2015 Panama City Wine Tastings

By: M. Stefan Several of the importers/distributors of wine, beer and spirits in Panama hold annual tasting events to introduce their products to the public. Recently, my wife Jackie and I attended 2 such gatherings:

El Mondo en una Copa organized by Varella Hermanos at Hotel Riu in July and Beer & Wine Festival 2015 Panama held in August at the Hilton, organized by Medimex and others.

The next big tasting event, with 60 vendors representing 8 different countries, will also be at the Hotel Riu, on October 15 and 16, from 4-9pm. Felipe Motta Wine Stores’ Gran Feria de Vinos is usually the biggest and offers the largest selection of products for sampling and purchase. The cost is $30 presale or $40 at the door. Often there is a sizable contingent attending from the beaches.
Having organized, attended and worked countless wine tastings over the years, I have developed a successful strategy to be able to effectively taste, remember and interact with the winery representatives.

1st, get there when the doors open.  If you really care about being able to taste properly, this is essential.  After an hour or two, the room is very crowded, noisy and becomes a party.  Nothing wrong with a party, but that’s not the most efficient use of time or space for tasting. 2nd, get the booklet listing all the wines etc. being offered at each table.  Quickly read through the offerings and mentally make some notes of your priorities.  Do you only want to taste reds, whites, chardonnays? Spain, Argentina, Chile? Trust me, you won’t be able to sample everything.  Which brings me to my own personal #3.  Professionals taste and spit wine.  It is the only way to properly evaluate and make notes on numerous wines. Now, I have noticed that Jackie and I are usually the only ones there spitting.  That’s fine.  But if you swallow everything you sample and try to sample everything, you won’t make it past a couple of tables!

Also, a pet peeve: please refrain from wearing any fragrances. You may not be able to smell it, but believe me, it interferes with tasting.

Now, on to my report of the highlight wines from the 2 tastings, organized by country.

2011 Finca Sophenia Reserva Malbec, $11.00
Very full bodied, dark with tons of fruit.  Needs some more time.  Good value. BEST BUY

2012 De Martino Las Cruces Malbec – Carmenere, $19.00
Organically grown. Very nice balance.  The malbec and carmenere complement each other nicely. A bit of a different blend.

2012 Beni di Batasiolo Gavi di Gavi, $13.00
Very dry but rich.  Good example of this white wine which you don’t see much anymore.

2010 Juve & Camps Reserva la Familia Brut Natural, $18.00
Lovely, very dry organic sparkling (cava) wine. If you like it quite dry, this is for you.  Excellent value for the quality. BEST BUY

2010 El Cota de Rioja Coto Real, $25.00
Very complex wine, nicely balanced with big flavors.

2014 Ramon Bilbao Valinas Albarino, $10.00
Excellent white. Dry with lovely fruit and earth tones. Tremendous value. BEST BUY

2001 Resalte de Penafiel Gran Resalte, $75.00
Amazing wine with everything you can hope for.  Complex, evolving in the glass into tar, earth, tannins and other flavors. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

2012 Pago los Balancines Chardonnay, $22.00
Very European style of chardonnay.  Not real oaky like California.  Balanced with good fruit and crispness.  Excellent food wine.

2010 Pago los Balancines Huno Crianza, $19.00
Another excellent wine from this producer.  Blend of garnacha tintorera, cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo and syrah. Chocolate, tannin, cooked fruit and berries.
Pago los Capellanes
I was very impressed with everything I tasted from this producer.  From their least expensive offering to their most expensive, everything spoke to me.  The lower cost wines show clean winemaking, yet with complex flavors and quality.  Their most expensive wine, El Picon was simply tremendous, bordering on greatness.

2013 Pago los Capellanes Roble, $15.00
Fresh fruit, vibrant and bright flavors.  Complex

2010 Pago de los Capellanes Crianza, $26.00
Big style. Complex like a good cabernet. Berries, spice, vanilla and more.

2011 Pago de los Capellanes Reserva, $42.00
Complex, medium body.  Good color with earth, fruit and tannin.

2010 Pago de los Capellanes Nogal, $58.00
Medium body, showing oak and fruit.  Complex.

2009 Pago de los Capellanes Picon, $175.00
Only 2000 bottles made.  Nose is clean and lovely with hints of plums, chocolate, anise and vanilla. Full body with chocolate, cherries, earth and licorice flavors.  Continued to evolve and change in the glass.  Very long finish. Best wine of the 2 tastings! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Segura Viudas
Always one of my favorite lesser known Spanish cavas, offering great bang for the buck.  Made by Freixenet (the black bottle people).
Segura Viudas Lavit Brut, $10.00
Very fresh and light.  Refreshing, tiny bubbles.  BEST BUY

Segura Viudas Brut Rose’, $10.00
Fresh strawberries.  Light pink.  Dry. BEST BUY

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, $10.00 BEST BUY
Dry, fresh, fuller flavors.

Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad, $23.00 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Excellent, full flavored and dry.  Nearly a good as French Champagne and a fraction the cost!

M. Stefan has over 20 years experience in the wine trade and has traveled extensively throughout the wine producing regions of the world.  His column is a regular feature of La Playa Community.  He can be reached at mark@playacommunity.com and appreciates your comments.