Sunday, November 15, 2009

2004 Oriel Setena Terra Alta Red

Terry Post:

Perhaps I am a little jaded in favor of Oriel as I really like the basic idea behind the négociant brand created by entrepreneur John Hunt: "Rock Star" wine makers hand-craft small-batch wines with grapes from some of the world's most interesting wine regions.

Oriel’s is a different way for doing business as the majority of premium wine makers control the entire wine making process from owning the land upon which the grapes are grow, to crushing, blending, aging and (in some instances) distribution. In the U.S. this sort of closely-controlled arrangement is the norm for premium wines.

In France things are a little different with négociants having a well-established and well-appreciated place in the wine business. A négociant is a trader which buys wine products (from grapes to wine) and places his name on those products. Until quite recently négociants were the most common brands and the most common way for wine to reach the French retail market. Wikipedia has a nice write up on négociants here.

The important difference with the Oriel brand is that they employ well-respected wine makers who have made their mark with other premium brands to make their wine. The 2004 Oriel Setena Red's wine maker is Xavier Clua - a fourth generation winemaker. Clua is the current winemaker for Celler Xavier Clua which specializes in wines from the Terra Alta region of Spain. The Setena is a blend sourced from Terra Alta.

My impressions: Setena is a full-bodied, richly colored red wine with ripe cherries and spicebox on the nose. Plums and spice on the finish with moderate tannins. My immediate impression was that I was tasting a Châteauneuf du Pape with softer, more rounded edges. This shouldn't be too surprising as Setena is 40% Grenach – the workhorse grape of a Châteauneuf. The wine is more tannic, and less rustic, that you'd find with the typical Châteauneuf, and I think this is a likely positive outcome resulting from the 20% Cabernet Sauvignon used in the Red's blend.

This wine is engineered to be paired with foods of intense flavor such as bison, venison and rack of lamb. It would also pair very nicely with a dry-rubbed beef roast. Two summers ago I had a morel mushroom bisque served over foie gras at Citronelle in Washington, D.C. - This wine would have paired very well with that intense, flavorful bisque.

You can find Setena for about $18 (750 mL bottle) at retail and at that price it is a very good value and worthy of your consideration.

~ Terry

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