First Published Costa News Group, March 2012



Last week’s article (please see www.costa-news. Com click Cork Talk) introduced Norrel Robertson MW whose experience in both the retail wine trade as well as the sharp of the wine industry, wine-making, puts him in an ideal and largely unique   position in Spain. Here you’ll learn about his super wines, mostly red using ancient Garnacha vines but also a white using a favourite variety of mine, Viognier, which which I’ll start.

Look out for the distinctive wine labels of wines from El Escoces Volante – the hand  -drawn palm about to crush a bunch of old-vine Viognier grapes makes it stand out from the crowd for a start, but more importantly the wine within the the attractive Burgundy shaped-bottle puts it apart form others made with this super-aromatic variety.

Viognier, which traditionally has lived happily along the slopes of the Rhone Valley making such beautiful wines as Condrieu and the wonderful, but stratospherically-priced Chateau Grillet, here has the benefit of longer hours of Spanish sunshine plus  the soils and micro-climate of some of DO Calatayud’s highest vineyards.

It’s clearly a winning combination as El Puño Viognier has diplays many of the characteristics on subtle French Viognier wines – soft, stoned fruit and white flower taste and fragrance; as well as a touch of New World Viogner including bigger fruit (peach, mango and apricot) on both the nose and the palate. I’m a big fan of this wine and would like to taste future vintages as the vines develop over time. I’d love to taste this wine with the Indonesian food to be showcased in my ethnic cuisine wine tastings coming up in May (see the Events page

I guess it’s the Garnacha-based wines that have helped the Flying Scorsman carve a niche and a name for himself as they do help to convince consumers of the attributes of the venerable variety. Grown in vineyards up to a 1000+ meters in altitude where the long hang-time and considerable difference between day and night time temperatures Garnacha really comes into its own.

The screw-topped La Multa Old Vine Garnacha 2009, is exactly what Norrel says on the label, a little gem! Rich and supple this concentrated, dark berried is attractively perfumed, tempted one to taste, and rewarding the taster with deep flavours of blackberry and spice.

El Puño Garnacha was the wine that wowed presenters, Noelle and Bob, on Bay Radio’s on-air Sunday Brunch programme some months ago. Displaying the subtlety of French Grenache, judicially oaked, with juicy Spanish sunshine-inspired deep and dark fruit this wine is a fine Garnacha example. Herby mineral notes and a long finish, it’s as elegant as a fine French maiden but with machismo strength of flavour.

Manga del Brujo is again a subtle, elegant and yet big wine – testimony to the wine-maker’s craft – with rich, dark fruit of the forest flavours and a beguiling perfume. Give it time to breathe in glass or better still, decant the wine and enjoy it’s development. Look good on the table and tastes wonderful with meaty dishes.

Dos Dedos del Frente unfiltered red wine doesn’t just owe it’s cheeky name to Norrel’s time in New Zealand, I think, but also the blend of white and black grape varieties – Viognier and Syrah. I’ve tasted several blends like this from New Zealand where the Viognier makes such a significant contribution to the perfume of the wine as well as adding a lightness to the spicy, black pepper and olive, rich dark berried flavour of Syrah, which grows so well here in Spain. Integrated oak adds to the party and makes for a super-flavoured red wine.

My advice is – don’t miss the train, The Flying Scotsman’s wines are a treat!

PS I’m presenting a series of Ethnic Cuisine/Wine Matches evenings In Moraira in May in the selected restaurants: Happy Garden (Chinese); Bajul (Indonesian); and Himalaya (Nepalese/Indian). Four or five for the restaurants’ specialities will be tasted with a different wine for each dish, from their list, not their house wines. It’s a super opportunity to try different tastes and different wine marriages – each evening will only cost 15€ – 18€ (depending on the restaurant).

First Published Costa News Group, March 2012





I have a selection of impressive bottles, albeit sadly empty, surrounding my laptop. The first class wines that these bottles held were mostly made with the ancient variety Garnacha, which is as much a part of the mountainous topography of the rugged geographical area that makes up the Denominación de Origen Calatayud, as is the bedrock on which the vineyard soils sit.

And it’s these soils, differing depending on their location, in conjunction with their vineyards’ individual micro-climates, that account for the variety of unique flavours that Garnacha can produce. Provided, that is, that the crafting of such wines is in the hands of a sympathetic wine maker – perhaps a local whose family history has been lost in the Pyrenean mists of time?

Well no, actually. These super wines were made by Norrel Robertson MW, a Scotsman who learned his trade, firstly with Oddbins, the formerly excellent retail wine merchants, now somewhat diluted; then through intense study with the Wines and Spirits Education Trust for the Master of Wine title (successfully attained); and then all over the wine world as our itinerant hero sought and gained more hands-on experience and knowledge! This is his story – next week, his wines!

An MA in Politics and International Relations from Aberdeen led him naturally(?) to Oddbins where his interest in wine developed. He started his own wine business eventually moving to London to specialise in ‘en-primeur’ wines (wines sold whilst still developing in barrel that may take years to evolve and therefore something of a gamble for both the buyer, who buys at this cheaper price hoping that the wine will develop into something special; and for the seller who puts his reputation on the line).

Whilst studying for the Master of Wine part of his course required a dissertation on a working winery. Norrel worked the harvest in Italy’s Chianti Classico and whilst doing so he realised that this was his destiny, the fruitful combination of physical and mental activity resulting finally in something beautiful – classy wine!

Next stop New Zealand where he graduated from the prestigious Lincoln College with a Postgraduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology! There followed harvests and wine-making in: the Duero Valley of Portugal; Adelaide Hills Australia; The Loire Valley, France; and Casablanca Valley in Chile.

In 2003, whilst working for International Wine Services which saw him running projects in Southern France and all over Spain, he decided that Catalayud was central for travel to all his work commitments. So he finally decided to settle there.

Having a natural interest in all things wine, it was only a matter of time before he started looking with a keen, and very experienced retail as well as wine-maker’s eye, at the area in which he found himself – the soils, the vines and the local wines. Here in Calatayud, Garnacha is king with huge potential, but the soils, micro-climates, altitude etc also suggested other varieties to Noelle.

His wine-making company, El Escocés Volante SL, with the collaboration of two different established bodegas, makes a range of wines that are in the top flight of not only DO Calatayud but of the whole of Spain too! And I’m not just talking red wine here! With Peñin points averaging 90 and similarly high scores from Robert Parker it’s clear that here are wines that are placing Calatayud firmly on the map of quality wines of the world.

PS I’m off to Barcelona in a week’s time for my bi-annual visit to Alimentaria, Spain’s biggest and best wine fair, as part of the huge contingent of International Press. If you’re interested in keeping up to speed with the world of Spanish wines – this is the only place to read!