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New Year’s Resolutions 2018!

NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS FOR 2018

I won’t be the only journalist thinking about New Year Resolutions right now (at the time of writing it’s a week before Christmas), I’m certain. I won’t be the only wine writer, either – but I’m happy to be doing so.

Although writing resolutions for myself, of course, I’m also writing with readers in mind too. Whilst I wouldn’t presume to make your resolutions for or you, NYRs are a personal thing, after all, I’m nevertheless not averse to hoping that readers might follow suit, to a degree at least?

Regulars will know that I’ve written more than a few words about Cava in recent years, perhaps more so in 2017, with the introduction of the concept of Premium Cava and, of course, the new top designation, Cava de Paraje Calificada. So, it’s understandable that I might include a reference to Spain’s excellent sparkling wine in the NYRs of 2018.

My resolution this year is to drink more Premium Cava. Generally speaking, Premium Cava refers to Cava that is made in the Reserva and Gran Reserva styles – in other words, cavas that have been aged on their lees for more than 15 months (the minimum for Reserva cava; Gran Reservas must have had 30 months minimum).

However, it’s not just those cavas labelled Reserva or Gran Reserva that we should be buying. And herein lies one of the problems with Cava – it’s sometimes a little nebulous. Joven cava must have had a minimum of 9 months ‘en rima’. You’ll know what that means by now, if a regular reader, if not, well, it means the bottle is virtually upside down, with the cava sitting atop the sediment, which is in fact the dead lees that were used to provoke the second fermentation.

Now, if you look at the above re Reserva and Gran  Reserva you’ll glean that this ‘en rima’ position is important regarding the quality of the cava – essentially, the more time ‘en rima’ the fuller, and better the cava. Not all producers want their cava to be full and complex – one of the basic requirements of sparkling wine is that it is celebratory and fresh. This is enough for millions of bottles, but some like to give a little more.

Well the Reservas and Gran Reservas are easy to identify, most of the time – it says so on the bottle, but this isn’t always the case. I’ve tasted and enjoyed cavas labelled as Reserva when in fact they’ve had 30+ months en rima. This puts them just into the Gran Reserva bracket, but it doesn’t say so on the label! Also, there are Gran Reserva cavas that have enjoyed far more than the minimum 30 months – I’ve tasted many that have more than 5 years ageing en rima!

At the other end of the scale there are cavas that are not labelled as Reserva or Gran Reserva that have had more than the minimum 15 months, and can therefore certainly be considered to be in the ‘Premium’ bracket! Confused? So am I! Therefore:

My second NYR is to write to DO Cava and ask that they work out a way of giving consumers all the information we need on the bottle – everyone’s a winner!

I’m going to continue to buy wines this year from areas of production that are off the beaten track. This means from Denominaciónes de Origen that are somewhat less famous than the Rioja, Ribera del Duero et al; and it also means areas that are not DO at all, Vino de la Tierra (VdlT), and others, leading into my buying wines that have no particular area of production on their label whatsoever. Witness, if you will my No.3 in the Tope Ten 2017 – ‘Juan Piernas’, from Bodegas Jorge Piernas, labelled simply Red Wine From Spain!

Finally, as I am limited space-wise these days, I will certainly be seeking out firstly dedicated wine shops to buy my wines – and I’d really like readers to do the same! It is true that, for example, Mas y Mas supermarkets have significantly upped the ante re their wine selection (after lots of badgering from me, perhaps?!), and this, I think applies to several of the chains.

However, whether these improved wines are looked after properly whilst they await their sales is another matter! And, of course, it’s pointless asking most supermarket staff for advice about their wines, they have neither the interest nor the training. Plus, you won’t see wines well beyond their ‘sell by/consume by’ dates in wine merchants – but I’m sure we’ll see this again in supermarkets.

So, there are a few New Year Resolutions to take into the new year – and beyond, please!

Happy New Year!

Annual Wines for Christmas Day article – 2017

CHRISTMAS DAY WINE RECOMMENDATIONS!

My annual Christmas Day wine recommendations article is one that I perhaps enjoy writing most. It puts me in the mood for Christmas a few weeks before it happens, plus it always makes me think of readers enjoying their Christmas Day Lunch/Dinner, heightened, perhaps by their enjoying one of the wines I’ve recommended! So on with the show!

With my involvement with the 50 Great Cavas competition this year, I guess it’s inevitable that I’d be recommending that we start proceedings with some sparkle! For me, Sparkling Wine on Christmas Day is obligatory – I like to start the day with fizz, and then enjoy some with canapés, perhaps when family and friends arrive. Before the main meal, be it lunch or dinner, I like fizz, too – usually something a bit special, to toast the efforts of the chef and to accompany such a wonderful repast! It’s also particularly good to continue with this sparkler to accompany the starter – this gives me the excuse to order a couple of bottles at least of ‘the special one’!

And after the banquet? Well what better way to revive a slightly jaded palate, than a glass of fizz!

The Cava I’ve enjoyed most this year has been Rovellats Masia Siegle XV Gran Reserva (http://www.cavasrovellats.com/es/productos-cava-y-vino/cavas/cava/13-masia-siglo-xv) and it’s this that I’d recommend for ‘the special one’! It’s not cheap, but it is soooo worth it!

For the cava to be enjoyed at canapé time etc I’d still choose a Premium Cava (meaning either a Reserva or a Gran Reserva) but one more moderately proced. The Dominio de la Vega range of Reserva Cavas is excellent, and so well priced! https://tienda.dominiodelavega.com/ – and some are available in Mas y Mas!

For white wine – I think this particular feast deserves a white with some body to accompany the freshness, so a little ageing will be good. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean oak ageing. This year I’m recommending Albariño de Fefiñanes III Año – it’s a wonderful wine with the fresh, white stoned fruit aromas and flavour of Albariño as well as a certain intensity, depth, body and slight creaminess following its 30 months in tank, 7 months of which have been with lees contact! (http://www.fefinanes.com/en/)

Red wine next, of course – but what with? Turkey, trimmings et al; Chicken; Goose; Duck; Beef ? Who knows, so we have to think of a catch-all, top quality wine when recommending just one. Now this is a rather difficult task here in Spain, which has been known for its excellent red wines for centuries. There is such an abundance of top reds that we can choose to pair with the main course of the Christmas feast!

I have thought long and hard about this – believe me, and it has been a very difficult choice, but I’m extremely happy with the wine I’ve chosen for this year – Bodegas Enrique Mendoza’s Santa Rosa is an excellent wine that perfectly fits the Christmas Lunch/Dinner concept! The flagship of the winery, this elegant Cabernet (70%) Merlot and Shiraz mix is a Spanish wine that, although the grapes are French in origin, would make lots of French wineries quite envious!

The Cabernet has obviously been picked at the optimum time – the grapes were fully ripened but retained their crucial acidity. Lots of blackcurrant aroma and flavour. There’s a touch of plum/damson in there with some stony minerality, a little smoky oak and some rich dark cherry with a touch of spice – it has great length and an admirable complexity, a really cracking wine! (http://www.bodegasmendoza.com/en/)

 

Out on a limb, for my choice of dessert wine? Well, you might think so, as I’m straying away from my traditional PX Sherry recommendation! But, taste the wine and you won’t think so! My favourite dessert wine of this year has been Finca Antigua’s Moscatel Naturalmente Dulce and I think it will go so well with dessert! There’s a touch of lemon zest freshness, which develops into orange blossom fragrance, with orange peel aromas and flavours with some bitter orange, almost marmalade, flavour and aroma too, with a candied dried fruit finish to remind you that this is a pudding wine! (http://www.fincaantigua.com/en/our-wines/)

Happy Christmas to you all!

Contact Colin: colin@colinharknessonwine.com  www.colinharknessonwine.com  Twitter @colinonwine  Facebook  Colin Harkness & you can find my Vlogs

on Youtube  Colin Harkness On Wine

Top Ten Spanish Wines Tasted in 2017!

THE COSTA NEWS TOP TEN 2017!

THE TEN BEST SPANISH WINES TASTED THIS YEAR

Yes, I know – I’ve said it before and will more than likely say it again next year too, but the fact is that choosing just ten Spanish wines out of the hundreds I’ve tasted for Cork Talk this year is a very difficult job!

However, here goes, traditionally in reverse order:

TEN:

Finca Antigua Moscatel Naturalmente Dulce, DO La Mancha:

I believe this is the first DO La Mancha wine that has figured in the Costa News Top Ten. There’s a touch of lemon zest freshness, which develops into orange blossom fragrance, with orange peel aromas and flavours plus some bitter orange, almost marmalade, flavour and aroma too, with a candied dried fruit finish to remind you that this is a pudding wine!

NINE:

 

Haragán, Pago Los Balcines, DO Ribera del Guadiana:

(another first!) 50% Garnacha Tintorera/50% Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo). Wild dark berry fruits from old vines harvested at night by hand. Juicy, mature, elegant, but with the grip of power too. After 15 months in French oak there’s some black pepper mixed in with the brambly fruit and some undergrowth, some mushroom compost, but always the fruit to the fore.

EIGHT;

Tío Pepe Fino en Rama, DO Jerez:

This is Fino without all the clarification and filtration to which regular sherries are subjected. En Rama is bottled almost without filtration at all. Hence En Rama Sherry is in its most natural state, and with a wholly different, soft golden colour! Yeasty, almost patisserie notes, along with a slight whiff of sea breeze, and then some blanched almond aromas and flavour.

SEVEN:

Otoman, Bodegas Sierra Cantabria, DOCa. Rioja:

White Rioja, made with 49% Sauvignon Blanc and 51% the traditional white Rioja varieties Viura and Malvasia. Glossy on the palate, rich and full, for a white wine, but retaining that crucial acidity which makes whites so fresh. There are herbs on the nose with a hedgerow quality and on the palate there are nutty elements combining rather well with some refreshing citrus flavours.

SIX

 

Santa Rosa, Bodegas Enrique Mendoza, DO Alicante:

Cabernet (70%) Merlot and Shiraz. The Cabernet has obviously been picked at the optimum time – the grapes were fully ripened but retained their crucial acidity. Lots of blackcurrant aroma and flavour. There’s a touch of plum/damson in there with some stony minerality, a little smoky oak and some rich dark cherry with a touch of spice – great length and an admirable complexity.

FIVE:

 

Verum Malvasía, Bodegas y Viñedos Verum, VdlT de Castilla:

Floral fragrance – white rose petals and a touch of magnolia with tantalising wisps of honeysuckle. On the palate, the zest from citrus peel – that’s lemon, lime and grapefruit, plus, curiously, though positively, a slight touch of white pepper. A slight minerality comes through and there’s a good mouth-feel with an understated creamy element from its time spent on its lees.

 

FOUR:

 

Sabaté i Coca Reserva Familiar, Bodegas Castellroig, Cava de Paraje Calificada, DO Cava:

Xarel.lo vines with part of the base wine fermented in oak. Fennel and mountain herbs (thyme and laurel) and slight toasty notes with blanched almonds, a little hazelnut nuance and some distant pear and apple fruit. It’s rich and full, yet personifies elegance with a long and joyous finish.

THREE:

Juan Piernas, Bodegas Jorge Piernas, ‘Red Wine from Spain’:

A wine labelled solely as ‘Red Wine from Spain’, can’t be this excellent – can it? 100% Monastrell from 800 metres above sea level in the Bullas area were fermented in steel then placed in French oak barrels. It celebrates the perfect harmony of elegance and power. Lots of dark plums, some juicy blackberry and picota cherry in there too. An element of spice and a little earthiness.

TWO:

Verum Tempranillo V Reserva Familiar,  Bodegas y Viñedos Verum, VdlT de Castilla:

There’s a little liquorice on the nose, with big, mostly dark, forest fruit, joining the party on the palate too. You’ll detect a little French oak, bringing with it complexity and a pleasing roundness to the wine. Pair it with your turkey – the dark meat particularly. Lovely wine, following their white above!

ONE, THE BEST SPANISH WINE TASTED FOR CORK TALK 2017:

 

GRAN RESERVA MASIA S.XV BRUT NATURE 2008, Cavas Rovellats, DO Cava.

So, a Cava that heads the list this year – and what a Cava! It’s elegant, first and foremost, with brioche and patisserie notes as well as a hint of toasty smokiness, and, after a huge seven years ‘en rima’ it is still as vibrant as a puppy – large breed, because this is also a powerful wine. Drink this with canapés, with fish, seafood and white meats – and you’ll be enthralled!

 

Contact Colin: colin@colinharknessonwine.com Twitter: @colinonwine www.colinharknessonwine.com Facebook: Colin Harkness Youtube: Colin Harkness On Wine.

Wine Related Christmas Presents – 2017

WINE RELATED CHRISTMAS PRESENTS 2017

I’m often asked about any wine related presents I might recommend for the lady who wants to surprise her man, and indeed, vice versa for the man who is keen to please his lady. And, as it’s the 1st of December – here they are!

Many of us love wine and all that’s associated with it, so here are some recommendations for you to buy as stocking fillers and/or full-on presents. Not forgetting, of course, that often, with wine presents, the giver and the recipient both benefit in equal measure!

Let’s start with the paperwork. This year I had the great honour and pleasure to travel to Bucharest, Romania to join the judging panel of the International Wine Contest Bucharest 2017. A fantastic trip, judging excellent international wines with likeminded eminent wine judges – and indeed, socializing with them too, at the various scheduled events and visits.

I was part of a super group of friends of various nationalities – East and West Europe and even an Aussie! Mike Mazey is an Aussie wine-maker and English teacher now living in the Czech Republic (it’s a long story!). He is the Lead Author of an impressive small group of wine orientated scribes whose book ‘Wine Words’ I would highly recommend. ‘Wine Words’ can be bought online (www.winewordsthebook.com/en/).

Although written with a view to help those for whom English is a second language progress in the professional wine world it is also a great read for people who are native English speakers who want to learn more about wine in a fun way. It includes an online video library and looks at the world’s wines as well as focusing on specific wineries in both hemispheres. There are plenty of contributions from Masters of Wine and Wine-Makers themselves.

 

Perhaps one of the testimonials on the cover sleeve says it best: “The Wine Words bookand online  video library is a wonderful collection of wine insights and clear explanation of wine terminology, that will enlighten and delight those wanting to build on their wine knowledge. . . . . .” Nick Butler, Bottle Green LTD, England. I have a copy and really enjoy it!

 

Then there are the guides. By far the most comprehensive is the Guía Peñín (the Peñin Guide) whose tasting panel tastes around 20,000 wines each year for inclusion in the guide. Originally in Spanish only, it has proved so popular that it is now printed in English and in German and it also has an online version. www.guiapenin.wine . You’ll find that it is well organized with interesting sections extra to the huge list of wines and their marks out of 100. Considered by many to be the ‘bible’ of Spanish wines.

The 2018 Guía Peñín is now available – in English! A super present for those interested in Spanish Wine!

Don’t forget Señor Andres Proensa though – the Proensa Guide is for me indispensable. Los Mejores Vinos de España is always on my office desk – it’s smaller than the above, restricting itself to just those which the panel considers the top 500 wines in Spain. www.proensa.com . It is also online.

The 2018 edition of this excellent guide to the top Spanish Wines is now available!

Now what about wine accessories? I have two possibilities for you. Lazenne, specialises in wine travel accessories; and Avina in wine tools.

www.avina.com makes beautiful corkscrews which really will be ideal presents. They work perfectly, suiting all preferences. Their designs are as sensational as the wines whose bottles they open, effortlessly and with style. You’ll also find bottle stoppers (including for Sparkling Wine), and more, with still more products being developed. The presentation and packaging is excellent too! I use them exclusively!

www.lazenne.com specialises in protective, airline approved luggage to keep your wine bottles safe in the hold of the aircraft. It’s simple but effective – airport security won’t bother you and when you arrive your bottles will be in one piece, ready for you to enjoy them as you did when tasting before you bought, in any of the world’s wineries! There are a number of different fashionable designs to cater for varying numbers and sizes of bottles, including sparkling wine bottles. I use one!

Now, wine tourism – Enoturismo, whose humble beginnings contrast dramatically with what’s on offer now! Many wineries have their own boutique accommodation, Casa Rural style, which is of course perfect as there are no drink-driving restrictions.

If it is sheer luxury you are after, not too long a journey from the Costas and making medal winning wines I’d highly recommend Casa Boquera (www.casaboquera.es), Yecla, Murcia. A small, family owned boutique luxury hotel whose restaurants are overseen by a Michelin Starred Chef, Casa Boquera sits amongst its own vineyards and is beautiful! I’ve been, of course, as well as friends to whom I’ve recommended it.

So, several suggestions for wine related Christmas presents – and I hope you enjoy any that you choose!