02 Sierra Cantabria, Rioja Crianza
Were it not for the year or two the Cantabria spends in oak to satisfy its Crianza labeling, this might have just been classified out to be "red wine" from "Europe." That age gives it just enough nuance to let us taste how good Cantabria can be--enough body to lift the ripe fruit out of the floods and turn, quite effectively, the murky Spanish waters into wine. With a gamey smell of well-seasoned, turned earth and budding tastes of blueberries and preciously pinot-kissed dried cherries, tar, tobacco, and maybe even a little plummy Belgian cocoa, there's enough to keep us going. But the wine just feels so... slow... tannins lumbering onto the palate, zipped like a tight fly by the tangy, bitter, lettuce-like acid. It's an erratic bottling that speaks to an erratic vintage in Rioja--one that saw both excessive rain and sun, and one that Cantabria tries hard to overcome.