Stage 11: Tarazona – Tarazona (Individual Time Trial)
Our Wine Choice: 2011 Bodegas Borsoa, Tres Picos Garnacha, Campo de Borja DO £14.95
Illuminating Inner Ring preview
The second half of the race begins today and it’s a pivotal time trial stage for the overall classification contenders. Often called the race of truth riders set out individually against the clock. A bad day here can result in minutes of time to try and regain later.
The clear favourite is German Tony Martin who dominates at this discipline though this is not his perfect course as it includes a 500m gain in elevation. The flip side is he gets to descent that as well so any losses will surely be obliterated on the return leg.
The start and finish town is Tarazona situated close to some of the best and least known wines in Spain. To the north west lies the Rioja region whose fame and fortune is evident to even the novice wine drinker. By contrast to the south east lies the far smaller enclave of Campo de Borja, an area that even the most dedicated amateur du vin might struggle to pin point.
While Rioja production is centered around the Tempranillo grape the warmer climate of Campo de Borja doesn’t suit it so the other great black grape of Spain comes to the fore; Garnacha (or Grenache if you are French).
A tricky grape to get great wine from Grenache has the ability to produce staggeringly high alcohol levels without balancing fruit, tannin or acidity. It’s very picky about where it grows too. But when the results are right it makes the most downright delicious, silky and echt wines of all.
Campo de Borja is parcellated in to many small holdings and, as a result, is dominated by co-opertive wineries. Borsao is a co-operative of around 800 growers who farm 1000 hectares. While co-ops have associations with mediocrity in many places Borsao have taken the route of quality first. And because of their size they can offer some stupendous value too.
Tres Picos is their top of the range red. It’s price is ludicrous given the quality of the wine inside. There’s lots of dark cherry, a whiff of liquorice and nutmeg along with some sort of salty, thyme-like essence too before it billows out in the mouth into a full frontal flavour attack shrouded in velvet tannins. Yes, the alcohol is a ‘proceed with caution’ 15% but that is merely a frame around which all the other elements hang themselves with aplomb. The bottom line is you don’t have to be rich or an expert to judge this wine; it wins every time a gutsy red is needed. Paired with a hearty Moroccan lamb shank stew you have a dream team for the table.