Tag Archives: Grenache

Fine Wine. But not as we know it…

I was working with one of my clients at the Cross Stobs Bottle Shop last night. Surely being surrounded by wine should be enough to provide plenty of inspiration. I wanted to pick out a couple of wines I will be using in a tasting next week and decided to go for a new wine, the La Multa Blanca, Old Vine Garnacha.

The red version of this wine has been one of my longstanding favourites and so far I’ve had a very enthusiastic response to the white as well.

It smells peachy with a blossom-like character. Fairly full-bodied, peachy flavour, slightly honeyed and pretty complex, particularly for the money (just under £8). The finish is dry and fresh, leaving you craving the next sip.

La Multa is Spanish for ‘the fine’ and the label has that semi-official look of one too many parking fines, acquired by Scottish winemaker Norrel Robertson in the course of his winemaker travels. He is known as ‘El Escoces Volante’ (Flying Scotsman) and has found his niche with old vine Garnacha in Spain, particularly in Calatayud. His wines all have that sumptuous and smooth, easy-going character and at the upper end the El Puño is worth looking out for.

Give it a go, you’ll not be disappointed. Get your hands on it here. Anyway, must run, ahem, literally!

 

Finding Value

Day 3 of the 5×50 challenge and I’m feeling the excesses of the Easter weekend as I complete my run slightly more sluggish than I should. Last night’s tasting with the Cafe Gandolfi wine club gives me plenty to choose from but the red wine that won the day reminds me of a piece of advice I regularly give to wine consumers at my tastings, how to find value in your wine purchases.

Image courtesy of BBR

The winning wine is a rather beautiful bottle of Cotes du Rhone Villages. It may not sound that special at first but this is one of those wines that reinforces my advice. It centres around paying a bit more for a lesser name. This wine retails around £12-£15 which is quite steep for a Cotes du Rhone. It is an indication we are dealing with a wine that is likely to deliver more than your basic plonk. Now think about spending £10 or £15 on a Chateauneuf du Pape. It’s a very popular wine from the appellation that finds itself right in the middle of the Cotes du Rhone area. However, with its elevated name it attracts a considerable premium, so your Chateauneuf is at the bottom end of the price range. In short, unless you’re willing to pay a decent price for Chateauneuf, you’re much better spending your £12 on a good Cotes du Rhone. It means you’re paying top end for that name and that should give you a cracking wine.

The proof was definitely in the tasting with this wine and if you want to try it for yourself, Domaine de la Renjarde, Côtes du Rhône Villages Massif d’Uchaux 2010 is all ripe fruit and spice and quite structured, which makes it very food friendly. A nice hearty stew or a juicy steak. It is available from BBR or, if you’re in Glasgow, the wine is April’s wine of the month in Cafe Gandolfi.

One heck of a Challenge

The past 50 days I have been running a lot. I have covered over 340km in this period as part of the 5×50 Challenge. A challenge designed to people off the sofa and committing to regular exercise. Today marks the end of the challenge but it doesn’t mean I will now return to sitting on the sofa. This challenge has inspired me to stick with it and keep running through the winter and get ready for some longer runs next year.

The 5×50 core team also inspired me to something else. And that was to find some amazing wines that would appeal to the running types. Because believe me, it is not all health and fitness, there is plenty of room for the good things in life.

Working with Cross Stobs Wine, a local independent wine shop I have found five wines to inspire the runners and of course a sparkling wine to celebrate the achievements. A percentage of each case sold will go to the 5×50 chosen charity, Sport Relief, so not only will you taste some lovely wine, you’ll feel great about it too!

You can now get the six bottle case (one bottle of each wine) for £55,  or two bottles of each wine for £110 (delivery charges apply). And don’t forget you’ll be helping a worthwhile charity at the same time.

The wines?

Domaine de Montredon Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc, France

An energetic, fast-paced sprinter with lots of energy. Perhaps struggles to keep up with Mo Farah, but who wouldn’t?

Raats Chenin Blanc, South Africa

The versatile type, can do fast-paced runs over long distances and still has a bit left in the bottle to pull out a sprint

Don David Malbec, Argentina

The rugged, outdoorsy type. Thinks nothing of running to the top of Ben Nevis and back for fun but needs some sweet ripe fruit on the way to keep the energy levels topped up. 

La Multa Old Vine Garnacha, Calatayud, Spain

The social runner. Not the fastest and keeping fit is a useful byproduct but it’s really about the chat on the way. Life is for living after all.  

Mas des Amours, Coteaux du Languedoc, France

One for the long haul. More marathon than sprint, but intense, runs it in well under four hours and still manages a beautifully graceful finish. 

Casa Defra Prosecco Spumante, Italy

Cooling down time, don’t forget to stretch and then toast your success and put your feet up. You’ve achieved your goal.

Help yourself to a case by clicking here and join me in next year’s challenge!

 

Running Fuel

Back in February, coming out of a long winter I was feeling decidedly unfit and despite the fact I last ran about 25 years ago, I felt I had to take it up again and get some fresh air. Then I met Kelly Mason and the core team of the 5×50 Challenge (http://5×50.co.uk/challenger/pieter-rosenthal) and started running with them every Wednesday lunchtime. It didn’t take too long to get bitten by the bug and now I’m more than halfway on a 50-day challenge running at least 5k a day.

It’s a great feeling even though my legs have been in various states of protest. Going out there every single day, regardless of how busy work is, or the increasingly inclement weather. The sense of achievement is helping me keep perspective through what are tough times for everyone right now and it helps to keep me sane. This is not just a physical challenge but as much a mental one. How’s that for a metaphor for life?

Clearly my love affair with wine continues undiminished, I have a big heart so there is room. And there is no way I would give up wine for any challenge, but I do feel that I’ve earned myself an extra nice bottle after the punishing schedule I’m imposing on myself. That’s my excuse anyway. Encouraged by the core team, Kelly Mason and Mark Houston in particular, I’m now imposing a punishing tasting schedule as well, with a multitude of bottles of wine priced around a tenner. One of those great value price points where you can get some seriously interesting wines that bring fantastic drinking pleasure. This could well become the ‘wine 5×50′ or 5 great bottles for £50. I’ll share my first one here and now, but expect more updates over the weeks to come of other wines that will have the honour of joining the challenge.

The Mas des Amours from the Coteaux du Languedoc in Southern France had an outing or two recently, among which was a tasting at Curlers Rest in Glasgow’s Byers Road in September and back in August at the Cross Stobs Bottle Shop, which stocks the wine. Both times the gasps of enjoyment were almost too much to bear, earning it a place as my first wine in the challenge. Unfortunately the sumptuous dark berry fruit doesn’t count towards your five a day but it’s a smooth talker that soothes my tired legs any day.

It is available from the Cross Stobs Bottle Shop for £9.95 : http://crossstobswine.co.uk/red-wine/375-mas-des-amours-coteaux-du-languedoc.html

Tasting the Obscure Spain

Once a month I attend a tasting with a few fellow wine lovers. We normally decide on some sort of loose theme, I say loose as the theme is usually followed by the words ‘or not’, giving rise to some pretty weird and wonderful stuff. We primarily do this to keep our blind tasting skills up to speed but we don’t treat it all too seriously. Last Monday the theme was “Obscure Spain (or not)” which can mean anything as the variety of wines from Spain is impressive. We had a pretty varied bunch, but before starting we have to master the process of putting the wines in some sort of order. You’d think this would be pretty straightforward but usually the group descends into chaos resulting in a completely random set of numbers and letters. Despite this it usually turns out reasonably accurate at the end.

To kick off we had a white Rioja, the Marques de Murrieta Capellanía 2005 (Berry Bros – £19). Produced from 50 year old Viura vines from the Ygay estate it spends 18 months on new French oak. This not only gives the wine its nutty, gingery characteristics but also makes it feel slightly grippy on the palate. It’s a special wine, very complex, particularly the aromas and it has a very long finish. Not one for the easy drinking crowd but a great food wine.

The second white, the Mas d’en Compte Priorat 2007 (Spirited Wines – £23), had a slightly deeper golden colour. A toasty, vanilla nose with a greenish edge. I wrote down guava but cardamom was mentioned as well. It was a rich, full-bodied wine with a spicy flavour but showed very little fruit character. The acidity comes in late and it finishes clean. Overall we felt this wine had a bit too much oak and it really overpowered what fruit there was. We did wonder if we perhaps had a bottle that was slightly out of condition as it gets rave reviews otherwise. The dominant variety is Grenache (60%) and I normally really like the soft floral style of white Grenache but the oak spoiled it for me.

Our first red wine was the Vina del Perdon Gran Reserva 2001 from Navarra (Waitrose – £9.49). This wine had most of us confused over where it was from and even what grape variety it was made of. It had some Rioja-like characters, clearly owing to the 3 years in a combination of French and American oak, but it felt altogether lighter in style. It had quite a bit of acidity and freshness. Most of us had put its vintage somewhere around 05/06. As it turned out it was a more international blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Graciano, the latter being the only grape also used in Rioja. The nose had the more developed aromas of tobacco leaf and something that reminded me of tree bark as well as dried cherries. A dry, spicy wine on the palate with cherry and plum flavours. Refreshing without being simple.

Next up was the wildcard, a Tempranillo from Argentina. The Zuccardi Q Tempranillo 2008 (Cross Stobs Wine – £16) uses the main variety from Rioja but puts a decidedly new world twist on this. Sweet vanilla, chocolate, cherry and chilli. Explosive fruit on the palate, tasting of summer pudding and chocolate. Not for the faint-hearted as it is alcoholic and extracted and very impressive. Likened to a very modern style of Ribera del Duero this was the odd one out.

Then we came to a very big treat with the Pintia 2006 from Toro (Berry Bros – £42). Made from 100% Tempranillo, known locally as Tinta de Toro it spent a year in new French and American oak barrels. This is a hugely tannic wine, even after 5 years. It has a dark, meaty nose, chocolate, coffee, black olives were all mentioned as were dark cherries. On the palate it was the tannins that really stood out. They were screaming for food. Fortunately we had some cheese and Jamon Iberico to come to our aid. Dry, intense, dark and brooding. Dark plum, chocolate and those tannins, this wine feels like it will live forever. Keep it for now or decant it a few hours before drinking and have it with a nice joint of meat to get the best from it.

Our final wine of the night was a sweet wine, the Alta Alella, Dolç Blanc 2008. The grapes (a blend of Cava variety Xarel-Lo, blended with Viognier and Chardonnay) were grown about 2km from the sea near Barcelona. Aromas of lemon curd and honey, with a slight mineral edge, followed through on the palate, which is rich but not hugely sweet. There is a pithy, rind-like bitterness that balances well with the sweetness making it feel beautifully balanced. The grapes are picked and then frozen (in freezers), producing something like an artificial ice wine as I doubt the temperature would ever get low enough there to make the proper stuff. Pretty much for local consumption and this bottle was brought back from Barcelona so I don’t expect to find it in the UK. If anything this may well wine the prize of most obscure wine of the night.

Appellation or Brand?

Back in March I was party to a very interesting discussion among the wine trade which was trying to determine if France’s wine future lay in brands or in its system of ‘appellations’. I wrote about it here.

Now I think the case is pretty clear cut when it comes to famous names, such as Champagne, Chablis and Chateauneuf-du-Pape to name but a few. Those names roll of the tongue easily and almost act like brands in their own right. With some of the lesser-known appellations it may not be so straightforward. Sometimes I feel France’s strength, it’s appellation system, is also its weakness. It is difficult to understand, complex and full of names that give little clue as to what the wine will taste like to the average consumer. And, although it has been getting better, a distinct lack of information on a back label is making the purchase of a bottle a bit of a gamble. Granted, the internet is helping to provide additional information and many people still read the words ‘Appellation Controlée’ on the label and feel reassured the wine will be of good quality. But unless you know the style of the wine from a particular appellation, will you know what it tastes like and more importantly, are you going to like it?

1753 Campuget – Costieres de Nimes 2009

It may be a bit random but I picked up a wine from the lesser known Costieres de Nimes, an appellation that came into being just over 20 years ago and falls somewhere between the Languedoc and the Rhone Valley. Since 2004 it aligns itself with the Rhone Valley to which it owes much of its style. Similar stony soils and Syrah and Grenache as its main grapes means you can compare it to Cotes du Rhone. A look at Chateau Campuget’s website shows they market themselves as part of the Rhone Valley ‘brand’, probably because the Rhone Valley is better known internationally. Shame about that sound file that ‘welcomes’ you to the site. My French isn’t great so it becomes a bit annoying. I would also have wanted a bit more information on the specific wine, my main reason to visit the site. The back label tells me the name ‘1753’ refers to the date on the earliest document found at the Chateau. Nice, but what did the document say? Anyway, the wine is really rather good. Lots of blackberry and plummy flavours and dark chocolate. It gives the wine a nice richness, not too dry, which means you could drink this on its own but it would be much better with a nice meaty stew, which is exactly what I’ll be having tonight.