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

Private Villa Wine Tastings/Pairings = Something Different!

Hi Colin,
Many thanks for the professional, interesting, relaxed and fun wine tasting/food pairing you gave last week, the guests were overjoyed with the evening and the feedback has been excellent. It was an absolute pleasure working with you, I look forward to many more.
Best Wishes
Samantha

FIRST PUBLISHED IN VINOS DE ESPAÑA OCTOBER 2010

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM!

BODEGAS CASTAÑO, DO YECLA,

PREPARES FOR THE 2010 HARVEST

As Head Winemaker Mariano and the equally indispensable Minister Without Portfolio, Carmen, drove me to one of Bodegas Castaño’s vineyards, there was a contagious and yet intangible air of excitement, tinged with a touch of anxiety. There is a chain of events that eventually leads to grape collection, and precisely when that occurs is on Mariano’s say-so alone.

The responsibility sits comfortably on his broad shoulders, however. This internationally respected oenologist is at the top of his profession, having worked for decades in the family owned, and indeed familial, bodega.

Fran, the bodega’s Head Agricultural Engineer and first link in the chain, had informed Mariano that in his opinion the vines of certain vineyards were reaching maturity. With grapes now in glorious dark purple colour the mother plant turns its attention to changing their acidity into sugar, a procedure achieved through the good offices of its leaves.

It was time for Mariano to make regular, twice daily visits to determine exactly when the itinerant pickers should descend on the vines and get to work on the grapes that have been so lovingly husbanded throughout the growing season. Vinos De España was invited along to learn how such important decisions are made, as well as observe the pre-harvest preparations back at base.

 Mariano relies on two aspects: the visual and the technical. The magnificently tailored vines looked in pristine condition as we made our way down one aisle and up another in the baking sunshine. Mariano moved stealthily, predator-like, from vine to vine firstly looking at the perfectly formed bunches of Cabernet Sauvignon and then plucking an occasional grape.

 Those bunches whose stems were approaching a brown colour leading to the first berry were inspected closely. A grape here and another there would be taken. If there was any flesh left where grape left stem, the time was not quite right. Further evidence was gleaned by taste and mouth-feel – Mariano tasted and felt the texture of the skins in his mouth. The flesh was sweet, but sweet enough? And the skins, too dense means – delay a little longer.

 Then, a further consideration. The seeds were inspected. Green pips indicate ‘not yet’, browning seeds suggest ‘nearly’. Then, by way of further confirmation, for the first time, Mariano turned to technology producing his trusty refractometer. This instrument measures the amount of sugar contained in the juice of the grapes (a delightful pale pink demonstrating how quickly maceration affects colour). The juice was attained simply by squeezing the grapes into a pleasingly low-tech plastic bag! Although he would ratify his findings in the laboratory later, his verdict was ‘not today’ for this parcela!

 In fact Bodegas Castaño’s harvest had started, in part, already. The Chardonnay used in their 50/50 blend with Macabeo had been harvested a few days before our visit and was fermenting by then. Also the black grapes used for their limited production, fruit-driven Carbonic Maceration red wine were being unloaded onto the selection table as we spoke. Furthermore the white wine grapes from their experimental vineyard were also undergoing fermentation, samples of which we tasted later.  

 Back at the bodega, the grape reception area was bright and exemplary in its cleanliness – a byword, once ignored in Spanish winemaking, but now a major focus since the era of the flying winemaker and the influence of the new generation of winemakers such as Mariano. Outside it was still and quiet, all was calm. Inside, it was a different story – a precursor mini-storm was in progress.

 The workers were in the last throws of the ultimate cleaning. This feverish activity misses no corner of the bodega. No pipe, no stainless steel fermentation vessel, no grape press, no selection table, no gently moving conveyor belt, no tool, nothing.

 To make medal-winning wines of the quality of Bodegas Castaño (whose exports amount to some 95% of the total production and whose points totals in the various guides, including Parker and La Guía De Oro, are invariably in the high 80’s and 90’s) no bucket shall be left unturned, every area and piece of equipment shall be cleaned, disinfected and sterilised!

 We next went to the huge stainless steel fermentation tanks where half of this year’s Chardonnay was already fermenting. Mariano drew off three glasses of cloudy, fermenting juice adorned with what looked like the head (froth) on a glass of beer! The aroma was stunning – paraguaya, that lovely peach-like fruit from South America. The flavour, sensational – sweet and frivolously full of tropical fruit, with a small amount of alcohol (5%) at that moment and of course a touch of effervescence.

 We next looked at the oak barrels, reposing in controlled chilled conditions, which contained the other 50% of the Chardonnay. This barrel fermentation adds different taste nuances and a certain creaminess to the finished wine. Here the taste was different, drier with an as yet faint oak influence, a more grown-up taste.

 Before a splendid lunch we tasted fermenting samples of mostly white wines made from grapes grown in Bodegas Castaño’s experimental vineyards but including early harvested Pinot Noir whose sombrero (‘hat’ of skins that have naturally floated to the surface) we had seen in the tank.

 It was clear that all was in hand, spotlessly clean, ready and waiting for the frenetic activity to come – the storm that is the harvest! 

 It is my sincere hope that, by writing the above title on the eve of the 2010 Vendimia, I am not precipitating the arrival of La Gota Fría, or indeed any other harvest-damaging storm. I’m not tempting providence!