Manuel, I applaud that fact that here and elsewhere you generally have assumed Auberon Waugh’s philosophy. ";Wine writing,"; he said, ";should be camped up. The writer should never like a wine, he should be in love with it; never find a wine disappointing but identify it as a mortal enemy, an attempt to poison him; sulphuric acid should be discovered where there is the faintest hint of sharpness. Bizarre and improbable side tastes should be proclaimed: mushrooms, rotting wood, black treacle, burned pencils, condensed milk, sewage, the smell of French railway stations or ladies’ underwear - anything to get away from the accepted list of fruit and flowers. As I say, I am not sure that it helps much, but it is more amusing to read."; This is not to dismiss whatever seriousness your response holds, of course. I trust there is plenty of it (but equally hope and expect that it is not completely serious).
I tend to agree with Victor that, with appropriate allowance for all the variability about which we both agree, the major wine producing regions (including North-Central Spain) are more Mediterranean than Atlantic in nature. I think that one of the great advantages of Spanish wine is that it produces big wines that are authentic, with old-world tradition that the manufacturing philosophy of OZ, for example, cannot provide. If -- if -- terroirist have a point, there is no question in my mind that its ideologically excesses have led to many an authentic Spanish wine being shunted aside.
Yes, there has been a lot of experimentation in Spain, a lot of new efforts, massive modernization of bodegas, etc. In some cases we have had to pay for it with missteps and disappointments, but hasn’t it ultimately been worth it? Pull out the ’04 La Guía Peñín. Maybe this is not the gospel of wine ratings, but it is startling to see that the highest or several of the highest ratings for many DOs are new ventures. In addition to whatever that means for wine consumers at the moment, this strikes me as a barometer of the energy in Spanish winemaking and a great sign of things to come.
As for the history or Toro wine, you can choose to believe that those in the Middle Ages who put the heady, fruit forward wines of Toro in the highest demand -- specifically the students in Palencia at Spain’s first university, and the clerics and courtiers of Castile -- cut their wine with water. I, on the other hand, don’t have to consult history books to maintain my instinct that these types of consumers just don’t change that much.
Hey Walt, sorry I took so long to get back to you, but my mother was having hip=replacement surgery, which has taken up all my attention between yesterday and today. Everything went beautifully and she is now recovering peacefully in Miami.
Truth be told, I’ve lost count of the times that specific bit of Waugh has been quoted to describe my approach to wine criticism. I can gush, but my love is not very easily won. I can be very harsh, and rest assured it’s never without giving thought to what motivates my displeasure. Alas, having stated this, I must also say that the thing that will most anger me is a wine which bores me. And those ";international-style,"; four-square, high alcohol, supercarpentered gobfests tend to do that regularly.
Feel free to agree with dear VS. I don’t. It’s a bit of a sport for me.
In terms of those wines of Toro which the poor students at Salamanca inflicted upon themselves in Medieval times, you may be right: If the purpose was simply to lift the sorrows and intoxicate, they were the ideal thing to take neat. Still, I do believe that cutting wines with water (or, in some cases, with white wine) was the most common practice up until the 15th century, at least among those Spaniards who could escape the prohibitions imposed by the conquering Moors. I recently read a very interesting book by Jean Verdon titled ";Boire au Moyen Age"; which deals with a lot of these issues. It focuses largely on France, though, given what the borders were like in the Middle Ages, it often spills over into Navarre and even Castille. A very interesting read.
Another interesting factoid that jumped out of my short-term archive, from a book I recently re-read, is that until about the 16th century, the majority of the wine made in Spain was white (even from red grapes), with only a small percentage of red produced. Makes you wonder about what those students of yours were really drinking...
Gotta go. More later.
Glad to hear that mother is doing well.
I think it is safe to say that, in the 16th century, the highly regarded Toro wine was red, not white. Luis de Góngora then wrote, ";On a doctor’s finger encrusted in gold a fine ruby because this color is always the best antidote for melencholy. I, to overcome my own sadness, set a ruby in gold. Toro gave me the ruby, Ciudad Real the gold.";
Somewhat more ambiguously, but only in isolation, is Gabriel Alonsa de Herrera’s description of the wine of Toro in 1558: ";the king of all wines, because it blends color and smoothness.";
Can’t argue with that. Still, the little factoid about all that white wine is fascinating to me, particularly when I consider the fixation with red wines Spain seems to have these days. I know Jan Read provides numbers of production of red vs. white in the 15th and 16th centuries in his ";The Wines of RIoja."; Unfortunately, I still haven’t unpacked most of my library since we moved apartments last November. As soon as I find the book, I’ll quote.
And hey, my university work was in CompLit with an accent on English and French. I guess I skipped too much of the Spanish stuff...
She came out of surgery at 10 this morning and already by five o’clock she was talking on the phone to people, being her own sweet, bossy self. I think she’ll be fine. Luckily, her surgeon is one of the certified world-wide luminaires in the field.