What a fantastic first tasting menu and wine pairing for us last night. We had a really lovely evening, it was a great atmosphere and the food and wine flowed. A special thanks to our guest speaker and wine expert Colin Harkness for his wonderful commentary and a big shout out to our A team who were so organized, efficient and ensured everything ran smoothly, Daniel, Harry, Dan, Anas, Kim & Gaynor
Private Wine Tasting with a group of visitors from Holland
I haven’t checked, I admit, but I’m pretty sure that my Private Wine Tastings, held in the comfort of clients’ own homes, aren’t listed in the lexicon of Dangerous Sports! So it was good to see the relief on Renata’s face when she realised that her birthday surprise wasn’t going to be a bungee jump, or paragliding, or indeed any of the other scary events that she’d been teased mercilessly about by her Dutch family, all on holiday over here in Moraira.
I’d been contacted by son-in-lay, Ben, about presenting a surprise tasting, we chatted about their budget requirements, styles of wine, and how many bottles! All was set – and we had a great time.
I recently wrote about another such wine tasting where, to start the corks popping, I presented first a sparkling wine. I often do this, it’s a great ice-breaker, it’s celebratory, and if you choose the right one it’s so tasty! Therefore I did it again, and if you looked quickly at the labels you’d see that last week’s and Renata’s fizz was made by the same winery, CastellRoig in Cataluña.
However, on closer inspection you’d see that last week we were using a Corpinnat Sparkling Wine (an article on Corpinnat here soon), this week, a Cava, Gran Reserva in fact. It’s a long, long story, but essentially CastellRoig has recently left the DO Cava, preferring to make their fizz under the Corpinnat banner. The Gran Reserva Cava was from the 2012 vintage, before the existence of the new company, Corpinnat.
Cava Josep Coca Gran Reserva, CastellRoig, is made with indigenous old vine Xarel.lo and Macabeo grapes, it has clearly enjoyed its four years ‘en rima’ where it has developed into an exquisite mouthful. The Brut Nature style might suggest to some that it could be a little too dry – not a bit of it! It’s so fresh on the palate despite its age. It’s rounded, complex, with some toasted almond notes and a pleasing herby floral fragrance. It fills the mouth and lasts for ever!
1583 Albariño de Fefiñanes (recently selected as the Wine of the Week by Tim Atkin MW) has peachy aromas and flavours, yellow peach for me. Bottled in May this year, this 2018 is 100% Albariño, fermented in French and aged for 3 months in barrel, where it is regularly stirred with its lees, and then a further 3 months in stainless steel temperature controlled vessels, waiting for bottling and release. Citrus notes, peach, very subtle oak. Drinking well now it’s a wine that, although white and Spanish, will age for another three years, to give even more.
Ben wanted a second white – what a choice I had to make. These days there are so many top class white wines made in Spain! I opted for a Verdejo from DO Rueda, and I’m pleased I did, as I was surprised to learn from all of my Dutch friends that nowadays this Spanish grape variety is well known and loved in Holland.
El Transistor 2018 is made by superstar winemaker, Telmo Rodriguez and attempts to give the perfect expression of the variety. Well, he doesn’t do a bad job! Grapes from 60 yrs old vines are fermented in different barrel sizes and aged in same for about 6 months, as well as cement deposits, to maintain freshness. Lime green shades in the glass, stone/slate mineral elements, gooseberry fruit and the inside of kiwi skin where it meets the flesh, with acidity, rounded, full on mouth, a real mouthful, fresh.
Our first red wine was a cracker – one of the most famous Ribera del Duero producers, Arzuaga wines have really made a name for themselves. Their PR/Publicity dept has done an exemplary job (I’m sure hugely expensive too), however, this is only going to work if the wine is of a top standard too! It is!
I chose, working on advice from Jose. Owner of Teulada’s excellent wine merchants, A Catarlo Todo, the 2016 Crianza, made with 95% Tempranillo (aka Tinto del País in Ribera del Duero) and just 5% Cabernet Sauvignon for some extra longevity, depth of flavour and complexity.
Most of the Tempranillo comes from the oldest on-site vineyards that Arzuaga controls, located at 920 metres above sea level, with a telling addition of some Tempranillo bought in from near Burgos where the vines are 100+ years old! It’s a super red wine, redolent of all we’d expect from an oak aged (16 months in American and French barricas) Spanish red. Gasps of admiration followed first sips!
Finally, as requested, we tasted another red wine, but oh so different – Dolç Mendoza is a dessert wine par excellence! Only made in exceptional years when the fruit on the vines is in perfect condition so that it can stay put until, perhaps 6 weeks after the rest of the Enrique Mendoza vineyards up near Villena, have been harvested.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Merlot make up the blend – after fermentation, this 15·5 abv sweet red wine is aged for ten months in oak. The result is a luscious wine, wonderful with chocolate desserts and summer pudding, but also with mature cheeses, including strong blue cheese! Splendid!
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For more info about Private Wine Tastings: https://youtu.be/8qYhmj4hNQU
THE WINES OF NORTHERN SPAIN
So, here’s me thinking I know a bit about Spanish wine (and I do, too), but my knowledge, expertise and experience over the last 21 years, practically pales into insignificance when compared with the latest book by my colleague and friend, Sara Jane Evans MW!
Put simply, ‘The Wines of Northern Spain’ by Sarah Jane Evans MW must now be considered the definitive, go-to reference work for the wines of half of this dynamic wine producing country – with her next book, no doubt the same for the other half, the south! If you, or your partner/friends have an interest in Spanish wines, this has to be a perfect Christmas Present! (www.infideas.com)
Approximately twenty years ago I had in my hands a contract to write an introductory book on the Wines of Spain. It was quite an accolade and I was keen to write a first reference book after so many articles. However, it was an opportunity I had to turn down – the sheer scale of the undertaking had me almost shaking with trepidation!
Since then, considering all the publications for which I’ve written, it must now be well over a million words, almost always, in praise of Spanish wines – describing them, their provenance, their producers et al. So, I’m now in an even better position to understand how huge and difficult such a project would be!
Sarah Jane Evans MW, is also aware of how vast an enterprise, having decided to write it in two different parts, however she didn’t baulk at the task, she just got on with it!
Of course, as a Master of Wine (MW), who specialises in Spanish wines, Sarah Jane Evans would be by far the better option as a writer for such a reference book, and this clearly comes out when reading it. It seems there is nothing that has been left out, and it’s clear that she writes from great knowledge and experience. And that’s not surprising!
The author is an award-winning wine writer, journalist and speaker at conferences worldwide. She co-Chairs the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards; she qualified as an MW in 2006, and was presented with an award for the highest mark in the theory section of this exacting exam, and was subsequently appointed Chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine!
With regard to her specialist subject, Spanish Wine, Sarah Jane Evans was made a member of the exceedingly prestigious Gran Orden de Caballeros de Vino in 2010, with a number of similarly impressive appointments to various Denominaciónes de Origen throughout Spain. A Spanish wine expert, she certainly is!
And one would need to be, in order to write this comprehensive book in such depth. However, this is certainly not just a factual reference book destined to gather dust on the library shelf. Sarah Jane’s writing skills, allied to her knowledge and personal experience of Spanish wines make, ‘The Wines of Northern Spain’, interspersed as it is with entertaining anecdotes and producer profiles, a thoroughly good read!
The book, as the title would suggest, deals with the wine producing areas of Northern Spain, defined here in practical terms as: drawing ‘a line from the Pyrenees to Aragón and Navarra, turning west to Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Castilla y León, and Galicia, also taking in Txakoli country, and Asturias’.
The early chapter, ‘Three Thousand Years of History’ gives a fascinating, historical perspective to these often ancient areas of production, and a useful backdrop to the areas and their wines as they are now. How interesting to know, for example, that the Phoenicians who were trading with Spain in about 1100 BC, bringing with them wine in amphorae, have left a legacy which has recently been revived here, where a number of bodegas are now using clay pots for fermentation and ageing wine!
The book also details early on the major grape varieties used in these areas of Northern Spain, some of which are familiar to readers, but some of which we know little, or nothing about. There are vine growers and winemakers in these areas who are engaged in an almost missionary quest to revive forgotten and almost extinct varieties, and the wines made from them are another reason why Sarah Jane declares, “Spain is the most exciting country in Europe for wine lovers, and one of the most exciting in the world.”
As the reader reads on he/she will find region, area and producer profiles (including climates, microclimates, soil types and altitudes), detailing wine making methods, varieties used and even some of the wines themselves. It’s a good read from cover to cover, and can then be used over and over again to dip into for reference purposes when readers are thinking of looking for new wine tastes and aromas and/or exploring the regions first hand.
Clearly, there is quality wine in the areas detailed in ‘The Wines of Northern Spain’, some of which readers will have tasted, however there are areas here that are less well known, whose wines are not so readily available on the Costas of Spain. We are therefore given an insight into what else there is to taste, which fits perfectly with Sarah Jane’s stated intention that readers should discover and taste these wines for themselves!
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