by Gareth Groves
Every good wine has a story worth telling and this one starts with a unlikely rebel: Carlos Falco, the Marquis de Grinon, a grandee of the Spanish aristocracy. Establishment figures don’t come much more established: Carlos’ family has been at the top of Spain’s social strata since the 14th Century.
However, a spell at UC Davis in the 1970′s convinced Carlos that Cabernet Sauvignon was the world’s most exciting red grape and despite laws prevented its planting in his corner of Spain, he headed back to his home near Madrid determined to grow it.
His solution was to smuggle in cuttings from France in a truck load of Granny Smith apple trees. Realising he needed irrigation, he set about planning and constructing a state of the art drip irrigation system that promoted quality rather than excess vigour. The Spanish government’s response was to send twenty black cars filled with inspectors to document the breach in the law and fine the Marquis 150,000 pesetas. Lesser (or less well off) men would have given up at this point.
Carlos did just the opposite and in true Real Madrid-style hired a roll call of galactico consultants. You may never have heard of the likes of Emile Peynaud, Richard Smart, Michel Rolland and Claude Bourgignon but they are the Zidanes, Figos, Beckhams and Ronaldos of their trades.
Carlos’ efforts were rewarded when Dominio de Valdepusa was awarded its very own DO in 2003, one of just ten such ‘Pago’ estates in Spain.
The last thirty years have been a constant programme of invention and improvement. The hot, arid plains of central Spain are not an easy place to make excellent wine. However, Carlos’ innovations are nearly all done in the vineyard rather than the cellar. The latest technology is used to help nature rather than manipulate it.
An example is the drip irrigation system controlled by a computer that measures the amount each vine shrinks during the day. Amazingly it was developed from the same technology that Boeing use to measure the way metal expands as aeroplanes come into land. This system allows each vine to get just enough water to produce fantastic grapes without wasting what is an increasingly precious resource.
The Summa Varietalis 2005 is not 100% Cabernet but a three-way blend that also includes Petit Verdot and Syrah, two other high profile international imports.
The warm climate is obvious on the nose – the fruit is dark, ripe and warming but the palate is much racier than you might expect. The wine is full-bodied and muscular but not heavy or cumbersome, it carries its alcohol well concealing it under supple tannins and sweet blackberry and violet fruit. There is real refreshment on the finish too.
It is not a wine for the faint-hearted but it is balanced, fulfilling and satisfying. On a cold, sunny London day in February it puts a glow back in your cheeks.