Saturday, August 22, 2009

TN: Sierra Salinas 2005 Mira

I picked out the Sierra Salinas 2005 Mira from DO Alicante (to the left of the bottle in the picture, in south-eastern Spain) for several reasons. For one, the blend is an intriguing 65% Monastrell (aka Mourvedré), 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Garnacha Tintorera (aka Alicante Bouschet). This is the wine to potentially answer what happens when you start with dark and meaty Monastrell, then throw in the king of reds, Cabernet, and the practically black teinturier Alicante Bouschet. It also is priced under $20 and has a few positive notes from critics.

But there's a catch, of course. The critics are just a little too bullish and about 2/3 of the wine's components saw new oak. As I suspected, this is an oak wine. It could be from anywhere and the varietals could be anything that is dense enough to carry all of the oakiness. But it is nonetheless a very good internationally styled wine. The wooden astringency does show in the tannic finish. Yet the ultra-creamy mid-palate and floral yet musky bouquet are rather nicely woven into the fabric of the wine. The texture and non-vanillafied nose save this wine. Meanwhile, hints of blackberry and gaminess are present. The acidity is nicely balanced to prop up the potentially fat fruit and oak flavors. At 15% ABV there is certainly some weight to the wine, but no heat is evident.

At $19, this embarrasses wines at much higher prices that aim for the same effect. I like the occaisional oak (or fruit) bomb, and cocktail wines like this make the point that you don't need to pay much for a wine in this style. They all taste pretty much the same, so who cares what the label says. New World wines are primarily about texture, in terms of oak, fruit extract and elevated alcohol level. Many are grotesque caricatures of themselves. The Sierra Salinas Mira is enjoyable and only moderately grotesque as texture-driven wines go. That's a win in my book, though I'm left wondering why the producer wasted all that money on new oak when he he could have made a much more serious wine with about half as much of it.

Score: 87-89
Price: $19 from K&L Wines


maulmatt! said...

Good post. SE Spain definitely seems like an area with tons of bang for the buck.

I recently had a wine from DO Jumilla (92% Monastrell, 8% Garnacha) that I thought was the bomb and it retailed for 11.99. Olivares, Altos De La Hoya... it sees less new oak and I think was a little lower in ABV, but had tons of dark fruit and complexity. It was absolutely a steal at its price.

Jeff said...

I like that you took a picture by a map. It's a nice touch. So this wine wasn't all bad, despite the international styling, and best of all--no vanilla. I enjoy a fruit bomb now and then too, but I have to ask myself--how did the Parkerized style become so prevalent? Generally the more you get into wine (if you're a serious geek), the more you get into the subtle, weirder wines. Which isn't really Parker, Miller, et al. Is it the average, wealthy, status-conscious consumer that has made the international style so popular?

CabFrancoPhile said...

I'll definitely watch for the Altos De La Hoya. I've had less expensive Jumilla wines and they always seem to deliver, though sometimes they get a little unstructured. The Mira definitely had the best acidic balance of the wines I've had from the region.

As for the international style, there really must be people who buy exclusively by points. I'm conscious of critics' reviews, too, though I view them largely as how international in style a wine is. 90+ points usually means more fruit, more alcohol, more extract, more oak--more texture. I appreciate the effect this can produce when it's done right with good raw material, if that's what I want to drink. But this sort of criticism is pretty useless when it comes to varietals like Pinot Noir or most any Old World region. I think a lot of people just move vertically--more points, higher prices--instead of horizontally--greater diversity, more aromas. Most people are creatures of habit and would rather get a "better" version of something they know.

Maybe it says something that the perceived ideal wine is one that's paired with red meat. Americans eat too much red meat, so they drink a correspondingly high proportion of steak wines. Perhaps Parker is just a reflection of that.

Dhalgren said...

Drinking a glass of Mira right now and I agree completely with the article. PJ Wines in northern Manhattan has this and I intend to get more bottles of this special find.