First Published Costa News Group, March 2012





I have a selection of impressive bottles, albeit sadly empty, surrounding my laptop. The first class wines that these bottles held were mostly made with the ancient variety Garnacha, which is as much a part of the mountainous topography of the rugged geographical area that makes up the Denominación de Origen Calatayud, as is the bedrock on which the vineyard soils sit.

And it’s these soils, differing depending on their location, in conjunction with their vineyards’ individual micro-climates, that account for the variety of unique flavours that Garnacha can produce. Provided, that is, that the crafting of such wines is in the hands of a sympathetic wine maker – perhaps a local whose family history has been lost in the Pyrenean mists of time?

Well no, actually. These super wines were made by Norrel Robertson MW, a Scotsman who learned his trade, firstly with Oddbins, the formerly excellent retail wine merchants, now somewhat diluted; then through intense study with the Wines and Spirits Education Trust for the Master of Wine title (successfully attained); and then all over the wine world as our itinerant hero sought and gained more hands-on experience and knowledge! This is his story – next week, his wines!

An MA in Politics and International Relations from Aberdeen led him naturally(?) to Oddbins where his interest in wine developed. He started his own wine business eventually moving to London to specialise in ‘en-primeur’ wines (wines sold whilst still developing in barrel that may take years to evolve and therefore something of a gamble for both the buyer, who buys at this cheaper price hoping that the wine will develop into something special; and for the seller who puts his reputation on the line).

Whilst studying for the Master of Wine part of his course required a dissertation on a working winery. Norrel worked the harvest in Italy’s Chianti Classico and whilst doing so he realised that this was his destiny, the fruitful combination of physical and mental activity resulting finally in something beautiful – classy wine!

Next stop New Zealand where he graduated from the prestigious Lincoln College with a Postgraduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology! There followed harvests and wine-making in: the Duero Valley of Portugal; Adelaide Hills Australia; The Loire Valley, France; and Casablanca Valley in Chile.

In 2003, whilst working for International Wine Services which saw him running projects in Southern France and all over Spain, he decided that Catalayud was central for travel to all his work commitments. So he finally decided to settle there.

Having a natural interest in all things wine, it was only a matter of time before he started looking with a keen, and very experienced retail as well as wine-maker’s eye, at the area in which he found himself – the soils, the vines and the local wines. Here in Calatayud, Garnacha is king with huge potential, but the soils, micro-climates, altitude etc also suggested other varieties to Noelle.

His wine-making company, El Escocés Volante SL, with the collaboration of two different established bodegas, makes a range of wines that are in the top flight of not only DO Calatayud but of the whole of Spain too! And I’m not just talking red wine here! With Peñin points averaging 90 and similarly high scores from Robert Parker it’s clear that here are wines that are placing Calatayud firmly on the map of quality wines of the world.

PS I’m off to Barcelona in a week’s time for my bi-annual visit to Alimentaria, Spain’s biggest and best wine fair, as part of the huge contingent of International Press. If you’re interested in keeping up to speed with the world of Spanish wines – this is the only place to read!