Tag Archives: Spain

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!

 

A is for Albariño

As I’m making my way through a sunny Glasgow Green on my second day of the 5×50 Challenge, thoughts turn to the next wine to review. I’m out in shorts and t-shirt, the sun seemed quite warm enough when I was indoors, but now I wish I put on an extra layer as the wind is quite a bit colder than I had anticipated. The fact everyone else seems to be wearing polar outfits should have been a hint.

Albariño on the vine. Image courtesy of Bodegas Fillaboa.

That feeling of spring in the air, with a bracing grip of the remnants of winter makes me think of Albariño. The grape variety is largely grown in Galicia in North West Spain (and in Northern Portugal as Alvarinho), a corner of the world where you might perhaps expect grapes to be super ripe with intense, tropical flavours. Not so Albariño. Galicia is heavily influenced by the Atlantic and that can give a chill to the weather that makes the ripening season longer. Albariño has that bracing character of high acidity, a good dose of ripe, yet fresh citrus fruit, can have a distinct floral edge and a crisp, dry finish, which can sometimes be a little on the bitter side. It’s those characters that make it a perfect seafood wine, particularly scallops and oysters or something like a ceviche.

A couple of weeks ago I managed to taste a dozen or so different Albariños, most of them pretty good. That makes it easy for me to recommend them. Pay around a tenner and you’ll more than likely get a decent one. The one that stood out for me is a bit more expensive but then I did write down ‘delicious’ as my tasting note. The Fillaboa 2011 is made by Gonzalez Byass and retails for around £15, although it doesn’t seem widely available in the UK (yet?).

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!

 

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.