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Barahonda Wines paired with Musical Dinner!

Over the years I’ve done my best to promote the wines of the whole of Spain, including DOP Yecla, of course, and the comments I receive suggest that English speaking ex-pats (i.e. Cork Talk readers, but not only the British) respond each week, tasting wines of great variety.

MUSICAL DINNER WITH PAIRED WINES

 

Spain has an official population of just under 46·5 million people and an annual Yecla production of just over 6·5 million litres, only 5% of which is sold in Spain. This equates to 14cl of wine per person, per year, approximately one fifth of a bottle! Why?

 

Well it’s a long story which, unfortunately, ends with the parochial nature of the Spanish, those outside of the wine cognoscenti. Bottom line – most Spanish people drink the wine from their area, almost exclusively, occasionally buying from the more famous areas, like Rioja and Ribera del Duero.  But what a shame, if only they knew!

 

Over the years I’ve done my best to promote the wines of the whole of Spain, including DOP Yecla, of course, and the comments I receive suggest that English speaking ex-pats (i.e. Cork Talk readers, but not only the British) respond each week, tasting wines of great variety.

 

We were doing some delicious promotion of DOP Yecla wines recently and to be more specific, four of the super portfolio of those from Bodegas Barahonda (www.barahonda.com/en/) , one of the leading bodegas in the area.

 

When in Yecla a few months ago I was speaking with Señor Antonio Candela, current incumbent and fourth generation of the Candela wine dynasty. Their wine business was started in the 19th Century, making bulk wines for thirsty travellers, and for the local population. The original bodega, which I’ve visited, is still in production today. However, their bottled, quality, and indeed top quality wine is made at their state-of-the-art and stunningly beautiful Bodegas Señorio de Barahonda, complete with an excellent gourmet restaurant atop, and surrounded by vines.

 

Señor Candela was keen to be a part of the Musical Dinner with Paired wines that we were holding at Moraira’s exemplary Restaurante Ca La Ai Ai (www.calaiaia.com/en/). Let’s face it, it’s a perfect fit – excellent cuisine, really fine wines and Classical Music, Popular Opera and hits from the shows all performed with such aplomb by Claire-Marie (www.clairemarie.es).

Had we been tasting wines without the food, the order that I decided upon wouldn’t have been strictly correct – we tasted Barahonda Rosado Monastrell 2016 first, followed by Barahonda Blanco Verdejo 2016. Usually, the white would come before the rosé. However, as this was a pairing event, with the food we were eating changing our perceptions of the wine, it didn’t matter. The point was, how well did the one complement the other!

Barahonda’s rosado is quite pale, not quite the extremely pale, Provencal style that seems to be all the rage these days, but not many shades darker. I felt that it matched the colour of the very good quality Serrano with which it was served, along with lovely bread and excellent Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The flavours of each blended well on the palate and I thought the pairing worked quite well.

 

For some, this rosado wasn’t their preferred style and that therefore out of the four, they’d marked it just outside the medals! I liked it and for just 5€ a bottle, it takes some beating. However, we all have different tastes and preferences – so nobody is wrong, and nobody is right!

 

I spared my audience a repeat of the story of how Verdejo became the household name that it is now – I’ve often used examples of this fruit driven wine, originally from Rueda and so many had heard it before. However I did point out that here we were tasting a Verdejo, not from its native Rueda, but far further south in Yecla. And, as a further example of how popular Verdejo based wines have become, I did say that it was one of the recently newly permitted varieties in that most conservative of wine producing areas, Rioja!

 

Barahonda Verdejo has the necessary acidity to cut through a ny slight oiliness in the octopus, that was so perfectly cooked, as well as that typical fruit ‘n veg aroma and flavour. Lovely, and again just 5€.

Sandra, Enoturismo de Bodegas Barahonda, pictured here, sitting, just in front of Claire-Marie, introduced us to Bodegas Barahonda and invited us to visit! All 60+ of us would love to, Sandra! Gracias!

HC 2014, standing for Heredad de Candela, is one of the three flagship wines of this bodega and for me, in many ways, typifies everything that’s so great about Spanish wine! 100% Monastrell from 60 yrs old vines of limited production, the wine has that heady mix of oak (500ltr, French barrels) and wonderful fruit – plums and damsons. Long, rich, sumptuous – excellent!

 

The final wine of the evening was really all about the next generation of the Candela family. Lualma 2014 is named after Lucía, Alfredo and Marta and celebrating ‘Our childhood amongst the vines’, as it says on the bottle. Charming, and so is the wine! Retailing at just under 20€ I’d buy this to enjoy now, and to keep for a few years so it develops further. It’s made with Monastrell, Garnacha Tintorera and Syrah, and is a really juicy fruity wine, deeply coloured, with plums on the nose and palate, with maybe a little dark chocolate and some dried mountain herbs lurking with intent.

Charming story; super wine!

The next Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on Total FM 91.8 and www.totalfm.es is on Sunday 22nd October – I hope you can join me from 18:00hrs – 20:00hrs for some great wine and food tastes, super music and wine chat too!

 

colin@colinharknessonwine.com  www.colinharknessonwine.com

50 GREAT SPARKLING WINES OF THE WORLD!

FIVE GO JUDGING!

 

 

We decided to pass, on Enid Blyton’s ‘lashings of ginger beer’, the Famous Five this time reconvening to judge the annual 50 Great Sparkling Wines of the World competition!

 

At the helm of the 50 Great Cavas Competition, a few months ago, was Anthony Swift, founder of both competitions, who’d asked us if we’d be prepared to make the trek to the mountains above Vilafranca del Penedés, Cataluña, again, for something similar. As one, we accepted with alacrity!

 

*Alberto, Juan Manual, Jenny, Anthony of course, and myself had gelled so well in July, during the three days we’d spent judging the cavas (results out soon, watch this space, and then search for the medallists!), that we were happy to take on another similarly onerous (not!) task. Whilst there will always be occasional disparities between judges’ scoring, with perhaps one out of the group marking so much higher or lower than the rest, we’d found that, mostly, during the 50 Great Cavas competition we were in accord. Therefore we expected it to be largely the same for the competition whose remit had been so extended.

 

This competition (as it says on the tin!) was open to all styles of Sparkling Wine – Cava of course (we were, after all, in the centre of Cava Country) but all others too. Champagnes can be entered, Proseccos, Sekts (yes, you have to be careful how you say that last one!) and Sparkling Wines that don’t have a particular handle, but come from countries as diverse and physically far apart as Portugal, Australia, South Africa, Slovenia and New Zealand. In short we were to taste and judge a whole world of fizz!

 

Well, not quite, actually – no Champagnes were entered!

 

This can’t have been because of my recent article (though I’m sure the burghers of Champagne are avid Cork Talk readers!) as the competition’s closing date for entries was way before its publication! (Privately, and writing as a features journalist and wine taster, I believe that the lack of entries from Champagne, is because they’re running scared!).

 

For me, it’s all part of this nebulous notion of ‘prestige’ – ‘We are Champagne, not just Sparkling Wine!’ Well I think it’s a shame, here was an opportunity for them to prove their worth, by competing and knocking all the others for six – or not?! And this, I’m sure will also have been on the minds of those members of the Champagne fraternity who decided not to enter – what if, sacre bleu, we were defeated by an ‘inferior’ sparkling wine!?

 

No matter – we were there to judge those sparklers that had been entered – so we simply got on with the job!

 

*We? Anthony Swift (www.winepleasures.com), a Cornish-man, resettled in Cataluña, who loves Great Sparkling Wines and, rather like Robert Parker, has amassed his impressive knowledge of the subject, mostly by simply tasting and asking for information from producers. Lengthy academic study and exams aren’t always necessary – right Mr. Parker?

 

Also present the night before the event and arriving by car like myself, though from La Rioja, was Jenny Siddall, founder of the very impressive wine tourism company, Taste Rioja (www.tasterioja.com). Jenny is soon, no doubt, to be holder of the Wines and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Diploma, which is just one step away from achieving the much coveted Master of Wine (MW) title!

 

After breakfast, as with the previous competition, our two remaining judging colleagues arrived – Juan Manuel Gonzalvo and Albert López Gálvez (both of www.uvinum.es). It was clear to me from our early discussions that the former, Juan Manuel, would be our point of reference should we have any questions about Sparkling Wine production during the judging. Juan Manuel’s knowledge of all things Cava is phenomenal – and no wonder, he makes Cava, and is regularly employed as a consultant by various different producers, still wines too!

 

Albert is Co-founder of Uvinum.com – the outstanding on-line wine merchants, which in 2016 won the International Wine Challenge (IWC) ‘On-Line Retailer of the Year Award’. A finely developed palate and technological expertise are the tools of his trade and I found his comments also invaluable!

 

Cork Talk readers will know that there are two main methods employed in making sparkling wine – the traditional method, where the second fermentation occurs in the bottle in which the wine will be kept until it is consumed; and the Charmat method, where the second fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks, specially designed to withstand the pressure.

 

To judge the wines made by one method against the other would not be judging like for like. Therefore our lengthy morning session was spent judging traditional method wines; with the afternoon taken up with Charmat wines.

 

One of the most difficult tasks of a wine judge is to judge impartially wines that are not particularly to his/her taste. Generally, I prefer sparkling wines made by the traditional method, however, like my fellow judges I had to be objective, and certainly not judge the afternoon’s wines against those of the morning.

 

The results of this competition are still kept under wraps, with Anthony virtually issuing a ‘D Notice’ and insisting on our signing the Official Secrets Act’. Therefore, please watch this space for further information on the 50 Great Sparkling Wines of the World Competition!

 

The next Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme, Total FM 91.8 & www.totalfm.es is on Sunday 22nd October. Starts 18:00 hrs – 20:00 hrs! Wine & Food Pairing; Wine Chat; Great Music including requests from around the world!

CHAMPAGNE OR CAVA, FOR ME, THE LATTER!

IS CHAMPAGNE LOSING ITS SPARKLE?

 

Or is it that Cava is now of such exceptional quality that it’s leaving its illustrious neighbour floundering in its wake, its head just above water clinging onto the dubious lifebelt of its ‘prestige’?

 

Firstly some background. In the UK, in preparation for opening my first restaurant, I started (and successfully completed) the Certificate Course of the Wines & Spirits Education Trust (WSET), in an effort to secure an advantage over restaurants in the area where I was about to open. There were some good ones, but the common denominator was that they little (nothing?) about the wines on their list, and indeed wine in general. Scandalous, really, when one considers their duty of ‘care’ for their clients and even more so when thinking of the contribution that their wines made to their profits! Remember the horrendous mark-ups in the UK?

 

Of course, we studied Sparkling Wines with the WSET, starting, of course, with Champagne, and being honest, not spending much time on any other sparkling wine production! (NB this was 25+ years ago – it’s far more comprehensive these days). Now, as any wine person will tell you, one of the best advantages of thirsting for wine knowledge is that one has to drink, sorry, taste, a lot! One’s hard drive needs a continuous stream of examples that to taste in order to acquire knowledge and form opinions.

 

I therefore tasted sparkling wines from other regions of France, from Spain, including, but not exclusively Cava, from New Zealand, Australia, Germany and California.   [Interestingly, considering the Prosecco tsunami that is so prevalent in the UK nowadays (why?!), I didn’t taste any of the P-word – it simply wasn’t really available then!]. I also tasted plenty of other Champagnes too, mostly Non Vintage (NV), but also Vintage and top Cuvees, including, for example Dom Pérignon and other really excellent, though very expensive, top quality Champagnes.

 

In my restaurant (which was soon to be joined by another – those were the days!) I settled for an NZ Fizz (what a shame I can’t now remember its name) and a Champagne, H. Blinn, which, although of far lesser fame, was for me superior to the ubiquitous Möet, found on every other restaurant list in the area. (You have to hand it to the Möet Chandon marketing team!).

 

It was this initial sustained tasting that established in me an insatiable desire for quality fizz and, I like to believe, at least a little knowledge and expertise. It’s an interest of mine still, and I’ve certainly been able to satisfy my thirst for knowledge (and to quench my thirst) here in Spain.

 

It seems that I had accrued sufficient knowledge and tasting ability to have been invited to join the Spanish Panel of the International Wine & Spirits Competition several years ago, judging still wines as well as Sparkling Wines. Plus I have also been invited to judge for a few years now the 50 Great Cavas and the 50 Great Sparkling Wines of the World competitions. Indeed I’ve just returned from the latter.

 

It is really these recent competitions, along with having the extremely good fortune of having great, and generous friends who have been plying us with Champagne recently, that have inspired me to write this article, and to conclude that *Reserva and Gran Reserva Cava is better than NV Champagne!

 

Now, I’m quite sure that there are many readers who will say yes, they like Cava, but it has to be an option only if there is no Champagne. I’m also sure that some of that group will fully mean that, when tasting Champagne against Cava. However, and I’m neither preaching nor criticising here, I’m equally certain that there will be those who pay more attention to the Champagne hype than to their senses of smell, taste and touch (all three, crucial to wine appreciation, along with sight, and to a point, hearing)!

 

Many of us rely on the ‘fake news’, to put it in common parlance, of pre-conceived ideas, formed by a long and sustained brainwashing from the Champagne promotional machine. It’s understandable, and I’m certainly not pointing the admonishing finger here – there are vast sums of money being spent on promoting the ‘prestige’ of Champagne. After a while, we begin to believe it!

 

However when in Champagne a couple of years ago I learned that in fact everything is geared, mostly completely falsely, to maintaining this notion of prestige. Champagne is always sold at deliberately inflated prices! The land in Champagne is extremely expensive, far more so than it should be. Champagne grapes are the most expensive in the world. It’s all inflated in order to make consumers think that the finished product is the best!

 

Did you notice the *? Well, it’s there for a reason. Readers might accuse me of not comparing like for like – Reserva and Gra Reserva against Non Vintage Champagne. To a point I agree, however, if, instead, we compare prices then you’ll see what I mean. To me there is no doubt that these two styles of Cava represent far superior value for money – and definitely more flavours, aromas, presence and depth!

 

There are many to choose from but try those from Rovellats (www.cavasrovellats.com) and Adernat (www.adernats.cat) and let your senses speak to you!

LUNCH WITH A CALIFORNIAN WINE MAKER!

WHO’D BE A WINE-MAKER?

 

Two years ago, I visited the nascent vineyard of Jody and John, respectively from California and Wirral, UK.

 

Jody is a world renowned expert (www.limoce.com) on the environmental impact of the search for, and supply of, natural resources buried underground, and often under water too. John is Captain of a ship which is involved in cross-ocean communication. They met when Jody was attached to the ship assessing environmental issues – a conflict of interests? Not at all, as they are now married and, when not travelling internationally (which they do a lot!), they are tending their young vines.

 

Recently we returned (as promised two years ago – just look it up in your Cork Talk scrapbook, you’ll see!), socially as we are good friends, but also with a view to catching up on the progress of their boutique, wholly none commercial (as yet?), winery.

 

Set in the lush (it had been raining heavily for a week or so before we arrived!) countryside of the Javea/Benitachell area the house is as picturesque as can be. Spongy green grass, manicured around the pools, with palms and other trees, here and there giving way to delightful rockeries and flowerbeds it speaks of nature’s, abundant luxurious tranquilty.

 

The tranquil theme continues when one visits the small, vigorously verdant vineyard to the rear of the house. En route one passes the air-conditioned bodega (wine store) whose insulated walls are lined with hundreds of terracotta bottle holders, as yet expectantly empty, save for a couple of dozen wines of their choice.

 

Also, at the entrance to the vineyard, which is sensibly fenced off to deter the wild boar, which are partial to grapes, there is also the scientific part of the operation, the laboratory. Jody’s chemist’s skills are allied to her knowledge of wine-making, as well as her educated palate, making for a perfect pairing, when it comes to the production of wine.

 

John defers to Jody, in all wine making matters, advising that, like Manuel of Faulty Towers fame, ‘I know nothing’, though this is clearly untrue, as John also has a discerning palate. It wasn’t just Jody who selected the wines that we recently enjoyed so much at their fabulous BBQ!

Two years ago there was some debate about which vines to grow. The answers are growing exceptionally well in the vineyard soils that sit atop clay at a depth of about a metre, ensuring that whatever rain falls, is kept available to searching routes.

 

Here we have, all trellised: Tempranillo (representing Spain); Monastrell (in the more local SE Spain corner); and, no surprise here, considering the provenance of the wine-maker, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, California style!

 

Sensibly, although the vines have produced the tiny flowers which, if allowed to, magically turn into grapes, these early efforts were pruned, and allowed to decompose into the soil – free, natural fertilizer! A vine should only be allowed to produce fruit destined to be made into wine, after a minimum of three years. Pruning them thoroughly during the first couple of years will enable the plants to concentrate on establishing themselves without having to expend energy on producing fruit.

 

So, as it’s now two years since the vineyard was planted, I think we can expect the first wines to made in the coming 2018 vintage – and we are hoping that we’ll be invited back to taste the results of all their hard work! Watch this space!

 

It would be something of a miracle, given the youth of the plants, if Jody and John’s wines next year match up to the excellent wines we were served for the BBQ – though it wouldn’t surprise me if, in years to come, they are making excellent wine here!

 

John, it seems, is something of a Champagne-ophile – and we weren’t complaining when he bought out a bottle, fresh, zesty Champagne as an aperitif! These bubbles were then followed by a Cava – holding this Spanish Sparkler on the palate it was clear to me that it had more body, more mouth-feel. I was sure it was a Reserva and guessed that it probably had a good proportion of Chardonnay in the mix (I admit that this was a combination of my palate as well as Jody’s origins that led me to this conclusion!).

 

They often buy the regular Perelada Brut cava, for easy drinking, so I was surprised when John told me that this was what we were tasting. However, he’d actually brought out the 100% Chardonnay, Reserva Perlada – a wholly fuller, deeper and more elegant cava!

 

We moved onto white wine, and why not an Albariño – in fact the lovely white flower and stoned fruit fragranced Lusco Albariño 2016 from Bodegas Pazos de Lusco, owned, interestingly, by Gonzalez Byass, of great Sherry acclaim. Pale gold in colour with a delightful fruit content and good finish too!

 

I know Barahonda Wines, from DO Yecla very well (please note imminent Musical Dinner* with Wine Pairing below!), so I was pleased to see their Syrah as the first red we tasted with all the excellent BBQ meats. But our hosts weren’t finished there – next came the iconic Santa Rosa from Bodegas Enrique Mendoza. Wow! Exemplary Cabernet Sauvignon based wine from SE Spain!

 

Finally we tasted on of the finest Pinot Noirs I have ever tasted – and it wasn’t Burgundy! From the Russian River area of California, Gary Farrell makes award winning, violet perfumed, super-elegant, fruit driven Pinot Noir – to die for, as Jody puts it!