For Tim Ladd

TIM LADD – AN OBITUARY

I’m writing this Cork Talk on the night before I’m taking a flight to Southampton to join a Fred Olsen cruise, where I’ll be working as a Wine Speaker. By the time it’s published the cruise will be but a pleasant memory, however I can tell you now what my first drink onboard will be – a Harvey’s Sherry, for sure!

In a recent Cork Talk, entitled, ‘The Ladies Who Fizz’, I referred to my old friend Tim Ladd, saying that this once stalwart, ex-President and perennial committee member of the Cost Blanca Wine Society had regrettably returned to the UK in poor health.

Regret is an appropriate word – for I’m suffering from it now. Unfortunately, Tim and I had rather lost touch. My busy life, both wine wise and domestically, and Tim’s happy retirement just didn’t dovetail. I regret very much that I let this slip, for I heard, following the publication of the above article, that Tim had passed away some time ago.

I can’t actually recall when I first met Tim, but it must have been quite soon after my move from Torrevieja to Moraira, so it’s likely to have been close to start of the new millennium. Neither can I remember where it was that I met him, but it’s an educated guess that it was in fact at said Costa Blanca Wine Society.

We hit it off straight away, despite our very different backgrounds – from the south of England, with a fairly far back accent, Tim reminded me of a public schoolboy, always up for a prank. My northern accent – a bit Lancastrian, with a slight Liverpudlian lilt was rather removed from that of the boys of The Remove.

That didn’t make any difference though – we made each other laugh, his the contagious naughty sort, as if listening to a jape about a prefect, or better still, a Marster, related after Prep in the Boys’ Toilets; mine more, well northern, the lads in the pub sort of laugh. Plus, we had something else in common – wine, of course!

Tim had worked for Harvey’s of Bristol – you’ll know Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry, I’m sure. He’d worked in Portugal (they make Port as well) and in Jerez and was a frequent visitor too. His knowledge of both Port and Sherry was exceptional, and he was full of stories about how it had been, working for such a time honoured and well respected company.

Naturally, I suppose, whilst working in the sector, Tim had also developed a great interest in unfortified wine, and a fine palate too. Such a gentleman, for that’s exactly what Tim was, a real gentleman, was tailor-made for the Costa Blanca Wine Society. Tim was able to bring with him his management and people skills, as well as his wine knowledge and, importantly his sense of fun. There’d be no stuffiness where Tim was involved!

I don’t know how long the Society had been going when Tim joined. Was he one of the founder members – I’m not sure? I do know, however, that he befriended (well, that’s obvious, Tim befriended everybody, he was that type of guy) the founder of the Costa Blanca Wine Society, Anton Massel. Anton was a big noise in the wine world.

A wine maker who had been contracted to make wine in the UK, long before it became as fashionable as it is nowadays and an author of a number of wine books, Anton had also started what is now the oldest international wine competition on the world, the International Wine & Spirits Competition (www.iwsc.net). I wasn’t aware of this until I walked into the offices of the IWSC eight years or so ago, about to join the judging panel for the first time, and saw Anton’s photo on the wall! I don’t mind admitting that my knowing Anton and the fact that we’d been in business together added a certain kudos to my being there!

Well, there were three of us in the business – and you’ve guessed, of course, that Tim Ladd was the other member of the triumvirate that ran the Costa Wine Society. It was a good idea – a wine club, with wines chosen by the three of us, pooling our knowledge and tasting skills to make crucial decisions. Members of the club received a case of six wines a month, with details of their provenance, grape varieties, method by which they were made, the history and philosophy of the bodegas etc etc.

The only problem was that there weren’t enough clients – we didn’t lose money, but we didn’t make any either! We decided the stop trading after a few years, but we’d all enjoyed it. I can remember the tasting sessions we used to hold, just the three of us, in secret, well fairly secret – in a quiet lounge at Javea Golf Course, very close to where Tim lived. Great fun – and of course Tim was right in the thick of it, lapping it up – literally!

So, sadly Tim is no longer with us, but I know that he is fondly remembered by everybody who came across him, particularly the members of the Costa Blanca Wine Society who’ll remember his tireless work on their behalf, even after he became ill, and his ever present fun and happy way.

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PILGRIMS’ PROGRESS

I’ll be very interested to see how these Peregrino (pilgrim, in Spanish!) wines progress over the next few years. I received from Bodegas Gordonzello, via Ondara’s wine shop Aguilar, three bottles of the wines they were showing at the shop one evening when I couldn’t attend. www.gordonzello.com

I was attracted to them as they are made with relatively rare varieties which hail from the DO Tierra de Léon region, as does the winery in question. I’ve written before about Albarín Blanco and Prieto Picudo and was impressed then – so I was keen to try some other versions, and here I had a white, rosé and a red, again!

Firstly, please note again, that Albarín is not the same variety as Albariño, which will be known to most readers. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a lesser grape at all – different flavour and aroma profiles, but really enjoyable.

With vineyards at an altitude of 750 meters above sea level – it’s a good start. Temperatures can be very high during the growing season, but at night, at this height, there is some respite allowing the grapes to develop far better. On the nose, Peregrino Albarín, might remind the taster of a French Sauvignon Blanc, that’s subtle, rather than in-your-face NZ Sauv. Or you might first think of Spain’s Verdejo, one made with indigenous yeast, rather than cultivated and mass produced yeast, designed to bring out, and even exaggerate certain flavours and aromas. Or then again, a taster new to the Albarín may think the wine is like a combination of the two!

This a little nutty on the nose, but with good fruit – perhaps greengages and maybe a little kiwi, with a citrus twist? It’s a lighter style than the one I’d tasted earlier – an aperitif wine for sure, also pair it with salad. And in this heat (it’s currently approaching 40ºC at the time of writing!) I’d approve of a cube of ice and a little sparkling water, making a wholly different, refreshing spritzer.

It was close, but my favourite wine of the three was in fact the Rosado. Yes, I’m aware that we are having very rosé weather at the moment – rosado wine is so refreshing in the hot weather – but it’s not this fact that endeared to the wine to me particularly. It’s just that it’s a really fresh rose petal wine, with soft red fruit and a slight red peach flavour too!

We are eating far less meat these days. Vegetarian options are good, also fish, and I like to pair the colour of the fish, sometimes, with the colour of the wine. Salmon and Trout can work well in this way with rosé wine, and so it was with the salmon fillet marinated in chilli oil, ginger, garlic and a touch of lime. The match worked well.

La Costana 2014 Crianza is the red wine I tasted. It’s from the same bodega, though another name, and made with the same variety as made the rosado, Prieto Picudo. It’s crianza was 12 months in a mixture of French, American and Hungarian oak.

I wish I’d tasted this wine two years ago, when it would have had the fruit of its youth, which is now, unfortunately on the wane. I have found that in the 20+ years I’ve been writing about Spanish wines there has been a change in the style, generally of crianza wines. To me they don’t seem to be built to last the perhaps 5 – 7 years that they used to manage with some ease.

Perhaps the 2014 vintage wasn’t such a good one, perhaps the majority of the vines used were a little too young? I’m not sure but, whilst it is drinking quite well, it’s more the oak that is to the fore.

It may also be that this variety is perhaps better when drunk younger? The red I tasted several months ago was from the 2016 harvest. Of course, there may have been some vintage variation, those vines may have been older, different oak and time in barrels might have been used – there are many variables. However, it may be that Prieto Picudo is at its best when enjoying the vibrancy of youth – but then, aren’t we all?!

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An Atypical Wine Taster?

COMBATTING PRECONCEPTIONS

WHEN WINE TASTING

I think I’m probably an atypical wine taster.

In various different capacities, I’ve been tasting wine professionally for 30 years now. My lengthy, and on-going, tasting trip started a few years before I opened my first restaurant in the UK, knowing that in order to make the restaurant different from the others in the area, and more attractive for diners to visit, I had to have an edge. Understanding wines and being able to write my own wine list was the way forward.

Since those days I’ve tasted wines as an exporter, wine club business joint-owner, writer, broadcaster, TV presenter (briefly!), wine tourism guide, wine tasting event presenter, plus as a national and international wine judge. That’s quite a lot of experience – yet I still find myself having to combat any preconceptions I might have. I think it’s safe to say that I do overcome them, but they nevertheless do raise their tempting, even, seductive, heads. Perhaps it’s this that makes me atypical?

This whole train of thought started just the other week. It so happened that I’d been, coincidentally, tasting a number of wines all poured from more or less the same shaped bottle. Oldsters like myself would call this shape, the Burgundy style bottle – perhaps you know the shape I mean?

I’d liked, occasionally loved, the wines emanating from these bottles and had waxed fairly, and at times, very, lyrical about them. Then, some wines turned up for me to taste (I know, it’s tough isn’t it!) and one of them was in a tall upright, high shouldered bottle, the one those of us of a certain age would call a Bordelaise, or Bordeaux bottle. My first reaction on seeing the bottle, I should emphasise, not on tasting the wine, was one of disappointment! Ridiculous, I know – after all, there are some rather good (understatement of the year) wines from Bordeaux!

Of course, the thought was dispelled immediately and I set about tasting the wine wholly dispassionately – professionally!

Whilst I’m ensconced here in the confessional, I’ll admit to feeling similarly when viewing wine labels! With some there is an immediate attraction – they say ‘Buy me, buy me now!’; or, if I’ve been sent the wine, they tell me to drink them, drink them immediately. The inference in both cases is, of course, that it’s clear I’m going to like the wine, because, well look at the cool, sexy label!

In contrast, there are some labels I see which are the antithesis of this feeling – they, initially, I emphasise again, put me off. They don’t attract me at all, making me, illogically, and momentarily (I assure you), somewhat disinclined to taste the contents!

And, whilst we are on the subject of labels, the other day I was given a bottle with no label at all – naked wine! My automatic reaction – great interest, and expectation. To open such a wine would be stepping entirely into the unknown, appealing to my sense of adventure, to boldly step . . blah, blah . . . like some sort of vinous Treckie!

But, wait, hold back a bit – the wine might well be outstanding, but it also might me poor. I have to combat my preconceptions once more.

Also, I receive recommendations from people – Oh, Colin you must try this wine! Do you find it’s the same with restaurants? It is with me. Whether I take up the advice about dining at a certain eatery will depend a lot on the person who has recommended it. I’m not being snobby, though it might sound like it, just sensible. If the person loves pizza, baked beans and burgers, well, I might not actually be that interested – because, I don’t!

Back to wine – if the recommender won’t buy anything over 3€ a bottle, well I might not be too impressed by his/her recommendation (though I am aware that occasionally a good wine, priced thereabouts, can be found!). But, on the other hand, if one of my wine appreciating pals, or a wine related Twitter or Facebook friend recommends a wine, I’m very likely to look out for it and try it.

However, it’s here where the recommendation goes out of the window. In the preconception battle, the professional has to win every time. There can be no preconceived ideas when tasting wines! What sort of judge would I be if I’d already part decided the wine’s quality, based on: the shape of the bottle; the look of the label; the absence of a label; or the recommendation of a colleague? Objectivity is key.

I recently received two wines, independently, from two people whose opinions I respect – one with no agenda at all, one who is also trying to sell wines. The latter highly recommended Albakar Viognier – and, as Viognier is one of my favourite varieties, I was keen to try it. A good wine, but nothing outstanding and not really representative of the variety – I’d give it perhaps 74 points out of a hundred.

Petit Hipperia is from Castilla – an eclectic blend of five different red wine varieties. It’s sold locally, but it wasn’t the vendor who was recommending it to me. I went along mostly with the recommendation, it’s a very well priced, good quality wine, with, as you’d imagine, lots of fruit, but it’s not quite perfectly balanced. Its ripe tannin and diminishing acidity mean it hasn’t got long to last before it starts to wane. However, is that a problem? You’ve got a year or so to drink it as it is now! 80 points!

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Spectacular Tinácula

WHAT HAVE THE ROMANS EVER DONE FOR US?

Well, although the link is at best rather tenuous, indirectly, at least, they have brought us the wines of Bodega Las Calzados – and I’m very glad they did! (www.bodegalascalzadas.com)

Linguists will know that Las Calazados means ‘the roads’ in English, and of course we all know about Roman Roads – they go in as a straight a direction as possible from one place to another. The eponymous Bodega Las Calzados is located at the intersection between two ancient Roman Roads which ran, respectively, to Cartago Nova (Cartagena) and Complutum (Alcalá de Henares). And I have a feeling that I have to visit!

It’s not quite accurate (well, not at all, really!) to suggest that Romans also brought us amphorae – the Ancient Greeks can be credited for this – but they certainly made use of them. Like their predecessors, the Romans used amphorae to carry liquids – water, oil and of course wine. So, given this, and the Roman link above, it seems a perfect fit that Bodega Las Calzadas makes and ages their wines in amphorae (large clay pots) and calls them Tinácula (Latin for Tinajas – large clay pots!).

I was sent three examples and I really enjoyed them all, in fact I’m sipping a glass of their flagship wine Tinácula X, as I write!

Tinácula White is made with 100% Chardonnay. The bunches are harvested during the cool of the night, and placed carefully in small 15kg baskets. The grapes are pressed manually and the resulting juice macerates with the skins at a cold 4ºC temperature for 12 hours. After a fifteen day fermentation the wine is placed, as you might imagine, in 150 years old tinajas, of 2,000 litres capacity.

During its 3 months ageing, this wine is subjected to daily stirring, where the lees are hardly allowed to settle. I really like the style of this wine – apart from its pale yellow colour, it’s not like any other Chardonnay I’ve tasted!

It’s refreshing, initially with a little lemon on the palate, a pleasing floral aspect – faint honeysuckle, chamomile and a little earthy hay in there too. Hold it on the plate and it will give you a little more fruit, more apple than exotic peach/pineapple, as can often be found with Californian and Australian Chardonnay. The regular stirring doesn’t give much of the creaminess you might expect, but as the wine moves around the clay it takes with it a mineral earthiness, that is a common characteristic of the whole, small portfolio.

Its big brother, Tinácula Red, is also a monovarietal this time Bobal, the signature grape variety of DO Ribera del Júcar, under whose auspices the full range is made. Here the earthiness is a little more pronounced, threading its way through the dark cherry and plum fruity notes.

It has a lovely colour in the glass and in the mouth you’ll find rounded tannins, prominent enough for there to be some ageing potential, though as smooth as you like too. The some fresh acidity, making the wine a juicy mouthful with mineral notes, a little mountain herb too.

The vines are 45 years old, grown at 800 metres above sea level, producing rich grapes. Maceration ensures the deep colour as well as tannin to age. Malolactic fermentation takes place again in clay pots, though this time new, and of just 500 litres capacity, where the wine stays for five months, intensifying the mineral earthiness, but never hiding the fruit.

I’ve been loving the flavour and aroma of the wax-finished bottle Tinácula X, with its Roman coins depicted on the front label, and some history of the bodega on the back, since I started this article – and I ain’t finished sipping yet! It’s a super example of what Ribera del Júcar has to offer.

The X, is another link to the Roman past, here signifying the 10 months that the wine has been aged in 150 years old tinajas of just 200 litres. Like the previous red, fermentation is natural, provoked by yeasts indigenous to the 50+ years old vineyard from whence the Bobal and Cencibel (Tempranillo) grapes come.

The earthiness intensifies further here, but again, never consuming the aroma and flavour of the rich grapes, coming from such an old vineyard. There are dark green herbs in the mix too, plus some stone derived minerality, also coming from the soil.

Those readers who have tasted Bobal already (come on the rest of you, now’s the time!) will know of its lovely black cherry flavour, exemplified here, and with the added bonus of some, rather ripe loganberry and tinned strawberry notes from the Cencibel, lurking under the surface of the upfront Picota cherries.

This really is an excellent wine, with time on its side too, and priced at just 14€, well, it’s a steal!

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