A Spanish Mencia and Thoughts on Wine Ratings

I’ve been enjoying wine for quite some time now. I remember back to my college years when I thought taking Franzia out of the box and carrying the bag around at parties was really clever. Thankfully, wine and I have evolved since then. Part of my wine routine is to go through the Wine Spectator buying guide for recommendations. At first I tried to buy the wines at local package stores but soon discovered many were not widely available. I quickly turned, like I do for most other things, to the internet. Now I’m subscribed to multiple liquor stores email newsletters and find my inbox filled with offers for deals like a “95 Point Chardonnay” and a “93 Point Estate Zinfandel”. The offers are tempting, they almost sound too good to be true.[1] Last week I succumbed to the sweet, enticing email blast and bought four bottles of 2009 Alvarez de Toledo Mencia Roble, which was rated 91 Points by The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker.[2] Sounded good to me!

59605362Now that I’m a wine blogger, I’m starting to read other wine blogs. I happened upon 1 Wine Dude’s blog post today about wine scores.[3] I thought it unfair of him to say that wine producers shouldn’t tout their scores. If the knowledge that someone who knows a thing or two about wine thought that this was a good one, why shouldn’t the consuming public be told? After all, evidence is relevant if it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence. FRCP 401. So, if it helps producers sell a few more bottles, or introduces a new customer to the wine, it seemed like sharing the scores should be a no-brainer.

After bringing the Alvarez de Toledo to dinner with friends and taking the first sip, I reconsidered my position on scoring. Drinking wine, after all, is such a subjective activity. Drink the same wine on two different days, with different food, with different people, and it will taste different. Take a sip of wine inside and then take a sip outside, it will taste different. Everyone’s palates are unique, so in theory, while a 1998 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild [4] may taste like a flowery glass of heaven to me, my drinking companion may find it harsh and dry.[5]

Because I knew that someone had rated this particular wine a 91, I, perhaps unfairly, expected fireworks to explode in my mouth. That is not to say that this was a bad or unenjoyable wine, but knowing the score negatively impacted my expectations, and thus my experience. I’m certainly not advocating the demise of the wine rating system, nor would I fault a producer for touting a good score to its customers. My take away is that in the future I’ll be less apt to buy four bottles of a wine I’ve never tried based on someone else’s numeric assignment. Onto the review.
To:                  Alleged Blog Readers
From:             WineEsquire
Date:               March 15, 2015
Wine:              Alvarez de Toledo Mencia Roble 2009 Review

IMG_5064As I said, we brought this wine to dinner with friends. There was no breathing, no decanting, just popped the cork, poured and sipped. I do not have much experience with Spanish wines, and this may have been my first Mencia[6]. On the nose I got hints of musty leather. The first sip was dry with very spicy undertones. This was a thinner wine that did not give you a big mouthful like the 6th Sense Syrah. Like the Chateau de Lavagnac Bordeaux, this wine greatly improved when enjoyed with food[7] and I think the time it spent breathing as we socialized and ate helped it to relax, allowing for a smooth and enjoyable finish. Husband thought the wine was “young” and that it still had some aging to do in the bottle. I don’t know if I’m sophisticated enough to know what that means, but we’re going to put the remaining three bottles in the cellar[8] and see what happens in two to three years. I’m going to put all my cards on the table here and tell you that I paid $7.99 a bottle. At that price point, you can’t go wrong because after ten minutes of breathing and paired with food, this was a very enjoyable wine.

Wine DossierIMG_5070
The wine producer, Alvarez de Toledo, has a long family tradition of winemaking. I’m loving their coat of arms on the bottle. This bottle was 100% mencia grape, grown in the Bierzo region of Castilla Leon, Spain.

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] And we all know, that means they usually are.
[2] Prior to writing this post I didn’t know who Robert Parker was or what the Wine Advocate was. From the email I received I assumed it was something similar to Wine Spectator. Turns out it’s this guy named Robert Parker’s wine review website.
[3] Meme originally published by 1WineDude.
[4] The 1998 scored 95 points according to Wine Spectator.
[5] Perhaps using a 1998 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild was not a good example. While I have not yet had the pleasure of imbibing such a treasure, from what I’ve heard, I don’t think any member of the human race could think it harsh or dry.
[6] I had to google this. I couldn’t figure out where the name of the winery ended and the name of the wine began. Mencia is a grape variety I had not previously heard of.
[7] Our host served a delicious spread of candied walnut spinach salad, peppers stuffed to the gills with rice, meat and cheese and fragrant garlic bread.
[8] Cellar is a fancy word for basement. We do have a wine rack though.

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