I buy wine in a number of different places – very nice wine merchants, small specialist importers, and cellar doors. Every now and again though I pop into one of the big box retailers, and typically it’s because I’m after something that I know the others don’t stock. On the last such visit, I was after a Pinotage (which I’ll review after I get around to drinking it), which is nigh impossible to find at my regular suppliers. While I was there, I came across this bottle of Bodegas Borsao Macabeo 2009.
There are two reasons I couldn’t resist this wine, and the first is the obvious one – it’s a Macabeo, which I have not has as a varietal wine for the purposes of my century. (The second reason at the end.)
I have had Macabeo before, and if you’ve ever drunk Cava, there’s a pretty good chance you have as well. It’s the most widely planted white grape of northern Spain, though known as Viura in Rioja, and possibly in Rudea based on how it was represented in the Basa I had in February. It buds late, which means it is less prone to frost damage, though it can overproduce with large berries without a great deal of flavour. Early picking can counter big, bland grapes, though at the risk of not having aromatic ripeness. Within Rioja it is used to make both varietal wines and blends with the traditional Garnacha Blanc and Malvasia, Maturana Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco (new one for me), and Turruntés, and the international Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. In the sparkling wine Cava it is blended with Xarel-lo and Parellada, as well as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
If another grape toward my century wasn’t enough, this wine comes from a region, a DO in fact, that is new to me, Campo de Borja. It’s in the Aragón province, due south of Navarra, and therefore somewhat southeast of Rioja. The climate is arid continental, though with a cold winter wind from the Atlantic known locally as cierzo. The soil is limestone and clay with a significant iron component. The geography is dominated by the mountain massif Moncayo, and vineyards occupy heights between 350 and 750 metres. Garnacha constitutes more than half of plantings, with Tempranillo, Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot rounding out the top five grapes. Macabeo is the most popular white variety, with much smaller portions of Moscatel and Chardonnay being the other whites grown.
Bodegas Borsao traces its origins back to 1958 when the Cooperative of Borja was founded. In 2001 it combined with the cooperatives of Pozuelo and Tabuenca, utilizing the resources of all three under a single brand. Their constituents number 620 growers across 2,430 HA. As you would expect for the region, Garnacha constitutes the bulk of their production – 70% – with a number of other permitted reds making up most of the remainder. Macabeo comprises just a tiny sliver of production with 40 HA planted. Their winery is extremely modern, and their wines produced with the export market in mind.
In the glass this wine is clear and bright, with a pale lemon green colour and quick, thin legs when swirled. On the nose it’s clean and developing with medium minus intensity, and notes of candied pear, quince and lemon-lime. On the palate it’s dry with medium acidity, medium minus flavour intensity, medium minus body, and medium minus alcohol. It tastes of a lime drink that has a bit too much water and not enough lime. There’s a little of the quince and pear from the nose, along with a savoury, almost salty flavour that I can’t quite place, but it’s all a bit feint. It has a short length with a Gatorade finish.
This is an acceptable wine. The flavours were restrained, to use polite phrasing, and the texture was very watery. The flavours were marginally complex, but it did not linger on the palate. However, when served cold it was refreshing, and it was certainly not unpleasant. Faced with a choice of drinking nothing (or worse, water) or drinking this wine, I was happy to drink this wine. Given another option, I likely would have taken it, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with this wine in terms of faults or unpleasantness, therefore I stand by the acceptable assessment.
However, this brings me to the second reaons I had to buy this wine. This is the least expensive wine I have ever bought, with or without a label. I don’t normally have much to say about the price of the wines I review, but this one cost less than $5.00 Australian. For a fiver if it was bad I could tip it out after making a note and move on to something else. But it wasn’t bad – it was just fine, and given that it cost next to nothing, I have no complaints. In fact, if there’s a newer vintage when the weather heats up down here I’ll likely buy it again (provided I’m through with this 100 varietals quest).