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Verdejo and other stories!

Piedra Luenga Verdejo, has a charming label, indicative, I think, of the philosophy of the winery, and indeed, the vineyards used for its production

And I quote:

“Piedra Luenga Verdejo is an organic white wine made with the Verdejo grape that grows in our Casilla del Morcillete vineyard overrun by a layer of lavender, poppies, clover and wildflowers, buzzing with bees and other insects.”

Close your eyes and picture the vineyard – beautiful, isn’t it? (www.bodegasrobles.es)

I was kindly sent three wines from their portfolio, by current incumbent, Francisco Robles, third generation of a family that has toiled relentlessly to make the best wines possible from the soils of this less well known area of production adjacent to Jerez, with its centuries of history and tradition.

Firstly, some clarification – ‘less well known’, is accurate, but, whilst ‘burgeoning’ may be slightly overstepping the mark, there are increasing signs that DO Montilla-Moriles is tired of the shadow, and wants to come out to play! They have two particular champions, in terms of promoting the area, my Twitter friends @LauraWBurgess & @TheWineKiwi, and it’s largely down to them that my interest has grown, along with that of many other commentators and consumers.

I was down there several years ago visiting a large concern, making very good wine, (I wish I’d known of Bodegas Robles then, too!) and was fascinated to learn a little about the area, whilst tasting, admittedly a limited number of wines, due to time restraints. I was impressed, and continue to be so.

Piedra Luenga Verdejo, has a charming label, indicative, I think, of the philosophy of the winery, and indeed, the vineyards used for its production. Regular readers will know, from, perhaps 15 years ago(?), when I first started writing about the variety, that I’m a fan of Verdejo. I won’t bore you again with the details of how this practically unheard of variety suddenly hit the Spanish Wine World headlines, and of its subsequent rise from rags to riches. Suffice to say that it is now considered one of the most famous white wine varieties in Spain and is seen in restaurants and shops throughout the country.

In some ways, and I’m sure my Twitter friend, @VictordelaSerna, will agree here, Verdejo has become something of a victim of its own success. It’s been too heavily planted in its original home, DO Rueda, often by those interested in making a quick buck, rather than those whose concern is quality first. But let’s not denigrate the variety – those who do care about its quality are making really good wines from this variety, Spanish, but sharing some of the characteristics of France’s, Sauvignon Blanc.

Francisco Robles is obviously in the latter group, and a distance away from Rueda! I really enjoyed the wine – there’s a little Honeysuckle blending with wisps of fennel on the nose, plus a faint gooseberry nod, nicely fused with some red apple notes too. Fermentation is provoked using wild yeasts found in the vineyard and transported to the winery on the backs of the grape skins, grapes which are certified as organic (Best Organic Production in Spain in 2014 and the Agriculture and Fisheries Awards 2017!).

Stirring of the lees is also employed and I think it’s this that contributed significantly to the creamy mouth-feel, adding presence to the wine. It paired perfectly with my step daughter’s Feta Cheese and Spinach Filo Pastry Slice, with the creaminess blending so well with the salty cheese, and a lemon acidity to keep it all so fresh!

Bodegas Robles also makes a dessert wine, this time coupled with a carrot cake (same chef, you don’t buy a dog and bark yourself, do you?). [Don’t worry, she’ll laugh at that – eventually!]. It’s an interesting wine as well as being really enjoyable.

Caprichoso Dulce, also organic, of course, is made with dried PX grapes, which have gained greater sweetness because of their loss of water content, but blended with zesty, young Verdejo wine, balancing the sweetness to avoid a cloying wine, with, unusually, a little Carbon Dioxide added to add bubbles, freshness, and hey – some fun too! Floral, honeyed with a citrus lick, and, like the previous sentence, it’s a mouthful, with an intense, yet light finish, courtesy of the slight fizz!

I’m sure it’d not just me who’s noted a rise in Vermouth production and promotion here in Spain. VRMT Robles is one that really pleased my wife, who particularly loves the style! Oloroso wine is aged for 8 years in oak barrels, a little Pedro Ximénez wine is added. The Vermouth is also macerated with ten different herbs/plants grown on their land, adding a sense of place to the honeyed, though dry, finished product.

You’ll fine vanilla, cinnamon, a touch of cloves, a little nutmeg along with a certain Christmas aroma too! @clairemariesoprano advises – drink it as an aperitif or/and as a digestif at the end of dinner!

Once again, I am reminded how lucky we are to live in such a dynamic wine orientated country with a huge variety from which to choose, and at such good prices: both wines are a touch over 7€ and the Vermut, just 13€!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com  @colinonwine

Facebook Colin Harkness  www.colinharknessonwine.com

SEKTS EDUCATION!

I know – sorry, but I couldn’t resist it!

I remember being somewhat ambivalent about sex education when I was a testosterone charged (charging?) 14 yr old. On the one hand I wasn’t looking forward to the squirming embarrassment of school lessons on the subject, but on the other I knew I needed to know!

Sekt, is altogether different, though I do confess to becoming enamoured by it!

Regarding German Wine, Millennials who love the nectar of the gods have an advantage over us of the Baby Boom generation, of a similar persuasion. Unlike us who suffered, these youngsters are unencumbered by debilitating memories of names like Blue Nun, Black Tower, Liebfraumilch et al! They can innocently select a German Wine from the shelves without any preconceived worries about its quality, its level of sweetness, its inability to pair with food, in short, its nastiness!

Some of us of a certain age have a considerable hurdle to surmount – but we really shouldn’t, German Wines Rock! So let’s get over it!

On behalf of the Costa News Group, I was recently invited to attend the Wines of Germany Trade Tasting, coolly named, The Big G, in no lesser venue than London’s magnificent Somerset House. With a breeze and light rainfall coming off the Thames, the London Eye to right, the Shard to the left, I entered into a world of Riesling and, for me, practically unpronounceable other grape varieties, areas of production, styles and producers.

It wasn’t daunting at all – I have no German, but that didn’t matter at all, I’m fairly fluent (fluid?) in wine, and anyway, everybody I dealt with spoke English perfectly (including the English people present!). And, of course, there were the wonderful aromas emanating from all manner of different shaped wine bottles (including some beautiful magnums) as corks were pulled, and we all go to work!

Whilst I was on a mission to learn as much as I could about German Wine in general, I made a beeline first for Germany’s main Sparkling Wine, called, yes, you got it, Sekt! Indeed, I had been allocated a much sought after place at the ‘Sekt Education’ Presentation by Master of Wine, Michelle Cherutti-Kowal, which was packed to capacity, with even standing room fully taken! I wasn’t surprised, I’ve heard Michelle talk before, she’s an excellent presenter, and I really should acknowledge, that the title of this week’s column is more or less plagiarised from her! Thanks, Michelle!

Now, as regular readers will know, I’m a committed fan of Spanish Sparkling Wine, Cava yes, of course, but also others crafted here in Spain. I’ve written about the wealth of choice we have here with regards to fizz, many times – I love Spanish Sparklers! But let me tell you, friendly readers, that this tasting converted me to Sekt as well! Honestly, fine quality, almost always traditional method (that used for Champagne and Cava, for example) Sekt is outstanding, a wonderful match for Prestige Cava, which I continue to champion!

Germany is the world’s largest consumer of Sparkling Wine, drinking 32 million bottles of its own Sekt, every year. Like Cava, Sekt, has differing standards, and it’s not that easy to understand. Firstly, the least expensive (ok, cheap!) examples, labelled simply Sekt, can be made from any grape varieties grown in Europe. Hence its price, and lack of quality – clearly there can be no sense of place with Sekt at this level. It can be made by the traditional method but is almost universally made by the tank, or Charmat method, that employed in the making of the vast majority of Prosecco.

Like Cava, the better quality Sekt is now being referred to as Premium Sekt, and most of these, though not all, are made by the traditional method, where the second fermentation takes place in bottle. Within this Premium Sekt category, there are wines referred to as Winzersekt, which are always made by the traditional method and are usually from a single vineyard and vintage. Also, it’s these wines that usually exceed the minimum number of 9 months left on lees, often doubled to 18 months and more. Indeed we tasted one at 30 months and a few at 48 months – that’s four years sitting upside down in the cellar, resting on the sediment left after the second fermentation, thereby gaining complexity and mature aromas and flavours to add to those of the grape varieties used!

And what varieties! Riesling is big in Sekt – monovarietal as well as in blends, with, for example, Silvaner, Grüner Veltliner, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir. For me, those made with Riesling are the most easily identifiable. Even when aged for lengthy periods these wines speak of this variety’s aromatics – lime, minerality even a little petrol. And when these aromas are mixed with those of  autolysis, that sparkling wine bready, yeasty, patisserie note and the mature aromas of wines that have been left to age for a good length, well it makes a heady, extremely attractive fizz.

Partner Sekt with Asian food, canapés, sweet and sour, Thai, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, sushi and so on! I’m so taken with Sekt, I’m off out now to buy some, here in London!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com Twitter @colinonwine

Facebook Colin Harkness  www.colinharknessonwine.com

Following a private tasting in Moraira, Costa Blanca.

Colin, just a short note to say thank you for Tuesday evening. It was an amazing evening, we never stopped talking about the wines and all the very interesting facts etc you passed on about wine in general and the absolutely glorious wines you chose. I have been trying to get Melvyn to join our little wine club for years and he has always said it wasn’t for him, so I owe you a personal big thank you as he is now looking forward to joining our lovely wine group, you really lit a fire under his love of wine! Well, Colin, thank you so much, it was a real pleasure to meet you. Margaret and Melvyn