Pre-Valentines Wine Tasting, Javea Port!

Don’t miss this! After the successful wine tasting at Javea Port’s new Wine Merchants, Bodega Puerto, last October, I’ve been asked to present another, just in time to recommend wine purchases, and taste of course, for Valentines Day celebrations.

Please arrive from 6:30pm for a 7pm start on Thursday 7th Feb.

We’ll be tasting:

An excellent (and expensive ) Vintage Rosado Cava

A fruit driven dry white from Rueda

A Red Rioja Crianza 2009

A Red Ribera del Duero Crianza 2009 (therefore a chance to compare the two regions, like for like!)

A Red Rioja Reserva 2008

There will be nibbles to enjoy with the wines.

There’ll be a 5% discount on everything on the shop for this night only (though you will be able pay on the night and collect another day if you prefer).

Plus there are other excellent offers – one of which, for example, will give you a bottle of the Red Reseva above and two Reserva Cavas to take home with it!!

Please call me, 629 388 159, or e-mail colin@colinharknessonwine.com to reserve – places are limited and we are nearly half full already!

Bodega Visit, February 11th 2013 – super day out!

Hot off the press – I’ve arranged a visit to the beautiful 18th Century Finca that is home to the Aristocratic Velaquez Family and where they make their top DO Valencia wines! Bodegas Los Frailes is a founder member of the influential and prestigious Terres dels Alforíns group of Valencian bodegas dedicated to making top quality wines in harmony with the environment.

Bodegas Los Frailes makes some of the best organic wines in Spain, wines that match and beat very many wines that do not farm according to organic principles – we’re not talking good, for organic, we’re talking good, full stop!

We will tour the beautiful finca and wine making facility, guided by the current incumbent, Don Miguel Velazquez, as well as taste four of his top wines. We’ll learn the fascinating history of the finca, once a Jesuit Monastery, and how the bodega has been in the family’s hands for hundreds of years!

Then we’ll lunch at the top Finca Rural Restaurant Mas Monserrat – with wine, of course!

The cost of the whole day is just 49€/person. Remember – it’s on Monday 11th February, with pick up points from Calpe – Oliva.

Please call (00 34) 629 388 159 to reserve – places are limited and at the time of writing we are already over a third full!

First Published in Costa News Group, December 2012

THE COSTA NEWS TOP TEN

CORK TALK’S TEN BEST SPANISH WINES OF 2012

Since its inception ten years ago, following a reader’s suggestion, the Costa News’ Top Ten Spanish Wines of the Year has grown considerably in stature. A growth commensurate, I believe, with a similarly dramatic increase in the quality of wines made here in Spain over the same period.

I’m not suggesting that wine making bodega owners the length and breadth of the Iberian peninsular are sitting on the edge of their seats awaiting the following list of winners, but as is always the case, I know there is considerable interest in which bodegas have earned a coveted place on the podium.

As is always the case, there are several wines that could have made the list, had they been given just one more mark, or with some wines, just half a mark! But the Top Ten has to be just that, Ten only!

No. 1 The Costa News’ Top Wine of 2012 is: Doix 2008 from Bodegas Mas Doix, DO Priorat: Perhaps considered their flagship wine, Doix 2008 is made from low yielding venerable old Garnacha, Cariñena and Merlot vines, the oldest of which can count 105 harvests! French oak has made the wine wonderfully supple, tasty with depth of flavour and complexity.

No.2 = Sharing second place is another wine from the vineyards of North Eastern Spain, which underlines just how good wines from Cataluña can be. The honour here goes to: Dos Dedos Del Frentes, Bodegas El Escocés Volante, DO Calatayud. This unfiltered red wine is a fascinating blend of Syrah which grows so well here in Spain and the wonderful white wine grape variety, Viognier. Unusual bedfellows here in Europe but quite common in New Zealand. 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. Integrated oak adds to the party and makes for a super-flavoured red wine.

No. 2 = From the same stable, El Escocés Volante, and impossible to separate from the above, El Puño Garnacha displays 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.

No. 2 =Blanc d’Enguera, Bodegas Enguera, DO Valencia is the final wine to share second spot. Readers will notice two interesting points about this wine, firstly it’s white and secondly it’s from DO Valencia, the first time that a Valencia wine has figured so highly on the Costa News Top Ten – and a white at that! Following clarification and gentle filtration the wine undergoes a short ageing in lightly toasted French barricas which results in integrated oak with a lovely fragrance. On the nose there are hints of grapefruit and Seville orange peel, with further citrus notes and a fleeting memory of apricot too! The local Verdil variety (70%) is joined by Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Chardonnay a certain percentage of which has been fermented in oak.

No. 5  Quinta Sardonia, Bodegas Terres Gauda, VdlT Castilla y León. QS is made with Tinto Fino (aka Tempranillo) and Cabernet Sauvignon; Merlot; Syrah (only 5% but surely impacting significantly on the overall juiciness of the finished product); Petit Verdot; Cabernet Franc (interesting this because, if Mencía shares any characteristics with another variety, it’s Cab. Franc); and finally Malbec! Its colour is a glorious dense and dark cherry, picota, red. On the nose there is an alluring intensity with cassis and mountain herbs to the fore. On the palate you’ll find ripe plums, a touch of black pepper with a hint of black olives too. Sixteen months in French oak have added depth of flavour and complexity.

No. 6  Cullerot, Celler del Roure, DO Valencia. Yes, another white and again from Valencia. This beguiling, aromatic dry white wine has a fragrance similar, in its subtle style, to a perfume. It’s made from an eclectic blend of Macabeo, Verdil, Malvasia, Chardonnay and PX (normally found in Jerez). Fresh in the mouth, there is also a hidden depth of flavour, with a Chardonnay finish wrapped around blanched almonds and citrus flavours with floral notes too!

No. 7  Absis 2005, Bodegas Parés Baltá, DO Penedés. Cataluña again, and this time a red wine from a bodega perhaps more famous for its Cava. Tempranillo with Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a wonderfully dark coloured wine, sultry in the glass, with aromas of black cherries and blackcurrant jam (with a whiff of same but with a tiny splash of whisky or brandy in it too!). Complexity, richness, depth, minerality and elegance in equal measure!

No. 8  Finca Caraballas Verdejo 2011, DO Rueda. I’m delighted to include a wine from an area so well liked by readers, DO Rueda. Finca Caraballas’ organic methods include the use of only natural yeasts indigenous to the vineyards. There’s no spraying either, no artificial fertilisation, no chemicals – nothing, just nature. The young 100% Verdejo has a certain singularity, that distinguishes it from others made from the same grape. The wine’s perfume is wonderful, inviting. It has an abundance of deep, fresh, fruit with similarities to subtle gooseberry but with herbs, even basil too. It has vegetal notes, green pepper perhaps and the whole assembly is full and rich with clean acidity and a super-long finish.

No. 9  Blanca Cusiné, Bodegas Parés Baltá, DO Cava. Perhaps the flagship of this bodega is the Micro-cuvée range, wines and cavas made from low yielding old vines grown in vineyards that boast beneficial micro-climates and terroirs. From this range comes Blanca Cusiné 2008 Cava whose Champagne-esque blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (the Pinot having been fermented in 400 litre French Oak barrels) is expressive on the nose, a touch toasty, and deeply flavoured on the palate with a long finish. It’s had 35 months in bottle following it’s second fermentation and as such is a similar style to a Cava Gran Reserva.

No. 10  Señorio de Nevada Club de Barrica Syrah Selección 2008. A late entry, received early December and selected for the pure pleasure of simply drinking it! It’s the best Syrah I’ve tasted in Spain, thus far. Big ripe fruit flavours of dark cherry, blackberry and damson plus mountain herbs and with some black pepper spice too. A conversation stopper with a long finish from the Sierra Nevada above Granada, in fact some of the highest vineyards in Spain. The consequent dramatic drop in temperature from day to night adds a crucial acidic lick to the wine and enhances aromas too.

Watch out for wine tastings and bodega visits, plus special wine offers through Heat Gold FM 91·1 FM and www.heatgold.fm Listen Live throughout 2013! colin@colinharknessonwine.com and www.colinharknessonwine.com

First Published Costa News Group, December 2012

CLOS d’YVIGNE

PATRICIA ATKINSON’S DIET OF WINE AND LITERATURE!

At a time of pre-Christmas dieting, I couldn’t resist the above title. Although, as far as I know, this Atkinson diet bears no relation to the Atkins Diet that so  many of us have and tried and failed/succeeded! I’d far rather follow Patricia’s diet of erudite prose and silky, alluring French wines, any time!

Hers is an interesting story. To escape the frenetic pace of a fast-lane life in the UK Patricia and husband took the decision to buy a farmhouse in France, near Bergerac, where much of James’ work could be done via the internet with regular visits back to Blighty. The rural idyll they found, which included a almost incidental few hectares of vines, seemed to be perfect and both set to work making a new life for themselves, restoring the accommodation, the wine making facility and discovering a new hobby – wine making.

I’m not the first to comment that their story, told in Patricia’s first book ‘The Ripening Sun’ (published by Arrow Books, www.randomhouse.co.uk) can be likened to Peter Mayle’s ‘A Year in Provence’, albeit a vinous version of the same. However, whilst there are similarities, Patricia’s experiences, I think, surpass those of Peter’s. Patricia Atkinson’s debunking to France was at first a matter of re-location, a combination of working holiday and new lifestyle.

But the debilitating illness that her husband contracted not long after the move, causing him to have to return to the UK, left Patricia with the vineyard as her only means of support. In a matter of one or two growing and harvesting seasons she would have to become expert in a business of which she had no knowledge and no experience and in a language for which her schoolgirl French had hardly equipped her!

The trials, tribulations, disasters and sweet successes which are so poignantly described in the book that the reader feels he/she is living them him/herself. And, of course, you can follow the story by buying the book (and its sequel, ‘La Belle Saison’, which, though I haven’t read it yet, I expect to be similarly entertaining). The only thing missing is being able to taste the wine from Clos d?Yvigne.

So when our great pals, Mary and John, gave me the book, having visited the area on holiday and indeed visited the winery and tasted the wines, I felt I needed to investigate further. An e-mail enquiry resulted in a white and red to taste, plus three different vintages of Clos d’Yvigne’s flagship wine when John and Mary made a subsequent visit.

The vast array of super wines in Spain makes it unnecessary to taste wine from other countries. However, as variety is the spice of life and because it’s so stimulating to compare other countries’ wines with those available here in Spain I was really looking forward to our recent dinner party where the wines were going to be tasted.

And I wasn’t disappointed!

Clos d’Yvigne’s Princesse de Cléves is named after the heroine in Madame de La Fayette’s early 17th Century novel, whose purity is reflected in this quality white wine. Made from a blend of Semillon (a French variety which has quietly been responsible for super white wines for hundreds of years, but perhaps now better known, though inaccurately, to 21st Century wine drinkers as an Australian grape),  Moscatel and Sauvignon, it has a fascinating floral nose (Elderflower and Magnolia) with citrus notes, some green leaved herbs and a depth of flavour too.

It’s a dry, clean and refreshing white wine that has a touch of residual sugar along with a dry, quite long lasting finish. There’s depth and complexity in the wine too, coming in part at least for the short time it has spent in oak. We tasted it with moules (it was a French night after all!) with which it coped admirably, as it would also with fish dishes, with or without sauce, and light meats, particularly chicken and turkey.

There is an established order in which to taste wine, so that the palate remains fresh to take on the new flavours. Of course nothing is written in stone and I’ve had several off piste tastings where the tradition is ignored. However, I felt that sticking with the norm would be best for these wines so we started the reds ‘correctly’, with the youngest wine first.

Le Prince 2009, Appelation Bergerac Contrôlée (as are all Clos d’Yvigne wines; AC being similar to the Spanish DO), is a well-rounded, supple, richly fruited wine which, put simply, is a real pleasure to drink. Merlot and Cabernet Franc from the  estate’s oldest vineyards. It’s a tactile wine, with a velvety smoothness and depth coming from the two years it has spent in oak (French, mais oui!).

It’s mellow with no harsh tannin, but with a pleasing acidity, excellent fruit content and 14º abv all of which auger well for ageing. Look for cherry, mostly dark but with lighter elements too, integrated vanilla, a fleeting and yet persistent aroma of bay leaves and just a touch of peppery spice. We all love it!

A vertical tasting is where different vintages of the same wine are tasted against each other. Quality bodegas/chateaux/wineries always keep back some cases of wine from each year so that they can taste them in future as part of their quality control and of course to see how they evolve over time. It helps enormously in assessing the longevity of a certain wine.

We started our vertical tasting with the 2009 vintage of the chateau’s top wine, Le Rouge et Le Noir. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are bedfellows for this wine which has also enjoyed two years in oak barrels. Fruit laden Merlot, red and black cherries, combine perfectly with more brambly, blackcurrant Cabernet Sauvignon.

There’s an earthy, mineral aspect to this wine with maturing tannin and an acidic lick softened by rich fruit (I’m sure 2009 was a good year, the fruit laden Le Prince is from the same vintage) with vanilla and a touch of a new leather upholstered car aromas and just maybe a tweek of cigar box too! Balanced and drinking very well but with time to mature, as indicated by its attributes and the fact that the 2008 is a different animal!

The voluptuous fruit of the 2009 has become more integrated in the earlier 2008 vintage. The wine as a whole retains its richness but is more serious, more subtle, though that’s not to detract from it at all. It’s a wine that is lovely to sip and enjoy with friends but one that will also suit meat dishes – our cassoulet loved it, and vice versa.

The final Clos d’Yvigne wine of the evening was the Le Rouge et Le Noir 2007. At five years of age there’s no sign of this wine becoming tired. It still has good fruit a touch of minerality and some wild mountain herbs on the nose – I find bay leaf again, though I’m  not sure where it’s coming from! Slightly more tannic than the younger versions, this wine is set fair for the dinner table, suiting game and beef dishes for sure and duck, for me, without the influence of a sweet, rich sauce.

In a head to head between the Atkinson and Atkins diet, I know which I’d choose! (Clos d’Yvigne wines are available on-line www.closdyvigne.com, as are both books).

PS If you’re looking for more knowledge about Spanish wines and how to taste them; bodega visits; wine tastings etc – please contact Colin at colin@colinharknessonwine.com and www.colinharknessonwine.com