The third of the wines – all from the very top drawer – of a really memorable lunch at Alabaster recently this is something unique and special indeed.
The name “raya” refers to the old categories given to wine – whereas the finest wines were “palmas” destined to become finos, the rayas were heavier wines, over rich, that would be sent down a different path. This one is not a raya by chance: it is from fruit that was harvested from the el Corregidor vineyard in the very last of their many passes. A late harvest palomino, you might say.
The first time I tried it I must admit I struggled to understand it – the nose is sweet and rich, really in the style of a Riesling almost, while the palate is solid, dry and grapefruit bitter. In isolation I found it a strange combination.
The next time I had it was not in isolation: a fantastic tasting of the Barajuela project wines in Taberna Palo Cortado. On that occasion, coming hot on the heels of the epic oloroso, the richness and extremes of this wine seemed to make much more sense.
This time the context was provided by some fantastic pairings: a terrific red scorpionfish and a meaty, flavorful horse mackerel. The two dishes really complemented the wine, or vice versa: the sweetness of the nose with the scorpionfish and the bitterness and salinity with the horse mackerel.
A couple of things were very noticeable: first that the bitterness here was the grapefruit, baked orange bitterness of the fruit, not the burnt almond, woody bitterness I associate with process. The other was the utter contrast in profile with the fino. While the fino’s zing and salinity lets it slip in and out without a ripple, here the flavours are massive from the first sip to the long, long tail. On that finish the salinity is there but so is that over-ripe fruit – a long, long, long finish of fruit rather than just salt and spices.
And the potency – I was dragging this out but was still amazed at the intensity that made the tiniest sip enough.
It is probably my third favourite of the wines from this awesome little plot, but it is still a brilliant wine in its own right and fantastic with a strongly flavoured meat or fish dish like these.