Posts Tagged ‘Rioja’
Andover Wine Friends’ May tasting was led by Torquil Jack of Carte du Vin … on the basis of his explorations on two wheels of the byways of France and Spain. Torquil and Marion have turned a hobby into an early retirement business, importing wines from small family wineries, mostly unavailable elsewhere in the UK. Their cycling and hard work has undoubtedly been to our benefit.
We tasted a good range of wines from northern Spain but I would like to concentrate here on the wines of David Moreno in Rioja Alta – plus a couple of contrasting wines from Ribeira del Duero. Unusually, Moreno produces not just whites and reds but also a pink and in an unusual local style. Although the wine is called Rosado (2010, 12.5%) it is in fact a Clarete, that is, a rosé made of 50% Garnacha (ie a red grape, entirely normally) and 50% Viura, a white grape most commonly found in Cava. The resulting wine is a really attractive colour: onion skin heading in the direction of peach, as you can see in the picture. That soft peachy theme continues on the nose with a hint of creaminess too. Interestingly, as this vintage is now approaching the end of its drinking window, there was a slight touch of carbon dioxide still, just right for a refreshing wine seeking more sunshine than the English spring has provided so far. The palate is entirely in keeping with this start, with soft red berried fruit and a good sour touch on the finish, likely to be due to the somewhat tart Viura grape variety. Altogether, a really creditable effort and outstanding value at £7.95. Bring on the sunshine!
We are on somewhat more conventional grounds with Blanco 2011, made from 100% Viura. Again, a key point here is good value at the same price: typical light floral nose, unobtrusive lemon fruit and a intriguing saline note all makes for a highly competent glass of wine to drink on its own or with lighter foods. Rather more exciting is Rioja, Tinto Reserva, 2004 at £11:50. This is made from 90% Tempranillo and 10% Garnacha and has spent an impressive 24 months in oak, 18 months in American oak and the rest in French. However, in the glass, what you notice is how well the oak is integrated with the strawberry and red plum fruit. The overt oak flavours have worn off meaning that this is now perfectly ready to drink, with evolved fruit to the fore and a fine tannic and acidic structure.
By way of contrast, we also tasted two red wines from Ribera del Deuro, also Tempranillo based but from a much warmer, fully continental, climate. If red Rioja typically shows red fruit and oak ageing effects from the Tempranillo variety, in hotter Ribera the same grape variety, here called Tinto Fino, shows black fruit. The young and fruity Linje Garsea, Roble Selected Harvest, Ribera del Duero 2011 (£12:25) makes the point perfectly: it is harvested in two batches so as to pick only ripe fruit and then it displays intense ripe fruit which you could call ‘strawberry’ except that is not quite dark enough – black plum, fully ripe blackberry perhaps. Just six months oak ageing (hence ‘Roble’) means that this is really mostly about primary flavours. By contrast there was Prios Maximus Crianza, Ribera del Deuro, Tinto Fino, 2009 (£13:95) which has spent a year at least in oak barrels and another year in bottles. Evident French and American oak on the coconut and vanilla nose along with that sweet, concentrated Tempranillo fruit but now with fine velvety tannins and very good length.
Other wines tasted
Rias Biaxas, Abamar, 2011 – fashionable Albariño from Galicia
Bodegas Urbina, Tinto Special Reserva 2001 – the treat of a fully mature Rioja with a decade of bottle ageing
All in all this was a gentle and pleasurable cycle through some key northern Spanish wine regions.
A timely offer from Winedirect gave a perfect theme for a fine wine supper: Critics’ Choice Spain, a half case of bottles of which had received good scores from Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson et al. In the last twenty years of so, the track record of Spanish wine has changed markedly – from supplier of cheap bottles to some of the most exciting, innovative wines being produced in Europe. Here was the chance to test this claim. We started the evening with an extra bottle, Codorníu’s top Cava, Cuvée Reina M’Cristina Reserva Brut 2005 with its refined, structured lemon fruit and mineral edge, excellent attack on the palate and good length. ‘The best Cava I have ever had’ was a common response.
The three whites in the case were a good mix of the known and the unknown. An Abariño of course as Spain’s top modern white variety, a white Rioja, unusual in that it was 100% Viura and a wine made of the Dona Blanca grape, which nobody had tasted before – unless it was in a white Port blend. Pazo de Senorans, Rias Biaxas DO, Albariño 2011 comes from Galicia in Spain’s rainy, relatively cool, North West which receives a whopping 1520mm of rain a year and a lot of sunshine. (In a much cooler climate, Andover in Hampshire which for climatic purposes in the drier eastern half of southern England gets 800mm a year.) The thick skinned Abariño grape can stay disease free and in this example produce its classic peach and apricot notes, here with a bit of a green edge, medium plus in body and with excellent mouth feel. The second wine was outstanding, made on the home estate of the top Spanish wine maker, Alvaro Palacios, a key figure in the new Spain. Palacios learnt his trade at Ch. Petrus among other places so can’t be accused of a lack of ambition. The grapes for this wine are grown in Rioja Baja, though the estate itself is at 550m above sea level which is higher than much of Rioja Alta. In Rioja’s privileged position, protected from the Atlantic rains by the Cantabrian mountains, the rain fall amounts to 480mm a year, while the Palacios estate is a a quarter down on this at a meagre 380mm. Alvaro Palacios Remondo, Placet, Rioja DOC, 2008 is a miracle of top quality grapes and wine making, turning 100% Viura, normally known for its clean lines and lack of flavour, into a great glassful. A touch of gold in the glass tells you that this has been in barrels. White flowers, melon, ripe apples on the nose make for a subtle and substantial nose followed by a sumptuous, full-bodied, palate. Our only regret drinking this wine is that it has the potential to develop for some years in the bottle. For the third white, we returned to Galicia, if a warmer inland part of it, for Quinta da Muradella, Gorvia Blanco, Monterrei DO, 2006. Monterrei is on the Portuguese border at around 450m of altitude with 700mm of rain a year. Quite a neutral nose with a touch of oak and some good fruit notes at the end of the palate, peach, lemon and lime. They have worked really hard at this wine with cold maceration of the grapes for 48 hours, fermenting with natural yeasts and then lees-stirring in old 500 litre barrels. A well made wine with creamy notes from the oak but less of a ‘wow’ factor than the Viura.
With the reds we broke with our custom and served the wines with quite a substantial starter – which was a good choice as these are big, assertive wines. Alvaro Palacios was again a big hit with his less expensive second wine, Les Terrasses Velles Vynes, Priorat DOC, 2009 (£28) made from bought in fruit in now trendy Priorat. It was Palacios who persuaded people that the steep terraces of Priorat, between 70 and 700m in altitude, were worth working by hand to produce muscular, dark, high octane wines, loved by certain critics – and us. The rainfall here is not that different to dry Rioja but the temperatures certainly are – mean temperature in July (ie night and day) climbs from 20.3° C to 22° C. This wine, paying homage to the aforementioned terraces, is made mainly from traditional varieties, 60% Cariñena, 30% Garnacha, further spiced up with small additions of Cabernet and Syrah. A pronounced nose heralds a superb palate of red and black fruit and a vibrant, sumptuous palate, restrained in flavour profile while being impressive in weight. The second red came from the new Spain’s other most important zone, Ribera del Duero. With 800m of altitude it still manages a July mean temperature of 21.4° C and a scarce 410mm of annual rainfall, perfect, as it turns out, for producing concentrated versions of Tempranillo, Spain’s most important quality red indigenous variety. Finca Villacreces, Ribera del Duero 2006 comes from grapes grown on mixed soils with excellent drainage – sand, gravel, shingle and quartz. The resulting deep coloured liquid is then tamed (a bit) in new oak for 18 months. Even this six year old had vibrant, zippy acidity and tannins, making you wonder what it was like three years ago and how many years it will develop in the bottle if given a chance. The grape blend here is 95% Tempranillo and just 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Great length on the palate, refined vanilla and cinnamon and black fruit, fully deserving of its 94 Parker points. (We also drank a good value Ribera del Duero (unusual) over supper: Celeste, Crianza, Ribera del Duero, Torres, 2009 at £13.50.) Thirdly among the reds, back to Rioja for Bodegas Roda, Roda 1, Rioja Reserva 2006 for suitable finale: sophisticated, concentrated fruit (strawberry and plum), fine, persistent velvety tannins and a very long finish. From 100% Tempranillo from 30 year old vines, fermented in oak vats and matured in barriques, 50% of them new. Remarkable concentration and subtlety.
But the evening was not over – no fewer than three bonus wines, two in the now pretty rare Malaga ‘Mountain’ wine style. These wines were historically important, sweet wines made by semi-raisoning the Muscat fruit and then fermenting the resulting concentrated must. This results in a sweet wine with intense Muscat flavour – orange blossom, stone fruit, grapey. MR, Mountain Wine, Telmo Rodriguez, 2001 was the unoaked version, intense, sweet and in a good sense simple, while Molino Real 1999 was the oaked wine, with an added layer of complexity and texture, if less overt fruit character. Finally the unmistakeable inky sweet blackness of Pedro Ximenes, PX to its friends. Also from semi-dried fruit, this time from PX grapes in the hot, arid southern tip of Spain, the wine being aged in American oak. This example was far too good, with its luscious sweet intensity and rich, mouth-filling weight, to put on ice cream: Don PX, Bodegas Toro Albalá, Gran Reserva 1982 – two half bottles so the opportunity to photograph the front and back labels together.
Thanks to all who contributed the bonus bottles and food to this memorable tasting. It is clear that great things are going on in the Spanish wine scene.
The Overton BBC (bring a bottle club) has a cheerfully random air about it. This is particularly the case with ‘BBC1’. As the idea is to taste the wines blind, there is no plan about who will bring what. Usually this works absolutely fine and often some fascinating themes emerge. By chance three people will bring bottles from a single Burgundy village or there will be a couple of wines from the same vintage and comparisons can be made.
October’s meeting was a bit unusual. There were more people present than in recent months with a resulting 14 bottles to taste and, of these, one was a sweet wine, no fewer than 11 were red, with just one white and, unusually, a rosé. With all the benefits of hindsight we had a fair selection of the important red wines of the world with the following areas being represented:
- Burgundy – Savigny, Volnay,
- Languedoc – Corbières
- Tuscany – Chianti Classico, Montalcino
- Spain – Rioja
- Lebanon – Bekaa Valley
- South Africa – Swartland
- Australia – McLaren Vale
- mandatory off-piste region: Morocco!
We will make up for the missing Bordeaux in a themed tasting next month and no doubt California will get its chance to shine sooner or later. Let’s deal first with the white and the rosé minorities. The white had people fairly foxed – warm climate certainly but then Southern France, Spain and Italy were all canvassed. In fact it was La Forge Vineyard, Paul Mas Estate, Languedoc, 2010: bright citrus fruit, light oak notes, fullish in body, with a creamy texture. A good start, followed a bit later by an outstanding rosé, and you can’t often say that: pale salmon pink in colour, attractive strawberry notes, outstanding freshness, just a hint of leafiness. To add to the pleasure, this wine was bought at the winery by one of our members who had visited it recently, Ch. de Pibarnon, AC Bandol 2010. The reputation of Provence for top rosé from high inland sites continues.
To bring some order to the evening, here are the two red Burgundies together, both slightly surprising in their own way. First up was Savigny-les-Beaune ‘Les Talmettes’ Premier Cru, Domaine Chenu, 2007, a pale ruby; most guessed straight away it was Pinot Noir and some were in Burgundy. Quite savoury on the palate, but rather leathery and not really fresh – the relatively poor 2007 vintage has aged very fast. By contrast 2001 seemed quite spirity and hot, some good savoury fruit, a good depth of flavour if a bit rustic. This turned out to be Volnay AC, Nichoas Potel from 2001.
La Tour, Chateau Grand Moulin, Jean Noel Bousquet 2009 moved us to a hotter climate, with its rich, plummy and forward fruit, dense and compact on the palate, with medium length. 40% Syrah, 40% Carignan, 20% Grenache.
On a roughly similar latitude, we move to our Tuscan trio, starting with a 100% cru Sangiovese, Reciso IGT Toscana 2006, created by Pietro Beconcini by massal selection from old vines present on his family estate, grown on soil rich in fossils and white clay. It is made a in a very traditional way: fermentation in cement vats, using indigenous yeasts, five weeks of skin contact and 18-24 months of ageing in a mixture of French tonneaux and large Slavonian oak barrels. It has a richness in the fruit which is not typical of more classic, austere Sangiovese. Rancia, Beradenga, Chianti Classico riserva 1999 led with coal dust, tar, some sweet leathery and floral notes which had some of our number thinking this was Barolo, if without the imposing tannic structure. There was no shortage of tannins in the third example, Tenuta La Fuga, Brunello di Montalcino riserva, 1995. Dusty, tea leaves and herbs on the nose, some fruitiness still, lively, mildly aggressive tannins.
The Tuscan wines can be followed by Mediterranean West and East – better known as Spain and Lebanon. Contino Rioja Reserva 2007 was much appreciated by people, even if only one person got close to identifying it. Some smoke, liquorice and quite a lot of vanilla on the nose points to American oak in combination with French oak, with fruit from a single vineyard of 66 hectares. Very good depth of flavour – though some thought not enough for a Reserva quality – perfume, good acidity, highly drinkable and elegant. At the other end of the Med is to be found Massaya Gold, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 2000, a fascinating blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Mourvèdre and10% Syrah. Plums and raisins and orange peel on the nose, very good density of fruit, persistent tannins – with all that Mourvèdre.
From one of the oldest civilisations of the old world to the so-called new world of South Africa and Australia. A.A. Badenhorst’s Family Red, South Africa, 2007 is a Rhone blend: Shiraz (80%), Mourvèdre (10%) , Cinsault or Cape Hermitage (7%) and Grenache (3%). Heavy weight, deep flavoured with high tannins – we claimed that they there was 10% Mourvèdre and 10% Mataro, but at that stage we thought we were in Australia! Actually in Australia, Willunga 100 Shiraz Viognier 2007 also takes its inspiration from the Rhone, if on this occasion further north: 97% Shiraz with 3% Viognier which is co-fermented with the red grapes. Good fruit, cool climate in style with a slightly flat middle. Perfumed with some nice softness.
Every blind tasting needs a somewhat unusual bottle: Domaine de Mayole Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah 2007 Beni M’Tir, Meknes, Morocco fitted the bill. A 60/40 blend, it had sweet plumy fruit, some of it perhaps a bit stewed, with lots of mouth-filling glycerol, and rather drying tannins. However, no ‘essence of rubber’ as some one remarked!
A sweet and rich conclusion to the evening. Following our excellent ‘every style of Sherry except Fino’ evening of a few weeks ago, we enjoyed this moderately luscious, coffee, liquorice and walnut scented Moscatel from Lustau, 2007. A few more white wines next time? I expect so, but it is northern Italy so we will see.
We have been enjoying a number of parties to launch our new garden/tasting room at home. It replaces a plastic conservatory and is proving a real joy – opening up the entire ground floor of the house, giving lovely views into the garden and creating lots of space. And of course we have an excuse for a number of wine-themed celebrations. Here is the splendid magnum of rosé from Domaine Cazes, Roussillon, from the family lunch, a very attractive colour indeed!
You can seat 10-12 in one end of the room for a tasting or meal, and lots more if you go in the other direction. Here is the ‘before’ scene; the ‘after’ we will leave to your imagination, though there is a picture below.
One of the parties was for the tasting group, the BBC (Bring a Bottle Club), which sometimes is a complete free choice for its participating members (BBC 1) or on a theme (BBC 2). This fell somewhere in between as we wanted to taste some bottles of old Sangiovese. Others offered to bring a course to eat with matching wines which was a very generous offer. So here goes:
|Anyone who is kind enough to bring a magnum of vintage Champagne is excused any other contribution! Champagne Vilmart, Grand Cellier D’or 2000, Premier Cru – pale to mid gold, rich on the nose (70% Chardonnay, the rest Pinot Noir), nutty, refined yeastiness, pronounced palate, subtle and substantial at the same time.|
|Domaine Cheveau’s wines have made quite an impression at Caviste and this Pouilly-Fuissé 2009 Les Trois Terroirs was no exception. Full of lively apricot fruit, most plumped for white Burgundy, with a small (and wrong) faction for Viognier. I was in the latter group but a warm year in southerly Burgundy was a fair meeting point.|
||Twins from Ridge California Chardonnay accompanied a delicious smoked salmon parcel dish which I failed to photograph but certainly enjoyed eating. We all agreed on Chardonnay; some thought one from the new world and one from the old, but in fact Santa Cruz Mountains is made with grapes from the young vines, while Monte Bello is the older sibling. In both new oak is still quite prominent (2007), fruit sweetness and varying levels of toffee and golden syrup notes …|
|Triplets from Tuscany followed, with my version of Wild Boar and Olives … People may have rememberedk the Sangiovese hint, but the view was that the 2007 and the 2003 were related wines and that 1999 was ‘different’. In fact this was three vintages of Castello del Trebbio, Lastricato, Chianti Rufina riserva – with the oldest wines outshining the youngsters. A fuller comment on this mini-vertical can be found here.|
|Warning: we are entering unusual wine territory! A bonus bottle from a tiny production Spanish producer which we couldn’t easily place. Delicious, full of character, ripe fruit, lots of substance … Spanish … we still had no idea. In fact Rioja but made solely with Graciano and Garnacha, and no hint of Tempranillo. Tiera Fidel, Rioja 2007. Interesting but quite expensive (£30).|
|Even further off the beaten track: very rich, red-berried fruit, ripeness, some sweetness, dense and … it turns out to be a wine made from three passes through the vineyard for Groppello and Marzemino grapes, the grapes allowed to dry out for three weeks (semi-passito), then six months in barriques: there are less than 1,000 bottles of Simut from Leali di Monteacuto, 2004 on the western side of Lake Garda, Italy.|
||There is nothing particularly obscure about vintage port but nobody guessed the identity of this sweet red wine … 10th wine of the evening? thrown off balance by rare Italians? A trial first bottle of a case: sweet, red, young, with high acidity and many, many years ahead of it. Quinta do Crasto 2003 takes its first bow and accompanied a magnificent cheese board.
|We entered the last lap: a quintet of sweet(ish) whites, including a trio of wines made from Chenin Blanc, of which in turn two were twins from one producer – though of course no one knew about this whole set of relationships at the time.|
|The first of the five was off-dry to the slight surprise of the person who brought it. A pale amber in colour, floral, old apples and cheese on the nose, mild woody notes, yeast – a complex and typically interesting wine from Huet: Le Haut-Lieu, Vouvray 1989. Chenin Blanc of this quality and initial level of acidity can age for decades. For further vintages, click here|
Château Doisy-Vétrines, Grand Cru, Sauternes, 1996, a beautiful, structured and elegant wine, sweet with honey notes, biscuit and marmalade flavours from the effect of botrytis, toffee apples, good refreshing finish. Guesses of the vintage neatly spanned the actual date.
|A final trio of wines, which in fact were French twins and an Italian non-relative. Some of us did detect Loire Chenin Blanc in the twins, this time in a sweet style. The first was lighter, moderately sweet, rich in fruit, good acidity. In the mouth it was luscious and with a hint of marmalade richness. The second was massively sweet, richer, massively marmaladely…perhaps a bit ‘obvious’.|
|They turned out to be a pair from Domaine de Montgilet (Victor e Vincent Breton) and the appellation is Coteaux de L’Aubance in Anjou. The first was the more expensive Clos des Huttieres 1999, while the second, which people preferred as it was more expressive, was Les Trois Schistes, 2002.|
|Finally, people really loved the Italian non-relative, burnt sugar and toffee apples wine, with its marked toffee, old wood and oxidative notes. The best guess was for Madeira, but in fact it was a Tuscan Vin Santo from a domestic sized production by Lucia D’Antillio Bacci: Fattoria Santa Maria, Montescudaio, 2000 is excellent: rich, sweet and nutty and an amazing bargain at €12.50. You can see pictures of the estate here.|
Thank you to members of the BBC for launching our garden/tasting room in such style – may your choices of wine be ever more rewarding/adventurous (delete as required!)