Frontón de Oro Tinto 2013
Fruit-forward wines are a dime a dozen. Not literally, of course — that would actually be pretty cool, and I’d drink a lot more of them — but throughout my vinous voyage, they’ve been far and away the most common wines I’ve encountered, to the point that I’m getting a little sick of them. Certainly, there’s something to be said for the style; fruity wines pair well with a variety of foods in addition to being plenty pleasant on their own, so their popularity is far from surprising. But while such wines are undoubtedly crowd-pleasers, unlikely to stir up any controversy, they’re also sort of boring, and won’t be stirring up much passion either.
Enter the 2013 Tinto from the winery Frontón de Oro in Spain’s Canary Islands, a Listán Negro varietal I had the good fortune to taste recently at Tria (the Philly wine bar where I also found the Wildekrans Pinotage I wrote about previously). Listán Negro is widely grown in the Canaries, with vineyards taking advantage of their volcanic soil and high elevation. The grape is less commonly seen elsewhere in Spain, and I’m not sure if it’s grown anywhere at all outside the country, but it is worth noting that genetically, Listán Negro is identical to the Mission grape that was brought to North America in the 17th century. So we owe it a lot, even if we aren’t too familiar with it. And indeed, the most important thing about Listán Negro to me was precisely that I hadn’t heard of it before, making it the most appealing option on the menu by a considerable margin, expense be damned (it was $12 a glass, and I’m sort of poor).
A brilliant ruby color, the Tinto initially showed little in the way of fruit aromas, instead presenting black and bell peppers with a hint of smoke — so far, so good. I would say it reminded me of Carmenere, but there weren’t any of the chocolate or tobacco notes I’ve come to expect from that, so it wasn’t quite the same experience. Over time, some hints of pomegranate did begin to shine through, but it’s not as if I’m bored with all fruit notes in wine, just with wines that have nothing else to offer. So we’re cool.
Drinking the Listán Negro proved even more interesting than smelling it: although very dry, the wine didn’t strike me as particularly tannic. Medium-bodied and well-balanced, more notes of black and bell pepper led the charge (mostly black, although our server felt the opposite way), with increasing amounts of pomegranate as it breathed. The finish took its time, with notes of cedar and more black pepper. Sadly, I didn’t pick up on any canary notes, but there might have been a bit of goldfinch, or kestrel. All in all, a delightful glass of wine.
Alas, I can’t seem to find the 2013 vintage on the PLCB website, but they do have the 2011 available for special order at $20 per bottle, with a minimum order of 12 bottles. So basically, if you’re living in Pennsylvania, this wine may only available by the glass or the case. Not that I’d say no to a case of this stuff, but my bank account might (again, due to the poorness). In any case, if you find some single bottles for sale, let me know!