In Spanish, "Mago" translates to Magician, but the term is also used for the The Three Wisemen (Los Reyes Magos), so in this context I mean more Gandalf than David Copperfield.
Sebastien hails from Bordeaux, where his family has been making wine for hundreds of years. Lured by the climate, the lifestyle and his wife, he relocated to to Spain where he lives about 55km from Bodegas Sierra Salinas in a town by the sea. He has been there for ten years now and affirms his love of the climate as well as the lifestyle. His affinity for the Monastrell variety is something we can all enjoy in the delicious wines of both Sierra Salinas and Lavia. I fell under the enchantment of both the Bodegas Sierra Salinas and the Lavia wines, neither of which are available in California. Sigh.
During our trip to Spain, Sebastien was with us to explain wine making techniques and impart to us his passion for his wines. He is so enmeshed with the Monastrell variety that when a cache of very old Monastrell was found under the sea, Sebastien was one of the four people who got to taste it for sensory analysis. Does it age? It does!
I wanted to share some of the techniques, processes and facts that fascinated me about how those wonderful wines are conjured
|En vaso Monastrell|
|Floating Stainless seals|
Sebastien's words are seasoned with his native French. His stories are made more delightful by the passion in his demeanor and the hint of France in his accent. Nowhere was this more evident than in his wonderful explanation of his oak philosophy. He told us of French oaks of different forests and grains of wood. His preference is for Allier due to their fame for understanding and predicting.
|Five yrs of air drying|
French oak has different fiber so junctions need wedges to fit and reduces production rate, but yields a fine grain that is better for oxygenation and respects more the raw material. Sebastien prefers it because he detects more overt coconut and vanilla in American oak.
Sebastien includes barrels of several sizes in his spice rack. Bigger barrels are used for more fruity wines as less oak contact means less oxygenation. He explained to us that different barrels sizes occurred to accommodate the different bottle sizes historically in France, e.g. Burgundy vs. Bordeaux, etc.
Indicative of the fun we had on this trip, MGW Group director, Sergio Sachnovsky-Raevsky quipped, "And best of all with purchase of three hundred barrels, we got a wine maker for free!"
What a deal! El Mago de Monastrell not only gave us an amazing primer on his wines, but also a delicious luxury product hand crafted with love and harnessing nature to express terroir in a bottle. And when Sebastien says terroir, he not only means it, but pronounces it correctly.
For more information on the adventures of the #OleWinos and on the delights of the MGW Group's, check out posts from my fellow bloggers:
James, The Wine Guy
Many thanks to Kraynick and Assoc for a wonderful educational and delicious experience! And to Michael Matilla for being the host with the most