My wine writing/blogging colleagues in the UK are always desperate to make sure that their columns recommending wines for barbecues go to press/internet in June or maybe early July when perhaps the first rays of sunshine in Britain, at last bring some warmth.


Here in Spain though, I don’t have to be in such a rush to make some recommendations re wines to enjoy with barbecued food. We are so lucky to be able have barbecues, practically all the year long. However, for those attending a BBQ of mine I really should issue some sort of warning. It’s not that there’s a fear of any nasty ‘asking for trouble’ under-cooking, quite the reverse. Food barbecued by me suffers an identity crisis, masked as it invariably is, by fifty shades of black!


It’s funny, the things you recall. Fifty-four years ago my Primary School teacher reprimanded me for complaining that it was the pencil that made my writing so illegible, not me! “A poor workman always blames his tools!” was the retort as the ruler hit my fingers. So I mustn’t blame the BBQ and all the attendant paraphernalia, it must just be my ineptitude, as it certainly was with my handwriting!


However, whilst this is indubitably a major failing of mine – the same cannot be said of my choice of wines, though I admit that these wines are usually best consumed at other people’s BBQs!


So define BBQ food – it’s difficult, isn’t it? (Unless it’s mine!) There can be vegetables, fish, all manner of meats and of course, marinades, sauces et al. It can be typically British – what is that nowadays?! Or maybe American influenced, I’m not just talking Burgers, what about foods from the deep South of North America, or indeed Hispanic specialities. Or Australian, Asian, Oriental and eclectic fusion food too.


The possibilities are too great to be able to recommend just one catch-all wine style. So we need to think of options according to the food style and the ingredients. However, no matter what the actual dish is, there is still one common denominator – that wonderful smoky barbecue aroma, and indeed flavour, to the finished product. This is a help for the person designated to choose the wine. Certain wines pair perfectly with this smokiness, others do very well, but some just don’t work.


It’s probably true to say that white wines make fewer good partnerships with BBQ food than do reds and rosados. However there are exceptions, which is also helpful if the barbecue has a fish and/or seafood element.


With white wines we should be looking for a touch of oak, which itself often entails a sort of smokiness – so ideal with a barbecue. White wines that do particularly well in this respect often have Chardonnay in the blend.


Bodegas Belda, DO Valencia, makes a Chardonnay FB (fermented in barrel) which adds depth to the wine, giving it some extra power to stand up to the BBQ food, as well as improving the overall flavour with that lightly toasted barrica flavour and some vanilla notes too.


Bodegas Castaño’s, DO Yecla, Macabeo/Chardonnay has fermented some of the Chardonnay in oak giving depth and a roundness to the Macabeo, which brings freshness too. This wine has the body to stand up to the food as well as the acidity to keep the palate clean.


I’ve been quoted over Twitter with over a thousand views regarding my comment that Xarel.lo, from Cataluña is the new Chardonnay. As such it too would be a good match for some BBQ food. Indeed Bodegas Canal & Munné’s Gran Blanc Princeps Xarel.lo Fermentado en Barrica would be excellent, though a little more costly than the above Chardonnays.


There are some rosados to consider too. Try for example Rosé Princeps, also from Canals & Munné. Usually light in the mouth and probably not quite having the body to withstand BBQ food unless slightly oak aged, this rosado is made with Merlot , resulting in a rosado wine with attitude!


Another is Bodegas Del Rosario’s Las Reñas Rosado which has the body but also a pleasing freshness to it. It’s been made with Monastrell as are several of the reds I’m about to mention. Monastrell, the ideal variety for barbecues?


Bodegas Carrascalejo’s Monastrell is a joven (young) wine, without ageing – a lovely fruit led wine for easy drinking, and let’s admit it, there’s often plenty of that going on when there’s a barbecue! I’ve also had plenty of Bodegas Castaño’s joven Monastrell which I’ve found to be perfect with BBQs this year too.


Las Reñas Monastrell 2012 is also a young red wine. A wine to simply enjoy with or without food, and a sure hit with BBQs.


The Homenaje Tinto joven I served slightly chilled (as I did with the above Castaño Monastrell). It’s just the sort of red that can handle this and is therefore perfect for these stiflingly hot temperatures that we are enduring/enjoying(?!) at the moment.


Monterebro Barrica, DO JUmilla has enjoyed four months in American and French new oak barrels (barricas) and has extra body to go along with the juicy fruit making it ideal with barbecues red meats.


ad, from Bodegas Heretat de Sicilia is made from Syrah, Petit Verdot and Monastrell and is a big and fruity wine for quite early drinking, which can also be served slightly chilled.


Contact Colin: and through and via Twitter @colinonwine

La Pamelita – a rare Spanish Sparkling Red!





I haven’t met Pamela Geddes (yet) but I feel I know her. It seems to me that there are certain winemakers who have a signature wine, much like a chef will have his/her signature dish. One becomes familiar with the style of the ‘signature’ and therefore, by some sort of mystical symbiosis, with that of the author.


I first ‘met’ Pamela Geddes, a Scottish bio-physicist, no less, through her first Spanish signature wine – a red sparkling Monastrell, made under the auspices of Bodegas Castaño, DO Yecla. Regular readers will know of this innovative winery which boldly goes where others fear to tread.


I have had the great pleasure of visiting Bodegas Castaño many times (often with groups too) and on one occasion I was treated to a superb tasting of young wines made with their experimental varieties, imported from all over Spain and the wine world in general, to see how they will fair in Yecla soils, under Yecla’s harsh climate. DO Yecla now permits the use of Chardonnay in their white wines – you can guess that this is because of Castaño’s efforts.


Not surprising therefore that Pamela and Bodegas Castaño teamed up to make this innovative sparkling Monastrell red wine. I tasted and enjoyed the wine.


However, another opportunity opened up for Pamela – the chance to start her own winery in the cooler climate of Cataluña, home of Cava. Bodegas Lobban was born and Pamela’s signature took a slight turn, though remaining true to the ideal. Instead of Monastrell, another of the DO Penedés permitted varieties, Syrah/Shiraz, was used for her new red fizz.


Followers of wine trends may now, quite correctly, be following the Shiraz link to the Antipodes – in fact to Australia. It was the Aussies who first made sparkling wine with their darling variety, Shiraz, and, after ten years in the whisky trade, Pamela had moved to Australia where she became enamoured with this distinctive wine style. Red sparkling wine had arrived in Australia – but could it prove equally successful in the rather conservative Spain (in wine terms, at least)?


Well, judging by the medals and plaudits garnered by Pamela’s, La Pamelita Sparkling Shiraz, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’!


Pamela kindly sent me samples of this wine and two others from her small portfolio of wines from Cataluña. I’m impressed – and I’m sure you will be too. If you can find them! ( for distributors/stockists).


La Pamelita manages to combine a certain Shiraz black pepper and dark brambly fruit robustness with the elegance that befits wines made in this, the home of Spanish sparkling wines. It’s a winning style as it enables the wine to be drunk with food as well as for fun!


It’s enjoyed 36 months en rima (in bottle with lees after its second fermentation) which adds depth to the flavour of the wine, an understated creaminess, and a complexity that is hard to find in many sparklers. Try it with BBQ meats as well as casseroles.


Another fizz, but this time a rosado made with Garnacha, is La Rosita Brut. I loved this wine! There’s a little (5%) Shiraz in the blend (which is fair as the La Pamelita has 5% Garnacha too!) and its had 24 months en rima. Though a mouthful of flavour, for sure, this wine is graceful too.

 Pamelita500 Pamelita ElGordito500

It’s a celebratory sparkling wine with a very pretty colour but enough body and depth of flavour to make it an ideal partner for paella as well as being lovely with fish of the same colour and white fish with sauces, and salads too. Aromas of loganberry and a very slight citrus element accompany those of the classic sparkling wine characteristic, bready/sweet pastry panaderia-esque notes. It’s definitely not just a wine for girls – rufty-tufty Aussie men would love it too!


It’s hard to say, but I think, if I’m allowed a little indulgence here, that ‘el gordito 2009’, though a still red wine, was actually my personal favourite – though it is an entirely subjective view, of course.


Garnacha grapes, hand harvested, make up 50% of the blend – the vines have seen 70 summers and are producing opulently rich fruit, whose influence transfers into the finished product – el gordito is a fruit driven wine. You might guess that the other 50% is from Shiraz vines, this time relatively young, which gives a certain brightness of colour when the wine is poured as well as a fresh palate-tingling vibrancy to the wine.


Like a modern day father/son wine-making relationship, where valuable tradition is augmented by fresh innovation, the two ‘halves’ of this wine form a perfectly harmonious whole. In addition, 25% of the blend spends time in medium toasted new and second use French barricas, which adds depth, complexity and additional mouth-feel and richness.


You’ll find some black olive and black pepper spice with subtle coconut whiffs blending famously with blackberry and blueberry notes on the nose and on the palate there’s just a touch of dark chocolate to add to those fruity flavours. Lovely wine and though the 2009 vintage, it’s still drinking perfectly.


Contact Colin: and through his unique wine services website; plus you can follow Colin on Twitter @colinonwine for all the latest news about Spanish wine.

Canals & Munné Cavas & Wines!



Probably most readers will have heard of the excellent, at time sensational, Cavas crafted by Canals & Munné in the Alt Penedés area of Cataluña. I believe it was my visit to Barcelona’s huge biennial wine and food fair, Alimentaria, perhaps 16 years ago, when I fiRst tasted their excellent sparkling wines. I was, and I remain, very impressed.


However the title of this article alludes also to a fairly well-kept secret – Canals & Munné make top quality still wines as well.


Five generations ago the family (which remains in control to this day) planted their first vineyards in Can Canals – the vines took root, and so did the legend. Year on year the winery has been producing first class cavas, originally using a combination of traditional varieties – Macabeo, Parelleda and Xarel.lo; and then introducing the Champagne varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.


There’s a very impressive portfolio of cavas, from an entry level price of just under 10€ right up to their top Gran Reserva Gran Duc, whose superb quality and delightful tear-drop shaped bottle suggests a price tag in excess of it’s actual cost – just over 25€. Over the years I’ve tasted most of the fizz and loved them, so I didn’t think twice about the offer of a sample of their Gran Reserva 2010 recently, and when it came, as it did, with several of their still wines, well – it would have been churlish to refuse!


The Gran Reserva 2010 is made with 40% Macabeo, 30% Chardonnay and 30% Parellada. It has clearly benefited from its four years in bottle resting on its lees as the depth of flavour is phenomenal. There are some cavas of this sort of age that have become a little tired, with an off-putting musty granny’s attic aroma. Canals & Munné’s Gran Reserva is the antithesis of this sort of cava. It’s as fresh as if it were years younger, so therefore superb for celebrations and of course aperitifs.


However the time in bottle with its lees, plus the addition of a sizeable proportion of Chardonnay, which was clearly harvested at optimum ripeness, have added an enviable depth and complexity. The wine has typical aromas of sparkling wine, patisserie notes, fresh bread and, from the Macabeo, some reference to an unsweetened apple pastry with a lick of dry cider too. The Chardonnay then comes to the fore, with a buttery, slightly smoky, faintly vanilla aroma and flavour.


A long, long finish just adds to the finished product and makes it a wine to enjoy with food too – a smoked salmon fillet, for example, would really be excellent with this sparkler.


Canals & Munne’s Vi Blanc Princeps is an organic white wine made from Xarel.lo, Chardonnay and Sauvignon – an eclectic mix which makes the wine hugely aromatic with gooseberry, citrus, white flowers, blanched almonds and a touch of under-ripe pineapple, whose job it is to remind us that this is a dry wine. Perfect with salads, fish and shell-fish of course, but also with light meats that have a citric element too.


Blanc Princeps Blanc de Blanc Seco Muscat is a wine style that, although fairly novel in the Cataluña area, is quite prevalent in the Valencia region. Moscatel, which we all know makes super rich, sultana/grape fragranced dessert wines has a clone, Moscat de Frontignan, which lends itself more to dry wine styles, yet with the same aroma.


This wine is a must to try with SE Asian Cuisine as well as Indian/Pakistani/Nepali dishes. It’s pleasant, pungent aromas will rise above those of the dish and it’s fruit content will mix perfectly with any sweetness found in the cuisine and it will slightly tame the chilli-hot nature of such wonderful food.


Rosé Princeps is new to the fold. Made with Merlot, the maceration was long enough for considerable colour to be extracted, along with flavour and some tannin. The result is a rosé wine with attitude! Yes it wants to be delicately perfumed, with raspberries and strawberries noted, but it also wants to have little of the Merlot’s cherry and plum depth of flavour too. Try it with pink fish and pork dishes!


My favourite of the still wines (though it was very close, with both this wine and the final one, achieving the same scores) was their Gran Blanc Princeps Xarel.lo Fermentado en Barrica 2013.


I like to think that Xarel.lo is the Chardonnay of Cataluña. Xarel.lo is everyone’s friend – it can be fresh and fruity, more citrus than Chardonnay-esque exotic, with white floral and nutty notes too, plus it can take on very different flavours and aromas when oak is used in its elaboration, as with this wine. Either way, you’ll have a wine that is aromatic, quite deeply, to deeply flavoured, rounded and rich, with elegance too.


It’s the depth of flavour and the elegance of this FB wine that I find most enchanting – a style that I can just go on drinking until the bottle is finished! I urge you to try it!


The final wine was Noir Princeps 2008, a red crianza wine which again scored well in my notes. It’s rich in fruit with a slight, endearing bronzed, medium toasted wood aroma. The Cabernet Sauvignon which has been grown at mid-altitude, along with Tempranillo and Merlot, has obviously ripened well under the Spanish sun. Here you get the blackcurrant fruit with sturdiness, but nothing harsh. Dark fruits like damson and blackberry play supporting roles and its six months in oak add a lovely liquorice note with faint whispers of vanilla and a little cinnamon.


So, when thinking Cava, think also still wines from Canals & Munné – you won’t be disappointed, and your wallet won’t feel much lighter either!


Contact Colin: and through and for up to the minute news about Spanish Wine please follow Colin on Twitter @colinonwine

Kosher Cava




Regular readers may wonder if I’ve changed my religion! I haven’t, but I do admit to writing a few articles recently about Kosher wines, wines which are, of course, designed for the Jewish Community.


A wholly intolerant Spain of the middle ages firstly treated Spanish Jews dreadfully, ultimately expelling any who were left alive. Fortunately the Inquisition is consigned to history, and Spain, we hope, is tolerant of all religions, colours and creeds.


There are flourishing Jewish communities in various cities of Spain, Barcelona and Benidorm to name but two. There are certain dietary laws which must be followed by practising Jews and, though I’m no expert, I understand that this means that only Kosher food and drink may be consumed.


With so many wonderful wines available in Spain it perhaps has been frustrating for Spanish Jews that so few have been Kosher and therefore permitted for their various festivals. Fortunately, as Bob Dylan (who was born into a Jewish family) wrote: The Times They are A’ Changing!


Truly outstanding Kosher red wine is made in DO Montsant, by Celler Capçanes; good reds are also made in Yecla, at Bodegas Castaño, and in DO Navarra by Bodegas Fernandez de Arcaya. There are others too, though I haven’t yet heard of any whites.


However I’m sure it will delight Jewish people to know that there is now a Kosher Cava available in Spain, made, not so much by a bodega, but more of Spanish institution – Bodegas Freixenet!

 freixenet building

I’m sure that there is celebration in some of the Jewish festivals – and what better way to celebrate than with some sparkling wine? This innovative move by Bodegas Freixenet will, itself, be celebrated, I’m sure. The cava in question – comes in two styles, Brut, dry and a super aperitif fizz; and Semi-Seco a sparkler designed for those with a sweeter tooth, and a wine that can be used at the end of dinner for a toast etc, perhaps with the dessert.


More on the two ‘Freixenet Excelencia’ cavas later!


It’s a fairly safe bet, I’m sure, to suggest that everyone reading this column has, at some time or other, drunk a Freixenet cava. There is a huge range of them and they consistently prove that big is beautiful. I forget how many millions of bottles of cava are stacked on specially designed pallets in the huge underground cellars (so huge there is a train that takes visitors around it) above which sit the iconic Bodegas Freiexenet buildings – complete with antiques, tasting rooms, shop (claro!) and even cinema. No matter, the number is almost incomprehensible anyway!


Look in the Peñin Guide and you’ll see practically a whole page of cavas listed, meriting points from the top 80s to the mid 90s. The distinctive Cordón Negro (come on, admit it, you have a free cava glass with this name emblazoned on the base!); the Carta Nevada, usually found right next to the former, on supermarket shelves; right up to the Meritum Gran Reserva along with other prestigious cuvées . They are all there!


This huge institution exports its cavas all over the world and has offices in, for example, Japan, Mexico, Shanghai, Scandinavia, USA, Canada and Argentina, to name just a selection. Each year at Christmas time the wine and television worlds wait in anticipation to see which famous actors have been selected to head the new Festive Advertising Campagne, which in itself has become an institution. Previous celebrities to have appeared have been Sharon Stone, Antonio Banderas and most recently Shakira, with amongst other Scorsese as Director! Such is the fame of Freixenet!


The Excelencia range of Kosher Cavas sell like hot cakes in the USA and, having tasted them, I have a feeling that after this article Freixenet will be pressurised into making sure they are readily available here too!


Personally I prefer, Brut and Brut Nature Cava – both are perfect matches for many aperitifs; and of course as a celebratory drink, and none too expensive, cava can hardly be beaten! So the Excelencia Brut suits my palate perfectly.


There’s the usual patisserie notes on the nose – a natural aromatic characteristic which comes from autolysis, part of the sparkling wine making process – of course. But when one lingers with intent there are also pear and green apple notes, from the 100% Macabeo variety, one of the three traditional cava varieties.


The wine spends fifteen months en rima (in contact with its lees). The minimum time specified by the Consejo Regulador is a mere nine months, but generally the longer this time is, the better the cava produced. It’s clear that Freixenet is committed to making quality cava for this market.


I recommend holding the sparkling wine on the palate for a few seconds before swallowing. You’ll find that you’ll be able to appreciate better its flavour and depth, as well as those invigorating bubbles!


I know that there are many lovers of fizz who prefer a sweeter style – perhaps as an aperitif, but for me, far better with a dessert as well as with some of the sweeter styles of Chinese cuisine. Here the freshness of the bubbles can cut through the richness of the dish whilst the sweetness of the drink adds to the overall depth of flavour of the food. A very good match.


So, whether you are or are not Jewish, you may well like to visit and search for Excelencia Kosher Cava!


Contact Colin: and through his unique website and for all the latest news about Spanish wines you can follow colin on Twitter – @colinonwine