12 Days of Vinebox: Day 3

27 12 2018

By Peter Vetsch

I was not expecting to pull a rosé out of the Vinebox collection, let alone (1) one from Spain that (2) is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, but here we are — this box is already full of surprises.  The 2017 Castillo de Benizar Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé hails from the large dead-central Spanish region of La Mancha, the bullseye of the Spanish map.  It is an area known mostly as the workhorse of the Spanish wine industry and a generator of unspeakably large volumes of wine every year, thanks in particular to the Airen grape, the most prolifically planted grape you’ve never heard of, which makes up the largest acreage of plantings in the country.  But La Mancha is starting to be about more than just quantity, and the friendly climate allows for almost anything to be successfully planted, including King Cab.  Gems can be found.


Castillo de Benizar is a brand of producer Bodegas Ayuso, whose massive new 15,000 m2 production facility allows for fermentation/tank storage of up to 35 MILLION LITRES of wine at once.  But this particular bottling (er, vialling) isn’t a mere commodity.  The Cabernet Sauvignon vines from which this rosé is created are planted on a separate plot specifically and unusually dedicated only to rosé production, making this no saignée afterthought or vinous byproduct.  Old-school Spanish rosé tends to be mellow and earthy and (intentionally) oxidized, but newer renditions buck that trend and focus on the freshness and fruit purity that are currently making rosé a universal global language.  This one follows suit.


Castillo de Benizar’s pink Cab is a striking bright watermelon-flesh colour and gives off cool minty and herbal aromas (spearmint, chlorophyll, sage) along with mineral-laced bath salts and soft pink lemonade and raspberry fruit.  Even expecting a more modern pink take based on its colour, I was still unprepared for the level of perkiness and brightness that seeps into every pore of the wine.  There is zero hint of rustic Old World earthiness, which has been wholly eradicated and replaced by turbo-charged acid and vivid Pop Rocks, Thrills gum, strawberry smoothie, pink grapefruit, green apple Jolly Rancher and Welch’s white grape juice notes.  It continually jumps around on the tongue, making all neural synapses fire in rapid sequence.  Despite the confectionary nature of its flavours, the rosé finishes clean and comes across as fairly dry, although the piercing acid probably covers some dose of residual sweetness.  Look at that colour!  Not your grandfather’s rosado.

88 points



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. Read the rest of this entry »

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