February 28, 2012

A modern perspective to classic

When I tasted a Condado de Haza 2003 some time ago, “classic” was the first thought that came to me. I loved the notes of dill seeds, the leather, the concentration and mature complexity.  Just the kind of lovely, classic tone I want to find in a glass of red from Ribera del Duero. It was a wine that spoke of its birthplace.

As it was some years since the previous encounter with Condado de Haza, or in fact Pesquera too, I got curious and wanted to update me on the producer. At the start of my wine loving era, back in the 1990s, I was introduced to Mr Fernández wines. And trained to recognise it as the classic style of Ribera.

Alejandro Fernández is, since his start in 1972, regarded to be one of the great Spanish innovators. A man with a precise idea of winemaking. Starting in the own vineyards. The right soil and microclimate. The grape is Tinto Fino, Ribera’s variant of Tempranillo. In the celler fermenting with only natural yeast. The main part of his wine range, maturing only in American oak. 

Wines that are concentrated, well balanced, with fruit and aromas beneficially influenced by the American oak.  Wines that continue to evolve in bottle for many years. Just like a nice Bordeaux does. A classic style.
So, this great innovator, the man who played a large part in the development of the modern wine style of Ribera, was for me the father of a classic wine.

I tried to recall my memory. No, I do not remember any discussions about a modern vs. a traditionalist approach from the times back then. Could that be a clue? My view of classic was founded when my serious interest in wine started to grow.
Today it is an issue. For me, the modern trend would involve a lot of toasty French oak, a powerful body and sometimes an over-whelming fruitiness.  Unfortunately, modern too often means that the birthplace of the wine is disguised.

But what perspective do we have when talking about the essence of a wine’s characteristics and style?
How long is the time frame for forming an opinion of what is classic and what is modern? A generation, twenty or ten years? The new enthusiasts in wine, will they in ten year time think of our contemporary modern style as the classic? Just as I created my view in the 1990s.

A modern perspective to classic would presumably be that it is subjective, personal and evolving over time. But please, let me be able to enjoy the Ribera in my classic style for many years to come.