Sunday, August 31, 2014

the national palate

Top: 2012 PdM Moncayo Garnacha & Syrah | DO Campo de Borja
Middle: 2010 Borsao Berola | DO Campo de Borja
Bottom: 2009 Borsao Reserva | DO Campo de Borja

Another guy moved into the flat here in Zaragoza. Full house now at four people. Friday night, I hear a knock on my door - opening it, I see an unfamiliar face. I suppose he wants to introduce himself, but no, he wanted to let me know that I needed to take my chicken out of the oven so he could bake his frozen pizza. Nice to meet you too brah. This morning, I run into him in the kitchen. I say 'sup to him. No answer. Being a polite Canadian, I give him the benefit of the doubt - I shouldn't be talking slang to a vato, so I say 'good morning'. Now he's full on ignoring me, and strutting back to his room like he has an enlarged left testicle. Well fuck you too asshole. 

Back in July, once I knew that I'd be coming to Zaragoza for this project, I wanted to know a bit more about the wines coming out of Aragon. Outside of a few errant bottles of CariƱena, my knowledge and experience of the DO's here was pretty much zero. So I wanted to start with Campo de Borja - El Corte Ingles carried a decent range. I found out later that the company I'm interning with here actually owns Pagos del Moncayo winery, but that's neither here nor there. And so I started drinking, and for a moment, I really couldn't figure it out, but suddenly, a good 8 weeks later, it's hit me what I was trying to articulate. The wines aren't boring - they're simply Spanish.

There's a national palate at work here, I'm convinced. These wines, like so many other Spanish wines from all over the country, just taste the same. At this price range at least, the archetype is so obvious it's almost a bit sinister ... like they're all having a laugh, and I'm the only one who doesn't get it. That slightly overripe, candied fruit, big alcohol, soft, limp structure. Is that simply this wino's perception? Of course it is. What is soft and overdone to me is someone else's rich and delicious. Ok. We certainly have different opinions on these things, but the wines being produced in this country, at this level, taste the same. And that's a bit troubling. As a whole, the overall quality of Spanish wines has improved greatly - but is this where this quality revolution is leading? Monotonous and formulaic wines, all in the name of consistency? If that's the case, it's worse than troubling ... this is flat-out depressing.

But perhaps it's me who's not getting it. The cultural element here - how Spanish people interact with wine - maybe necessitates all that. Wine isn't the be all end all here, as much of the French or Italians do. Wine is simply a piece of the Spanish food and drink culture - as part of a meal, it's simply something to go after the aperitivo and before the cocktails. So they don't need the wines to have complexity, to be nuanced, to have delicacy. Big and obvious flavours seem the way to go - much like the cuisine. 

So don't get too offended when people are rude and the wines boring. Maybe I'm the odd one out.


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