I recently enjoyed a trip to the Raimat wineries in Catalonia in Spain’s northeast.
May I suggest that you read this column over a glass of Raimat chardonnay, abadia, cabernet sauvignon or tempranillo, four of the magnificent wines produced by Raimat. Tempranillo is an indigenous grape, as are macabeo, xerello and parallabe — three others grown by Raimat. In Japan, Raimat wines and others produced by Codorniu, the great cava maker, are imported by Mercian.
With its honeylike aroma and bitter richness, Raimat chardonnay is a marvelous mouthful of wine: 100 percent chardonnay. Raimat cabernet sauvignon contains 10 percent merlot, and is cedary on the nose and on the palate, with satisfying ripe plum and blackberry fruit flavors. (In Spain a wine may bear a varietal label — i.e., one grape’s name — if it contains at least 85 percent of that grape and not more than one other grape.)
Raimat tempranillo contains only the tempranillo grape, now becoming very popular in Japan. Raimat’s is a beauty: black pepper and cedar on the nose, with hints of coffee and licorice on the palate.
Raimat abadia is a cherry-red blend of cabernet sauvignon (69 percent), merlot (16 percent), tempranillo (10 percent) and pinot noir (5 percent). I find this wine quite fascinating: powerful to the nose, with plum and tobacco prominent and hints of pepper and cocoa.
That Raimat became the highly regarded winery it is today is all the more remarkable when one considers its unusual origins. Imagine a 3,200-hectare expanse of desert, totally barren, save for a castle and a lone tree beside it on a rise overlooking the defiantly plain tract of land. The fact that this could blossom forth into verdant vineyards producing flavor-rich fruit for world-class wines is indeed remarkable and a tribute to Raimat’s pioneering spirit.
Raimat is the first company to use a satellite to find deficits in the soil. How much sun is reflected on the soil is measured by infrared and ultra-violet sensors on the satellite. Maps indicate the deficits. Raimat notes that in the 1950s it already had a meteorological station of its own, 20 years before the government had one in operation.
Tokyo has a growing number of wine bars. To find the good ones, I recommend the “Wine Bar Guide” (1,050 yen, published annually by Tobitori Shuppan) even if you don’t read Japanese.
Each entry in the 163-page guide includes a color photo of the establishment’s interior, telephone number, a full description, list of cards accepted, prices and a map with directions in Japanese — just what you need for taxi drivers and police boxes.