The tasting went well, so I’ve always had a soft spot to Bodegas López de Haro


I’ve lost count of the number of wine tastings I’ve presented in restaurants over the years! I’ve really enjoyed them and, judging by comments I’ve received, they’ve gone down well with those in attendance, plus the restaurants concerned and the bodegas whose wines we’ve tasted!

I’ve worked with these restaurants to help bring in new customers, to introduce people to eateries that they hadn’t previously visited. I guess that for some clients it was a one-off experience, but I know for a fact that many returned, making themselves into regulars. Everyone’s a winner again!

When selecting the restaurants’ wines for the tasting I’ve taken care to ensure that usually at least one of the House Wines was included in those scheduled for the tasting. Being honest, mostly in days gone by, there have been some restaurants where I decided not to do a presentation as the house wine selection, particularly, wasn’t of the quality that I knew my usual attendees would expect. Far more often than not though, House Wines were good enough to be spotlighted at such a tasting.

However, there has to be a balance – people should be able to taste the quality of the wines selected by the restaurant as their house wines, but new clients also would like to taste the quality of the fine wine list. All of this has to be within a budget framework that makes a profit for the restaurant on the night (albeit that the larger profit will be the addition of new clients), so they can’t let me loose on all the most expensive wines!

When asked to present a tasting at a restaurant in Moraira (now no longer in existence, so maybe I wasn’t that good?!) I was proudly presented with their red House Wine, a wine that they definitely wanted to us during the dinner. I’d not seen López de Haro wines before that, so I was keen to try it, the more so as they were obviously delighted with it.

I don’t remember the year, of the tasting or of the wine, but I remember thinking that this was a good start! The tasting went well, so I’ve always had a soft spot to Bodegas López de Haro. I’m not sure why, but I’ve never tasted anything other than their reds, so I was pleased to recently receive a white and a rosado as well as their Crianza and Reserva reds.

Part of the Vintae Group, about which I’ve written recently, Bodegas López de Haro is a Rioja winery that uses grapes grown in various different regions of the DO. In this way they look to bring the best of the differing terroirs of this, the most famous of all Spanish winemaking zones.

I’m going to start, not with their reds, as readers might expect considering my first experience of their wines, but with their white wine. At just 5.50€ this is a pretty good buy! It’s made with Viura (aka Macabeo in different parts of Spain) which, I’ll be honest, wouldn’t automatically endear it to me. I’m not a big fan of a lot of Viura, though I’m aware that in the right hands it can be very good.

Viura generally needs some help. This may be from the addition of another of the historically permitted varieties, or indeed from one or more of the varieties only recently brought to the party. Or, as has been the case for many years, it can be supported by some oak fermentation and or ageing. Lopez de Haro’s Viura has a helping hand from the latter, French oak as well as European oak, probably Hungarian(?).

Only a part of the total of harvested grapes are fermented and thence aged in oak and for only a short time. The rest is fermented in small stainless steel tanks where it is kept with its lees until the oak barrels have done their job. Then it’s blended. If this wine was a House Wine I’d be rather pleased. It was my preferred wine of the four!

A close second was the Lopez de Haro Reserva 2015. This Reserva red wine has had 10 months in French oak barrels, with extra ageing in bottle. Made with Tempranillo and Graciano, it has the glorious whiff of Rioja wine – you’d recognise it anywhere! It’s drinking perfectly now. Dark red fruit revolved around a sturdy structure of oak aromas and a little flavour. It has some depth and complexity, matching meat and BBQ dishes, though we also enjoyed it with a rich mushroom risotto, in which I’d poured a little when cooking!

Finally onto the rosado wine. Very dry, this isn’t a frilly rosé, it can stand up for itself (we also tasted it with the risotto!) and will be a good match for paella. It’s quite pale in the glass, though not the anaemic shade of lots of rosé wines these days. It’s made using the black grape Garnacha from old vines with the addition of some Viura, the white wine variety mentioned above. It’s a good aperitif wine too.

NB my next Wine Show on www.valleyfm.es is tomorrow, 4th July, starting at 12:00 – 13:00 hrs (CET). Great music as always and, of course, good wines tasted, with associated info & chat! I hope you can listen in!

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In the Rolling Hills of DO Navarra!


I recently received a selection of four most enjoyable wines from DO Navarra, by a rather circuitous route!

My great Welsh pal, Geraint (not colloquially known by that name – bet you can guess what he’s actually called!), has a passion for Italian wines, reds in particular. However as a lover of wines in general as well, he’s certainly not averse to trying others.

As a gastronome (actually, he’s a little taller than a Gnome, but it’s close) and first class Rugby Scrum Half, playing for Liverpool, Cheshire and Lancashire, Taff has travelled a lot, and each place he goes, he always likes to sample the food, and the wine. He’s a great cook too.

So, when he Whatsapped me asking about Le Naturel, a Spanish red wine he’d found and really enjoyed in the UK, I knew it would be well worth investigating – and not wholly altruistically, either! The trail ended at Bodegas Aroa, in the rolling hills of DO Navarra, an area of production about which I have written recently, one that is now attracting the attention it deserves.

Le Naturel has a sister, Le Naturel Blanco, made from Garnacha Blanca grown at altitude. Being honest, it was quite a shock – the initial piercing acidity had a chef’s knife-like quality, so sharp was it, almost bringing tears to my eyes! If perhaps thinking steely dry Chablis, triple it and think again!

Le Naturel Blanco, for me, is not an aperitif white wine, but I doubt it was made to be so. That evening we had a fish pie with a rich, creamy, anchovy and baby eel sauce, it cut through the sauce with consummate ease complementing the dish perfectly. I saved some for the next day’s rich, mixed seafood and rabbit paella, and although dressed with lemon wedges, we didn’t need them – the wine balanced the opulence of the dish, nicely.

Le Naturel red, is in fact two wines – there’s one which is 100% Garnacha, the other Garnacha yes, but with the addition of ‘other varieties’. I was sent the latter, and greatly enjoyed it as a wine to enjoy with friends and family as well as with meat dishes – I’d also love it with duck. Don’t tell our French friends but this would be so good in Dordogne!

Taff wanted me to give him my opinion – here’s how I described the wine: Rich, dark red in colour with leafy brambly notes on the nose on first pouring, developing into blackberry fruit aided and abetted by blueberry notes and a brief reference to mountain herbs. Smooth and quite opulent on the palate with a seductive, juicy medium to long finish. I think that says it all, except – when you see it buy it!

There’s also a rosado in this range, which I’d like to try sometime, but there’s a further range from Bodegas Aroa, eponymously named, two of which I was also sent, and also enjoyed.

Aroa Jauna Crianza 2015 is made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Garnacha and Tempranillo (some of the aforementioned ‘other varieties’ I guess?), and it’s a lovely smooth red wine with balanced tannin retaining some freshness and drinking perfectly – a red wine for food as well as just on its own. Like the whole Aroa portfolio the vines are grown organically, perhaps accounting for the brightness along with the altitude of the vineyards.

Dark red fruits, blackcurrant and blackberry, with a little menthol on the nose too. Its 12 months in oak has added depth to the wine and a little complexity, with some faint dark chocolate notes and a slight nod at liquorice in there too. Drink now and for maybe 6 months.

Aroa Mutiko is another low intervention wine from this bodega which is making modern style wines which also pay their respects to the history of Navarra and the traditions of the winemaking scene. This is made with 100% Garnacha, so it’s a little lighter in colour, and the 10 months of oak ageing makes a slightly lesser impact than the Jauna above.

I was very interested to read the writing on the cork: This wine contains – 1,425 hours of sunshine; 62 days of rain and snow; 11 nights of full moon; 365 days of work; 20 centuries of tradition; and 1 kilo of healthy grapes! Cool – I love it! Info like this gives the consumer a real link to the vineyard that provided the grapes, its climate conditions, the work involved in making the wine and the winemaking history of Navarra. Bravo.

Furthermore, this wine was my equal favourite in a strong group, equal with Taff’s Le Naturel. It’s elegant and subtle drinking brilliantly right now and with some time left too. Great, inexpensive wine!

Bodegas Aroa is part of the Vintae Group about which I wrote when they launched their new business quite a few years ago now, in Barcelona at the Alimentaria Food and Wine Fair, when it was in its heyday. I was impressed then, and I’m very interested to see that they have developed and expanded so well! Bravo, de Nuevo!

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Please don’t forget my monthly Wine Show on www.valleyfm.es – it’s always the First Saturday of the Month, from 12:00 hrs – 13:00 hrs CET. You’ll find some great wines tasted on-air; top music; fun chat; and lotsa informal wine info! Hope you can join us soon!  





 I used to like such little brain-teasing riddles when I was little – when is a door not a door; what gets wet, drying? etc. Well if you read last week’s article you’ll know that the answer to the title teaser is: when the white wine is made by Vintae.

 Fed up of mostly insipid and undistinguished white wine from Spain’s most famous winemaking area, La Rioja, the Vintae revolutionaries, not only decided to plant ‘foreign’ unapproved grapes, they even had the brazen temerity to call them Spanish White Geurrillas. Of course such wines will not carry the DOCa La Rioja seal of approval on their labels, but don’t worry, you won’t miss them on the bodega shelves – their distinctive label-design will attract you straight away!

 The cartoon characters dressed comically as would-be rebels may put off some serious wine lovers who might consider them gimmicky, perhaps designed to hide only average wine in the bottle.

 A wine writer must have an open mind and I tasted them without scepticism and was pleased I did. I feel it my duty to lend my weight to the revolutionary cause and reassure Mr. & Mrs. Serious Wine Lover suggesting that they put aside any misgivings about the label and enjoy the wine. Many certainly have, as I believe sales have multiplied. Consumers in fact are prepared to try the unusual and clearly are attracted to inventive labelling. The test of course is to see how many buy the wine again – the Spanish White Geurrillas have passed this test with flying colours as the wines are flying off the shelves.

 And no wonder. The new vintage, 2010, demonstrates that Vintae’s research has paid off. The likes of Albariño, Chardonnay, Viognier, Moscatel, Gewurztraminer, Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are perfectly happy in the sites chosen specifically for them. And at last some aroma and depth of flavour seeps into the profile of white wines from the Rioja area!

 My friend Ana, responsible for press communication, kindly sent me some samples of the 2010 vintage and I continue to be impressed.

 Viognier Barrica, whose label boasts a medal bearing Revolutionary General complete with bushy moustache and corkscrew in place of the regimental swagger stick, is simply a super, deeply flavoured white wine. I’m a great fan of fragrant Viognier with its apricot and sometimes mango aromas. Here, judicious use of oak as added depth and extra taste without masking the primary fruit flavours nor its floral perfume. A wine to grace the dinner table when serving fish, light meats and salads.

 Albariño is of course native to Rias Baixas, Galicia (I recently served on the DO Rias Baixas Consejo Regulador Judging Panel) where it has made wonderful elegant, fragrant and peach/paraguayo flavoured wines for centuries. It’s not accustomed to the different soils of Rioja, but it clearly means to become so! This wine is lovely, flavoursome easy drinking wine with white flour aromas as well as stoned fruit on the palate.

 Riesling is perhaps the most noble of white grape varieties. Grown in Germany and Alsace it has bracing acidity and yet a richness too. With lime and lemon on the nose and the palate it can also sometimes have a slight petrol aroma too. Here, so far, the Riesling made by Vintae, is a work in progress, displaying already those citrus notes with some richness (a touch more so than last two years ago). A lovely aperitive, the best Riesling I’ve tasted in Spain.

 Gewurztraminer is another German variety which makes wonderful, aromatic and exotically flavoured white wine. Tropical fruits, notably lychees, but with some citrus acidity the Geurrilla Gewurz. is developing into a super wine to accompany some Chinese, Indonesian and Asian food.

 La Vinoteca in Calpe, Costa Blanca stocks these wines – I advise asking your local bodega to do the same!





Readers with long memories might recall two articles I wrote after my biennial visit to Spain’s greatest wine and food fair, Alimentaria 2010 (I’ll be there again in 2012 – watch this space!). They talked of ‘guerrilla warfare’ in La Rioja where Grupo Vintae prefers to use ‘foreign’ white wine grape varieties that they feel are perfectly suited to such vineyards, but which are not permitted by the ruling DOCa La Rioja Consejo Regulador.

 In recent months of horrific, rebellious unrest in several different parts of the world it would be tastelessly facile to continue the analogy – revolution and rebellion in Libya, Syria, Afghanistan et al is an altogether different matter, of course.

 Nevertheless there is change happening in La Rioja, that bastion of conservative tradition, where the old-guard is having to make way for revolutionary new-wave wines. The Vintae stand at Alimentaria 2010 was crowded to capacity for the launch of the so dubbed ‘Spanish White Geurrilla Wines’, a dramatic contrast to the Peñin presented traditional white Rioja tasting held at the same time, but feebly supported!

 It was the principal that first impressed me. With no axe to grind, just a genuine desire to tell it like it is, I have been something of a detractor of white Rioja over the years. Viura, the main grape variety used, has little or no character when grown in the hills of Rioja, in my view. It can be helped, to a degree, by barrel fermentation and/or some oak ageing. But not enough to make it a serious challenger to white wines from other areas – I never buy white Rioja!

 One or two years before the last Alimentaria there were signs that the old guard had finally turned a slightly sympathetic ear to those critics and, more pertinently, some Rioja producers who had been lobbying for change. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo were added to the list of permitted grapes, though it was declared that Viura must still make up over 50% of any blend, lest the ‘true Rioja character’ be lost!

 I was placated and looked forward to the results. Of course it takes time to develop a vineyard with new plantings so we couldn’t expect a sudden rush of new white Riojas. It takes time to change mind-sets too!

 In March 2010 there was only one Rioja bodega with whom I talked which was considering using, in this case Sauvignon Blanc, in its blend. It took plenty of time for Mrs. Thatcher’s Government to be defeated!

 It seems that Vintae, firstly wasn’t prepared to wait and, secondly, they required more anyway. Give them a small vineyard and they want a hectare! Varieties such as Riesling and Viognier were planted on sites whose soils and micro-climates had been strictly analysed (terroir, or terreno, the Spanish version of this all-singing-all-dancing French word that so perfectly describes a wines ‘place’!).

 Was I to be impressed by the wines as well as the idea? Well yes I was, in that at last there was some taste, some depth of flavour, some aroma, and plenty of potential coming from white wine from the Rioja area. The vineyards were yet young and would need time to develop, to consolidate, and I expected more next time I tried them.

 Nearly two years on it’s clear that Vintae’s research is paying off. The samples I recently received were all super, fragrant and flavoursome wines, exhibiting stronger varietal character notes as the vines become older. At the moment I can only imagine how good these wines will be in 10 and 20 more years when the new varieties will have adapted further to the site-specific terroir!

 Whetted your appetite? Well, next week I’ll tell you my tasting notes about these White Geurrillas plus a hint or two about another Vintae project, this time for red wines!