Particularly Pretty: Prieto Picudo 02/25/12
Those of you familiar with my Twitter account, blog, or drinking habits in general are probably aware that I’m no stranger to uncommon grape varieties. It’s true that my fixation is at least in part a reflection of my tendency to go against whatever is popular, but that alone would not have been enough to sustain my interest for very long. No, there’s something else in play here: that mysterious, irresistible allure of the unknown.
As eager as I am to try 100 grapes and claim membership in the Wine Century Club, it is a quest for quality, not quantity that drives me to search continually for new ones. I don’t write about every underrepresented grape I sample – indeed, some have been rather disappointing, making it plainly obvious to me why they aren’t more popular.
But every so often, a grape comes along that reminds me why I joined the Twitter #Bteam to begin with: to seek out grapes that deserve more attention, and then to do my humble part to spread the word. And while Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir still dominate my tag cloud (for a number of reasons wholly beyond my control), Aglianico, Carmenere and Mencia are putting up a more than noble fight for the limelight.
Today I come before you with another delicious discovery: Prieto Picudo, a grape which not at all surprisingly grows in at least one of the same places Mencia does: Bierzo! You may also know Bierzo as my absolute favorite wine region in northwestern Spain (or indeed, all of Spain). This one didn’t come from Bierzo, but it did come from Leon, in which Bierzo is situated – close enough. I will, however, preface my review with the disclaimer that your mileage with this grape may vary, as the bottle I purchased was rather more expensive than the wines I usually drink, at $37. And indeed, some people seem not to like Prieto Picudo very much at all, so who knows? Maybe I just got lucky.
According to @evilbottle, one of the #Bteam’s most valued members, Prieto Picudo translates to “dark and pointy,” but most sources I went on to find (read: Google) seem to prefer “tight and pointy.” Turning to my webmaster for advice (he isn’t Spanish but he speaks Spanish), I learned that Prieto Picudo actually translates differently depending on the dialect in play. So while the translation in Spain would be the ubiquitous “tight and pointy,” in Mexico the words are more likely to suggest a wine that’s “dark and tricky” – a fine way to encapsulate the grape’s etymology, if nothing else.
But my first Prieto Picudo came from Spain, so let’s get to the point, shall we? The Dominio Dostares Cumal 2005, 100% tight and pointy, didn’t come cheap – as I mentioned, it was $37. But it was Valentine’s Day, an occasion on which it is only customary to spend a lot of money on one’s date. This is, of course, doubly true if you plan on drinking that date.
In the glass, this poured a deep, dark crimson, with slight, light orange/brown tones around the rim – about right for a 7-year-old wine. The nose, however, is what won me over, with powerful aromas of blueberry, cocoa powder, and graphite (for reference, more graphite than this Mencia, but less than these Mencias). In addition, there was another, mysterious note that try as I might, I just couldn’t identify. It might have been some sort of berry, or flower, or even a spice – at times I could swear I smelled cumin on this one. Perhaps the palate would impart an explanation.
The palate, as it turned out, didn’t clarify much that I needed clarified. Medium-bodied, the wine was excellently balanced, and the tannins were strong enough to hint at a few more years of potential life in this one…if you’re into that whole “waiting” thing. As far as flavors go, it displayed similar blueberry, chocolate and graphite to the nose, along with that same unidentifiable enigma note. By way of guessing, and because of its vague similarity to blueberry, I’ve decided that there’s an off-chance the mystery flavor might have been crowberry – they kind of look like blueberries, you see, so I’m assuming they taste a little like them too.
To summarize: Cumal was fantastic, earning thumbs up.
Were I a richer man I’d buy some more of this wine, to continue my investigation. But perhaps I’ll simply need to stick to less expensive Prieto Picudo for now…
Oh, and if anyone can offer some more insight into either the linguistic dilemma of Prieto Picudo – namely, that there is more than one correct translation – or the mystery flavor, I’d love to hear from you.