Readers will perhaps remember last week’s article about the sensational (in the perfect sense of the word) Cata-Concurso, Wine Competition, in Galicia where 25 professionals in the Spanish wine world were asked to judge the best young Albariño wine of the 2010 vintage. I was privileged to be one of the panellists and last week’s article describes some of the ‘trials and tribulations’ my fellow panellists and I had to face! (Still available at click Cork Talk).

 As you can see Pazo Da Bouciña, Adegas Arousa (Adega is the Galician word for Bodega) walked away with the Gold Medal. The Silver Medal was won by Esencia Divina, Bodegas Gran Vinum; and the Bronze went to Bouza de Carril, Adega Bouza de Carril. The local and national TV and press covered the winners ceremony whilst politicians, the glitterati, other dignitaries and of course, ourselves, the judges, enjoyed a sumptuous lunch. The fanfare and cheering bounced off the marquee walls in a cacophony of joyous noise as the tension of competition was finally released. They take their Albariño very seriously in Galicia!

 But what exactly is the nature of Albariño, the white wine most often lauded as the best available in Spain? Well, after tasting approaching a hundred examples over the three days we were there I think I can say, with some confidence, that I am now conversant with the many attributes of this noble grape variety!

 There has been, until recently, a rather romantic notion that the Albariño variety is in fact a hybrid, born originally of the great German grape, Riesling, which when planted by pilgrim Monks who had trekked along the Camino de Santiago had mysteriously morphed into a wholly (no pun intended!) different variety. The white-coated boffins have dispelled this rumour once and for all with DNA and goodness knows what tests. No matter, let’s talk about the grape how it is now and not worry about its provenance or family tree!

 It’s spiritual home is in DO Rias Baixas, where the mountainous inland area slopes down to the ocean. Wines made from Albariño grapes are dry, a glorious combination of fresh acidity, stoned fruit such as apricot, white peach and paraguayo with a delightfully delicate white flower (magnolia perhaps?) fragrance. The vineyards are unlike any others you’ll see in Spain. The vines are trained up and along pergolas high enough for the average Galician to walk under at harvest time (at 6’3” there’d be no summer job for me though!).

 The reason for the pergolas is because there is an awful lot of rain in Galicia (sometimes referred to as Green Spain!) and if the grapes were close to the ground they would take on too much water. Also, whilst there is rain there is are also high temperatures, making the atmosphere too humid. The tall pergolas allow a free flow of freshening air which also dries the grapes following the rain plus of course the leaves make a fine sombrero to protect the grapes from intense sunshine.

 Of course the wines we tasted were all young, bottled straight after fermentation and clarification, but there is a school of thought that suggests that this variety can also be aged, for short periods at least, in oak to add a little depth and further flavours, whilst not diminishing in any way the fruit impact, which would be a tragedy of course.

 There are adegas making examples of this style and I have really enjoyed the ones I’ve tried. There is also the possibility of barrel fermentation and ageing on the lees (the tiny particles of dead yeast and grape flesh) – the variety lends itself to several variations on a theme, all of which must be complimentary to the fruit, which is the glory of the variety.

 So Albariño wine is truly an excellent aperitif wine to be enjoyed whilst sipping with friends but it is also probably the perfect accompaniment to seafood, which magically is in abundance on this rugged but beautiful Atlantic coast. Lobsters, crab, oysters, langostines, prawns, cigales etc and the wonderful speciality, octopus, are all simply wonderful with Albariño!

 It’s true that wines made from this grape variety are usually more expensive than other whites, but believe me it’s worth the extra Euro or two!

 Contact Colin: and via his unique wine services website . If your group would like a bodega visit, a wine tasting, a wine appreciation course etc – please contact Colin, the English Voice of Spanish Wine.





 (Part 3 of a short series about Vintae – to read parts one and two please visit click Cork Talk.)

 After several years of research and discussion the Vintae Group has decided to launch their ‘Proyecto Garnachas de España’ and I have been lucky enough to taste their first two wines of the five that will eventually be on the market. I can’t wait to taste the final three!

 Garnacha (aka Grenache, particularly in France, but also in other parts of the world) is in fact the most widely grown wine variety grown on the planet. As such it has, in some quarters, suffered some criticism – big cannot be beautiful. But Cork Talk readers know that whilst this can be the case, it doesn’t have to be. There are, for example, several huge wine producers in Spain who make very good to excellent wines without compromising on standards just because of the volume of their production.

 Sure, you can find poor quality Garnachas, but this, clearly, is the fault of the winemaking, the vineyard maintenance, or the vineyard’s situation (or all three) and not of the variety. Garnacha rocks! Taste the wine from Priorat, Tarragona and Montsant and tell me that Garnacha makes poor wines – no way!

 Vintae are in the vanguard of the Garnacha Appreciation Society and are quietly doing their bit to ensure that the reputation of this noble grape is restored to its rightful heights.

 I’ve recently returned from a fact finding and thoroughly enchanting visit to La Rioja where I was tutored in the difference that soil types can make to the finished wine product, taught by none other than Antonio Palacios of the most famous winemaking family in Spain! Please don’t tell me that ‘terroir’ is an airy-fairy concept invented by the French to try and better the New World wine invasion! Terroir and in particular, soil type, can make a huge difference.

 This is basically the nub of the Garnacha project. Vintae’s aim is to produce Garnacha in different locations in Spain, from La Rioja to Priorat, in very different soils, and of course, micro-climates. They hope to show how varied the aromas and flavours can be and indeed how well Garnacha is able to adapt to different conditions, different terroirs.

 Firstly I have to say that whoever designed the bottle label deserves an award. Harry Potter-esque the thick, gnarled ancient vine is shown above ground in perfect, green-leafed health, whilst below ground the suffering roots search metres deep for what little scraps of nourishment and water they can find. It pulls you towards the bottle like a J.K. Rowling spell.

 La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo is a wine made from 50 year old vines grown north of Zaragoza at abut 800 metres above sea level. The rocky soil lacks nourishment making the plant’s roots search deeply for nutrients. The rocks and stones afford excellent drainage as well as acting as heat conductors gradually releasing the sunshine of the day to warm the plant slightly during the night-time freezing temperatures of winter.

 And the resulting wine – super, fresh, fruit driven, but subtle too with dark and light red fruits mixing attractively with mineral notes and faint mountain herbs. There’s mature tannin and acidity but a roundness that calls for a second glass. Its light mouthfeel belies the 14·5% abv, making it a wine to be enjoyed as a rather special drink on its own or with food, perhaps game from the adjacent countryside.

 Whilst the above wine’s label shows a daylight view, La Garnacha Olvidada de Aragon pictures sunset above ground with the same long roots doing their job below the surface. This Garnacha comes from a little further south and east, in the area of Calatayud.

 Here the south-facing limestone soils offer a more mineral influence to the wine which comes from vines planted in 1940. There’s a touch of bay leaf on the nose along with earthy notes before the deep and dark fruits come through with integrated French oak (in which the wine matured for 10 months) adding to both the aroma and the taste.

 Mature, sweetish tannin, some acidity, mineral notes again and a final fruity thrust all combine on the finish of this deeply flavoured wine, a classic to serve with an excellent meat-based dinner.