Gurutzeta Original Basque Cider

Maker: Sidreria Gurutzeta, Astigarraga, Gipuzkoa, Basque Country, Spain20190616_171204.jpg

Style: Natural Basque Spanish cider

ABV: 6%

Purchased for $12/750 ml at Vine & Table in Carmel, Indiana.

Appearance: Very hazy gold.

Nose: Apple cores, dried flowers, apricot, lemon thyme.

Palate: Apricot, Golden Delicious apple, chalk dust, pinch of sweetness.

Finish: Tangy. Siracha burn in the back of the throat as it warms in the glass.

Parting words: This is the second Basque cider (or Sagardoa as they call it) I’ve reviewed. The other one was in November of 2017. It was Isastegi Sagardo Naturala, made in Tolosa about 17 miles (27 km) south of Astigarraga. The two ciders are similar in style but Gurutzeta is more acidic and less funky than Isastegi. Neither have more than a trace of sweetness.

Basque ciders are not what I’d call good entryway ciders for most North American drinkers. While they’re not as dominated by tannin as Norman ciders, they do have much more of it than most English or American ones. and they tend to have high levels of acid and funk with virturally no sweetness. It may sound silly, but for those new to Basque cider I would suggest getting a solid feel for French cider before venturing into Basque Country. It will help you understand this unique tradition better. At any rate, Gurutzeta Original Basque Cider is recommended!


Isastegi Sagardo Naturala

Maker: Isastegi, Tolosa, Gipuzkoa, Spain.20171122_111432.jpg

Region: Gipuzkoa (Basque country), Spain.

Style: Dry natural apple cider blended in oak casks.

ABV: 6%

Purched for $5/375 ml (Holiday Market)

Appearance: Bright gold, but very cloudy. Yeasty sediment in the bottom of the bottle.

Nose: Crushed crabapple, lemon juice, mild funk.

Palate: Medium-bodied and dry with a little effervescence. Dry baking apple, bitter wood, vinegar shrub.

Finish: Tart, then dry and chewy.

Parting words: This is the first Spanish cider I’ve reviewed and it might be the first Spanish cider I’ve tasted ever. It had a dry funk similar to typical Norman ciders, but balanced with tartness and that weird but pleasant vinegar note. Isastegi is the only Spanish cider I’ve seen on shelves in Michigan. It’s released once a year in March, but barring some explosion in popularity, it should be just as easy/hard to find year round. If you see Isastegi, buy it! Maybe that will lead to more sidura on the shelves. Isastegi Sagardo Naturala is recommended.

Castaña Monstrell

Maker: Castaña, Yecla, SpainCatana Monstrell

Grape: 100% Monstrell (Mourvèdre)

Place of origin: Yecla DO, Spain

Vintage: 2010

ABV: 13.5%

Purchased for: $9

Appearance: Dark crimson, thick legs.

Nose: Strawberry preserves, blackberries, black cherries, oak. A little boozy.

On the palate: Raspberry jam, black pepper.

Finish: Light and fades quickly. Cherry juice and a touch of leather.

Parting words: For a $9 wine, this a very good stuff. Mourvèdre/Monstrell is a staple of Mediterranean vineyards, especially those in the southern parts of Spain and France. It often is blended with Grenache and similar wines to counteract its rustic character. This is Mourvèdre of a gentler sort.  It’s jammy but has enough structure and oak to make it appropriate for drinking with a hearty meal. Wines from Rioja and the Duero valley have gotten very hot in recent years, but lesser known regions in Spain like Yecla are still producing value wines and this is a great example. Castaña Monstrell is recommended.

Emilio Moro 2007

Maker: Bodegas Emilio Moro, Valladolid, Spain

Grape: Tinto Fino, 100% (Tempranillo)

Region: Ribera del Duero DOC, Spain

Vintage: 2007

ABV: 14%

Appearance: Deep plum with tartrate crystals and long, luscious legs.

Nose: On first pour, the it’s a bruiser, but after a few minutes in the glass it learns to behave itself better. Still, a bit of alcohol shows up but balanced with wild blackberry, oak and creamy vanilla custard.

On the palate: Medium-dry and assertive but not obnoxious. Slightly tart, blueberries, big chubby west coast blackberries and a firm smack of leather on the back end. Very enjoyable, if that’s what you’re into.

Finish: Tannic at first and a little mealy. Eventually fades to a little sweetness and a little oak and vanilla.

Parting words: This wine scared me when I first opened it. It packed a massive punch right out of the bottle and I was afraid it would be a bull in a china shop, to coin a phrase. But when rested it is a very nice beef-oriented red. Tempranillo doesn’t always do well as a soloist. I find I usually enjoy it more when it’s lightened up with some Grenache or beefed up with some Cab or Merlot. Emilio and friends have managed to make a fairly complex, food-friendly, moderately priced red with nothing but Tempranillo. ¡Gracias a vos! Or something like that. Emilio Moror 2007 (and other vintages) come highly recommended.


Venta Morales Tempranillo

Maker: ???

Series: Jorge Ordoñez select

Grape: Tempranillo

Region: La Mancha, Spain.

Vintage: 2008

ABV: 13.5%

Appearance: Inky deep purple. Thin quick legs.

Nose: Fruity, slightly dry, dark, slightly tannic.

On the palate: sweet, slightly dry and woody, black cherries, black currant. Has a lot of depth, but goes down easy . Geez, is that all you people think about?

Finish: dry, tannic with a touch of fruit

Parting words: This wine is one of my go-to Spanish reds. Like I said above, it goes down easy, but has a fruity complexity that is lacking in most reds in that price range.

Spanish reds are generally an excellent value, but Venta Morales is a value among values. In most cases it’s under $10 for one bottle. I do take price into account when I review beverages. I try to review wines, beers, spirits and other things for what they are trying to be, not for what they are not. Venta Morales tries to be an excellent table wine at an inexpensive price, and it more than suceeds. Highly recommended, and the 2009 vintage is even more highly recommended.


Abrazo Del Toro Reserva

Grapes: 40% Tempranillo, 60% Garnacha (aka Grenache)

Region: Cariñena, Aragon, Spain

Vintage: 2005

Producer: Covinca S. Co-op

ABV: 13.5%

I am not ashamed to say that I buy a lot of wine at Trader Joe’s.  When it comes to fine French wine, I wouldn’t bother with TJ’s.  Their California selections can occasionally be good buys but are a hit or miss.  Where TJ’s wine department shines is with Italian, Spanish, and South American wines.  One of the most consistently good Spanish wine I’ve purchased have been on the Abrazo del Toro label.  The reserva is my favorite and there are usually plenty of 5 y/o+ bottles on the shelf at my local store. 

The wine itself is one Richie Blackmore would be proud of, color-wise anyway.  It’s a deep, smokey purple.  The nose has the slightly tart aroma of raspberry jam.  I’ve had the uncanny urge to spread this wine on toast.  In the mouth it’s smooth and easy to drink, but not shallow.  On the tongue it’s red raspberry, and red currant jelly, with a bit of wood at the end.  And all this for a lot less money than most quality Spanish reds.