Bottling in market is not entirely new – Viña Pomal was once so popular in the UK in the post-war years that bottling used to take place in Charing Cross. It was also, apparently, Winston Churchill’s favourite Spanish wine. Winemaker Alejandro Lopez and the rest of the Viña Pomal team were back in London, this time to launch their new wine Compromiso 2015. A five-variety Rioja blend, it is the Maturana Tinta that gives the wine its point of difference, says Geoffrey Dean, who tasted the new wine along with the rest of the new vintages of the rest of the range.
Apart from the varieties Compromiso is notable for having a bottle that weights one kilo empty. Somms take note, don’t try and pour the Magnum one-handed!
Viña Pomal, whose wines date back to 1904, making them one of Rioja’s oldest producers, added to its outstanding range with the release of a new wine Compromiso, in London at the end of last month. Made up of five different varietals from the 2015 vintage, it is now available for restaurants and retailers across the UK.
Owned by Bodegas Bilbainas, which produces single vineyard wines in Rioja Alta, Viña Pomal’s 120 hectares of vines are situated on limestone and gravel soil on the edge of Haro. Four of the five varietals in Compromise – Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo (aka Carignan) and Graciano – are grown there, but the fifth, Maturana Tinta (aka Trousseau in France or Bastardo in Galicia) came from Rioja Baja, where the extra warmth there allows it to ripen fully.
Plantings of Maturana Tinta in Rioja, where it is authorised under DO regulations, are limited to just 16 hectares, which gives Compromiso its point of difference. As much as 20% of the blend is from the varietal, which contributes spice, colour and tannin. Alejandro Lopez, the Viña Pomal winemaker, revealed that due to the grape’s high level of pyrazines, he needs to ferment it at a much higher temperature than the other four varietals: 32C. “With this temperature, you can eliminate the pyrazines,” he said. This he manages skilfully to do.
The Tempranillo, which forms 40% of Compromiso, comes from 35-year old bush vines, while the Granacha (30%) is from even older 42-year old vines. These low-yielding plants add notably to the blend’s concentration. While the Tempranillo is aged in 225-litre American oak barrels, the Garnacha is matured in new medium-toast French barriques of the same size. The Mazuelo (5%) is fermented and aged in concrete tanks, while the Maturana Tinta is aged in 500l old American oak.
Lopez eschews cold soaking. “Not for these wines as I want wines that are easy to drink,” he said. “For Compromiso, we want to show a different wine based on the history and future of the winery. We are looking for medium structure and elegance. The French oak we use is 100% new while the American is 15-20% new. The separate vinification of the five varietals aims to enhance the virtues of each – balance and elegance from Tempranillo, charm from Grenache, spice nuances from Maturana Tinta, rusticity from Graciano and raw power from Mazuelo.”
The Viña Pomal Compromiso 2015, imposing in its heavyweight bottle (one kilo when empty), is a wine that ticks all the boxes. Glorious quality of fruit, notable intensity of flavour, a lengthy finish and powerful structure. It will certainly provide enjoyment to drinkers now but the tannins, though well-integrated, are quite overt. In short, it will clearly benefit from further ageing.
Viña Pomal wines were supposedly Sir Winston Churchill’s favourites from Spain, and it is easy to see why when tasting the rest of the range. The Maturana Blanca 2016, with its fresh acidity and citrus notes, was a very drinkable white offering, while the Reserva 2013 (100% Tempranillo aged in American oak) showed superbly. The Gran Reserva 2010 (90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano) was equally impressive, if needing more time.
Ready now, and a real gem, is the Viña Pomal Alto de la Caseta 2012 (100% Tempranillo) from vines planted in 1983 on a small Haro hill with sandy soil and pebbles. Very small berries gave this wine wonderful concentration, while 20 months in 100% new French oak helped add structure to balance the fruit. With only 2,100 bottles made, this is a special limited-edition wine from a very fine producer.
Around 80% of Viña Pomal’s wines are sold domestically, but the company hopes to increase exports to the UK, where the labels were once so popular that, in the post-war years, bottling actually took place in Charing Cross, London.
Viña Pommel’s wines are sold to the on-trade through Codorniu UK, Mathew Clark, Bibendum and Walker & Woodhouse.