The New Knee Blog!

The day after my release from hospital I really felt like a good wine, and why not some mature cheese too? My choices were both from DO Toro – perhaps influenced by the fact that my article in the Costa News SL that week was a report on my visit to DO Toro, where we had tasted exceptional wines from Bodega Fariña, as well as having visited a really top Artisan Cheese Producer.

The elegance of Fariña’s Colegiata Campus 2008 is astounding given the body, richness and great depth of flavour and complexity. Drinking perfectly right now – with or without the outstanding Chillón Reserva cheese. This example was only one of the exceptional portfolio, most of which we tasted in situ, just on the edge of Toro town.

So, the above is my excuse for writing this blog on a subject some way from wine appreciation on this wholly wine orientated website!

It occurred to me that there will, no doubt, be many people in different parts of the world who are about to have a knee replacement, and that, like I was, they might be a little nervous about it. Perhaps my very positive experience will be of some comfort?

I’ll make it fairly short, but a very brief intro first:

I read in a recent edition of the Costa News Group’s Costa Blanca News (I have been writing for the group, yes, about wine, for 18 years now, incidentally) that there is a famous Spanish Actor who has been complaining about the poor service received by his mother at Denia’s ‘new’ hospital, after an accident.

Of course we all can only speak of our own experiences, but to even it up a touch, i’d like to say that the service I have received from my original visit to my GP, the early visits to the Knee Specialist and Operating Surgeon; through arriving in hospital the day of the full knee replacement, and then the after-care, including the sympathetic and caring nursing, of course, and the physiotherapy received as an In-Patient as well as that on which I’ve just embarked, now as an Out-Patient, has been exemplary!

(Incidentally, and not just as an excuse this time – another wine reference: one of the excellent physios is very interested in wine and was delighted to hear that I would be able to advise him etc about his country’s wines, and me an Englishman too!)

When I ‘checked in’ to the hospital, with my wife, the lovely Claire, in support – I was processed very quickly and taken to my rather ‘posh’ room, the single occupant; and within an hour and a half I was waiting in the ante-room adjacent to the theatre chatting to the Anaesthetist who was happy to show me the ‘ultra-sound’ image on her screen while she was locating my sciatic nerve and a major vein where she was going to place some delayed-action painkiller to cover the 1st 12 hours after the op.

Of this, i was wholly in favour – I’m  not great with pain!

Often such ops are undertaken using an epidural, but because one hadn’t worked so well with me a few years ago for another op, and added to the fact that I have a dodgy spine, she’d decided to give me a general anaesthetic (how do you spell that?!). Fine by me!

A little gas and air in the theatre, decreasing the air and increasing the gas – and that was me, out of it!

I awoke with a tap on the cheek and was able to hear the gentle buzz of the various monitors into which I was plugged. I surprised myself in that I felt, well, sleepy, but otherwise fine! Claire was surprised too.

There was basically very little pain, the delayed action pain killers coming into their own. As I was sleepy anyway I had a good night and whilst some pain did arrive the next morning I was able to cope with it easily until the prompt arrival of the nurse/angel with the Morphine!

Various drips adorned my arm and whatever was in them dripped away, to be replaced at regular intervals, and again when asked about the pain if my answer was yes, please, something would be good – it arrived!

The nurses were lovely as were the cleaners who regularly came into the room. Plus the food, which was fine, was delivered just when i was starting to feel hungry.

The Physio arrived on that 2nd day giving me some simple exercise to do whilst in bed, to prepare me a little for my first visit to the ‘gym’ the following morning. Now, as a seasoned patient in the UK, with experience of several meniscus ops, I was well aware that what the Physio says matters!

If you want to escape hospital early, do as you are told by the Physio. Plus, of course, for your general progress and in terms of obtaining as a full a use of your knee as possible, you have to do what the nice lady/man says – even when it hurts. And it will hurt. They are sensitive to your needs and your pain so they aren’t going to let you be in agony, but the mantra is definitely – no pain, no gain! It works!

Your knee will be swollen, more so during (and after the physio visit) so movement is restricted. However the Physio will push you to your best.

On my third day – I was impatient to get out of bed, but I was sensible and asked for help – it definitely is not worth going it alone here! Now, this may seem a little crude – my apolgies but I’m sure that there are those who await such an op who have a similar problem to me, and therefore the same concern.

I have a prostate problem – under control, with medication, but visiting the bathroom, to put it rather quaintly, is crucial. The bottom (bad choice of word, there) line is that a plastic bottle doesn’t work for me, and I suspect many others. I needed to get out of bed as soon as possible. Ahh – the relief!

Later in the morning I was taken to the gym and asked to do various exercises which I did, religiously, until told to stop; then I moved onto the next one etc. My surgeon had suggested a walking frame and I’m sure his recommendation was correct. Moving from station to station was via the frame and it was very useful. I’m now, one week after my discharge from hospital, able to walk without it, though I have a crutch near to hand in case I need it – which I will when i go out into the big world!

On return to my room I rested for a few hours and then did some more of the exercises, never doing too much or straining myself. I didn’t sleep so well that night – some pain, but more discomfort really. The beds are excellent, electrically adjustable, but – well, it’s  not my own bed!

I was up very early and surprised the night staff as I ‘framed’ past their station several times, getting in some early walking practise!

I was able to do a little more, physically, than the day before and, I think I impressed the Physios a little as they went to work on me again. I was also able to recommend the Godello grape variety for lovely white wine!

When I left they said they’d do some more advanced work with me the next day, scheduled to be my last in hospital. However, on arrival at my room a nurse told me that the Surgeon had visited and signed me out – I was off after lunch! Wow – just three nights, I was well pleased!

I’m writing this now following my first return to the hospital as an outpatient today. I’ve been doing the exercises that I’d been given in the gym everyday at home, twice a day and on occasions three times a day, and my visit today proved the value of this quite hard, slightly painful and uncomfortable work.

So, if you are about to have a full knee replacement – please, don’t worry. I wouldn’t say it’s a breeze, but it’s nothing like as bad as you might think!

Good luck!

PS Most Godello wines come from DO Valdeorras and DO Bierzo! Told you this was a wine orientated website!

Bodegas Hacienda del Carche




When I opened the case of wines from Hacienda del Carche it was the labels that immediately caught my attention. A quick result from the Marketing Department and the perfect ‘in’ for those exhibiting their wines all over the world.

Fact – labels sell wines! Fact – in the UK something like 70% of all wines sold are bought by women. Fact – the fairer sex are attracted by, well, attractive labels. Ergo if your label is well designed, if it stands out, if it’s pretty, the wine will sell. The wines will be selected from the shelves of the wine merchants and the supermarkets and the tills will ring with a happy ‘ker-ching’ – and that rhymes!

However, at the wine fairs of the world, whilst it’s still true that the label will attract even the wiliest, most cynical buyers, it’s what follows that will determine a sale. The wine in the bottle has to be at least as attractive as the label. Indeed, it’s this result that will also decide whether the ladies referred to above will buy a second bottle next time they are out shopping!

Well, Hacienda del Carche is also successful here, and it doesn’t surprise me!

I first met the elegant, charming and super-professional Natalia, Hacienda del Carche’s Export Director and winemaker, several years ago when she was in fact working for another bodega in DO Jumilla. I was as impressed with Natalia as I was with the wines we tasted on that scorching day – and when you consider that the flagship wine of the tasting retailed at about 150€ a bottle, you can understand just how impressive I mean!

Natalia didn’t need her passport to move from that bodega to take up a similar post in the new one – but she has certainly needed it since her arrival. Hacienda del Carche is an example (there are many in Spain) of how well a business can adapt to harsh, conditions – rather like the native Monastrell grape variety of DO Jumilla!

We all know how the recession in Spain affected business. Lots of companies went to the wall. However the wine sector didn’t suffer as badly as other industries, largely because they were proactive, rather than the opposite – reactive. Sadly, it is true to say that some of the family owned businesses were forced to sell out to larger concerns, usually, I pleased to say, retaining a certain autocracy.

However, others kept their head nicely above water by increasing their efforts in the global market, and indeed some, like Hacienda del Carche, started mid-recession! You have to speculate to accumulate, being the operative mantra. Export departments were given a larger slice of the budget – if sales are going to dry up on the domestic market let’s see what we can do internationally. And this meant renewed effort in developing further, established markets, often in Europe, as well as speculating in the more global arena.

HACIENDA tausblanco

Taus Blanco is a blend of the internationally famous and oh so popular Sauvignon Blanc and Spain’s own Macabeo. It’s a mix that works. Typical Sauvignon Blanc gooseberry, grassy, fennel aromas mingle with the green apple acidity of the Macabeo. The result is a super-clean, fresh dry white with enticing aromas and a fruit filled flavour.

HACIENDA tausrosado

Taus Rosado is a lovely colour – adding extra value to the label design! It’s made with the indigenous variety Monastrell whose dark plum notes come through to join some cherry flavour and raspberry aromas from the Syrah with which it is blended.

It’s pretty in the glass, but don’t be deceived, this is no frivolous rosé – it has presence on the palate and a mid-length flavour-filled finish. I tasted it (and then drank the rest!) with Paella, with which it really works well. I can see it being super too with Salmon and Trout, particularly but with any fish and shellfish dish.


Taus Joven has three varieties in the blend. Monastrell, as you would expect, and hope, is joined by Syrah again, as well as Garnacha Tintorera. Now, regular readers will remember that this is one of the very few black grape varieties in the world whose flesh has a pink tinge to it.

Almost all other black grapes are actually the same colour in the middle of the flesh as a green variety. So, expect a darkly coloured wine whenever Garnacha Tintorera (not to be confused with Garnacha) is included!

Bodegas in Spain have, and are, making an effort to re-enfranchise younger over eighteen aged drinkers who are currently preferring beers and spirits to the national drink, wine. This is a red that will help change mindsets. It’s full on fruit without a trace of harshness. The grapes for this wine were clearly harvested at the optimum time, when fully ripe. The advantage here is that the wine is rich, and well if it’s alcohol that youngsters are after, the 14% will also attract them.

There is a slight touch of black pepper spice coming from the Syrah along with dark cherries and Monastrell makes its usual black plum contribution. The Garnacha Tintorera gives the colour of course but there’s also a earthy connection with the vineyard. It will appeal to jovenes, younger drinkers, but don’t worry, it’s a proper wine. I really like it!

HACIENDA tausseleccion

The Joven has an older brother – Taus Selección. Here the Garnacha Tintorera is replaced by the very international variety, cabernet Sauvignon. The 2013 vintage has also enjoyed 6 months in oak, making it a ‘roble’ or semi-crianza style wine and adding, of course some extra depth. A touch of earthy minerality, with blackberry fruit and a full, but elegant finish. It’s super drinking right now, with or without food, and it will last for another 2 years for sure.

HACIENDA cepasviejas

Hacienda del Carche 2010 Cepas Viejas (old vines) is a flagship wine. It has been aged in French oak for 12 months. As with all their wines there is plenty of fruit here, but there’s an added dimension of complexity and depth. It’s a wine to be savoured – drunk with meaty foods, strong cheeses and great friends! You’ve heard of the ‘slow food’ movement – I nominate this wine for the ‘slow wine’ movement!

HACIENDA infiltrado

Infiltrado is a Vino d’Autor, a wine conjured up out of the winemaker’s soul. It hasn’t been filtered (hence the name) so there may be a deposit though this should be kept in the cleverly designed bottle when poured correctly. It is the manifestation of a fruit driven wine. It’s full, rich and frankly, far too easy to drink!


Finally, talking about wine bottles, the design of the ice-wine Monastrell dessert wine bottle is a work of art. It takes over 3 kilos of grapes which are late harvested and then frozen to make this wine. It’s remarkable in colour and long-lasting flavour a wine for desserts, yeas, but also for cheese. Sweet, but with that essential acidic lift to keep it fresh as well as unctuous!

And there’s more! My usual Christmas article recommending various Wine Accessories and Wine Related Products will include the following! Watch this space!

HACIENDA -mermeladablanca


HACIENDA mermeladadevino-MON

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Fenavin 2015 – the Blog!

Fenavin is the biennial National Wine Fair attracting thousands of wine buyers from around the World. As such it is a major player in the world of wine commerce and happily plays a crucial part, not only in improving the finances of those bodegas that exhibit (which is almost every bodega in Spain!), but it also helps make a significant contribution to the nation’s coffers.  

A tiny part of Fenavin 09:30 hrs, 1st day - the quiet before the storm!
A tiny part of Fenavin 09:30 hrs, 1st day – the quiet before the storm!

Not Birthday Blues, but whites, rosados, reds, sparklers and, hopefully, just desserts on my birthday!

Well I’ve arrived early and without difficulty from the tranquil setting of the very modern centre of Ciudad Real to the soon-to-be-frenetic Fenavin Pavillions. (I’d expected the centre of this ‘Royal City’ to be ancient, steeped in history with dramatic Gothic Architecture etc, however it seems that the only building remaining that is testament to its medi-eval roots, is the, let’s be honest, rather undistinguished Cathedral.

No matter, though – there is a good feel to the city, and there’s certainly a buzz here in the Press Room of Fenavin, Spain’s biennial National Wine Fair. Whilst I’m a veteran of many years at Aliemtaria in Barcelona, this is my first time here, and so far, I’m impressed.

There are lots of staff available and willing to assist a virgin-visitor like myself (in the sense of this being my first visit, you understand. I mean, not in the sense that, well you know!) and on entry to the Press Room I was given a memory stick to record this and any other comments I make during my three days here. Noce touch – a free data-traveller, gracias a Fenavin!

So, it’s off to work now – starting with the Sparklers, and why not, it is my Birthday after all!

Call that work! I know I’ve heard it before and I have to agree that digging the roads, laying bricks, teaching, in fact pretty much everything else is harder work than being a wine taster/writer! Although, well, I’m not complaining – but tasting and judging wines professionally still requires effort, dedication and determination and this means that it also takes its toll.

I needed a rest last night, something diverting so I went to a bar, drank agua con gas only and watched the Champions League!

So, now it’s the second day of Fenavin, the huge National Wine Fair held in Ciudad Real and I have some reflections on yesterday, my first day at this event.

Firstly, it’s a very well run affair. Very professional but always with a smile and all the staff I met yesterday were happy to help and, considering that there was considerable pressure – of numbers and indeed languages – this is praise indeed!

Official figures, before the event, which probably means, as usual, that they are a little short of the actual numbers, tell us that there are visitors here from 65 differesnt countries world-wide. There are also, we hear, 1361 Spanish bodegas exhibiting their wares – and if they all bring with them, say a conservative 6 different wines (though in lots of cases with me yesterday it was more than six) that means – well you do the maths! Suffice to say there is a veritable wealth of wines to taste here and a physical impossibility to try even a quarter of the total! Told you it was hard work!

The fair is huge, containing several different large pavillions and I certainly didn’t have th chance to visit all, but the with the three I did visit, I started with sparkling wines – a birhday treat! Of these sparkling wines, 90% were Cavas. Not surprising, you might think – Spain is of course home to Cava. However there are also excellent sparkling wines here that are not cavas, made in areas well away from those designated as official cava making zones.

Cava has suffered some criticism over the last few years – criticism based on quality, or rather, its dirth at the huge-volume base of the sales pyramid. In a sense the criticism has been justified – the horribly (in every sense of the word) cheap cavas that make up this base level are in no way representative of the quality that is available in DO Cava.

However, as Señor Bonet, President of the Consejo Regulador DO Cava, said to me when I interviewed him last year, this criticism can be directed at other famous DOs too. The fact is that there will always be those who obey the rules and can therefore call their wine ‘DO Whatever’ whilst paying litle (no?) attention to quality. For example – there has been some dreadful DOCa Rioja made and sold, to a largely unsuspecting consumer base which sees Rioja on the label and buys regardless.

However, my experience yesterday leads me to conclude that in reality this criticism that DO Cava has suffered, in fact has been beneficial, once the wounds were licked. Criticising Cava meant that other sparkling wine producers all over Spain were suddenly, by association (the link being bubbles), in the spotlight. In many cases (though definitely not all, according to my tasting yesterday) these producers’ acts was already together.

Free of the constraints (if that’s what we can call them) of having to use cava-approved grape varieties, their sparkling wines have, of course, the same autolysis notes (patisserie, brioche, bready etc) but with the added dimension of aromas and flavours specific to varieties of their own. Cue Verdejo, Albariño and Godello for example (watch this space for some info on Godello based fizz, along with a prediction!).

You can imagine it – these sparklers have lots to offer! And the cava producers are aware of this, of course. Well, Xarel-lo, Macabeo, Parellada, the traditional varieties of Cava (as well as the now permitted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), also have a lot to offer. And the cava producers got to work on making sure that their sparklers stood the test of comparison.

The result, it would seem to me, following my tasting, what 25 cavas yesterday, is that their act has been cleaned up and is well and truly together, to say the least. I did not taste one poor cava, all were of a high standard and most enjoyable – with equally pleasing prices too! In fact the only below-par fizz I tasted (endured would be a better word!) was a sparkler that wasn’t Cava! Tables turning?

Two Cavas and One Non-Cava - what a presentation!
Two Cavas and One Non-Cava – what a presentation, these ‘labels’ are ceramic!

Well I doubt that, as I did taste several really good non-cava sparkling wines, but at least it means that lovers of bubbles like myself are in for a pretty good time as the one sector competes with the other! Bravo!

And what about another comment of mine over the past couple of years – that it has seemed that the sweetness levels of Brut Cava have been pushed towards the limit? Brut means that the maximum level of residual sugar in the finished product cannot exceed 12 grams poer litre. It has been my view that producers have been scaling upwards from the mean, 8-9 grams.

Well, think again Colin! I asked every Sparkling wine producer, including non-cava, about their residual sugar levels. There was one at 10 grams, one between 8 and 9 grams, but all the rest were 7 grams and below!

It's a Cava bottle, Jim, but not as we know them! Wish I was as slim and slender! Plus - it's organic!
It’s a Cava bottle, Jim, but not as we know them! Wish I was as slim and slender! Plus – it’s organic!

Has my moaning been taken on-board? I don’t know, but I do know that the Brut cavas I tasted, mostly young ones, were naturally ripe fruit rather than adder sugar at the dosage stage! Good on ’em, is what I say!

So, as usual a rather long intro to a blog – the next, concerning my second day at Fenavin, will be shorter. Promise!

Bodegas Dominio Buenavista



Veleta, Dominio Buenavista - Wines wiuth Altitude!
Veleta, Dominio Buenavista – Wines wiuth Altitude!

Bodegas Dominio Buenavista wines are exemplary, providing full flavour, power and yet elegance and subtlety and I’m quite sure that in the USA where there are burgeoning sales their wines are being lauded as much and perhaps more than they are here in their native Spain.”

Thus began my article about this Granada based winery just over two years ago. In the interim 2 years plus I’ve been fascinated to see how their wines have been garnering awards, medals and plaudits ever since, so I thought it time for a re-visit!

It’s true that added age and the specific conditions of the vintage make a contribution to the wines of Spain, mostly beneficial, but in the case of each year’s growing and harvesting weather, this can also be to the detriment of the resulting wine, wherever they are made. Generally, vintage differences such as these are of lesser significance  the further south you go in the northern hemisphere. Notwithstanding climate change, the weather is usually better!

Also it’s true that the wines I tasted just over two years ago will have been made from grapes from ‘younger’ vines than those which I’ve tasted recently – but this extra longevity will be about negligible in the wider scheme of things. Ten years difference in age – well this would be significant, but not just a couple.

And yet, for me, there has been a subtle and impressive change in the wines coming out of Bodegas Dominio Buenavista. I’ve found all the wines a little richer recently than when I first tasted them, and I was impressed then!

So another look at the wines of – beginning with the ‘gold from them thar hills!’.

My remit for the glossy (well, it’s actually a rather sophisticated matt-glossy) UK based, though Internationally available magazine, ‘Glass of Bubbly’ ( is to write about the sparkling wines of Spain which, though made by the same method, are not Cavas. There is a wealth of such wines in Spain that, until my articles have remained largely undiscovered.

You've seen the Hills - here's the Gold!
You’ve seen the Hills – here’s the Gold!

Two are from Dominio Buenavista and the ‘gold’ to which I refer is the first out of the hat and, incidentally, found on video here .

Valeta Sparkling wine is made from the indigenous, aromatic grape variety Vijiriega (fortunately usually referred to as ‘Viji’!) with a 20% contribution from Chardonnay. The grapes are grown at a high altitude where there is plenty of ripening sunshine as well as beneficial dramatic drops in night time temperature. This temperature change makes a major contribution to the aromatic profile of the resulting wine as well as to the raison d’etre of sparkling wine – it’s clean freshness!

There’s a delightful floral aromatic aspect (pink rose petals) to the stable-mate  rosado Veleta, made from Tempranillo and Garnacha. On the nose you’ll also find typical rosé notes of raspberry and strawberry along with the usual panaderia notes, common to sparkling wines.

In the mouth, although the wine is subtle and delicate, it has a certain presence too. The overall result is that you have here a sparkling wine that can be enjoyed like so many as a celebratory fresh mouthful, but also with food. Try with wine with paella, for example – made a long way from Valencia, home of paella, and yet perfectly fitting the dish! Both sparklers are priced at 7€.

vijiriega2011-w150 buenavista

I love Dominio Buenavista’s ‘Viji’, white wine – it’s so different from anything else in Spain. Indeed I made a video about it on Youtube. Pale in colour but it’s certainly not timid in terms of its nose and flavour. It leads with a refreshing citric acidity, but there’s more to this wine too. You’ll soon smell white flowers and a touch of white peach, the latter of which follows through onto the palate, where you’ll also enjoy and oblique reference to passion fruit. 6·50€.

The still rosado also has a pronounced perfume (told you the altitude makes a difference!) – rose petal again, but also soft red berries. When held in the mouth for a few moments the wines demonstrates that it has some body too, making it a lovely wine for simply drinking and enjoying as well providing a foil for salmon, trout and gammon, as well as salads. 6€.

Valeta Cabernet Sauvignon Roble 2013 DO Vino de Calidad de Granada has had 3 months in oak. You can almost feel the mountainside in this wine – the Mediterranean winds, the Alpujarra earth in which Cabernet vines grow and a the hillside herbs and undergrowth! There’s juicy, bold blackcurrant fruit which delights the palate and it’s all underpinned with a very subtle complexity and depth, helped by the subtle presence of the oak. 7€.

Veleta Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 also has a little Merlot in the blend. It’s a wine that is attracting international recognition – with medals won at home in Spain as well as in the States. As you would expect, given the Cabernet Sauvignon, there is an endearing blackcurrant flavour to the wine, as well as a Merlot inspired mintiness. There are herbs again with minerality and an even great depth, following its 12 months in Amercian and French oak, which also give rise to a certain pleasing complexity.

I haven’t tried this wine with game –  but I’d like to!

I believe the Gold Medal winning Noladós 2010 is about to come into its own very soon. At present it’s a little austere, a little restrained in its pleasure-giving fruit, perhaps just coming to the end of a dormant period? But taste it, and hold it on your palate and it will reveal something of the juicy fruit that will soon be prevalent.


Made with the other Cabernet (Franc) as well as Cab Sauv and Tempranillo it’s quite a big wine longing for dark meats: steaks and casseroles.

Finally, if looking for a fruit driven red wine made from Spain’s most commonly grown red wine variety, Tempranillo, that is drinking perfectly right now – then check out Veleta’s Tempranillo 2009. Everything about this wine is perfectly in balance – and like the whole range of Buenavista wines, it delivers!

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