Paso Primero

A LITTLE BIRD TOLD ME!

A wren, as a matter of fact! The rather cute emblem of Bodegas Paso-Primero which features on their labels giving a visual clue as to how the name was derived, as well as a sizable hint as the laudable philosophy of this new winery DO Somontano, in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Let’s deal with the name first. Paso Primero translates to First Step, indeed the label of their first wines makes this clear as our friend the wren is on the bottom rung of a ladder, looking upwards. Why? Read on!

For me it’s refreshing to hear a British twist on a Spanish winemaking story that I’ve mentioned several times in Cork Talk. I’m not alone in saying that the Spanish wine scene is one of the most dynamic in the  world – Sara Jane Evans MW writes the same thing in her book, ‘The Wines of Northern Spain’, my review archived here (https://www.colinharknessonwine.com/?s=sarah+jane+evans).

There are many young Spanish winemakers, who, with one foot in the traditional winemaking of generations of their family, have stepped with the other, firstly though the doors of higher education at dedicated wine making colleges and/or have taken university degrees in Oenology; and thence into the winemaking of other countries, sometimes including journeying to the southern hemisphere too.

The result is a really comprehensive knowledge of how wine is made, from so many different perspectives, including that of their father, and, in true Monty Python style, that of their Father’s Fathers and so on! Well, our British winemakers, Tom and Emma Holt, once co-workers in Tanners famous wine merchants in Shrewsbury, UK, have, sort of, done the same! Their passion for wine started whilst in the retail trade, took them to Plumpton College, the UK seat of higher wine education which is developing an enviable reputation in the wine world, and then on their travels to New Zealand and Canada to make wine, of course.

Keen on making wine in what was once invariably referred to as ‘the Old World’, in wine terms at least, they finally settled on the idea of making wine here in Spain. To be specific in DO Somontano, where they joined forces in a collaborative project with *Batan de Salas. Paso-Primero was born (www.paso-primero.com). It’s good to hear of such Spanish/British entente cordial (the more so in these difficult times!) – each winery, working within the same buildings, using the same vineyards and equipment, has its own identity, yet each ‘partner’ contributes to the other’s winemaking.   

Their artistically labelled (www.lynevansdesigns.co.uk), Paso-Prima Chardonnay, the first of three wines sent for me to taste on behalf of Cork Talk readers, gives us a heads-up re the philosophy of Paso-Primero. 25% of the profit from the sale of this wine will be donated to the British Trust for Ornithology (www.bto.org), which is wholly compatible with Tom and Emma’s insistence on their project being sustainable, Responsible winemaking, and some!

I spent time thinking about the title of this week’s column – toying with, ‘It’s Chardonnay, Jim, but not as we know it!’ inspired, claro, by my impressions of this, the first wine of the triumvirate, and hoping to add some Trekkies to my weekly readers!

I’m not sure I would have picked this out as a Chardonnay at a blind tasting, and that’s a compliment, not the reverse! I guess a lot of one’s perception of Chardonnay depends upon which generation one belongs to? Baby Boomers like myself (yes, I know, I look a lot younger!) may remember, with splinters, the over oaked, well, disasters, of the 80s, floating on a log raft from Australia and California. Generation X may remember some occasionally too austere examples, made in an effort to redress the balance. And Millennials will hopefully remember Chardonnays where the majority of winemakers got it right!

Perhaps Tom and Emma’s Spanish Chardonnay will be quoted as exemplary by the current Generation Z (who invents this stuff?) in future such discussions? Too high a praise? Well, probably, but it’s certainly a lovely wine, with some fresh citrus notes, a combination of browning and already brown Autumn leaves on the nose and subtle tropical fruit, mango for me, on the palate.

30ºC temperatures are not conducive to tasting red wines with a 15% and 15·5% abv, respectively! However if you chill down Paso-Primero 2018 and its older sister, Paso-Prima 2017 during such hot weather you’ll be surprised how effective it can be! I really enjoyed them both!

Made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo, this wine reflects the best that was possible for the 2018 vintage – again wholly in line with the bodega’s philosophy. Their website explains all – ‘ . . . each vintage being a completely unique snapshot of history. Wine should be a wonderful combination of a sense of place and sense of time . .’ They don’t promise that the following vintage will have the same blend, there won’t be a constant style for this wine, it will depend on the grapes harvested following the year’s growing conditions, which is just right in my book!

A touch of vanilla on the nose, combines with good fruit, though difficult to determine exactly which are the dark berries that come through, plus a pleasing autumnal aroma of browning leaves and already fallen leaves. On the palate the fruit finishes nicely with a little liquorice at the end. UK price under 9 pounds, Spain under 10€ – very good value!  

The Paso-Prima 2017 Vino Artístico is made with Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon and has an aroma of well done wholemeal toast with a touch of black pepper, blending perfectly with brambly blackberry fruit (I’ve just tasted a large juicy blackberry then the wine!). It’s a 6€ or so step up in price, though certainly worth it. Ripe sweet tannins and some acidity will ensure a few more years of fine drinking.

*www.batandesalas.com – watch this space!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com  https://youtu.be/8qyhmj4hnqu

Twitter @colinonwine  Facebook Colin Harkness www.colinharknessonwine.com

Following a recent Private Wine Tasting for Dutch Visitors

Going Dutch – Wine Tasting!

“Dear Colin, last Monday, in honour of my mother-in-law’s birthday, we gave her a wine tasting on location as a surprise. With us on the porch we all enjoyed the very interesting and fun stories you told us.

We tasted two delicious white wines, one sparkling wine, one red wine and a red dessert wine.

Although my mother-in-law was a bit stressed (because we had told her that she might have to go Bungee Jumping or Parasailing) the surprise was more than successful and she really enjoyed the wonderful wines we tasted. The tasting on location is a must for anyone who loves wine, when we may return to Moraira next year I will definitely give you another call to come along!”

Greetings Ben Hogewoning

JAMMY GIT!

If you knew my brother you’d guess this was going to be about him! He’s led a charmed life, has ‘our Al’, but no, this is actually about a lucky find, here in the south of England, where, as I write, we are still enjoying our time in delightful Dorset!

The wines of Bordeaux, using a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc became very popular in England when Henry Plantagenet married Eleanor d’Aquitaine in the 12th Century. Apart from the lengthy setback of the 100 Years War (which lasted from 1337 – 1453[?], you do the maths!) between France and England, the British have enjoyed a long, tasty and lucrative association with probably the world’s most famous wine region.

Centuries later, you can imagine the delight on the faces of the BinTwo Team (www.bintwo.com), of Padstow, Cornwall, who, whilst visiting nearby Knightor Winery (www.knightor.com), stumbled upon some wines at different stages of development, made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, here in the UK!

BinTwo is an independent wine merchant and coffee shop, overlooking Padstow harbour, and somehow I have to engineer an opportunity to pay them a visit – it looks fantastic!

As you’ve seen from the photo atop this article, the name of the wine made in Cornwall, but from grapes grown in huge greenhouses in Gloucestershire, is eponymous and, when you’ve tasted the wine, perhaps apt as well! I was of course very pleased to receive a sample bottle which we tasted in the sunshine, not for the first time commenting on climate change and how there were at least some benefits to the rather worrying global warming scenario.

BinTwo stocks well chosen, famous wines as well as their own label wines – Jammy Git – they’ll vary in aroma and taste profiles, of course, but they all have one thing in common, they are chosen for their quality as perceived by the Team. In fact this wine is Jammy Git II, the first Jammy Git, was a Bordeaux blend made in Bordeaux, with adjustments from the Team.

Jammy Git 1 sold out and when they came across a Bordeaux type blend in their home county, well, they couldn’t resist the opportunity to make another, with a British twist.

The wine is actually made from three different vintages. It’s an unusual idea these days, though regular Cork Talk readers will know of one or two wineries in Spain who are doing similarly. Plus, of course, such alchemy is used to rather good effect in Champagne!

In this case it’s a quite complex operation – there’s not only the blending of the different vintages to be considered, but also the actual grape variety blend. After several sessions the winning formula was: 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, coming from 42% of the 2018 vintage, which had a good fruit delivery, though lacking body; 40% of the 2017 which had the structure but was a touch thin; and finally just 18% of the 2016 vintage which had spent some time in French oak, therefore adding depth and complexity to the finished product.

Jammy Git II is a lightly coloured red wine, looking at first a little like a Pinot Noir. The colour is a pointer to the style too – it’s a light to medium bodied red, quite fresh on the palate, despite its barrel ageing. I couldn’t resist it when it arrived so tried it first only a few hours after its journey.

Whilst I agree that it does sound a bit precious, wines are best left a while, 24 hours really, before they are consumed if they’ve travelled a distance. This even applies after the trip home from the wine shop, though in that instance just a few hours will suffice. (NB there’s currently some debate about this ‘travel shock’ notion, in fact initiated by Mike of Bin Two – shows how on the ball the are! I usually let the wine rest, no matter what the scientists say, to be on the safe side.)

That first tasting revealed a shy wine, not really deserving of being called jammy, in the sense of an obvious ripe fruit presence. However, the day after, when the bottle had been retrieved from the cellar, it had opened up quite nicely. Apart from a pleasant, slight menthol, wood and wine aroma it was still reluctant to give much on the nose, but it was on the palate where the wine started to shine.

Brambly fruit, a little earthiness with ongoing minty notes – I wonder how Jammy Git II would have compared with those lightly coloured clarets that Henry II and his Queen of Aquitaine so enjoyed.

www.colinharknessonwine.com  Facebook Colin Harkness

Twitter @colinonwine  colin@colinharknessonwine.com  

Private Wine Tastings in the comfort of your own home!

Here’s a short video, explaining the idea of these exclusive wine tastings for small groups of friends/family/business colleagues – held in the comfort and privacy of your own home, on the Costa Blanca!

If you think this might be of interest to you, please get in touch, using the contact details at the end of the video. Gracias!