25-08-2018

That age-old Spanish mixaroo type thing: Crittenden – Los Hermanos Homenaje 2015

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s fitting to mention it here: Wine Folly is dangerous. And no, I don’t mean that in a catchy Kenny Loggins, “Danger Zone” way, but in a bad information is toxic danger kind of way. The ultimate problem is that these days, due to the widespread purchases of Wine Folly, I don’t know if people get things wrong because they’re quoting it from that book (as is apparently now the case in other books) or simply because they themselves don’t understand the finer details.

This cautionary lead in is to introduce a wine from Mornington Peninsula’s Crittenden Estate called called “Homenaje” or “Homenaje a Catalonia” in tribute to George Orwell’s book. From the winemaker’s website, they say that it’s “Paying homage to a classic Catalonian [sic] red blend”. This is what grabbed my attention as I was very curious to see what the Aussie take on a wine from Catalunya would be like. The Australians have done wonderful things with the classic Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre (or GSM) blend found in Southern France so I had high hopes here.

But once I had the wine, this is where I started to note the weirdness. I’ll put aside the Castilian name for what’s supposed to be wine from Catalunya where regionally, but especially in the wine regions, Catalan is the dominant language. But the blend was weird, and very, very Wine Folly-ish in its interpretation. Indeed Grenache is a serious grape in Catalunya and you find it in every region, even DO Cava. But Mataró, which is more commonly known internationally by its French name, Mourvèdre or then its other Catalan name, Monastrell is a minor grape. It’s banned from five of the 12 Denominations of Origin and in the seven that remain, it’s barely used given that it’s seen as rustic and hard. There are plenty of quality examples these days from Murcia as well as Bandol in France but, those regions aren’t Catalunya.

Then we come to Tempranillo. Something like 15 years ago, I was one of the “Oh, Spain = Tempranillo” people until I learned better and the fact that it’s actually a pretty shitty grape in much of Spain. It will be to the surprise of many that in the hotter regions, specifically those along the Mediterranean, it grows quite poorly. At best, it shows some red fruit and a splash of herbal notes, but it simply can’t compete with the excellence found in Grenache, which is again why this is a great grape for the entire region, not to mention Aragón next door, Roussillon to the north, and a many others.

When getting out of the varietal soup and turning the bottle around, I took a closer look at the label. Are those two children being chased by a bull in front of Mission-style buildings as you’d find in Andalucia with a Catalan flag atop one of the roofs? Yes, yes they are. That style of architecture is from Spain’s far south and bull fighting was banned in Catalunya in 2010. It’s like The Poke of Zorro come to life on a wine label.

But okay, a few little facts are off and the general intent is to make a wine reflective of what you find in Catalunya despite the varieties and other aspects being rather well, “truth-y”. This doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but it is. Given that the wine has the Geographic Indication of Victoria, I assume the fruit came from a warmer region like Murray Darling given that Mornington Peninsula where the winery is located is too cool for these grapes.

I assume fruit sourcing was done carefully but despite this, it’s a very muted wine that doesn’t really have any Iberian essence to it. At most, I find something of a generic mid-level Roussillon character which doesn’t really seem to be what they were going for given the name and such. So, does having the facts right matter? I’d say yes and the proof is in this bottle.

Los Hermanos Homenaje 2015
Light red cherry, crisp herbal notes, garrigue, almond blossom, dark cherry lurks there as well. Red fruit dominant on the palate, medium plus acidity, light old wood barrel notes, medium finish. Generally muted and closed. Maybe with a bit of time it will open a touch.
Grenache, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo 14.9% 15€
* 87