An Italian And A Spaniard

Some wines make their appearance on shelves at Israeli wine stores and then disappear and never return, some never make it at all.

Altesino used to be imported by WineRoute (Derech Hayain) a few years ago and as far as I can tell they've stopped carrying them at all. I'm almost sure that the only vintage of the Quarto d'Altesi they ever brought was the 1999. The wine is not listed at the Altesino site, so maybe they just stopped making it.

I bought my one bottle at a tasting it four years ago, in the embryonic stages of my malady. Since my tastes have changed so much since those formative years, I was wary and suspicious of it and shared it with friends. Too bad, actually, because I could have gone through the entire bottle myself. It's a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I’ve grown used to super Tuscans being on the muscle bound side, but the Quarto d’Altesi seems very much dominated by Sangiovese acidity and succulence. I think the Merlot may have softened some of the Sangiovese's bitterness, though, fortunately without obscuring its Tuscan character.

After we were done, my friends opened a wine of their own, one that I'd recommended to them a couple of years ago, Bodegas Riojanas, Vina Albina Gran Reserva, 1994. From what I've read, Riojanas is a good, traditional Rioja producer, but only second tier. But I liked the wine two years ago, and I think any Rioja lover would have. It's got those savoury red fruits and leather and mildew and if you want a typical Rioja Gran Reserva for a wine class, this is it. Having just now read through the Riojanas web-site, I see that the Vina Albina is not even their top line and I'm curious what their Monte Real is like.

Unfortunately, my hosts' bottle was not as good as mine. The two years since I opened my own bottle plus bad storage conditions may have pushed it past its peak but its pedigree is still obvious. The nose has enough mature, albeit somewhat muted, Rioja aromas to tantalyze. As for the palate, thirty-some minutes after opening, its softening and fraying structure reveals its age.