We were recently invited to attend a fun, casual tapas and wine pairing event dedicated to Spanish winemaker Raul Acha’s Bodega Matsu, with signature tapas from local Spanish favourite La Paloma. Unlike the typical formal wine tasting, we enjoyed a wonderfully intimate food and wine pairing with a Latin twist, complete with La Paloma's signature dishes including Ibérico ham pintxos, creamy, rich squid-ink croquettes, Waygyu beef with foie gras – all topped off with heaping servings of a wonderfully satisfying paella with Ibérico pork and mushroom. Accompanying the yummy sampling of tapas was the equally delectable trilogy of Matsu wines featuring El Pícaro, El Recio and El Viejo, all from Acha’s family vineyard in the Toro region.
Between bites of La Paloma’s signature 'sexy' tapas and sips of Acha's Matsu El Pícaro Tempranillo, we were lucky enough to speak to the self-described winegrower in Hong Kong for the first time. Below are a few notes from our chat with Raul on what inspired the Matsu collection, his philosophy for winemaking and his insights on Spain’s best well-kept secret when it comes to wine.
What was the inspiration behind the Matsu collection?
Matsu in Japanese means 'wait' and respect for nature – knowing when to wait for the ideal moment and the regard for people who have devoted their life to the vineyard and making wines are the ideas that have inspired this collection. The labels pay homage to the three generations of winegrowers who have provided their youth, maturity and wisdom in different moments of life.
What is unique about the Matsu trilogy of wines?
Toro is a small region in the north-west of Spain, and the estates for the three wines are very close to one another. The flavour profile is more continental, due to the soil being very poor, and the yield is low. We use only a selection of 90–120-year-old vines with the goal of perfection – with El Viejo being bottled only with what we have classified as exceptional vintages (no 2007 or 2013 vintages were produced). We wanted to use the same grape grown in different estates, and our philosophy was to choose only the best vineyards in Toro, so we looked for vines planted in the 19th century for El Viejo – in fact, the first planting for the vineyards used to produce the grapes for El Recio and El Viejo was in 1880.
You refer to the vineyard as the main source of quality for wine. Explain your philosophy for grape growing and how Spanish varietals flourish from the grapes grown in the region.
The principle idea is to be very traditional, natural, respectful in the vineyard, making wine like my grandfather did many generations ago. Yet we’re still innovative when it comes to presentation of our wines and think a lot about a wine before it gets to the market. We don’t want our labels to tell the whole story as we think the wines should stand on their own. We have a very good balance of alcohol and acidity; our wines are fresh, silky and nice to drink. That’s what’s nice about our wines – the personality, showing how we work in a natural way in the winery and the vineyards.
What's your philosophy to enjoying wine?
What we think is important is to travel to different geographies by having a glass of wine in your hand and experience other regions and grapes. You don’t need photographs as you can taste the wine and imagine the different landscapes – the soil, climate – and when you drink that wine, you can remember and imagine that area. It’s like a small way of travelling the world when you have a glass in your hand.
Lasting impression of your wines?
It should always be enjoyable – meaning a good balance when you look at the empty bottle and you should feel good about it. Also that it was natural and you enjoyed the presentation.
Our tasting notes:
- Matsu El Pícaro 2015 (100% Tinta de Toro) – the youngest generation of the trilogy; characteristics of a 'strong young man, valiant, impertinent and uncontrollable', according to the official tasting notes. We tasted fresh flavours with liquorice undertones, blueberries with an intense nose. Overall a bit too young and could use more time in the bottle; will be interesting to taste in another 3–5 years. $92.
- Matsu El Recio 2013 (100% Tinta de Toro) – smooth and full-bodied yet easy to drink, round and silky; chocolate balanced by vanilla at the end with black fruits. It’s our winner of the three and the best value for money of the trio at $156 a bottle – one would be hard-pressed to find a similarly sophisticated big wine such as a Bordeaux or Barolo at the same price in Hong Kong. For those who are interested, the Matsu El Recio undergoes malolactic fermentation and ageing in second-fill French oak barrels (versus the El Pícaro, which is fermented in concrete vats).
- Matsu El Viejo 2012 (100% Tinta de Toro) – bright, sweet and spicy with cherry notes, each sip is a different part of a complex journey. Does not need food to pair. El Viejo undergoes malolactic fermentation and ageing in first-fill French oak barrels, made from vines that are now over 120 years old. The wine is only made in exceptional vintages (no 2007 or 2013 vintages were produced). $346.
You can find Matsu wines on the list at La Paloma – or order directly from Kedington Wines in Sheung Wan (contact Leigh-Ann Luckett). A big thanks to Kedington for the invitation and the team at La Paloma for the wonderful food and company.