it gets penalized because it took me almost 10 minutes to get out of the bottle. Jerk.)

This certainly isn’t a world beater, but it’s both interesting and tasty for a value price (I got this for less than $20 at Ferocious Grape), and it’s the perfect weeknight panacea for a long workday.

And the rabbit is still watching me.  Maybe this would be cute if I hadn’t seen Watership Down as a kid.  This one’s for you, bunny.

87 points

$15 to $20 CDN

P.S.  I’m going to be heading to the Okanagan Valley for a few days in September.  Any wineries that I absolutely must visit?  Other than Tantalus and my good friend Laughing Stock, I’m open to ideas, although I won’t have a ton of time to go winery-browsing…

P.P.S.  The rabbit up and left literally right as I was clicking “Publish”.  Definitely a wine lover. 



6 responses

10 08 2011

Summerhill is a cute, cozy place – and their gewurztraminer is absolutely divine (a treat for a sweet palate). As well Quail’s Gate has some interesting wine and if you have time for their lunch I highly recommend you try it. I was there in early June.


15 08 2011

Thanks! I think we’re staying right near Quail’s Gate (in West Kelowna, just across the bridge) — I’ve heard great things about their resto so will check it out if I can. I don’t have a ton of time for tastings but the current list includes Laughing Stock, Tantalus, Dirty Laundry and Blasted Church…


15 08 2011
Tyler Philp

Well Peter, I’m glad you’ve stumbled upon Twizzlers in a bottle of wine too, because I wrote that in a tasting note a while back and got some very strange looks from the wine group. Perhaps I was the fact the I was specific enough to label the note of licorice by name – lol!
I’m really enjoying your Spanish reviews. Keep up the good work!



15 08 2011

Heh, great minds think alike! The weirder the tasting note, the more I enjoy it… Hopefully you don’t have strange rabbits following you around too!


15 09 2011
Jean Ross

Very useful post.


6 12 2011
garden fencing supplies

This definitely makes perfect sense to anyone!!!


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