The unexpected delights of Txakoli wine

Txikoli wine (451 x 600)
Serving Txakoli in a San Sebastian Bar

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.

8corks

 

My Rating 8/10 Corks

 

 

 

Gran Fabrica Carinena Gran Reserva 2001

granfabrica2001Spain 13.5 %

A trip to northern Spain for my next review and the excellent Gran Fabrica Carinena Gran Reserva 2001. This is actually the penultimate bottle from a case I bought a couple of years ago and from what I remember with discount it worked out at a ridiculous price of around 4 or £5 a bottle.

A delicious blend of Tempranillo, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. Carinena is located betweeen the fabulous area of Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat and this particular bottle the 2001 is from a great vintage for Spanish wines.

Ideally I would have liked to have decanted this for a couple of hours as I have done with the other bottles but this time I took it along to a friends birthday party and we ended up opening and drinking straight away, (everyone who tasted it gave it a big thumbs up).

When poured it was pretty dark and dense in colour with the aged rusty tinge around the rim. Pretty intense aromas of ripe dark plums, cherries, vanilla spice and smokey ash.

Initially quite sweet tasting, smokiness and vanilla oak dominant, mildly tannic, a little dark fruit action but fairly subdued which left the spices and oak pretty much taking over. It did taste smooth and elegant and I like it a lot, shame I’ve only got one bottle left.

The 2006 is currently on sale at Tesco online at £36 a case of six, it’s ok but not even close to the 2001, unfortunately not sure you’ll find the 2001 anywhere now, real shame !

8corksMy Rating 8/10 Corks

Tesco 2001?  2006 online £6 a bottle

 

And the winner of best Red Wine is…..

Honoro OscarsHonoro Vera Garnacha 2012 from Bodegas Ateca in Calatayud Northern Spain , the wine served during the Gala Dinner at the 2013 Oscars in which Argo the American political thriller won best film

First tasted this wine at the Good Food & Wine Show Olympia a couple of years ago where I attended the wine Tube Map event run by Nikki Welch. Here this Garnacha was voted the best of the reds in their excellent tasting, when i arrived home I immediately ordered a case from Hatties Wines and now I’m down to my last bottle of this wonderful stuff. When I first tasted this I was blown away by it, for the price it was one of the best Garnacha’s I’ve tasted in a while, balanced intense fruit with a spicy earthiness and creamy finish and a brilliant label.

Honoro Vera medleyVery brooding and inky black in the glass with wonderful heady aromas of rich ripe plums, cherries, cranberries and dark chocolate with an underlying essence of smoke and perhaps a little church incense.

On first sip, this was full-bodied, full of ripe sweet dark fruits including plums, raspberries and cherries, creamy tasting with an impressive smokiness about it. This had a brilliant mouthfeel bursting with that sweetish acidic fruit and mild tannins.

Drank this with Sirloin Steak and chips and it paired beautifully.

Must admit I am partial to a good Garnacha and this is a wonderful example of it and for £9.99 excellent value, better than some Garnacha/Grenache I’ve tasted at three times the price, although I have seen this in Spain for as little as 4 Euros, which is a steal.

8.5corksMy Rating 8.5/10 Corks

Hatties wines £9.99

 

Godello – The great white Spanish hope

Godelia 2012(450 x 600)I first discovered Godello when travelling in northern Spain a few years ago when we stopped at a bar in a sleepy town in the Bierzo region.

Sitting outside eating Octopus (Pulpo) with a plate of grilled peppers, olives and freshly baked bread. I asked what wines they recommend I was told to try a local white wine called Godello, having never heard of it I decided to take a chance and thank goodness I did as it is now probably my favourite wine white. The food was delicious and on an extremely hot day the chilled wine was the perfect pairing.

Since then I have sought out many Godello’s and found out that they do vary in style, the one I had at that bar was very Chardonnay like, intense , fleshy with peaches, pears and quiet oaky but I have had bottles that are non oaked, fresh, crisp, acidic, showing apples and slightly salty.

GodelloGrape
Godello Grape

The grapes shown here were apparantly nearly extinct back in the 70’s but they were brought back to life and rescued and now stand up there with the other popular fine whites of Spain.

This particular bottle I bought in Murcia in a small wine shop opposite the local food market. It was an Aladdin’s cave of wine with racks upon racks of bottles some covered in dust but I was searching for Godello and eventually came across a few bottles and took a chance with this Godelia which is predominately Godello 80% with 20% of a grape called Donna Blanca (used in making white Port).

Right what was this 2012 Godelia bottle like, well, this was very much like a Chardonnnay in style with a Pale golden colour with tropical aromas including ripe peaches and with  litttle flowery, perfumy notes.

The texture of this wine was rich and fleshy with a creamy like feel. very fruity with an intensness to go with it. Peaches were there but also crisp apples and pears in the background but what really comes through is a flowery taste making this an unusual but extremely enjoyable glass of wine.

As I said earlier Godello varies in style but if you haven’t tasted it or even heard of it, seek it out, whether it’s the Chardonnay almost Burgundian style or the non oaked fresher crispier style,  hopefully you won’t be dissapointed I know I’ve not been, not yet anyway.

8.5corks

My Rating 8.5/10 Corks

Bought in Spain, around £8 but there are lots of Godellos over here now

Pizarras de Otero Bierzo 2011

Bierzo Otero2011(450 x 600)Spain 14%

First discovered the Bierzo region of North West Spain a few years back when on holiday touring the north following the Camino route to Santiago de Compostela although I must stress this was done on a coach staying in government backed Parador hotels not on foot or bike travelling hundreds of miles.

This is where I discovered the Mencia grape and my favourite Spanish white Godello.

So finding a reasonably priced Bierzo wine here is a real treat and this particular bottle brought back memories of sitting in a sleepy Spanish town bar eating wonderful Tapas and drinking cheap but great tasting wine.

This 2011 Pizarras de Otero is one of the new wave of brilliant Spanish wines that are now widely available. Dark, brooding, aromatic and 14% alcohol this wine is not for the faint hearted. After an initial taste I decided to leave this to the air for a couple of hours before drinking and it seemed to soften slightly.

Looking at the wine in the glass it has a deep purple colour but it’s when you stick your nose in the glass this is where it comes alive, powerful aromas of dark ripe cherries, blackberries and a big hit of meaty savouriness with smells of bacon fat and liver all in a good way.

Taste wise, again Rich cherries, dark chocolate, liquorice and spices. A little on the tannic side and some spices in the background. This tastes like a big wine and the 14% is noticeable.

Although this wine is rich, it does taste remarkably fresh, and mouth wateringly juicy and I really liked it, made by the excellent Bodegas Martin Codax.

If you haven’t tried the Mencia grape treat yourself to this, hopefully you won’t be disappointed.

8.5corksMy Rating 8.5/10 Corks

Majestic £9.99 (offer £7.49)

Tesco Finest Toro Vinas del Rey 2012

toro1(450 x 600)Spain 13.5%

Supermarket meal deals seem to be everywhere at the moment and I must admit to be a little sceptical about the bottle of wine thrown in with this offer.  The bottle in question is the Tesco Finest Toro Vinas del Rey 2012 from North West Spain, a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha.

As it turned out the scepticism was unfounded as this turned out to be  a fairly decent bottle of wine. Opened this about 2 hours before eating, couldn’t resist having  a sneaky sip just after pulling the cork and instantly thought this is going to be good. Really fruity nose of blackcurrants, cherries with a hint of woody vanilla. Initially taste wise, quite a hefty kick of spicy fruit and some noticeable tannins.

Two hours later, it developed into a smoother drink, still very fruity and still with some spice. The tannins were still there and there was a little heat from the 13.5%. A little rugged, slightly sour but with a hint of vanilla. The proof was this just reminded me of Spain and that’s always a good thing.

If you give it a little time to open up and breathe you have a very typically Spanish and a pretty decent glass of wine. Not sure if Tesco will put this on it’s shelves as a stand alone wine, I think they should.

NB: Kept a little back to see how it faired on day two, what I found was a more fruitier flavour , lost that touch of spice but still fairly tannic and dusty tasting.  My human gauge (my wife, not a big red wine drinker) who didn’t taste it on day one thought it was very nice, that will do for me !

8corks

My Rating 8/10 Corks

Tesco £6.99 (part of meal deal only)

Tesco Finest Ribera del Duero Reserva 2009

Riberadelduerores(450 x 600)Spain 14%

A recent addition to The Tesco Finest range this Ribera del Duero Tempranillo from northern Spain is not for the fainthearted, bold, full of vanillary oak and I liked it !

Straight out of the bottle aromas of blackberries and dark plums hit you and that initial taste of rich rustic fruit and in your face oak set the taste buds tingling.

Maybe a little bold for some to start with, I decided to decant this for a couple of hours in which time it had settled into a much smoother and palatable drink although it still retained the hefty kick of oak. Left for a while it did seem to mute some of it’s initial aromas but this didn’t detract from what is a lovely tasting drink that would have some longevity.

Finally, for me, this needed food and the Roast lamb with Rosemary and Garlic that I had with it paired beautifully. If you like Big bold, oaky wines full of Spanish charm, this would be perfect.

8corks

My Rating 8/10 Corks            Tesco Currently 25% off at £7.49