Wed 20 Oct 2010
I was going to write that the last region from which I expected to receive wine-in-a-box would be Bierzo, but of course there are much more exotic places, Upper Volta being one, I will probably never get wine-in-a-box from Upper Volta, which, I’m humble enough to admit, I used to think was in Russia, until it occurred to me that what all those folk were singing about in those deep lugubrious voices were the Volga boatmen, not the Volta boatmen. Experience is a dear teacher, but fools will learn no other way, as Miss Simpson, my seventh grade teacher, told our class every single goddamn day.
Anyway, here it is, a three-liter box — the equivalent of four standard 750-milliliter bottles — of red wine made from the mencía grape, which grows nowhere but Bierzo, a rugged vineyard region sandwiched between Castilla y León and Galicia in Spain’s far northwest corner, right above the short border with Portugal. A decade ago, hardly anyone outside the area knew about it, but Bierzo has emerged as an interesting and actually desirable source of dark, spicy red wines, mainly centered on the mencía grape, which accounts for two-thirds of the vineyard area.
Now I was a constant disappointment to Miss Bridger, my solid geometry teacher in the 11th grade, and I’ll confess that the notion of four bottles of wine fitting into this three-dimensional, um, box-like thing boggles my mind. Fortunately a few glasses of the attractive wine mitigate the sense of bafflement. Who cares? The wine comes under the Val Montium label of Bodegas Adriá, and it’s made all in stainless steel. The design of the box is striking and quite graphically appealing.
The color of the Val Montium Mencía 2008 is dark ruby-purple; the bouquet is fresh and clean, warm and spicy, bursting with notes of black currants and dusty plums with hints of black pepper, wild berry and lavender. The warm, spicy quality continues in the mouth, accompanying tannins that are dense, chewy and rather velvety and that encompass juicy black fruit flavors in a dry setting that turns a bit austere and tarry on the finish. This wine is loads better than box wine I have tried from California; an idea of character asserts itself, an expression of a grape. Terrific with burgers, steaks, red-sauce pasta, braised meat dishes. Very Good+. About $30 for a three-liter box, which comes out to $7.50 a bottle. We kept the box on the kitchen counter for a week, and the wine stayed eminently fresh and drinkable. On the other hand, the plastic carrying handle broke under the slightest pressure; back to research and development on that factor! Worth a Search.
Scoperta Importing Co., Cleveland Heights, Ohio. A sample for review.