You wouldn’t classify these as BBQ wines, but Neil’s BBQs are also a cut above!

A BBQ’S IDEA OF A BBQ, & WINES TO MATCH!

When we received our invitation to Neil and Carol’s BBQ, to celebrate the former’s birthday, it wasn’t entirely true that all the wines we would be tasting were largely down to my having introduced them to Neil, as he actually said.

 

I can’t claim credit for the super Luis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne, served as a welcome drink. In fact, it could be argued that, if anything, I have been trying to turn their heads away from Champagne, incessantly recommending Cava!  Also, the delightful M de Alejandria dessert wine, was a new Moscatel to me, but one to which I’m sure I’ll return.

However, I might perhaps have played a part in Neil’s choice of white wine, paired with the delicious BBQd fresh prawns; as well as the simply wonderful, exemplary DO Yecla red wine, Casa Cisca from Bodegas Castaño. After all, I did take Neil and Carol (as well as a coach load of others) to visit the bodega a couple of years ago.

 

It was one of those social events that one knew had to be a success! I was, obviously, very confident in the wines. Neil knows a thing or two about wine, that’s for sure, so whilst I knew very well the two I’d recommended, I was certain that the others would be of the same standard. Plus, as we’ve come to know over the years, Neil is several steps above being just an accomplished chef – his dinners, and BBQs are legendary! The food therefore was a given from the start – bound to be top class.

 

And of course, the company is even more important than the food and wine, albeit that this was to be a very gourmet affair. I was with the lovely Claire-Marie (www.clairemarie.es), Classical Soprano and founder member of the Claire-Marie Latin Jazz Trio, of course.  And, we were delighted to find that our fellow invitees were: musicians, Pauline and Roger as well as bon viveurs, Jeanette and Dave, with whom I traded cheeky insults all afternoon and into the night, calling it an honourable draw in the end!

 

All was set for an excellent BBQ.

 

Roederer produces the hallowed Champagne Cristal Millesime Brut, retailing at well over 100€ per bottle and, as with so many wine producers, their other wines are, of course, of a similar standard, and not a lot cheaper! A high proportion of the base wine for this Champagne is barrel aged, giving the finished product greater depth and a little extra flavour too. On top of this, the Champagne stays on its lees aging in the cellars for a minimum of 48 months before it’s release! Balanced, elegant, full flavoured – a great way to start!

 

Regular readers may remember me singing the praises of the Albariño based wines of Bodegas Palacio de Fefiñanes, where Claire-Marie and I were once invited to attend a lunch within the castle-like, Manor House! Put simply, their whole portfolio of wines is excellent! I’d recommended them to Neil and he bought their ‘regular’ Fefiñanes Albariño as well as their rather special Fefiñanes III Año Albariño 2013, asking me to choose! Both are exemplary, but I opted for the latter, as it’s a bit different!

 

The Albariño grapes are hand picked, passing at least two inspections – only the best bunches are used in making this wine. It’s fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and then left on its lees, with gentle stirring for over 30 months. Albariño is a variety that revels in this treatment, giving the drinker in return a beautiful, golden hued wine which is dry and elegant redolent of peach and apricot. Excellent!

 

Bodegas Castaño’s Casa Cisca 2013 is probably sold out right now! It always sells out – and there’s a reason for this: it’s a wonderful wine. At 15% it looks like a big wine, and it is, yet for all its weight and body, it is fresh, plumy and elegant. If thinking yet about your Christmas Day meal – put this at the top of the list already.

When you put the glass to your lips, but smell, before tasting, the wine speaks to you, seduces you, before you’ve even tasted it. And its promise is delivered when you hold it on your palate and let your taste buds go to work, eventually swallowing. It’s a conversation stopper – and the huge rib of beef with which it was served, well, a perfect pairing if ever there was one!

 

Cristina Rodriguez Vicente’s childhood dream of producing a dessert wine made with her own Moscatel grapes came true in 2016, having replanted an ancient vineyard in the Teulada landscape of the Costa Blanca. The first commercial wine from this enterprise, M de Alejandria, made in the ice wine style, in fact by friend and colleague, Daniel Belda, of the eponymous bodega, is the one we enjoyed so much with a special peach dessert.

Sweet yes, as desired, but also with the crucial acidity which keeps dessert wines fresh. Honeyed ripe orange peel aromas and flavour with lovely honeysuckle and white flower fragrance!

 

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

You really should have listened in those Maths lessons!

MATHS – THE PART IT PLAYS IN

SPARKLING WINE APPRECIATION!

Perfect info here, easy sums too!

I recently spent a good half-hour, probably more, in a very well stocked, dedicated wine shop in Teulada, Alicante. My mission – to select some cava for a wine appreciating friend’s birthday. I was grateful to the maths teacher of my second year in secondary school, Southport, Lancashire – all those years ago, for helping me choose!

 

Why? Well, when choosing any sparkling wine it helps to have a grasp of what was called, Mental Arithmetic, in those less than halcyon days (it was a dreadful school!). However, it could all be made easier, if the sparkling wine producers played their part. Some do, but many don’t!

 

Sparkling wine has a shelf-life, which starts from the moment it is disgorged – that is the time when the bottle (talking Traditional Method here) is taken from the cellars where it has been resting upside-down, for at least the minimum amount of time prescribed by the authorities, and the restraining cap is removed.

 

The ice cube (the neck of the bottle and its contents are frozen at this point) that contains the lees (the sediment, the dead yeast), is jettisoned by the pressure inside the bottle, which is then topped up and resealed with the distinctive cork. It’s now that the clock starts ticking!

 

The sparkling wine is ready for consumption and will be for a length of time still – but how long? It’s here that producers can help consumers with their maths, but, for commercial reasons, many choose not to.

 

Clearly, we cannot even have an anything like educated guess at how long the bottle we select from the shelves will have at its optimum time for drinking, if we don’t know the date when disgorgement took place. Sparkling wine is at its peak for a certain time after disgorgement, determined by the length of time it has spent on its lees – the less time, the fewer months it will be at its best.

The lees resting in a bottle of Cava – it will be inverted over a period of time so that the sediment falls to the neck.

Unfortunately it’s not an exact science – there’s no definite equation, but there’s a general ‘rule’, providing some guidance, at least. For example a young cava which has spent the minimum 9 months ‘en rima’ (upside-down on its lees) will happily last for probably a year, perhaps a few months longer, after it has been disgorged. There are other factors involved, e.g. the age of the vines whose grapes were used to make the cava, but as a general guideline, the above is useful.

 

Carrying on with cava – a Reserva, which has to have had a minimum of 15 months en rima, will last longer still – certainly two years, often longer. And, a 30 month minimum, Gran Reserva – well longer still; and in all cases when the minimum time en rima is exceeded, as it often is, the cava’s longevity will increase proportionately.

 

But, without knowing the date of disgorgement, we are popping in the dark!

Looks inviting doesn’t it? But is it at its best?

However, if other information is available, those in the know, and with a certain mathematical aptitude, can make some educated guesses. And so it was for me, when making my choice the other week.

 

Some of the cavas I considered did have the important date on the back label. However, I decided that I wanted a Magnum – none displayed the date of disgorgement. One, apparently, had some sort of code, which, if the consumer goes to the website, will reveal the date. But come on, who has the time to do this? How can it be done at point of sale? Who can be bothered? It’s clearly just a sop to informed consumers, a get-out clause where the producer can avoid any criticism for withholding information!

One magnum advised that the wine had enjoyed 40 months en rima, so, a Gran Reserva, with extended lees contact – but no further information. A help, when allied also to the fact that it is a magnum. Magnums hold the equivalent of two bottles worth of wine, but have the same sized neck as bottles. This means that the tiny amount of oxygen that passes through the cork, as a part of a wine’s aging process, is the same, but influences twice the amount of wine – thus allowing greater longevity. However, there is still guesswork needed here.

 

Another magnum of cava had its vintage date on the label and proudly stated that it was a Gran Reserva. So, I knew that I could add on at least 30 months to the date of the vintage, not far off three years, and see how close that took me to 2018, again bearing in mind the size of the bottle. But this took me only to 2014 – it would probably be good still, the more so if the minimum en rima time had been exceeded (I’ve tasted Gran Reserva cavas which have aged thus for five years and more!).

 

But, it’s still guess work, no matter how good is one’s maths!

 

My thanks for contributions from: @Wine_Cuentista, @VictordelaSerna, @SorchaHolloway, @ADHalliwell

An unrelated couple, for summer!

A ROSÉ FIZZ & A CHARDONNAY FOR SUMMER+

I wouldn’t say I was inundated, but it is true that I receive a large number of solicited and unsolicited wines during the year. I’m not complaining of course – it gives me the opportunity to further promote the wines of my adoptive country. And, yes, I admit it, I’m quite partial to a drop of fine Spanish wine myself!

Usually, the wines I receive all come from the same bodega. I have been asked occasionally over the years why it is that practically all of my articles are positive about the wines therein. I can understand the worry – am I being compromised by feeling that I have to write ‘nicely’ about wines that I have received gratis? And, if this is the case, am I therefore not giving readers wholly truthful advice?

Well, don’t worry, please, the comments I make in my reviews and wine notes are honest and truthful. The fact that those which you read are almost all positive is because, if there are wines that I receive that are poor examples (I tasted one recently for example that was undrinkable) I simply leave them out of the article – often advising the producer exactly why.

This week, rather that writing about a certain bodega’s full portfolio of wines, Cork Talk is going to feature just two wines, each from different areas of production, albeit that the Denominaciónes de Origen are adjacent to each – which is about the only connection between them!

I’m starting with a sparkling wine, as I’m wont to do at the tastings I present as well as prior to dinner, either here at home or in a restaurant. Is there a better way to start an evening (and a wine article?!).

The sparkler to which I refer is a rosado made with one of the black grape varieties approved for making Cava, but it’s not Cava. This Monastrell Sparkling Wine is made in DO Jumilla – and it’s a delight!

I love fine Cava, but as the title of one of my articles, of several years ago, stated, all that sparkles in Spain is not necessarily Cava; and yet it is often of the same quality, and occasionally better! This certainly goes for Bodegas Alceño’s Brut Nature rosé Monastrell – which I loved! (http://alceno.com/en/)

The bottle with its sparkly pink foil and it’s pretty pink flowers does not flatter to deceive – the wine, when poured is also a pretty pink in the glass, and, more importantly it has aroma, flavour and presence too! There are darker pink rose petals on the nose with strawberry as well as raspberry and faint rhubarb notes as well. On the palate there is elegance as well a mouthfeel and it has a medium length too.

A lovely aperitif, of course, but also pair this wine with rice dishes and Oriental/Asian cuisine, where its Brut Nature style retains the acidity to cut through any over sweetness in the food, and its structure balances the food/wine combination, practically perfectly.

I wrote fairly recently about a Jumilla wine made by Bodegas Rodríguez de Vera (www.rodriguezdevera.com/), which actually majors in DO Almansa where its winery is actually situated. I said at the time that I’d be interested in tasting one of their DO Almansa wines, as it would be more from their natural home – having been impressed with their Jumilla effort.

I love the Flamingo decked label on their Chardonnay Fermentado en Barrica – a wine that will, I think, convince even the most ardent ABC Club card holder (Anything But Chardonnay) that it is now safe to come out of hiding! Yes, it’s been fermented in oak, aged too, but only for a month. It therefore has a little oak influence, but in no way does this mask the fruit.

 

The single vineyard wine, whose grapes were harvested by hand, has also been aged for three months on its lees, with weekly stirring, away from the oak, and this adds a creamy dimension to the finished wine which complements, and in turn is complemented by, the oak barrels. Crucial is the acidity, which is tight and lean despite the fullness of the wine.

You’ll find some white stoned fruit on the palate, white peaches particularly, but also fresh, slightly under ripe yellow peaches, with a brief reference to banana skin and a little pineapple acidity. It’s all wrapped up nicely in a quilt of creaminess with a dash of vanilla!

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

Date of Disgorgement!

MATHS – THE PART IT PLAYS IN

SPARKLING WINE APPRECIATION!

It’s transparency of information we need on our sparkling wines bottles and here’s a great example!

I recently spent a good half-hour, probably more, in a very well stocked, dedicated wine shop in Teulada, Alicante. My mission – to select some cava for a wine appreciating friend’s birthday. I was grateful to the maths teacher of my second year in secondary school, Southport, Lancashire – all those years ago, for helping me choose!

 

Why? Well, when choosing any sparkling wine it helps to have a grasp of what was called, Mental Arithmetic, in those less than halcyon days (it was a dreadful school!). However, it could all me made easier, if the sparkling wine producers played their part. Some do, but many don’t!

 

Sparkling wine has a shelf-life, which starts from the moment it is disgorged – that is the time when the bottle (talking Traditional Method here) is taken from the cellars where it has been resting upside-down, for at least the minimum amount of time prescribed by the authorities, and the restraining cap is removed.

 

The ice cube (the neck of the bottle and its contents are frozen at this point) that contains the lees (the sediment, the dead yeast), is jettisoned by the pressure inside the bottle, which is then topped up and resealed with the distinctive cork. It’s now that the clock starts ticking!

 

The sparkling wine is ready for consumption and will be for a length of time still – but how long? It’s here that producers can help consumers with their maths, but, for commercial reasons, many choose not to.

 

Clearly, we cannot even have an anything like educated guess at how long the bottle we select from the shelves will have at its optimum time for drinking, if we don’t know the date when disgorgement took place. Sparkling wine is at its peak for a certain time after disgorgement, determined by the length of time it has spent on its lees – the less time, the fewer months it will be at its best.

 

Unfortunately it’s not an exact science – there’s no definite equation, but there’s a general ‘rule’, providing some guidance, at least. For example a young cava which has spent the minimum 9 months ‘en rima’ (upside-down on its lees) will happily last for probably a year, perhaps a few months longer, after it has been disgorged. There are other factors involved, e.g. the age of the vines whose grapes were used to make the cava, but as a general guideline, the above is useful.

 

Carrying on with cava – a Reserva, which has to have had a minimum of 15 months en rima, will last longer still – certainly two years, often longer. And, a 30 month minimum, Gran Reserva – well longer still; and in all cases when the minimum time en rima is exceeded, as it often is, the cava’s longevity will increase proportionately.

 

But, without knowing the date of disgorgement, we are popping in the dark!

 

However, if other information is available, those in the know, and with a certain mathematical aptitude, can make some educated guesses. And so it was for me, when making my choice the other week.

 

Some of the cavas I considered did have the important date on the back label. However, I decided that I wanted a Magnum – none displayed the date of disgorgement. One, apparently, had some sort of code, which, if the consumer goes to the website, will reveal the date. But come on, who has the time to do this? How can it be done at point of sale? Who can be bothered? It’s clearly just a sop to informed consumers, a get-out clause where the producer can avoid any criticism for withholding information!

 

One magnum advised that the wine had enjoyed 40 months en rima, so, a Gran Reserva, with extended lees contact – but no further information. A help, when allied also to the fact that it is a magnum. Magnums hold the equivalent of two bottles worth of wine, but have the same sized neck as bottles. This means that the tiny amount of oxygen that passes through the cork, as a part of a wine’s aging process, is the same, but influences twice the amount of wine – thus allowing greater longevity. However, there is still guesswork needed here.

 

Another magnum of cava had its vintage date on the label and proudly stated that it was a Gran Reserva. So, I knew that I could add on at least 30 months to the date of the vintage, not far off three years, and see how close that took me to 2018, again bearing in mind the size of the bottle. But this took me only to 2014 – it would probably be good still, the more so if the minimum en rima time had been exceeded (I’ve tasted Gran Reserva cavas which have aged thus for five years and more!).

 

But, it’s still guess work, no matter how good is one’s maths!

 

My thanks for contributions from: @Wine_Cuentista, @VictordelaSerna, @SorchaHolloway, @ADHalliwell @anthonycswift