CARREFOUR & BODEGAS LA PURISIMA
A HYPER-TASTING IN TORREVIEJA
I first came across the huge Hypermarket chain, Carrefour, several years ago on the N332 near Benidorm when I was happy to be driving past a lengthy queue of cars slowly exiting the National Road to enter the equally huge, but nevertheless packed, car park alongside this phenomenal store.
Clearly here was a success story that needed investigating, from a wine viewpoint – did they have a wine department and how good was it?
It’s a good start when you find that such a large concern has a department devoted to wines and drinks. I guess it’s a little like that which exists in the UK, but perhaps (though I’ll investigate this further) on a lesser scale.
In the UK the likes of Tesco, Waitrose et al not only have wine departments but also specific wine buyers, some of whom are Masters of Wine (MW, the exalted top epithet awarded only to those with supreme knowledge and tasting ability after a lengthy and extremely demanding series of courses and exams). Some such departments also take advantage of wine consultants to assist in their buying forays and strategies.
Carrefour, I suspect is not this far advanced yet and maybe doesn’t want to go along that route anyway. From my point of view suffice to say that they do have ‘un responsable’, a department head for wines. Next, I took a look at the choice and the way they were displayed. There is a vast selection of wines including a section from the nearby area, a good sign of course. And the way the wine is stored? – well, in truth there is room for improvement here I think – maybe they need me?!
So when the triumvirate Carrefour’s wine department jefe, Fernando, Natalia, Export Director of Bodegas La Purisima and I met some months ago I was happy to be invited to present an in-store tasting in one of their largest hypermarkets, Torrevieja, not far from where I first lived in Spain. There followed further discussion by e-mail and phone and eventually in February we three met again, actually in thunder. lightening and rain – to quote a fellow writer(!).
There was a discount for people that day, but in fact Carrefour prices are good anyway and knowing as I do the excellent price/quality ratio of Bodegas La Purisima I was sure that patrons were in for some bargains. Indeed sales following the tasting proved that point rather nicely!
We first tasted their entry level white wine from the Estilo range. Made from Macabeo, it is a refreshing dry white wine with a touch of apple and maybe fresh pear-drop acidity too. Their rosado from the same range is made with the excellent local Monastrell grape variety and super-fruity Syrah and Tempranillo, it is quite dark coloured and full of raspberry fruit – a best seller on the day.
Their red Estilo Monastrell and Syrah, is a joven with some depth too. Dark fruits and undergrowth on the nose with some depth which means it will be fine for regular drinking as well as with meals. Calp is perhaps Carrefour’s best selling wine from La Purisima, it’s a blend of Tempranillo and Monastrell, again with good fruit and a rich finish.
Stepping up in price (but not much!) and quality we then moved onto the Iglesia Vieja range. The picture on the label is of the distinctive church in Yecla which gives its name to the wine. The crianza was first – a blend of Monastrell, Cabernet and Tempranillo with 12 months ageing in French and American Oak. This wine is for the dinner table. On it’s own it’s a touch robust, a style that many like in their wine, but when taken with food this is mellowed a little. It has a good fruit-laden finish.
The Iglesia Vieja Reserva is made from 50 year-old vines, Monastrell, Cabernet and Tempranillo. Grapes from elderly vines are often richer giving a lovely fruity feel to the wine (the texture of a wine is important in wine appreciation) – this reserva is no exception. A touch figgy with brambly fruits too there is also some cinnamon spice and a pleasing minerality.
Also available but not tasted this day are the lovely IV Selección and their top wine, surely one of the best examples of 100% Monastrell you can buy, Trapío.