Javea's La casa del Vino



 Regular readers may remember Part One of this short series about the advantages of buying wine from wine shops rather than supermarkets. The series stems from a recent survey I made of people’s wine drinking habits. I’ve been looking at the answers to the 20 questions which cover: the price people are willing to pay for wine; whether they prefer red, white, rosado; if they drink dessert wines, port, sherry; where they buy their wines; how they serve them et cetera.

 For a wine anorak like me the results are fascinating, not least of which is the fact that most people seem to think, quite erroneously in fact, that wine shops only sell expensive wines and if you want cheaper wines the supermarket is the place to go.

 I’m in and out of wine shops all the time and I know that there is always a good choice of wines under 5 Euros. However it wasn’t until the results of the questionnaire came in that I started looking at exactly how many wines there are in this category. Plus, when I took samples home, they confirmed my opinion that they aren’t cheap and nasty, they’re good and friendly!

 Let me give you an example – only yesterday I walked into a supermarket where I live and was horrified to see that they were trying to sell a Chardonnay 2004 (lots of bottles of a wine, no doubt forgotten in the stores and just re-discovered). I didn’t look to see if it was an oaked wine, which would give it some age-ability at least – I didn’t need to, the wine was brown!

 I told the smiling young lady about it and she took a note of it. I’m going to go in there tomorrow and see if they are still there – I bet they are, what does some foreigner know! Somebody over-ordered, somebody else forgot them and now they are trying to get a return on their investment. It’s a disgrace!

 It’s unthinkable that such a thing would happen in a wine shop. That’s another compelling reason why you should buy from wine shops before the supermarkets! A wine shop for example like La Casa del Vino in Javea, my second port of call whilst investigating the choice of economic wines available away from the supermarkets.

 Well lit and roomy, the shop is laid out so that you can wander around and see the wines properly. Most bottles are resting horizontally and those that aren’t are rotated and/or fly out of the shop so quickly they don’t have time to deteriorate as the cork dries out because the wine is not in contact with the cork.

 I explained my reason for the visit this time and was given a tour of the shop where in every corner on practically every shelf there are examples of the sub-5 Euro wines to which I refer – they are all over the place! I came away with ten, one of which is in fact not a bottle, but a wine box (more on this BIB, Bag In Box and the whole concept in a later article!) Super choice, super wines – and not a bored checkout girl in sight!

 Alex is a range of wines from Bodegas Viñedos de Calidad, DO Navarra. I tried three – the white made from Viura (aka Macabeo) is priced at 3:20 Euros, it’s a clean dry white wine with a hint of green apple and maybe a touch of pear too, just right for when you need a chilled refresher! Their Tempranillo is a wine I recently recommended on the radio (www.bayradio.fm) – it’s fruity but with an earthiness that will appeal to those who like their wine a touch robust, good with pizza! The Merlot, I liked particularly, some stewed plums on the nose and palate and a whiff of menthol too.

 DO Valencia provided my next two wines, both called Ximo, one a white Semillon (a variety rare in Spain – so far!) and the other a Tempranillo, from Bodegas El Villar. The white is as charming as it is fruity, a touch tropical a touch citrus, I really like it – 3·40 Euros! The red is Tempranillo, but richer and fruitier than the Alex, testimony to the sunshine hours and temperatures of Valencia as opposed to the northerly climes of Navarra.

 Vermador is from Alicante and is and organic red made from Monastrell, the star of the East as far as I’m concerned. It’s chunky in its expansive mouthfeel, with big dark blackberry fruit, but it manages a touch of finesse too. It is also available in BIB which works out to be just 1·97 Euros – check is out against supermarket offerings, not that you’ll find many at the cheap price! 

 Clos Lupo Reserva (yes, a Reserva for just 4 Euros!) is a Jumilla wine using of course their darling variety Monastrell but also Tempranillo, Cabernet and Shiraz. It’s a blend that works with, for me two pepper notes, a touch of the vegetal green pepper but also freshly ground black pepper spice, and of course a rich dark fruit content and well integrated oak. Germany, which is not blessed with many red wines, loves this one, with the parent company The Spanish Wine Company shipping it by the pallet.

 My favourite red, just pipping Ximo Tempranillo, was the Barahonda Tinto Barrica, at just under the 5 Euro limit. I know the bodega very well as it’s one showcased on the TV series, Viva Vino. Monastrell and Cabernet are partners providing super dark blackberry and blackcurrant fruit moulded together nicely with integrated oak.

 My favourite white? – well either Ximo above, or Bodegas Bocopa’s Laudum Chardonnay, with a touch of oak for depth of flavour.


Bodegas La Purisima wine tasting in Carrefour



 I first came across the huge Hypermarket chain, Carrefour, several years ago on the N332 near Benidorm when I was happy to be driving past a lengthy queue of cars slowly exiting the National Road to enter the equally huge, but nevertheless packed, car park alongside this phenomenal store.

 Clearly here was a success story that needed investigating, from a wine viewpoint – did they have a wine department and how good was it?

 It’s a good start when you find that such a large concern has a department devoted to wines and drinks. I guess it’s a little like that which exists in the UK, but perhaps (though I’ll investigate this further) on a lesser scale.

 In the UK the likes of Tesco, Waitrose et al not only have wine departments but also specific wine buyers, some of whom are Masters of Wine (MW, the exalted top epithet awarded only to those with supreme knowledge and tasting ability after a lengthy and extremely demanding series of courses and exams). Some such departments also take advantage of wine consultants to assist in their buying forays and strategies.

 Carrefour, I suspect is not this far advanced yet and maybe doesn’t want to go along that route anyway. From my point of view suffice to say that they do have ‘un responsable’, a department head for wines. Next, I took a look at the choice and the way they were displayed. There is a vast selection of wines including a section from the nearby area, a good sign of course. And the way the wine is stored? – well, in truth there is room for improvement here I think – maybe they need me?!

 So when the triumvirate Carrefour’s wine department jefe, Fernando, Natalia, Export Director of Bodegas La Purisima and I met some months ago I was happy to be invited to present an in-store tasting in one of their largest hypermarkets, Torrevieja, not far from where I first lived in Spain. There followed further discussion by e-mail and phone and eventually in February we three met again, actually in thunder. lightening and rain – to quote a fellow writer(!).

 There was a discount for people that day, but in fact Carrefour prices are good anyway and knowing as I do the excellent price/quality ratio of Bodegas La Purisima I was sure that patrons were in for some bargains. Indeed sales following the tasting proved that point rather nicely!

 We first tasted their entry level white wine from the Estilo range. Made from Macabeo, it is a refreshing dry white wine with a touch of apple and maybe fresh pear-drop acidity too. Their rosado from the same range is made with the excellent local Monastrell grape variety and super-fruity Syrah and Tempranillo, it is quite dark coloured and full of raspberry fruit – a best seller on the day.

 Their red Estilo Monastrell and Syrah, is a joven with some depth too. Dark fruits and undergrowth on the nose with some depth which means it will be fine for regular drinking as well as with meals. Calp is perhaps Carrefour’s best selling wine from La Purisima, it’s a blend of Tempranillo and Monastrell, again with good fruit and a rich finish.

 Stepping up in price (but not much!) and quality we then moved onto the Iglesia Vieja range. The picture on the label is of the distinctive church in Yecla which gives its name to the wine. The crianza was first – a blend of Monastrell, Cabernet and Tempranillo with 12 months ageing in French and American Oak. This wine is for the dinner table. On it’s own it’s a touch robust, a style that many like in their wine, but when taken with food this is mellowed a little. It has a good fruit-laden finish.

 The Iglesia Vieja Reserva is made from 50 year-old vines, Monastrell, Cabernet and Tempranillo. Grapes from elderly vines are often richer giving a lovely fruity feel to the wine (the texture of a wine is important in wine appreciation) – this reserva is no exception. A touch figgy with brambly fruits too there is also some cinnamon spice and a pleasing minerality.

 Also available but not tasted this day are the lovely IV Selección and their top wine, surely one of the best examples of 100% Monastrell you can buy, Trapío.

Why buying wine from wine shops is the best bet, part one

From Costa News SL, March 2010

Wine Shops sell economic wines too!WHY BUYING WINE FROM WINE SHOPS


 I’m currently sifting through a large number of questionnaires about people’s wine drinking habits. They make fascinating reading and you’ll be able to hear what people are saying, anonymously of course, about: how often they drink wine, their preferences, how they serve wine, how much they spend and lots more in Cork Talk over the next few weeks.

 Not all have been submitted yet but of two things there can be no doubt, albeit that the actual stats might change slightly: most of you buy your wines from supermarkets and most spend between two and five euros only. Statistically at this stage that translates to 67% of respondents generally spend under five Euros per bottle; and a staggering 94% usually buy from supermarkets!

 This information precipitated the following question, and some important research too. The question: is there a symbiotic relationship between the two facts, do the two go hand in hand? In other words if the large demand is for wines priced between two and five Euros do such bottles have to be bought at supermarkets?

 Well my entirely satisfying research proves conclusively that there does not need to be such a close relationship at all. You do not have to shop at supermarkets to find wines of this more economical price – it’s a common misperception that needs exposing!

 I went recently to the excellent A Catarlo Todo wine shop in Teulada. It’s local to me and I wanted to see what they have in the shop between these price parameters. However, if you are not in this area as many of you aren’t, considering that the Costa News has four titles, 150,000 weekly readers from Valencia to Marbella on the coasts and inland too, you’ll find the same where you are, for sure!

 I explained my mission and was pointed in the direction of the less expensive wines so that I could choose for myself.

 So, firstly when I list the wines and my comments about them I’ll be able to prove to you that it is a myth that wine shops only stock expensive wines. There are many good wines here that are under the five Euro limit, not just the six I took away with me. But that’s not the only reason why I urge you to skip the supermarket and go to the wine shops.

 The vast majority of people who own and run these shops are doing so because they love wine, indeed they are passionate about it! Sure, it’s a business, they need to turn a profit of course. But the bottles on the shelves are not just units on some accountant’s books – they are living bottles of wine in which their makers invested their knowledge and passion and which in turn are treated with respect by their vendors, the wine shop staff and owners.

 So here are my notes and opinions on the wines – all of course under five Euros:

 Borsao Joven 2008 – from the DO Campo de Borja, just south of La Rioja is made with three grape varieties: Cabernet, Garnacha, Tempranillo. It’s a young wine, one that should have fresh red fruits on the nose and the palate, and that’s exactly what it delivers. Easy drinking, fruity red for anytime.

 Razón 2005 is one of those wines that gives a lie to another misperception – it’s a table wine, so does that mean it’s poor quality? Certainly not, it’s just that in its area of production the winemaker doesn’t want to be restricted to using the officially accepted varieties. It has some oak ageing which allows it to linger after swallowing – darker fruits than the above, good with food.

 Finca La Estacada 2007 has had six months in oak and further ageing in bottle. Made from Tempranillo in the Cuenca area it’s a wine that will prove beyond doubt that good, well-priced wine can be found in wine shops! Dark brambly fruits with vanilla notes – a favourite.

 From DO La Mancha Fontal Roble 2008 is one of those wines that has had some oak but not enough to call it Crianza – the result is a wine that has depth as well as fruit, and is lovely with or without food. Cool purple label too!

 At 3·75 Euros Señorio de Uñela is a remarkably well-priced Rioja joven wine. 100% Tempranillo from this variety’s spiritual home it mends some of the faults of which Rioja has been guilty. It says it’s gloriously fruity and that’s just what it is – not a touch of bitterness on the finish.

 Care Tinto Roble is made from the super-fruity (when grown in Spain) Syrah and Tempranillo in the rolling hills of DO Cariñena, an area that produces exceptionally fruit-driven wines. This is one of a series of wines that have a modern art drawing of a face (Care = face) on the label and I’ve never tasted a poor wine from this bodega! My favourite of an excellent bunch of economically priced wines – not bought from a supermarket!