All my wine blogs, Spain, Valdeorras

My secret affair with Avanthia

Years back, I was once running a horse riding place. I loved horses, but didn’t know much about them. I learned on the way, and surrounded myself with experts, yet I still had to know what I was doing.

Once we went for a buying trip. I had my head trainer with me (because who am I to pick a horse that would be good for competitions). At the same time, I couldn’t let him see that I, his boss, didn’t really have a clue.

Illustrative photo

So I was watching horses, as they were presented to us, and suffered. I pretended I was looking with an expertize, but in reality, I was secretly watching my trainer’s face to get a hint. All those horses were nice, but how do I tell which one could be an exceptional?

I will never forget the AHA moment when suddenly, after many horses that didn’t catch my attention at all,  this ONE came out. It was the way she carried herself, the proud posture, the beautiful walk, some kind of aura that felt very elegant, the eyes – there was something about that horse! I couldn’t take my eyes of her. This was my favorite!

To my surprise, my trainer agreed. We ended up buying that horse, and when looking for the name starting with letter P (after her mother) I named her Philadelphia. It was such an aristocratic horse, it deserved a special name. I have never been in Philadelphia, but I heard it was one of the most beautiful cities in U.S.A. Most importantly, I loved the sound of that name.

OK, now you must think that I have lost my mind: Why, in the world, do I write about horses in my wine blog? I know, and apologize. If you stayed with me so far, here is the reason:

I like to believe that every one of us had a similar experience, in any field, at least once. Everything seems to be the same, until something stands out. One never forgets such an experience.

Avanthia MenciaFor some reason this memory came to me, when I first opened a bottle of Avanthia. To be precise, Avanthia Mencía. Mencía, the grape variety, I didn’t know anything about, except the fact that it was native Spanish.

Sure, I could have gone on-line and try to find any reviews or info available. But I don’t like to read someone else’s opinions before I form my own. I also don’t like to know the price of particular wine I am tasting, because it sometimes tends to influence the judgment.

So I just opened this wine, received as a gift, not knowing what to expect at all. And surprised I was. The aroma was overwhelming. The combination of dark fruit with cacao and oak hit my nose, and brought me back to time I spent in Spanish wine cellars. Yes, that hint of oak that is just perfect and never too much. (Oh did I ever tell you that I am obsessed with wine aromas? I am able to sniff wine 10 times before I take a first sip).

But the taste was something else. I found it surprisingly bitter but full of fruit at the same time. I couldn’t quite put the hand on it. There was something about this wine that made it special. With the second sip, I could taste more of the fruit, spices and dark bitter chocolate. The more it was opening up, the more it was irresistible. I tried to imagine the earth it grew on and the wild flowers that might have surrounded the vineyard and perhaps influenced some of the sensational parts of the whole wine composition.

It made me feel like somebody threw super soft, yet firm and large cashmere scarf all over my body. First I felt all the soothing fruit on my tongue, than a tiny bit of spice and velvety tannins. As the wine was warming me up overall, I acknowledged a big, yet not overpowering body. And the finish… hmmm, that finish, you don’t want to ever end. Impressive, bright, introducing the richness of the fruit to my palate over and over again. Oh, so sensational.

I wanted to open a special bottle for our 2012 New Year’s celebration. We decided to spent it with my husband, watching movies and enjoying the comfort of our home. I didn’t pick Brunellos that I have. I didn’t go for great Bordeaux wines that I have. I passed some superb Californian reds. Instead, I reached for Avanthia again. Especially when I learned that my husband prefers to sip on mulled wine whole evening. Great! Selfishly, I didn’t complain.

Yes,  Avanthia Mencía was my companion during the New Year Eve. We had a secret love affair. This wine fitted my mood and senses. We enjoyed each others company very much. I still didn’t figure out what exactly it is, that makes it so special, but just like someone said: “Wine is like opera. You can enjoy it even if you do not understand it!”.

It might not be the wine for everybody. Also, I realize that it is still young. I am only excited to see what is going to develop in this heavy bottomed bottle in few more years. If I dare wait so long. If I could only resist. Congratulations, Jorge Ordóñez, for such a beauty!

Read my review and more technical details about this wine    

All wine reviews, Mencia, Red wine, Spain, Valdeorras

Avanthia Mencía 2009

Winery: Bodegas Avanthia
Winemaker: Amy Leigh Hopkinson from Australia
Grape: 100 % Mencía
Region: D.O. Valdeorras, Spain

See other wine produced by this bodega:

Avanthia Godello
This is a new project between the Bodegas Godeval and Jorge Ordóñez.

I am guessing that for the most wine drinkers (including me) the Spanish native grape Mencía is less known variety. It is often stylistically compared to Cabernet Franc.

Grapes for this wine came from estate owned, south facing hillside vineyards, one planted in 1938 and the other one planted in 1923. The vineyards are located in altitude of 1,804 ft above the sea level. Perhaps the special soil, composed from quartz and decomposed black slate may have an influence on the very pronounced, concentrated flavors of these old vines.

The grapes were hand harvested, using small baskets to prevent bruising and underwent another careful table selection at the winery. Just the healthiest grapes made the cut. Grapes were then hand basket pressed with fermentation in new French oak barrels and aged for 14 months.
Wine was then bottled unfiltered.

When I tasted this wine for the first time, it was also my first time with Mencía grape variety. Read my “Love affair with Avanthia” here. Since then, I have tasted more wines made from this grape. In my opinion, Avanthia is showcasing Mencía expression at its finest. It is at the category of its own.

Tasting notes:

Great aromas of dark fruit, cacao and oak hit my nose first, promising a gourmet experience. I wasn’t disappointed! This is an exceptional wine, full body yet not overpowering, with clean notes of dark and red fruit, spices and dust of bitter cacao.

Perhaps slightly more bitter than some well known big reds. That made it even more interesting for me. Velvety tannins are noticeable but not disturbing the enjoyment. As the wine opens up, you realize that one glass is not going to be enough. At least for me it wasn’t.

Long, seductive finish, returning the mouthful of bright, clean feel of fruit till the end. Beautiful, elegant and unique style of wine. It is already enjoyable while young, but it will age gracefully probably for at least a decade. Not like anything else I tasted before.

Dry – Off dry- Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: around $45.00

Ideal food pairing:

I loved this wine on its own, but also successfully paired it with Spanish Jamon and Manchego cheese. Any beef, lamb or venison based dishes would pair well with this wine.

Spain, Valdeorras, White wines

Avanthia Godello 2010

Winery: Bodegas Avanthia
Winemaker: Alistair Gardner (New Zealand)
Region: D.O. Valdeorras (zone 1)
Grape: 100 % Godello

See other wine made by this Bodegas: Avanthia Mencía 2009

Just third vintage of this new project between the Bodegas Godeval and Jorge Ordoñez. I was lucky to taste all 3 vintages released so far, and this wine is truly exceptional and unique.

Avanthia Godello, made from native grape (that I believe only grows in the hills of Galicia, but I am not sure), is not comparable to anything I have ever tasted before. From the packaging (heavy bottom bottle with an elegant and very catchy label), it makes a statement on its own.

When I first tasted the 2009 vintage during my Spanish wine presentation this February, we tasted Avanthia after few other Spanish whites (all dry) – and surprisingly, it tasted almost sweet. But it’s far from it! The richness of the wine, the array of fruit pleasantly tricks the palate. When tasted on its own, it’s super fruity but completely dry wine. So tomorrow, on 2nd of our Spanish wine classes, I chose to taste this wine the first, just to see the difference.

The winemaker is Alistair Gardner, a man with quite a reputation in the wine world, who was a college professor of Oenology from New Zealand. He is also participating in another interesting Jorge’s project, Bodegas Botani in Málaga.

The grapes for this wine were sourced from two (about 35 years old) estate vineyards. Located in the mountains next to El Barco de Valdeorras in the province of Orense (Galicia) in Northwest Spain, these are some oldest Godello vines in the region. The grapes were hand harvested and carefully manipulated in small baskets, so the skin of the grapes wouldn’t bruise.

The fruit was then hand basket pressed and underwent fermentation in large (500-600L barrels from many different coopers. Avanthia Godello aged for 14 months in new barrels.

Tasting notes:
Pouring this  into your glass, it opens a lovely aroma of cantaloupe and pear, combined with wild flowers. On the palate it is rich, full bodied white, round and slightly spicy, with crisp acidity and minerality.  The unusual amount of fruit pronounced on the palate might trick some into feeling that this wine is sweet. It really isn’t.

Although this exceptional white aged in oak for more than a year, the amazing fruit flavors didn’t get overpowered by it. Just the opposite – the fruit plays the first violin! Sweet tropical fruit notes such as melon, pear, pineapple or peach are supported by just the touch of spicy nutmeg, cinnamon or allspice.

Perfectly balanced. This wine is a masterpiece that will age gracefully for a few more years. It’s so worth to try! Unlike some superior Burgundy, you wouldn’t pay over close to $100 for such an impressive piece of art.

Dry – Off dry- Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: under $30.00

Ideal food pairing:
I would really recommend to try this wine on its own first. It deserves the attention. Then, what ever you fell would work, it probably will. From seafood to poultry or creamy sauces, it worked with anything I tried it with, so far. Please share your most unusual food pairing for this wine! I once made a simple tapas – grilled eggplant, brushed with olive oil and topped with Spanish anchovy. The saltiness of the anchovy worked miracles with this wine.



Spain, Valdeorras, White wines

Avanthia Godello 2008

Winemaker: Amy Hopkinson
Grape: 100 % Godello
Region: Valdeorras, Spain

W/S 90 points
W/A 90 points
IWC 90 points

The first vintage of new wine project of Jorge Ordoñez with Miguel and Angel Gil of Jumilla really excited me! Godello, Spanish grape that I believe only grows in the hills of Galicia, is nothing like I ever tasted before. Cross somewhere between Chard/Riesling/Albariño – with sexy body and curves, combined with fruitiness and crispiness of Sauvignon Blanc.

Quite exceptional!There is a nice story printed right on the back label of the bottle – that explains a lot about this wine:”High above this sleepy valley, which has witnessed millennia of civilizations from ancient Celtic outpost to a 13th century monastery to the present day Bodega Avanthia lie the slate covered vineyards. The 35 years old vines are grafted from centenary gnarled Godello vines, planted by monks, but now resides in the courtyard of the present day winery. Carrying on the tradition into the new millennium, Bodegas Avanthia is pleased to offer you their finest Godello. ”

The grapes for this wine came from two (about 35 years old) vineyards, planted on the hillsides located at 550 m (1,800 ft) above sea level. The grapes were hand harvested and carefully manipulated in small baskets, so the skin of the grapes wouldn’t bruise.

The fruit was then hand basket pressed and fermentation is done in oak barrels. New French oak barrels were used for malolactic fermentation. Avanthia Godello aged for 14 months in new barrels.

Tasting notes:
When I opened this bottle, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I never had Godello before. Protected in heavy, dark bottle, this wine has golden -straw color. I was amazed by the beautiful aroma of tropical fruit, charming and delicate.

On the palate it was crisp, clean yet round wine of medium to full body. I loved the notes of baked pears or perhaps velvety cantaloupe.

It gives the wine a delicate, sweet taste of the ripe old vine’s fruit, although this Godello is dry. The more sips I took, feeling it on the tongue, I could almost taste the sensational saltiness of the sea. Seafood wine it’s the first thing that came to my mind when sipping this wine.

It reminded me of some really good quality Chardonnay – but with the crispiness and minerality that a typical Chardonnay, malolactic fermented, would lack. Really complex, beautiful wine that has perfectly balanced acidity and ability to age. Totally loved it!

Dry – Off dry- Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: about $ 28.00

Suggested recipes with this wine:

Crispy Tilapia with Mexican Risotto, Seafood Salad, Shrimp Criolli, Chicken and Shrimp Skewers, and many moe