Another Spanish Bargain: Yonna 2003

borjaVintage close-outs are a tricky thing. They can be an amazing bargain, or a waste of time and money (my time, and my customers’ money).

So I flinched when I heard, “Down from $25.99 to the amazing low price of $12.99!! But wait! There’s more!!” Well, he didn’t say it quite like that, but I always think of late-night infomercial hucksters when I hear about deals that seem too good to be true.

So was this deal a bargain, or a bust?

The wine I’m talking about is Bodegas San Juan Bautista Yonna 2003. It’s from Spain, known for long-lived reds from the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions. But this wine is from Campo de Borja, a relatively new wine producing area in Aragon province in northern Spain. I say “relatively new” because grapes have been grown there since Roman warriors marched across the Iberian Peninsula, scattering grape seeds and offspring along the way.

Up in Zaragoza (the much-more-romantic Spanish name for the region), the winters are cold and the summers are warm and dry. There’s a large Diurnal Temperature Shift, and if you’ve been reading my blog you know that’s techie talk for “Large Difference Between Daytime and Nighttime Temperatures.” This is a good thing because it helps create structure in the grapes, and contributes to the intensity of the flavors.

Yonna 2003 is a blend of several grapes common to Campo de Borja:¬† Garnacha, Tempranillo and Syrah. But these aren’t from just any vines: the Garnacha comes from 110-year-old vines and the Tempranillo from 40-year-olds. Those old vines reach deep into the earth and bring up complex flavors, and less vigorous, lower yields usually produce more intensity in the fruit. Yonna was also aged in 100% new oak barrels — that means that the influence of the oak should be more pronounced, maybe giving lots of spice and vanilla to the wine. Finally, it was bottled unfined and unfiltered, which means all the natural sediment¬† was left in the wine, again lending more depth and richness (one winemaker told me that filtering a wine is like making a stew and then taking out all the bits of meat and vegetables).

So what’s the verdict on Yonna 2003? It’s a Thumbs Up, for sure. The nose right off the bat was gentle and warm, with caramel, raisin, plum and spice. Little notes of the now-old wood crept in, giving it that “Hey, I’m an older wine” scent.

The palate was as soft as you’d expect, with very evolved tannins and sweet baked fruit flavors. There were raisins and plums there, but subdued and softened by the wood and age. The finish was velvety, with some sweet and smoky notes.

Not bad for half price. If you find any Yonna 2003, or better yet the Yonna 2005 from that spectacular vintage, be sure to grab some. Drink it now, and enjoy your bargain. Cheers!

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