HACIENDA LOPEZ DE HARO

The tasting went well, so I’ve always had a soft spot to Bodegas López de Haro

RETURN TO RIOJA – BODEGAS LÓPEZ DE HARO

I’ve lost count of the number of wine tastings I’ve presented in restaurants over the years! I’ve really enjoyed them and, judging by comments I’ve received, they’ve gone down well with those in attendance, plus the restaurants concerned and the bodegas whose wines we’ve tasted!

I’ve worked with these restaurants to help bring in new customers, to introduce people to eateries that they hadn’t previously visited. I guess that for some clients it was a one-off experience, but I know for a fact that many returned, making themselves into regulars. Everyone’s a winner again!

When selecting the restaurants’ wines for the tasting I’ve taken care to ensure that usually at least one of the House Wines was included in those scheduled for the tasting. Being honest, mostly in days gone by, there have been some restaurants where I decided not to do a presentation as the house wine selection, particularly, wasn’t of the quality that I knew my usual attendees would expect. Far more often than not though, House Wines were good enough to be spotlighted at such a tasting.

However, there has to be a balance – people should be able to taste the quality of the wines selected by the restaurant as their house wines, but new clients also would like to taste the quality of the fine wine list. All of this has to be within a budget framework that makes a profit for the restaurant on the night (albeit that the larger profit will be the addition of new clients), so they can’t let me loose on all the most expensive wines!

When asked to present a tasting at a restaurant in Moraira (now no longer in existence, so maybe I wasn’t that good?!) I was proudly presented with their red House Wine, a wine that they definitely wanted to us during the dinner. I’d not seen López de Haro wines before that, so I was keen to try it, the more so as they were obviously delighted with it.

I don’t remember the year, of the tasting or of the wine, but I remember thinking that this was a good start! The tasting went well, so I’ve always had a soft spot to Bodegas López de Haro. I’m not sure why, but I’ve never tasted anything other than their reds, so I was pleased to recently receive a white and a rosado as well as their Crianza and Reserva reds.

Part of the Vintae Group, about which I’ve written recently, Bodegas López de Haro is a Rioja winery that uses grapes grown in various different regions of the DO. In this way they look to bring the best of the differing terroirs of this, the most famous of all Spanish winemaking zones.

I’m going to start, not with their reds, as readers might expect considering my first experience of their wines, but with their white wine. At just 5.50€ this is a pretty good buy! It’s made with Viura (aka Macabeo in different parts of Spain) which, I’ll be honest, wouldn’t automatically endear it to me. I’m not a big fan of a lot of Viura, though I’m aware that in the right hands it can be very good.

Viura generally needs some help. This may be from the addition of another of the historically permitted varieties, or indeed from one or more of the varieties only recently brought to the party. Or, as has been the case for many years, it can be supported by some oak fermentation and or ageing. Lopez de Haro’s Viura has a helping hand from the latter, French oak as well as European oak, probably Hungarian(?).

Only a part of the total of harvested grapes are fermented and thence aged in oak and for only a short time. The rest is fermented in small stainless steel tanks where it is kept with its lees until the oak barrels have done their job. Then it’s blended. If this wine was a House Wine I’d be rather pleased. It was my preferred wine of the four!

A close second was the Lopez de Haro Reserva 2015. This Reserva red wine has had 10 months in French oak barrels, with extra ageing in bottle. Made with Tempranillo and Graciano, it has the glorious whiff of Rioja wine – you’d recognise it anywhere! It’s drinking perfectly now. Dark red fruit revolved around a sturdy structure of oak aromas and a little flavour. It has some depth and complexity, matching meat and BBQ dishes, though we also enjoyed it with a rich mushroom risotto, in which I’d poured a little when cooking!

Finally onto the rosado wine. Very dry, this isn’t a frilly rosé, it can stand up for itself (we also tasted it with the risotto!) and will be a good match for paella. It’s quite pale in the glass, though not the anaemic shade of lots of rosé wines these days. It’s made using the black grape Garnacha from old vines with the addition of some Viura, the white wine variety mentioned above. It’s a good aperitif wine too.

NB my next Wine Show on www.valleyfm.es is tomorrow, 4th July, starting at 12:00 – 13:00 hrs (CET). Great music as always and, of course, good wines tasted, with associated info & chat! I hope you can listen in!

Twitter @colinonwine   Instagram colinharkness53 www.colinharknessonwine.com colin@colinharknessonwine.com

Excellent Costa Blanca White Wines!

SHOUT OUT FOR LOCAL PRODUCERS

I’ve recently been tweeting and posting (as well as a Cork Talk a couple of weeks ago) about how it would be good if we could help the smaller wine producers here in Spain. They’ve had, and are having, a very difficult time, so much so that I’m quite nervous about looking at my various wine related news feeds, hoping not to hear of any small, family bodegas that have gone under! So far I haven’t and I’m hopeful that my bringing their plight to readers’ attention may have helped at least a few?

Now, though, I want to bring it a little more local, not by saying the same thing of course – the above, the tweets, posts and my recent article included local producers as well as those throughout the whole country. Today though, I’m going to spotlight just a few local producers by telling readers about some of their white wines that I’ve been so enjoying during the lockdown, from which we are emerging poco a poco.

This idea was sparked by a visit to a local, family owned, independent quite small supermarket in Moraira – Supermercado Algi. I visited a day or two ago, in search of a wine for me to recommend as the Valley FM Supermarket Wine of the Week. I was delighted to see an unusually good selection of wines from which to choose, and even more so when I saw a bottle from the bodega Uvas Cabrera, in Benissa – a ten minute drive from where I live!

Uvas Cabrera is made with 100% Moscatel. The bodega is a small concern making just one wine – but what a wine! We all know dry Moscatel – well if you don’t, you have to get out more! But this Moscatel has a different, musky, mineral edge to it, with little of the characteristic raisin/grape aroma. Floral, with some slight citrus notes in the palate and perfectly dry. (www.uvascabrera.com)

 

When bought from the winery the packaging is great too – the bottle’s label sports a vine with five arms. These represent the five generations of the same family, whose business started in 1895, selling pasas, Moscatel grapes dried in the sun; then developing into table grapes sales as well (and it’s this that gives rise to the unusual boxing of the wine, lightweight wooden boxes that would have held 1kg of grapes, now holding a bottle of wine; and larger boxes for 5kg of grapes but now three bottles!); then into sweet wine production; and ultimately to the present incumbent making the family’s first ever dry Moscatel! Great story, super wine!

 

I’m not entirely comfortable with my recent claim that the dry Moscatel from Bodegas Les Freses in Jesús Pobre, about 20 mins drive away, is the best I’ve tasted. It may be, but the above is very, very close!

 

Les Freses Blanc 2018 is made from grapes grown in the two different soil types that the bodega enjoys. Very pale lime green in colour, elegant, with floral notes of white rose petals and honeysuckle with some lemon and understated raisin aromas. On the palate the citrus lemon notes remain after swallowing. A beautiful aperitif wine, with sufficient presence also to partner delicate fish dishes such as sole, dorada and lubina. (www.lesfreses.com)

Another Moscatel wine in owner Mara’s small portfolio is made from grapes grown on just one of the soils, the white coloured limestone based soil. Quite a revelation in terms of contrasting flavours and aromas, This wine was a touch more acidic, fresh as you like, with slightly more exotic fruit, some white peach and a little apricot – reminiscent of Albariño and Viognier wines, and that’s certainly not a bad thing! Floral again, perhaps more jasmine this time, and a little more weight on the palate. Certainly good with the above fish, but also more meaty fish, plus where sauces are used, and lovely, no doubt with shellfish.

Now, there may be some pedants who think I shouldn’t be including wines from Pepe Mendoza in the category of small local producers! I know what you mean, Pepe is (was, I’m not sure?) the Head Winemaker for the family firm, Enrique Mendoza, whose relatively larger production wines sell all over the world. However, regular readers will also know that in the last year Pepe has opened his own winery. Pepe Mendoza Casa Agricóla is situated in the Llíber/Jalón valley – 15 mins!

Tinajas, amphorae, are the ideal receptacle for making wine under ‘flor’, that’s the thin film that forms over fermenting grape juice when the earthenware tinaja is not filled quite to the top. This is the same method by which Sherry is made, nowadays known as biological ageing (though in Andalucia it’s in barrel, of course), but Pepe’s Velo Flor Ánfora isn’t fortified as is Sherry, it is a dry white wine – and an outstanding one at that!

This wine is made with Moscatel (bet you saw that coming!) and another local variety, though far less well known, Merseguera – honestly, you have to try it! There’s an endearing earthiness to the wine, it’s a textured wine with fresh acidity and a good length combining. Fruit-wise there are citrus notes, lemon and a little grapefruit plus a very slight reference to orange/clementine zest, like you’d expect from an amber/orange/Skin contact wine. I think there is an unmistakable Mediterranean aroma/flavour/feel to the wine, making it a wine of its place paying homage to its terroir. (Search Facebook Pepe Mendoza Casa Agricóla.)

Talking of homage – that’s what I’m doing here regarding local producers, but remember please that whilst these bodegas are local to me, their wines can be obtained where you are situated in Spain, and some will be available in the UK as well!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com Twitter @colinonwine Facebook Colin Harkness  Instagram colinharkness53

NB My next Wine Show on www.valleyfm. es will be on Saturday 4th July 12 – 13:00 hrs CET

Let’s Hear it for the Little Guys!

SUPPORTING THE LITTLE GUYS

When watching sports (remember that?!), but supporting no particular team/competitor, many of us root for the underdog. The player/team with the lesser reputation, the one of whom we’ve never heard – yes, let’s give them some support.

So it was at Goodison Park, Liverpool, in 1966 when the largely unheard of North Korea were playing Portugal in the Football World Cup, Eusébio, Torres et al. Unbelievably, North Korea took the lead, and suddenly most of the crowd, of which I was a small part, was willing the little guys on, supporting their every move. ‘We’ lost, but what a game!

If sporty yourself, I’m sure you’ll remember similar situations in a number of different sports. Probably, like me, you’re the same today. It’s so exciting when someone wholly new to us aces a seed to win a round at Wimbledon; or sinks a put in the Open to beat the defending Champion; comes from half a lap behind to take the 1500 metres Olympic title from the athlete who surely had his/her name written on the trophy – and so on.

Well, my friends, it’s time to support the underdogs, the little guys in the wine world!

I can’t think of many businesses in Spain that have done well during this dreadful pandemic, a live scenario that is still playing out, but supermarkets haven’t done so badly! One of the few businesses that have been allowed to open throughout, they have, of course, suffered some extra costs. Staff have been taken on in order to police/assist customers; they’ve all had to have protective masks and gloves; checkouts have been fitted with extra protection for those seated, etc.

However, compared with profits during this time, such outgoings are small beer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking them. Supermarkets have fulfilled a vital role, they’ve done a brilliant job at keeping the nation in food, and at a risk to themselves too. It’s certainly appreciated. Imagine how these weeks would have been if, like in a war zone for example, it was dangerous to go out (as it has been here, though we’ve been dodging a virus not bullets and bombs), and there was no food available!

Plus, of course, those businesses that supply supermarkets have been doing reasonably well too, though any exports they’d been enjoying are likely to have largely petered out. This, of course, applies to the wine sector.

There are many large wine businesses that have been able to maintain at survival level, and above, simply by virtue of the fact that they are established supermarket suppliers. Yes, it’s true that such large concerns have lost out in the export trade, of course, so they haven’t been making extra profits, but they’ve been doing ok, particularly when statistics tell us that we’ve all been drinking more wine in lockdown times!

I’m speaking on behalf of the many far smaller bodegas, often family owned who progressed from making wine for home consumption only a couple of generations ago to making it on commercial basis nowadays. Their production is of course limited – they don’t have many hectares of land covered in vine, though often their vineyards are old, producing great quality wines from their richer grapes.

There’s no doubting their quality, but of course, they are unable to supply supermarkets because of their insatiable demand for high volume wines. The little guys make great wines, just not so much of it! Some of these small wineries have been able to develop some export trade, though this of course has dried up in recent weeks, though many are relying solely on the domestic trade. Sadly, this has also largely dried up too. The little guys are in trouble – and they need our help.

This is why I wholly support an initiative started by my friend Nicola Thornton, of the company Spanish Palate, of whom regular Cork Talk readers will have read on a number of occasions over the years. Spanish Palate is itself one of the small producers to whom I refer, but they have another important role as well – they are distributors of wines from a number of other small, family owned producers.

A very positive and proactive young lady, Nicola must nevertheless have noticed the dramatic downturn in the livelihoods of her winery owning friends whose sales are dwindling to below survival levels. So, she and her business partner have decided to do something about it! If you go to www.spanishpalate.es/Direct you’ll be able to see the wineries with whom she deals, their wines, and of course, those made by Spanish Palate themselves, You’ll also notice the ease by which you can buy whichever wines you select and have them delivered directly to your door, in fact for hard to believe excellent prices!

Over the years I’ve tried lots of the wines distributed by Spanish Palate, as well as those they make themselves. You won’t be disappointed, quite the reverse, in fact, and significantly, during these difficult times, you’ll be giving the little guys a very much needed helping hand!

NB my next Valley Vibes Wine Show will be on Sat. 6th June, 12 – 1pm, online here www.valleyfm.es and I’ll be tasting one of Spanish Palate’s wines too!

Twitter @colinonwine.com  Facebook Colin Harkness

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Please don’t forget my monthly Wine Show on www.valleyfm.es – it’s always the First Saturday of the Month, from 12:00 hrs – 13:00 hrs CET. You’ll find some great wines tasted on-air; top music; fun chat; and lotsa informal wine info! Hope you can join us soon!

In Praise of Spanish Supermarkets!

IN PRAISE OF SPANISH SUPERMARKET WINES

Bet you didn’t see that coming!

Neither did I! If you look back at my articles (you can see many archived here www.colinharknessonwine.com click Articles, that’s if you haven’t got them posted on your bedroom walls, of course?) you’ll see that I’ve always put wine shops before supermarkets when talking about sourcing wine. If you can’t buy directly from the bodegas themselves, the next best thing will always be wine shops.

I still believe this. Wine shop owners (there don’t seem to be many chains here in Spain, I’ve actually never come across one) have a passion for wine – they care. Consequently they look after their stock; rotate the wines properly; keep a handle on their buying so as not to be left with wines that are creeping past their best; keep abreast of developments in the wine world; attend tastings, certainly nationally, and at times internationally too; read the literature & watch the videos; organise tastings; teach their staff and encourage (sometimes with financial help) assistants to attend courses, take exams, and so on.

Supermarkets, in my view, don’t do much of the above. Most are too big. Wine is just one line, amongst countless others. Yes, some of the larger concerns will have a designated ‘wine buyer’, hopefully with sufficient wine knowledge and expertise, but will they have staff to whom they can diffuse this info? Is there any training of staff in the individual supermarkets – well, I don’t think there are many or much.

To a point I understand this – do the supermarkets train their staff to have greater knowledge about other lines, e.g. which are the best detergents and why; why is one pet food so much more expensive than the one on the shelf nearby; is it best to buy olive oil as young as possible or is it better to wait a year from production. They can’t be expected to employ an expert in every field.

However, if we go to, for example, Mercadona seeking Jamón Serrano, it’s likely there’ll be at least one person there with a good knowledge of the subject. Despite an obvious bias and trying to be as objective as possible, I think this should also apply to wine – but I’ve yet to find it.

So, colours nailed to the mast there, and yet I also stand by my title – lately I’ve noticed that some supermarket wine choices are deserving of praise, and should be lauded so.

The confinement, the lockdown we’ve been undergoing in Spain has meant that we have been essentially ordered to use only the supermarket nearest to where we live, and of course, we’ve been unable to attend a wine shop at all (though some have managed to gain permission to deliver). Plus, I’m also required to recommend a Supermarket Wine of the Week for Valley FM. Therefore, I’ve been tasting a greater number of supermarket wines than is normally the case, for the last 8 weeks!

I’ve chosen carefully, mind. Age and health wise I’m in the ‘at risk’ category, so my lovely wife, Claire-Marie Soprano, far younger than myself, has generously, and bravely, been doing all our shopping when this has always previously been my role. This has meant that Claire has been asked to go to Mas y Mas and send me photos of their wine selection, for me to make the choices!

I’ve mostly got it right, and some of the wines we’ve been trying have been rather good. Here are a few of the best ones, all priced between about 5 – 8€.

My favourite has been the Bornos Verdejo 2019, closely followed by Hécula, from Bodegas Castaño, and in Bronze medal position, the Enate Cabernet Sauvignon Rosado 2019.

I’m not sure when I first tasted Bornos Verdejo. It was new to my area at the time and people very quickly developed a taste for it. My guess is that demand exceeded supply at the time and supplies ran out. There then, it seemed to me, was a short period where the same wine was of a slightly lesser quality. My guess was that, in order to satisfy that demand, vines were allowed to over crop – more grapes, equals more wine, but at a quality cost. I stopped buying it, though it’s been around ever since, remaining popular.

I really like the 2019 above and I think this may be because of two factors – the vines are now older (the average age for this vintage was 15 years), therefore naturally producing slightly fewer bunches, and the producers are now restricting that growth further. The result is a straw coloured wine with lime green hints, fresh, dry white bristling with intense aromas and flavours of citrus fruits, gooseberry and green herbs.

If, like many, you like to have a wine you term your ‘house wine’, this has to be a candidate for your white wine!

I tasted several reds: Bo, as well as Con Un Par,from Bodegas Vicente Gandía; Enate Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot; Soplo, Garnacha from Rafael Cambra, Laudum Roble from Bocopa – all good quality, and all from supermarkets! My favourite red was Hécula, from Castaño – consistent quality for years now!

And so good to see a rosé, the Enate above, coming a close third!

www.colinharknessonwine.com www.valleyfm.es Twitter @colinonwine

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