Wine Review: 2004 Pago del Vicario “Agios”

30 11 2011

It may be from a DO farm team, but it can still bring it. Cool bottle too.

It’s 9:30, I’m back from my first Christmas party of the year, I’ve walked the dog, I have the hockey game on TV and I’d like to go to bed within the hour…sounds like the perfect time for a condensed review!  Tonight’s wine is the classic buy-low no-expectations bottle:  although its regular retail price approaches $40CDN, I got it on sale in unusual circumstances for only $15, so I popped the cork not particularly caring whether or not it was a worldbeater.  The producer, Pago del Vicario, is based in the sprawling Castilla region of central Spain, just southeast of Madrid; the official appellation name, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, signifies that Castilla is kind of a higher-grade appellation in waiting, a second or third division region awaiting promotion to the top tier of the Spanish wine area hierarchy, DO (Denominacion de Origen).  With apologies to those non-hockey fans out there, Vino de la Tierra wines are like the ECHL of the Spanish wine world.  However, that’s not to say that quality wines can’t be found in Castilla — this is one example of a lower-yield artisan wine that has clearly been made with care.

The wine’s name, Agios, means “saint” (not that I know why), and it’s a classic Spanish blend of 70% Tempranillo and 30% Garnacha (Grenache).  It’s not every day I get the chance to buy and pour a bottle that’s seen a decent amount of age that costs less than $20, but that seems to be Spain’s special gift to the world, as it probably features more budget-priced bottles that have been pre-aged at the winery than anywhere else in the world.

Cork Rating: 6.5/10 (I love this cork. I hate that it lost all structural integrity when my corkscrew touched it. Deduction for busting up.)

Before I got to see what the Agios had to offer, I had to deal with a cork that snapped in half when I tried to get it out of the bottle.  Using the process that I discussed in detail the last time I got cork-screwed when opening a bottle, I thankfully managed to get the stuck half of the cork out by reinserting the screw diagonally and slowly easing the stranded portion free without it shattering.  When the wine was finally able to step out of the bottle, it was a flat opaque garnet colour with clear brick notes at the rim, notable signs of bottle age.  In spite of that, however, there was still tons of primary sweet fruit on the nose, mainly blueberry and raspberry, to go along with oak-induced aromas of smoke, spice and resin and a plethora of intriguing age-influenced notes:  earthy, meaty, gamey, mushroomy smells mixed with copper, cayenne spice and a pronounced “gas station” aroma, like the smell of gasoline spilled on the ground.  While swirling the glass to smell the wine, I also noticed an absolute ton of sediment in the glass, which, despite my cork-busting skills, I believe was true sediment and not cork powder.  The Agios was thick and rich on the palate and was far from shy, displaying smoked meat, black currant, black cherry, wet earth and leafy green flavours; even after 7 years of age, it still had elevated levels of chalky, powdery tannin, although its acidity was notably quiet.  I think this is drinking at just the right time, as it is currently showing great balance between vivid bright fruit and earth-driven complexity; even with the forward flavours, it still has the soul of an Old World wine.

I don’t know if I would be as impressed by the Agios had I paid full sticker price for it, but at $15 it was a clear winner.  Every time I have wine from Spain it makes me remind myself to have more, and this was no exception.

87+ points

$30 to $40 CDN

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