It’s a gamble, but I reckon Nicola Thornton, co-founder of Spanish Palate, the Spain based wine producer and négociant/distributor, is in the Tractor Ted generation! What leads me unequivocally to this conclusion – well, firstly she’s miles younger than me, and secondly Spanish Palate have named one of their smaller portfolios of wine, Mí Tractor Azul, My Blue Tractor. Classic TV influence!


Any readers who have student grandchildren (great grandchildren?!) studying Social Science and the like, who are stuck re their PhD Thesis? Well, I may have the answer here – pass it on!

Forget the generations so often referred to in the media these days (why?!) – you know, the Baby Boomers, Generation X, the Millennials, Generation Z (your grandchildren will be in one of the latter two). Popular belief is that we are defined by our generation category (I’m a Boomer, btw [this modern text abbreviation designed to make me look a ‘cool, Boomer!]), but, and here’s the PhD Thesis bit – I wonder if we are actually defined by the TV programmes we watched as children?

Who remembers ‘Watch With Mother’ and the ‘Flowerpot Men’ –  maturing(?) to ‘Blue Peter’, ‘My Favourite Martian’ and ‘Mr. Ed’? If you do, well you’re with me – Boomer through and through! However, if your go-to programme was ‘Tractor Ted’, well, you’re a lot younger – for a start, and likely to have a wholly different consumer profile.

It’s a gamble, but I reckon Nicola Thornton, co-founder of Spanish Palate, the Spain based wine producer and négociant/distributor, is in the Tractor Ted generation! What leads me unequivocally to this conclusion – well, firstly she’s miles younger than me, and secondly Spanish Palate have named one of their smaller portfolios of wine, Mí Tractor Azul, My Blue Tractor. Classic TV influence!

This of course, is all conjecture! So is my thought that Nicola and co are doing what so many other Spanish (and international) wine producers are doing – trying (and in this case, certainly succeeding) to engage with a younger generation of wine drinkers. These days youngsters who have reached the legal age to consume alcohol (that’s a strict 18 yrs here in Spain, with it being illegal to buy your 17 yrs old an alcoholic drink/share your wine in a restaurant, unlike in the UK), are able to enjoy such a wide diversity of drinks available to them. The result of this is that amongst the 18 – 25 yr olds wine consumption in recent years has been falling.

It’s a concern for producers, in fact a double whammy (this now old but still annoying phrase also identifies me firmly in the British Boomer!) – sales to this generation (Millennial/Gen Z, if you’re wondering!) have been decreasing, with the knock-on effect that it’s likely that when they reach middle age and older, they’ll buy less likely wine than those of us at that age now. It’s a worrying scenario that many, forward thinking wine producers are addressing right now. Spanish Palate ( is one such producer.

As yet there are but two Mí Tractor Azul wines in the portfolio (told you it was small!), but they certainly do what they set out to achieve and it wouldn’t surprise me if there were plans afoot to add to the range. The first I tasted was from Toro (you can see it here and listen to my thoughts about it).

It’s made, as you might expect, with the DO Toro favourite variety, Tinta de Toro, the local name for Tempranillo – the same variety, which has, with perhaps a century, and more, of growth here, developed some slightly different characteristics than Tempranillo from its original home, La Rioja.

Fruit First, and bags of it, is the mantra of this line of wines. However, that doesn’t mean grapes harvested from just young vines – Tractor Azul wines are made from vines that are a minimum of 40 years of age, grapes so mature that they are usually destined for Crianza and Reserva wines. Instead, the rich, gently pressed juice is fermented, and then bottled without any oak. You are therefore enjoying the purity of the intense fruit, with no other influence!

There are immediate black cherry notes on the nose, with some blackberry and a touch of its brambly undergrowth too. Although not aged in oak, the wine is easily rich enough to partner meaty dishes, though this isn’t at all necessary – enjoy it as a super fruit-charged vibrant wine, with your Generation Z grandchildren and their pals!

The other wine in the portfolio is Mí Tractor Azul Almansa. Readers may remember my recent article on the wines from Almansa ( – an impressive area of production, emerging from the shadows and this wine will help!

Grown for centuries in Almansa (and surrounding areas of production) Garnacha Tintorera (not to be confused, though it’s understandable, given the name, with Garnacha) is also known as Alicante Bouchet (again, confusing – we are talking Almansa here, not Alicante!). It’s quite a variety! One of the world’s very few grapes whose flesh is also coloured – in this case a pinky red, which, when macerated with the skins, gives very dark coloured reds, often of high alcohol.

Spontaneous fermentation using natural yeasts occurs in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, with bottling soon after – a total absence of oak. Therefore we enjoy primary fruit flavours and aromas of dark berries with some herbal notes too. It’s very fruit orientated, full, with fresh, lively acidity – a wine for the sofa, watching re-runs of your favourite children’s TV programmes, perhaps! Ah, nostalgia’s not what it used to be!

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During the current economic, crisis which continues to bite here in Spain, we’ve been tending to dine out rather less frequently than in previous, more stable years – you’re perhaps the same? So a restaurant meal is more of an occasion than just a meal out. Much to the chagrin of those with whom we dine, I’m always the last to order – the wine list takes precedence over the menu for me.

I always consider the House Wines – sadly though I’m often disappointed. There are still plenty of restaurants who see house wines as no more than a cash cow, rather than a statement about the quality of the establishment into which the client has just walked. Twas never thus in my restaurants.

So I find myself perusing the fine wines list whilst those about me are navigating through the straits of starters and main courses. I look first of all for the number of DOs represented – I’m almost totally deflated if I see a full page of Rioja’s with but a few other areas mentioned as an after thought. Less so, but it still happens I’m afraid (clearly such restaurants need to visit to see how I can help them!). Whatever happened to diversity in a country so rich in different wine styles and top quality wines?

Recently I’ve started searching for the DO Toro section, eschewing the more glamorous areas of production, looking for top quality but without the top price tag. DO Toro will deliver! I’ve really come to love the wines from this North Western outpost of Spain, almost adjacent to Portugal, whose deeply coloured wines combine power with elegance, speaking so eloquently of their terroir with a heady blend of minerality, dark red fruit and subtle oak.

When I find the wines of Bodegas Palacio de los Frontaura y Victoria listed (sadly this is not often enough though) I know I have found my choice. I love all the wines I have tried from this bodega and that includes the recent addition to their portfolio, a wine made in nearby Ribera el Duero which will no doubt be appearing on the appropriate page soon.

I first came across this bodega when I received a press release some years ago from Virginia of their PR Dept. My comment that, whilst it was interesting to receive the news I really needed some samples too, was heeded and some bottles speedily winged their way to me. I was delighted with the standard as they acted as more than worthy ambassadors for the area from whence they came.

Recently I received some more:

Vega Murillo is young, their entry level wine from 100 % Tinta de Toro. There’s no oak with this wine, and it doesn’t need it either. It’s fresh and fruit driven and is a wine to enjoy with friends. Sure you can drink it with food, but it doesn’t need it – if you like a young wine but one with some depth and character, try this, it knocks sports of many that try but fail to fulfil that role. The Worl Cup is still on – drink it as you enjoy the festival of football!

Dominio de Valdelacasa Cosecha 2006 is made from 100% Tinta de Tora (aka Tempranillo) selected from vineyards whose kilos per hectare rate is low ensuring richer grapes at harvest time. Macerated for 22 days to extract deep colour and plenty of flavour from the skins and then fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel the wine is dark in colour with subtle oak influences. It’s enjoyed 6 months, mostly in French oak but with a lovely vanilla American oak lick too.

There’s a touch of pencil lead and shavings on the nose but with dark red, intense fruit compote, notes too ensuring that the wood complements rather than dictates the taste.

Frontaura Crianza 2005 is made from old vines. Stainless steel maceration and fermentation again, though this time a lengthier stay in exclusively French oak. When the cork pops the room is filled almost instantaneously with that wonderful aroma with which those of us who have toured bodega cellars are so pleasantly conversant.

The vineyards are about 700 metres above sea level, intense summer sunshine is tempered by far cooler night time temperatures allowing the grapes to ripen fully and yet to retain crucial acidity. It’s all about rich, mature dark fruits, laced together with complementary oak giving off a touch of liquorice with leather notes and a slight dark chocolate and well toasted Columbian coffee bean finish. I love this wine!

And so to Nexus, the new wine and indeed the first in a planned range of Ribera del Duero wines whose attractive purple label and foil have already won it some design awards. It’s the Crianza 2005 made from veteran Tempranillo grapes but the style is vivacious with fruit to the fore and a balancing oak presence which lets you know that whilst it is easy drinking it’s also a serious wine, with depth and subtlety too. It’s a sensual, very feminine wine and one that the ladies will certainly enjoy, not just because of its quite stunning presentation but because of its elegance. This wine is a certain winner and I for one cannot wait to taste the others when they come on stream.

First Published in Costa News Group, May 2010



 There are many French wine producers who, if you catch them during a veracious moment, will tell you that it does not pay to keep your head in the sand in the competitive world of winemaking/marketing! Considerable market share was lost by chateaux that did just that as their inert, wholly inappropriate response to the influx of New World wines into Europe in the 80’s and 90’s. Some never recovered.

 In Spain it was a different story. Bodegas were happy to listen to new ideas, invest in modern technology and to blend these with their own winemaking tradition. It’s proven to be a winning mix. However as many bodegas did this there was a danger that the status quo, albeit now on a higher level, would remain the same. The trick was to become pro-active rather than re-active if bodegas wanted to move ahead of their national competitors.

Nicola seals the deal with an important export client!

In my time in wine (some twenty years now) I’ve not come across a more pro-active person than Nicola, of Bodegas Fariña. Formerly of Bodegas Bajoz (where she and the similarly young team completely turned around the fortunes of this cooperative bodega until, inexplicably, the owners did an about turn), Nicola went to Bodegas Fariña where she was given her head, and where she continues to enjoy such support.

 I received from Nicola several wines to taste in this new year and then was delighted to meet her again in Alimentaria, Barcelona. Over several wine tastes (incidentally, with her main distributor from India – demonstrating the strength of the export arm of Bodegas Fariña), we discussed the nature of the business, the wines we were tasting and of course the bodega’s plans for the future. She and Bodegas Fariña remain as forward thinking as ever and their increasing sales, both in the domestic market as well as in exports reveal how it is this attitude that will ensure progress during such troubled financial times.

 As long as the wines are good!

 Well have no fear, if you like your red wines to be darkly coloured, full of fruit character with wholly integrated oak and mineral notes too, this is where you should look.

 The first wine tasted, at home in my office (equipped with various tasting glasses, decanters, vacuvins and assorted wine tasting paraphernalia) was the fresh and fruity Primero 2009, which boasts being made from grapes that were on the vines in September and in the bottle just two months later – Toro Nouveaux!

 Beaujolais it’s not, however, and I mean that as a compliment. The French equivalent is made from the far lighter coloured and more delicately flavoured Gamay variety. Primero is made from Tinta de Toro (aka Tempranillo) – which, as the name implies (the blood of bulls!), is a deeper, darker and richer drop all together! And yet the carbonic maceration method by which it is made ensures that it is as fruity as you like – great start!

 Next we went for the Colegiata Tinto 2009 – same year, same varieties but not Carbonic Maceration. A different style of wine, fruity for sure, with violets on the nose but a little deeper, even without wood. The Gran Colegiata Tinto Roble 2008, as its name suggests, has had some oak ageing (4 months) but that’s not all – it’s made only from the free run juice, the best juice, obtained before major pressing. Taste this and compare it with most cheap supermarket wines, whose grapes have been crushed, not pressed, mercilessly!

 Gran Colegiata Crianza 2006 Roble Frances, has of course been aged in French Oak, in fact for 11 months. The trademark dark colour is enhanced by the concentrated nature of the wine. It’s spicy with elements of burnt wood on the nose and yet in the mouth it’s all fruit, dark and brambly. The Reserva 2001 also has 100% Tinta de Toro grapes but more time in wood, American, and in bottle too. It’s super winemaking as the often exuberant American oak (in-your-face, to put it in American parlance!) is tamed to be an integral, complementing element rather than ruling the roost.

 The Gran Colegiata Campus is their flagship wine. There’s a nice link between the ancient Roman name for Toro, Campus, and the fact that Spain’s oldest University, now situated in Salamanca actually originated in Toro, campus and all! The grapes are hand-harvested from 50 – 140(!) year old Tinta de Toro vines and then the selection table is used to sort only the best grapes for the final choice. Taste the wine and you’ll see that all this care is well worth it! A Costa News Top Ten wine, and deserving of the plaudit!

 So these are the Fariña wines tasted at home but what of those tasted in Barcelona? Well pro-active is the by-word – Spanish Sons is a brand made in co-operation with an American distributor. The play on the word ‘Sons’ is obvious in one sense, we all talk about the sunshine in Spain, but this is spelt the other way, meaning children, and the artistic label has silhouettes of the three generations that are behind the Fariña business. Made from 50% Tempranillo from the VdlT vineyards they operate and 50% Tinta de Toro from Toro.

 Ricardo Sanchez is another joint venture from their VdlT vineyards, but this time with a German distributor. Vineyards of 50 – 70 years of age produce the grapes, some of which are from Pie Franco vines, descendants of the philoxera-resistant vines of another age.

 If you have a look in Carrefour you’ll find Fariña wines and also in Mercadonna you’ll see the environment-friendly wines which use less glass and make less of a carbon footprint. All of the above is in the pro-active camp, as I said, but don’t expect Nicola or Bodegas Fariña to let the grass grow under feet. This bodega is at the forefront of innovation in DO Toro, all the time seeking to please the client, both with the quality of the wine and in the way they are made.