Valduero Finca Azaya 2017 – A Wine Review

by artfuldiner on May 21, 2020

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Wine

Azaya 2017 ImageFinca Azaya is an estate bottled wine made from 100% Tempranillo grapes grown in the low-yield vineyards of Spain’s Bodegas Valduero, a family winery founded in 1984 by Gregorio Garcia Álvarez. It is the result of an environmentally friendly, handcrafted method of production, which avoids the use of chemicals and irrigation. The 2017 Azaya has spent 14 months in American & European oak, plus an additional 12 months aging in the bottle.

In the glass, the result is a wine that’s ruby red in color with captivatingly complex aromas of ripe fruit. It’s easy on the palate; rich, yet softly textured. There’s plenty of power here, but it’s kept in check with a beautiful balance of intrinsic fruit and profusion of fine tannins.

You would expect a wine of this caliber to receive high marks from the critics… From one source, however, the praise was entirely too effusive. At the 2019 Decanter magazine’s World Wine Awards, the 2017 Valduero Finca Azaya not only received 97 points (100-point scale) but was also declared one of the “Best in Show,” a distinction only awarded to 50 of the 16,500 wines tasted during the prestigious event.

With all due respect to the 280 distinguished judges from 30 different countries – including Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers – and recognizing that wine preferences are extremely subjective, as I mentioned at the outset, the 2017 Azaya is an excellent, highly enjoyable wine… but it is not, in my opinion, a 97 pointer.

When you move into the 95 – 100-point range, you’ve entered the sanctum sanctorum; your breathing (or you should be) the rarefied air of truly outstanding, classic wines… The 2017 Azaya is not a classic wine, by any stretch of the imagination. It is, however, an exceedingly comfortable wine; a wine I’d be happy to curl up with as my “go to” libation on a daily basis; a wine that complements and holds its own with a wide variety of foods. By the way, if you happen to check online, with the exception of Decanter, the wine in question is rated in the 89 – 91-point range. And that seems to me to be right on target.

Suckling, James, Wine CriticThis episode with Decanter strikes me as yet another example of the recent tendency on the part of writers and critics to seriously overrate wines. And there is no doubt that the chief perpetuator of this inflation is James Suckling, late of the Wine Spectator, now an independent wine critic. Mr. Suckling has parked himself at the high end of the oenological Richer scale and seems content to remain there. Just last year, for example, he bestowed a whopping 99 points on a particular Italian white wine that was, in my opinion, not even close to that lofty appraisal.

And I’m certainly not the only one who has noticed this unfortunate trend. A couple of years ago, for example, a contributor to Wine Berserkers, the world’s largest & most active online wine community, posed a rather interesting question: “Are you getting irritated by James Suckling’s scores?”  The implication being that they were entirely too high.

The responses were equally intriguing… Several responders simply said they ignored his scores and recommendations completely… Another referred to him as the persona non grata of wine critics… Others noted that, on average, Suckling’s scores were four to six points higher than they would have bestowed. The major bone of contention, however, seemed to be the fact that many retailers use his scores exclusively, even though particular wines have been judged (with lower scores) by a number of other reviewers… And therein lies the real annoyance, as one responder put it. Points sell and the Suckling sells points. His scores get top billing because they are always highest. The higher the point score, the faster the wine sells. “Thus, many retailers use (Suckling) for their daily email blasts.”

I, personally, have learned from bitter experience never to accept the Suckling’s scores at face value. In other words, I would never consider purchasing a wine based upon his rating alone – no matter how high it may be. As a matter of course, I start out by mentally deducting 5-6 points from his score… Then, if a wine looks interesting, other critics have given favorable reviews, and the price is right, I might decide to give it a try. Other than that, forget it. He simply isn’t reliable.

Wine Library, Springfield, NJBut I digress… Back to the subject at hand. The 2017 Valduero Finca Azaya may be overrated at 97 points; it is, however, fortunately for us, still a very good wine, a very comfortable wine… and, in this surrealistic time of “social distancing,” a very comforting wine. It’s also young, exciting, lively, and downright sensual. If you’re a red wine lover, this is a vintage that’s easy to cozy up to, a wine that’s perfect for everyday quaffing or that special occasion – especially at such a reasonable price point. Order the 2017 Azaya, as I did, from the Wine Library in Springfield, New Jersey, https://winelibrary.com/, and it will only cost you $19.99 per bottle (plus shipping).  I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Cheers!

Be Safe

TAD

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