I’m never the one to give up the wine list to someone else at the table. In fact, when a date once offered to pick out the wine for a BYOB restaurant, I secretly brought along a backup bottle, hidden in my purse in case his selection was horrible. (It wasn’t, so we ended up drinking both.)
But sometimes, it’s good to have the wine selection taken out of your hands. By letting someone else pick out a bottle, you might just find a new favorite.
Such was the case several weeks ago during a casual winter dinner at Ortzi in midtown Manhattan, at which a group of friends and I decided to explore Basque cuisine and northern Spain’s diverse, interesting, and tasty wines. Huddled with Ortzi’s sommelier, the host skipped past the heavy hitters and landed on this odd and outrageously delicious red blend from coastal Rías Baixas: the Forjas del Salnés “Bastión de la Luna” 2013.
If you’ve never tasted a red Rías Baixas wine, there’s a good reason: 99 percent of all Rías Baixas wines are white, dominated by varietal Albariño bottles. While the region’s cool, wet climate, a result of its location nestled up against the Atlantic Ocean in northwest Spain, lends itself to acid-driven whites, there was a tradition of red winemaking around the 1900s. That’s why viticulturist Rodrigo Méndez, along with iconic winemaker and notorious rule breaker Raúl Perez, set out to fulfill Méndez’s grandfather’s dream of resurrecting the region’s classic red varieties. Today, the duo seeks out all of the oddities of the Rías Baixas region and its Val do Salnés subzone with the small Forjas del Salnés, including old vines, abandoned vines, coastal vineyards, and red grape varieties.
The Bastión de la Luna is a blend of old vine Caiño Tino, Espadeiro, and the white grape Loureiro, all in roughly equal parts. Granite-laden, sandy soils produce a lithe wine with soft, juicy red fruit and fine, subtle spice. Though refreshing, it isn’t tart or tangy, more like round, just-ripe cherries that shy away from sitting heavy on the palate. A solid core of dark rock pulls the wine together, with a clean, perfectly balanced finish.
It just goes to show: When the decision-making is taken out of your hands, the results can be fantastic.