In Case You Missed It – The Cork Talk Top Ten Spanish Wines of 2018!

THE TOP TEN!

Ok, I accept that there are other work related stresses worse than this, but, let me assure, choosing the Top Ten Spanish Wines tasted for Cork Talk from the start to the finish of 2018, is stressful!

It’s my own fault really. At its inception many years ago I decided to restrict it to just ten Spanish wines and, despite the yearly anxiety, I’m going to keep to that parameter! So, here are the best ten wines I’ve tasted for Cork Talk this year, beginning as always with number ten.

TEN – I’m delighted to include a sherry in this lear’s Top Ten! The Palo Cortado style, Dos Cortados, from the excellent Bodegas Lustau is rich and round, with refreshing acidity. Only two barrels of this twenty years old sherry made, making it rather difficult to get hold of! It’swarming, with almost a brandy note on the finish. www.lustau.es/en/ 

NINE – Montesquius 2004 Gran Reserva Cava Brut Nature. (A late entry after the Verema Tasting in Alicante). I only tasted it last month, this Cava is sold only in Magnum, costing about 50€/btl – but, when you consider that a Magnum is two bottle’s worth of wine, and you taste it – you’ll see that this represents excellent value for money! Xarel.lo and Macabeo – therefore very Spanish! Full on the palate, mature nose with pears and stewed apples as well as typical panaderia bread and pastry notes too! (www.montesquius.com)

EIGHTH EQUAL – Nimi Tossal 2015 Orange Wine, is fermented in barrel after a long maceration, it rested for a further 12 months in oak, with its lees contributing to the finished wine. Everything in this wine is in perfect balance – it’s dry and fresh, there’s a little butter blending with panaderia notes and a very slight saline touch on the finish. www.joandelacasa.com/en/

And Pigar Orange Wine made with Tardana (aka Planta Nova) and a little Moscatel both of which were kept in contact with the skins for 25 days and fermented in tinajas, earthenware amphorae, where it was aged for four months. It has a certain nutty aroma, there’s a sense of it being a little like a spirit in its mouth-feel, flavour and smell, with faint touches of very dry cider (the English type, served cloudy – though the wine is clear) and perhaps bruised apples and pears. Bodegas y Viñedos Pigar.

SIX – Finca Calvestra 2017 Vino Blanco (another late entry, this time after the Grandes Pagos de España tasting, again in November!) Always thought of as grape variety lacking in character, Merseguera, indigenous to the Valencia region we are shown here how much it can actually give to the taster looking for something different! Eleven months on its lees in French oak barrels have given the wine another dimension. There’s a touch of dried apricot on the nose with understated creaminess and mango on the palate. Perfectly integrated oak. www.mustiguillo.com

FIVE –  The 2009 Selección de Añada (yep, that’s 9 years old!) is almost regal in its style. This wine is always given a minimum extra year developing in bottle after its 36 months on its lees, before release. It is a splendid white wine, at around 30€ it’s expensive – but so is a Rolls Royce! Custard fruit on the nose, supported by a creamy nuttiness, perhaps hazelnuts. On the palate it has body, presence, but not attitude – it is the personification of elegance. www.pazodesenorans.com/

FOUR – Muga Reserva Selección Especial 2014. We have a Magnum of this wine laid down – not sure if I can wait much longer! Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano in perfect harmony. Fermented in French oak with indigenous yeasts and aged for 28 months. Think top quality Rioja, think this wine! Red and dark berry fruit, roasted coffee, vanilla, caramel and a little herby spice too! www.bodegasmuga.com

THREE – Finca Moncloa 2014 VdlT de Cádiz made with Cab Sauv, Syrah, Tintilla de Rota (indigenous to Jerez area) and Petit Verdot. Another of the Grandes Pagos de España (GPE) wines this is a revelation! From the area best known for its fortified wines comes a red wine of pure class. It’s had a year on French and American oak with a further 12 months in bottle before release. Limited production! www.fincamoncloa.es

TWO WINE – San Román 2015, DO Toro, made with Tinta de Toro. (GPE). Tasting beautifully now, with lots of super dark forest fruits, plus it has the tannin and acidity for it to age for years. Elegance, combines with vivacious fruit and a perfect weight on the palate. It’s had two years in a selection of new and used French and American oak, giving the wine depth and complexity, with a long, long finish! www.bodegasanroman.com

NUMERO UNO, THE TOP WINE OF 2018 – Santa Rosa 2007, Bodegas Enrique Mendoza! As the GPE tasting was at Bodegas Enrique Mendoza, Pepe generously gave us a vertical tasting of his flagship wine, Santa Rosa! It was a mighty difficult choice but I’ve gone for the 11 years old, yet sprightly as you like, 2007 vintage! Cabernet, Merlot and Shiraz, incredibly fruit driven after such a time, with consummate elegance, perfect balance – divine wine! The best Cork Talk Spanish Wine of 2018! www.bodegasmendoza.com colin@colinharknessonwine.comwww.colinharknessonwine.com

Perhaps, like myself, you have Rosé tinted spectacles?

TIME TO MAN-UP AND DRINK PINK

Readers in more northern climes than here in Spain (Cork Talk is available online all over the world www.costa-news.com click Features, Cork Talk) might think that this is an odd time of year to be writing about Rosé wine. Spring is but a memory in Northern Europe; the Summer has well and truly disappeared; umbrellas are out, and coats donned before leaving the house!

None of the above would appear to be conducive to drinking Rosé, a very seasonal wine, if ever there was one.

Here in Alicante Province at the end of the first week in October (as I write) we are expecting temperatures to peak today at around 28ºC, perhaps, as it has done in the last few days, just climbing into the 30s. Swimming pools are still in use, the Mediterranean Sea too. So, we are continuing to enjoy a chilled Rosado, perchance with a cube of ice as well.

And, if you look at Spanish restaurant diners eating their paella you’ll also note that Rosado, certainly isn’t a girls’ drink! I love it, and contrary to what I’ve written above, I like to drink it all year round. Rosé wine looks great in the glass (and in the bottle as most are bottled in clear glass, for exactly that reason); it manages to combine the freshness of white wine with some of the nuances of lighter red wines; there is a huge array (particularly here in Spain) of varieties bringing with them so many varied aroma and flavour profiles; and it’s a super food pairing wine, with a plethora of dishes with which it goes perfectly. What’s not to like about drinking Rosado?

Well, there are some of my thoughts about Rosé wine – but you’d be far better advised to read also a fascinating new book by Elizabeth Gabay MW, entitled, ‘Rosé’, with the subtitle, ‘Understanding the Pink Wine Revolution’.

This beautiful book has been an inspiring read for me – I’ve always liked rosé wines, but I now know far more about them. It has to be the most comprehensive of the books written on the subject and Elizabeth Gabay manages to convey all the information in a thoroughly reader-friendly manner. I was astonished, therefore, when in her conclusion, she writes:

          “ . . . . I thought I knew a lot about rosé. Now I am amazed at how much there is still to learn.”  

Surely, it’s all in the book!

Well, the wine world these days is nothing if not dynamic, and experimentation is on-going in every field, so I know where Elizabeth Gabay is coming from making this statement. However, for the time being this must be the definitive reference book on Rosé wines, and when, as the author alludes, she writes her second on the same subject, I’ll certainly be looking for a copy!

I’m delighted to see, of course that Spanish rosados are featured in the book, along with reference, of course, to all of the other wine producing countries that are making rosé wines as part of their portfolio. The problem, living here in Spain, is that whilst we have easy access to the Spanish wines directly referred to, it’s nigh on impossible to find rosé from countries as diverse and far apart as Israel, USA, Greece, Poland and Canada, to name but a few!

The varying methods by which rosé wine is made are well covered and informative. Sparkling rosé wines are also dealt with – a section of the market that enjoys year on year sales increases. In fact this part was so attractive it made me go to my wine ‘cellar’ to seek one out to enjoy whilst writing, only to find that I’d run out!

As you might imagine, given the changing mood of the market, its trends and fads, there is a very interesting and illuminating reference to the importance of colour. I’m sure, that it’s not just me who has noticed that here in Spain, over the last few years, very pale (to almost colourless) rosé wines have started appearing – adding, in my view, to the already attractive spectrum of all possible shades of pink, making Spanish rosados so diverse. Needless to say Provencal rosés are included in the book. It is their very pale colour and the great popularity that have influenced winemakers across the world to imitate, if not their style, certainly their shade.

It’s impossible to do justice to the book in a simple review (far better to buy a copy here www.infideas.com/books/rose/ – a brilliant Christmas Present!), but I’ll add that one of my favourite sections is entitled, ‘The Business of Rosé’, dealing with: its commercial growth; its seasonality; levels of sweetness; to age or not to age; its labels and bottle design; escaping the ‘girl’ stereotype; and lots more. As I said, a fascinating book!

For now, though you’ll have to forgive me – I have to go out and buy some Rosado, after all Winter is on the way, and I may share it with my wife!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com   Twitter @colinonwine

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OK, Christmas has long gone, but you don’t need an excuse to by a present!

WINE RELATED CHRISTMAS PRESENTS

If you look on the internet you’ll see many ‘Estuches de Navidad’ being sold by lots of bodegas in Spain. I’ve looked at several, and they all seem to be good value, though I’ve actually not had the time to sample any of them.

However, when in Alicante recently at an excellent tasting (article soon-ish!) I did taste the contents of one such special Christmas offer. It was beautifully packaged and the contents (that’s estate grown and pressed extra virgin olive oil, single estata crianza Tempranillo/Cabernet/Merlot red wine and a 2kg round of super artisan mature Manchego cheese) were really tasty – approximately 60€! On enquiry I was told that there are a number of other estuche offers – so my first recommendation is to visit http://www.lajaraba.com/en/ !

My other recommendations this year are literally, literary! I’ve read five wine books/guides this year, which have firstly been great reads, but which also have the advantage of being used for reference purposes for many years. So, in no particular order you may be interested in the following:

‘Rosé’ by Elizabeth Gabay MW really is, well obligatory, for anyone who loves rosé/rosado wine! It has to be the most comprehensive of the books written on the subject, dealing with everything from how it’s made, the countries that make it, the importance of shades – in fact it covers everything rosé! The author manages to convey all the information in a thoroughly reader-friendly manner. One of my favourite sections is entitled, ‘The Business of Rosé’, dealing with: its commercial growth; its seasonality; levels of sweetness; to age or not to age; its labels and bottle design; escaping the ‘girl’ stereotype; and lots more. As I said, a fascinating book! You can buy it here www.infideas.com/books/rose/.

My recent Cork Talk was all about my next book recommendation, but it certainly needs to be added to this article as well. ‘The Wines of Northern Spain’, by Sarah Jane Evans MW is the go-to reference work for the wines of half of this dynamic wine producing country – with her next book, no doubt the same for the other half, the south! If you, or your partner/friends have an interest in Spanish wines this is a must.

I know a bit about Spanish wines, but Master of Wine Sarah Jane, tops this – and some! An expert in all things wine, the author’s specialist subject is Spanish wine – who better therefore, to write this comprehensive book, and in such depth. However, this is certainly not just a factual reference book destined to gather dust on the library shelf. Sarah Jane’s writing skills, allied to her knowledge and personal experience of Spanish wines make, ‘The Wines of Northern Spain’, interspersed as it is with entertaining anecdotes and producer profiles, a thoroughly good read! www.infideas.com/books/ 

La Semana Vitivinicola have produced a dual language Guide to Spanish Wines and Olive Oils, the ‘Guía de Vinos y Aceites’. I’ve had the pleasure of serving on a number of wine judging panels with its author, Salvador Manjón Estela, whom I find to be an extremely knowledgeable professional, as well as being friendly and approachable guy!

There are guide books about Spanish wine, which I always recommend, and do so again here. The Peñin Guide, also available in English, is the most comprehensive, with many thousands of entries, and an expert panel of tasters. The one I use most, though is the Proensa Guide to the Best Wines in Spain – again Señor Proensa, responsible for all of the tastings, with others, is also a renowned expert. But I have to say that the Guía de Vinos y Aceites, is right up there with the best as an honest guide to Spanish wines – plus it has the advantage of including olive oils as well, all in both languages!

The dreadful recent depression, whilst certainly being a dark cloud here in Spain, also had some silver linings. In a slant on the English proverb, Necessity is the Mother of Invention, bodegas desperate to source income to replace that from lost wine sales, started to commercially produce olive oil from the, sometimes centuries old olive tress they’d always used solely for the family. Recommended ones are all here! www.sevi.net

‘The wines of Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova’ is a book written by Caroline Gilby MW which has been of great use to me, and will be in the future, when I delve further into the wines of Eastern Europe – having been so impressed with those of Romania, as regular readers will know.

Wines have been made in the Eastern states of Europe for millennia, Caroline’s book gives fascinating insight into the history of wines in these three countries, including some rather distressing stories of how wars and political upheaval have impacted upon them and of course the people who have, and do, produce them. Factual, comprehensive and informative as well as engaging. www.infideas.com/books/

Finally, entirely in Spanish, by another wine judging colleague and friend of my mine , Jesús Flores and his colleague, Miguel Carbajo, ‘101 Historias, 100 Recetas’. A super book packed with Spanish History, Recipes and Wines – I’ve tried a number of the wines, and the recipes, and again, it’s a good read and a useful reference!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com Twitter @colinonwine

The Wines of Northern Spain, by Sarah Jane Evans MW

So, here’s me thinking I know a bit about Spanish wine (and I do too), but my knowledge, expertise and experience over the last 21 years, practically pales into insignificance when compared with the latest book by my colleague and friend, Sara Jane Evans MW!

Put simply, ‘The Wines of Northern Spain’ by Sarah Jane Evans MW must now be considered the definitive, go-to reference work for the wines of half of this dynamic wine producing country – with her next book, no doubt the same for the other half, the south! If you, or your partner/friends have an interest in Spanish wines, this has to be a perfect Christmas Present! (www.infideas.com)

Approximately twenty years ago I had in my hands a contract to write an introductory book on the Wines of Spain. It was quite an accolade and I was keen to write a first reference book after so many articles. However, it was an opportunity I had to turn down – the sheer scale of the undertaking had me almost shaking with trepidation!

Since then, considering all the publications for which I’ve written, it must now be well over a million words, almost always, in praise of Spanish wines – describing them, their provenance, their producers et al. So, I’m now in an even better position to understand how huge and difficult such a project would be!

Sarah Jane Evans MW, is also aware of how vast an enterprise, having decided to write it in two different parts, however she didn’t baulk at the task, she just got on with it!

Of course, as a Master of Wine (MW), who specialises in Spanish wines, Sarah Jane Evans would be by far the better option as a writer for such a reference book, and this clearly comes out when reading it. It seems there is nothing that has been left out, and it’s clear that she writes from great knowledge and experience. And that’s not surprising!

The author is an award-winning wine writer, journalist and speaker at conferences worldwide. She co-Chairs the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards; she qualified as an MW in 2006, and was presented with an award for the highest mark in the theory section of this exacting exam, and was subsequently appointed Chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine!

With regard to her specialist subject, Spanish Wine, Sarah Jane Evans was made a member of the exceedingly prestigious Gran Orden de Caballeros de Vino in 2010, with a number of similarly impressive appointments to various Denominaciónes de Origen throughout Spain. A Spanish wine expert, she certainly is!

And one would need to be, in order to write this comprehensive book in such depth. However, this is certainly not just a factual reference book destined to gather dust on the library shelf. Sarah Jane’s writing skills, allied to her knowledge and personal experience of Spanish wines make, ‘The Wines of Northern Spain’, interspersed as it is with entertaining anecdotes and producer profiles, a thoroughly good read!

The book, as the title would suggest, deals with the wine producing areas of Northern Spain, defined here in practical terms as: drawing ‘a line from the Pyrenees to Aragón and Navarra, turning west to Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Castilla y León, and Galicia, also taking in Txakoli country, and Asturias’.

The early chapter, ‘Three Thousand Years of History’ gives a fascinating, historical perspective to these often ancient areas of production, and a useful backdrop to the areas and their wines as they are now. How interesting to know, for example, that the Phoenicians who were trading with Spain in about 1100 BC, bringing with them wine in amphorae, have left a legacy which has recently been revived here, where a number of bodegas are now using clay pots for fermentation and ageing wine!

The book also details early on the major grape varieties used in these areas of Northern Spain, some of which are familiar to readers, but some of which we know little, or nothing about. There are vine growers and winemakers in these areas who are engaged in an almost missionary quest to revive forgotten and almost extinct varieties, and the wines made from them are another reason why Sarah Jane declares, “Spain is the most exciting country in Europe for wine lovers, and one of the most exciting in the world.”

As the reader reads on he/she will find region, area and producer profiles (including climates, microclimates, soil types and altitudes), detailing wine making methods, varieties used and even some of the wines themselves. It’s a good read from cover to cover, and can then be used over and over again to dip into for reference purposes when readers are thinking of looking for new wine tastes and aromas and/or exploring the regions first hand.     

Clearly, there is quality wine in the areas detailed in ‘The Wines of Northern Spain’, some of which readers will have tasted, however there are areas here that are less well known, whose wines are not so readily available on the Costas of Spain. We are therefore given an insight into what else there is to taste, which fits perfectly with Sarah Jane’s stated intention that readers should discover and taste these wines for themselves! colin@colinharknessonwine.com