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What our expert thought of Mas Candi, Les Forques

about this wine About this wine
This Spanish red is from Penedès on Spain’s north-east coast, just south-west of Barcelona. Penedès is probably best known as the home of the sparkling wine Cava, but it’s also noted for producing Spain’s best Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cabernet was first introduced into Spain by the Rioja bodega Marqués de Riscal in the 19th Century, but it remained a minor component of the blend and its use didn’t spread to other producers. In 1966 Miguel Torres planted the second Cabernet vineyard in Penedès (Jean León, now owned by Torres, beat them to it by three years) and four years later Bodegas Torres made the first Gran Coronas ‘Black Label’ Reserva from it.
That wine, today called Mas la Plana after the name of the vineyard, is what really put Spanish Cabernet on the map. In 1979 French food and wine magazine Gault-Millau organised a Wine Olympics in Paris, with a team of world experts tasting all the wines blind. That inaugural vintage of Black Label triumphed over the best that Bordeaux and the world had to offer, including the legendary 1970 Chateau Latour.
The Cabernet in this wine comes from the Mas d’en Tort vineyard near Torrelavit, which was planted in 1983 in the wake of that sensational victory. Cabernet is now the fourth most common black grape in Spain, but it was still a rarity when Mas d’en Tort was planted.
Unlike Mas la Plana, this isn’t a pure varietal Cabernet. Producers Mas Candi specialise in reviving old Catalan varieties, and around 30% of the grapes used come from Les Forques, a separate half-hectare vineyard planted with an eclectic mix of local and not-quite-so-local grapes: Cannonau, Mandó, Monica, Sumoll and Roigenc.
Cannonau is the Sardinian version of Garnatxa (Grenache); opinions are divided on whether the grape originated in Catalonia and was taken in the Middle Ages to Sardinia, or the other way around. Monica is another Sardinian grape; this one definitely did start out in Spain but is virtually extinct there now. Sumoll is local to Penedès but rare these days, while the even rarer Mandó hails from Valencia further down the Catalonian coast. Roigenc is so obscure I can’t find out anything about it.
All Mas Candi’s vineyards are certified organic and they aim for minimal intervention in the winery. The hand-picked grapes for this wine were fermented in stainless steel tanks, then aged on their fine lees for a year in smallish 300 litre French oak barrels, before being bottled without fining or filtration.
the tasting The Tasting
This is so dark it’s practically opaque. I can only see red at the rim and in the stain it leaves on the sides of the glass; the centre is inky black.
It has that hot-climate Cabernet nose: rich black fruits with more blackberries than blackcurrants, so that it smells a bit like a Shiraz. But there are more resiny herbs here (eucalyptus, even tea) and herbaceousness (green pepper) than a Shiraz would have. It smells concentrated - and alcoholic.
There’s some well-integrated smoky oak from those French barrels, smelling of charred wood rather than the vanilla that American oak would impart.
This is dry and full-bodied - I can feel the warmth of the 14.5% alcohol. There’s a real weight of sweet black fruits (blackberry, black cherry). It’s so smooth that it’s positively plush.
Medium+ but velvety ripe tannins show up on the long spicy finish, as does a savoury - and very Spanish - note of marinated black olives.
This is a real crowd-pleaser of a red, with impressive concentration allied with excellent balance, leading to dangerous drinkability.
It reminds me of a high-end Napa Valley Cabernet from California but with a distinctly Spanish twist from those local varieties in the blend. You’d also need to pay £10 more for this sort of quality from the Napa.

Tasting notes

clear very deep ruby - almost opaque

Intensity medium+

Aromas black fruits (blackberry, blackcurrant), eucalypus, tea, green peppers, charred wood

Development developing

Sweetness dry

Acidity medium

Body full - 14.5%

Tannins medium+ but velvety

Intensity pronounced

Flavours rich black fruits (blackberry, black cherry), herbs, dark chocolate, alcoholic warmth

Length long

Flavours spicy, hint of marinated black olives
Other notes
excellent balance, very smooth despite concentration & tannins

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