After returning from a ten-day holiday in Northern Spain’s Basque country visiting Bilbao and San Sebastian my overriding wine memory will be the delights of sampling the local hard to pronounce Txakoli (Chock-Ho-Lee) wine. Go into any local bar and you will see bottles of this unusual wine proudly displayed and when ordered, theatrically poured.
Txakoli is produced in the Spanish provinces of the Basque region where the climate is wet and cool as we found out during our stay and much more suited to white wines.
Tasting the wine is a refreshing if bracing experience, mostly low in alcohol (generally around 10 – 11.5% ABV) and great as an aperitif. It is an acquired taste and maybe not for everyone, it has flavours of crisp green apples, touch of lemon, a slight salty tang (salinity) and high acidity with a tingling fizzy effervescent finish which I found wonderfully refreshing.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the whole Txakoli experience is the way the wine is served and seemed to be a bit of a competition amongst the bar staff seeing who could pour it from the greatest height (some pouring from above their heads). Pouring from a height aerates the wine causing it to froth and bubble up and just makes the wine more lively and fun to drink but do stand back when they do this because a lot of it ends up splashing on the counter. Most bars also tend to serve Txakoli in tumblers rather than wine glasses and from what I could gather for no other reason other than being traditional.
As I said earlier it is an acquired taste and not everyone will like it but I urge if you are visiting Spain’s Basque region go into a bar order Txakoli not just for the taste but the whole experience of being served, I thought it was wonderful and cheap and I ended up not paying more than €1.80 a glass anywhere.
South Africa takes on Bordeaux with this powerful beast of a wine from the Stellenbosch region, named in honour of John Xavier Merriman who revitalised the Rustenberg farm in 1892 after it suffered badly due to the Phylloxera crisis and went on to establish Rustenberg wines.
A blend of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec.
This is an impressive looking bottle and even more impressive when poured and you stick your nose in the glass with it’s powerful and heady aromas of blackcurrants dark forest fruits, cloves, wood (quite pronounced pencil shavings) and smoke.
On first taste it’s a bit of an intense untamed beast, rich, full flavoured, dark fruits, pine needles, oaky, liquorice, cloves. Slightly savoury but it’s the sheer power of the dark fruit and wood that dominate.
This needed air and would benefit from decanting for a couple of hours which I should have done, although it did mellow slightly with time in the glass. This would also perhaps be even better if layed down for a couple of years and you will find you may have to lay down after drinking it.
I absolutely loved this wine, loved its raw brooding power and rich complex taste and have no hesitation in recommending it and if you’re a fan of Bordeaux wines give this a go you won’t be disappointed.
I recently attended another Summer wine Tasting event at my local Majestic store in Ruislip. As always it was a brilliant evening with lots of great wines on show, (Majestic do seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to these showcase tastings).The Whites and Rose’s were the stars and it’s probably the first time I’ve ever left the store having bought a case without a red in sight.
Among the highlights were….
Kumeu River Pinot Gris 2014 (£9.99 on Multi buy) – Fabulous NZ wine with tropical flavours, floral, peppery and slightly herbal. Dry but with a rich texture but not at all cloying, would pair brilliantly with Asian and spicy food. This enjoyed by everyone and a big hit on the night.
Cotes du Rhone Villages 2015 ( £8.99 on Multi Buy) – This was a late decision and was brought out towards the end of the evening but again it went down well with everyone. Lees ageing, rich and complex with peaches and again slightly floral.
Summer is arriving, well I think it is, so Rosé’s start making an appearance and there were two very nice ones out for us notably the M de Minuty Rosé 2105, Cótes de Provence (Grenache, Cinsault and Tibouren) and the Haut Vol Rosé 2014 ( Grenache & Carrignan) (see picture above) both French, both extremely drinkable and highly recommended even though I’m not a big Rosé drinker myself.
Of the four reds two really stood out, although a bit on the expensive side these were the Petalos Bierzo 2014 (£13.99 on Multi Buy) from Northern Spain and the Angels Share Two Hands Shiraz 2014 (£17.99 on Multi Buy) from McClaren Vale Australia.
Thanks again to the guys at Majestic Ruislip for another fantastic evening tasting some pretty decent wines, ended up buying a case of whites and went home happy and content.