Two Spanish reds take to the stage this time, easily available from most supermarkets and for the quality, reasonably priced.
Both from the Rioja region of Northern Spain, one a 100% Tempranillo and one 100% Garnacha and made in a modern style, with the focus very much on the pure fruit.
Campo Viejo has been around for along time is very well known and features on the shelves of many supermarkets, the Albai you can find mainly in Tesco and Sainsburys.
As I mentioned earlier both these wines are made in a modern style and are very fruit forward, so lets start with the Albai. Firstly the bottle itself which is surprisingly heavy and chunky, when poured the wine has a fairly dense dark purple colour with prominent aromas of cherries and strawberries this follows through in the taste which gives an instant mouthful of juicy bright red fruits. Although slightly tart initially there is a hint of appealing sweetness which comes through on the finish. For an entry-level unoaked Rioja 13% ABV, this wine may well hit the spot for a lot of people but if you prefer a bit of oaked woodiness in your wine that’s still made in the modern style then perhaps for a few pounds more the Reserva is the one to go for, which is in my opinion, excellent.
Next, I think most people would have heard of Campo Viejo with its distinctive labels, most of you guys must have tried their Rioja Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva but how many of you have tried their Garnacha ? ( if you click on the link you will see my thoughts on this CV Garnacha, second review down, when I was a member of the Tesco Wine Forum under the name spikedc, although it was for the 2012 vintage). Unlike the Albai this CV wine has been aged for 4 months in American oak barrels and this comes through in the taste, so as well as the sweet red fruits (think of those cherry drop sweets) there is a soft vanilla creaminess about it. Be warned though this is 14% ABV and can creep up on you pretty quickly.
So overall, both pretty good everyday wines without being too complex, both appeal in their bright fruity flavours and both are very easy to drink.
On Wednesday the 3rd November 2016, thanks to courtesy of Brian Elliot of ‘MidWeek Wines’ and of course the Consejo Regulador of Rioja DOCa , I was lucky enough to be invited to the ‘Rioja Recognises’awards in the swanky Hispania Spanish restaurant in the heart of London’s financial area overlooked by the Bank of England. This was specially exciting for me as I have a love and passion for anything Spanish, especially wine and food.
The awards ceremony honoured four industry personalities for their contributions and significant impact they have had on Rioja in the UK. Hosted by Sarah Jane Evans MW (a previous winner in 2015) esteemed guests including the Spanish Ambassador Mr Fredrico Trillo-Figueroa along with a host of retailers, buyers and celebrity wine experts.
The evening featured top scoring Rioja wines from the recent 10×10 tasting in which a panel of judges selected and narrowed down ten of the best wines of the region from a list of 100. To accompany these a fantastic selection of Tapas was served freshly prepared by the Hispania chefs including such delights as Iberico ham, chorizo (hot and cold), salami, croquettes, Spanish omelette and Paella rice.
Among the winners included Waitrose buyer Nick Room for his ‘Outstanding Contribution’, Cambridge Wine Merchant Hal Wilson for ‘Off-trade Personality of the year’, Ben Henshaw of Indigo wines for ‘Distributor of the year’ and last but not least celebrity broadcaster and writer Susy Atkins ‘ for Communicator of the year’.
Although a great evening of celebrating these awards the real stars of the show were the wines themselves, the ten selected (2 whites, 1 Rosado and 7 reds) were all stunning and well received by everyone.
My favourites were both the Chairs’ choices ‘La Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva 2005‘ and the ‘Bodegas Olarra Summa Reserva 2011‘. The first ‘La Rioja Alta’ was a classic elegant Rioja with an intense aroma of bright cherry fruit, taste wise again cherries with fresh mouth-watering acidity, sweet vanilla, leather and ripe tannins. The Olarra was equally nice with a dusty aroma, along with a mouthful of cherries, strawberries, vanilla and spice.
Of the two whites the stand out for me was the ‘Bodegas Lecea Blanco Crianza 2012’, if you like your wines oaked this was full of wood, with some pear and a hint of banana, probably best drunk with food though.
All in all a great evening and a a wonderful celebration of what Rioja has to offer and congratulations to all the award winners.
Lastly on a personal note, I am hoping to do a road trip around Rioja for my 60th birthday in just over a years time, still in the planning stages and very much looking forward to it.
I was asked recently to attend the ‘Wines from Spain’ Trade fair as a representative of Mid Week Wines a review site run by Brian Elliott, wine taster, judge and writer based in Scotland.
As anybody who has read my site knows I love Spanish wines, in fact I love most things Spanish, so when asked to do this tasting I jumped at the chance.
The event was held in Tobacco Dock, Wapping , London. This venue as the name implies was built-in the early 19th Century as a secure bonded warehouse for the receipt and storage of Tobacco from the new world. It was relaunched in 2012 as an events venue.
After arriving I made my way to a self pour tasting room called the ‘New Spanish Benchmarks’ with a selection of varieties and styles that make up the next generation of Spanish wines and the new ‘face’ of Spain.
When I entered there was only a handful of tasters in the room with around 45 wines from the ‘Spanish Benchmarks ‘ and another 60 or so from ‘Indie & On-trade star buys’. Feeling a little self conscious as there was amongst others Steven Spurrier ( British wine expert & one of the most influential wine commentators in the world) and Sarah Jane Evans MW & Journalist busy tasting away, I did feel a little surreal tasting next to these experts. Adding to my anxiety you could hear a pin drop and I was praying I didn’t drop a glass or even worse knock over a bottle. Anyway as soon as I tasted the first wine my inhibitions drifted away and I was lost in an array of fabulous wines in which I will highlight a few later.
Next up was food and we were treated to a lunch menu especially created by Michelin Star chef Nacho Manzano in the ‘Iberica’s Kitchen’ room. There was a dish called Fabada which was a rich Bean stew with Chorizo, Morcilla (spanish black pudding) & ham also accompanied by some Pata Negra Spanish Ham, spicy Chorizo slices and cheese.
There was also a free bar which had a lovely selection of wines in which I chose a Vina Ardanza Rioja Reserva 2007 to accompany the delicious food.
Suitably refreshed and fed I made my way to the the main Tasting hall in which one of my briefs was to taste Cava’s made with Champagne grapes either on their own or mixed in with the traditional Macabeo, Parellada & Xarel-lo. Again the selection was fantastic and I will pick out a few of note further down.
To say I was like a kid in a sweet shop was an understatement and spent the rest of the afternoon sampling what I could meeting some really amiable and interesting winemakers along the way.
Below I have set out a few of my favourite wines, this is only a brief selection as there were too many to list….
Spanish Benchmarks (The new face of Spain)
Inspiracion Valdemar Alto Cantabria Tempranillo Blanco 2015
Taste- Full bodied, this had a real nice creaminess about it, balanced acidity and fresh bright tropical fruits again with a long finish.
** As a side note, I visited the Campo Viejo stand and they were promoting their new Tempranillo Blanco to go on sale in Tesco and another Supermarket (can’t remember which one) I thought it was very good especially at around £8-£9
**By far the best Cava I tasted all day but at a price, stood out head and shoulders above all.
Darkish in colour, restrained soft fizz, elegant, full of rich tropical peaches and apricots, some crisp green apples,medium acidity, toasty with a nutty edge, buttery and a finish that lasted a week. Quality 👍👍👍
Over the last week I have been to two very different but very enjoyable wine tastings, the first was the annual ‘Wines of Portugal Grand Tasting 2016’ and the second was a ‘Cuvée Reserve Tasting Weekend’
Cuvée Reserve is an online wine forum in which I and a group ex Tesco Wine Community members got together to continue the online friendships we had built up over the 3 years or so that TWC had been running.
The ‘Wines of Portugal Grand Tasting’ was a London trade and press show in which I was kindly given an invite to. Cuvée Reserve was a weekend away in Stratford-upon-Avon with a group of 10 friends who all share a passion for wine.
The Wines of Portugal Grand Tasting
Held at the Royal Horticultural halls in London where over a hundred producers were showcasing their wines. A big thank you to Brian Elliott of MidWeek Wines for inviting me on his behalf.
Not knowing a great deal about Portuguese wine what struck me most walking around tasting was the fabulous array of good quality affordable wines a lot of them in the sub £10 bracket.
The whites in particular impressed me especially the delightfully fresh and zingy Alvarinhos and one that stood out was the Muros de Melgaco 2014 Alvarinho from the vineyards on the south-facing hillsides of the Vinho Verde region, high in acidity and aged for 6 months in French oak. Dry, tasting fresh and very elegant, full of tropical fruits and a hint of honey and in a lovely looking bottle. This was probably one of my favourite whites of the day.
Other whites that impressed were the Quinta da Calcada Branco 2014 , Covela Edicao Nacional Avesso Vinho Verde DOC 2014 and the Vale Do Homem Loureiro 2015 all very good examples of fresh and bright wines from the Vinho Verde region.
Most of the reds were powerful beasts hailing from the Douro and Dao regions, a lot of these were dark and brooding high in alcohol and utterly delicious among the highlights was the excellent Quinta do Perdigao Touriga Nacional 2009, showing dark cherries and plums on the nose. Lovely structure. Dark ripe plums to taste and bitter dark chocolate with some spice on the long finish.
Others of note were the Valmonte Reserva Touriga Nacional 2010 and the Sao Matias Reserva Tinto 2011
Amongst the best value wines under £10 was the Opta Range (all around £8) all were fresh & bright tasting, I was quite impressed with their Opta Dao Rose 2015 (not being a big fan of Rose) but this had Raspberries and strawberries in abundance with a nice floral hit perfect for a summer picnic. I gave their Opta Dao Branco 2015 the big thumbs up as well. Most of the range was 13% alcohol.
Special mention for the Fonte do Ouro 2014 made from Encruzado & Arinto again around £8 this a pale green colour a lovely minerality and full of apples, pears and peaches.
Also very good value was the Terra de Lobos range.
Terra de Lobos 2015 (white) Perfumed floral and lots of tropical fruits made from Fernao Pires and Sauvignon Blanc.
Terra de Lobos 2015 (Rose) Crisp with strawberries and a Little toastiness, balanced acidity
Terra de Lobos 2015 (Red) Rich tasting, spicy
Big Shout for the Falcoaria 2014 white wine, this was seriously tropical, a little toasty and extremely nice, big 5 stars from me, again around £8.
Didn’t taste a lot of fizz but I must say the Almeida Garrett VEQPRD Beira Interior Brut Natural super Reserva 2010 seriously impressed, very biscuity and toasty and lots of fizzy bubbles, not cold enough but still tasted pretty good. Apparently rated 91 Points by Jamie Goode.
Finally one last white that I found just as I was leaving was the seriously impressive GURU 2014 made from the Rabigato, Viosinho, Codega de Larinho grapes an explosion of orchard fruits with a hebal twist, not particularly cheap at around £15- £20 but for me worth it.
So a brilliant days tasting that left me impressed by the quality and more importantly value for money of these great Portuguese wines.
Cuvée Reserve Wine Tasting Weekend at Stratford Upon Avon
Pick a place and a time, get ten people who love wine together in one place, get them each to bring a selection of wines and some food and you have got yourself a hell of a weekend and that’s exactly what it turned out to be.
We are all ex members of the Tesco Wine Community (TWC) where for three years or so we spent time online talking wine with some of us having met at various activities and events. So when Clare Hearnden who runs ‘Cuvée Reserve forum’ suggested a ‘Wine Tasting Weekend’ in Stratford -Upon-Avon the ten of us jumped at the chance. Clare found us the perfect location and perfect house, within walking distance of Stratford town centre.
The weekend was a real hit with everyone, very informal and friendly with some fantastic wines to drink. For the first night everyone brought along a selection of buffet food and the wines began to flow. The second night Clare kindly cooked a meal and more wine flowed.
All in all a fantastic weekend with good food, good wine and best of all good company, hopefully to be repeated again and again.
Alongside a clutch of Sparklers including Cono Sur Sparkling Pinot Noir from Chile, Prosecco, Cava and Champagne, our white wine selection included:
Denis Dubourdieu 2010 Clos Floridene, Grand Vin De Graves (blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 47% Semillon, 3% Muscadelle), France, 13%. A nice chance to try a rare white example of Graves
Symbiose La Grande Olivette, Cuvee Florence, Piquepoul, Sauvignon Blanc blend, Cótes de Thau 2014, France, 12%. Piquepoul is something of a recent trend in the UK, so this was an interesting one to try
Karl Pfaffmann 2013 Weissburgunder, Trocken, Walsheim, Pfalz, Germany, 12.5%. The first of three wines sourced exclusively from Germany and rarely seen in the U.K.
Karl Pfaffmann 2014 Riesling, Trocken, Walsheim, Pfalz, Germany, 12.5%
Randersackerer Ewig Leben 2013er, Albalonga Auslese, Franken, Germany, 11%
Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva 2015 Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14%
Alvi’s Drift 2015 Chenin Blanc, Worcester, South Africa, 13.5%
Calvet Reserve 2013 Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France, 12.5%
The Cup and Rings 2013 Godello Sobre Lias, Monterrai, Spain, 13%
Ara Single Vineyard 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 12.5%
All the wines supplied were kept undisclosed to the other attendees prior to the day, and so it is interesting to notice the heavy red bias towards Spain. Our full selection comprised:
La Cantera Reserva 2007 (Tempranillo based blend), Carinena, Spain, 13%, (from magnum)
Ermita de San Lorenzo 2008 Garnacha based blend, Rioja, Spain, 14%. Another one for the decanter
Mayu Syrah Reserva 2011, Elqui Valley, Chile, 14.5%. This wine was again decanted to allow the rich flavours to mellow
Piccini Memoro 2010 (Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero D’avola, Sangiovese blend), Regional blend across Tuscany, Basilicata, Veneto and Sicily, Italy, 14%. Decanted, but perhaps needed more time to open fully.
Cháteau Valfontaine 2012 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon) Bordeaux, France, 12%
Stobi 2011 Petit Verdot Barrique, Tikves, Macedonia, 14%. A rare opportunity to try this wine.
Campo Viejo Gran Reserva 2007 (Tempranillo), Rioja, Spain, 13.5%
Les Vaucorneilles Cuvee Nathan 2005, Touraine, Loire Valley, France, 13.5% (Blend of Gamay, Cabernet and Cot)
Vox Populi 2012 Bobal, Utiel-Requena, Spain, 14%
Laurent Miquel L’Artisan 2014 (Syrah, Grenache), Faugeres, France, 13.5%
So another year comes to an end, a year in which I’ve drunk some very good and not so good wines and the elusive search for my first 9/10 corks ends up fruitless (excuse the pun).
In this review I will reveal some of my top 10 wines of 2015. Most of the wines reviewed I have bought, some have been donated, I have also sampled a lot at various tastings and events throughout the year.
Some of these events and tastings have offered some fabulous wines, some pretty expensive, I’ve purposely left these out concentrating on wines that are readily available from various outlets and are on the whole reasonably priced, although some may well be unavailable now.
So click on the links below to see the full reviews and here’s to finding many more brilliant wines in 2016, perhaps my first 9/10 or you never know, a 10/10.
So in no particular order here are my ten favourite 8.5/10 Cork scoring wines….
Faustino I Gran Reserva Rioja 2001
Probably the most recognisable labels in the wine world with its portraits of Rembrandt, El Greco and composer Gluck and the use of Roman numerals are on the Faustino range. My earliest memories of this wine is seeing these bottles lined up on the shelves and noticing how they stood out with their frosted bottles…Read more
Honoro Vera Garnacha 2012
Honoro 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…Read more
Brancott Estate Letter B Sauvignon Blanc 2012
New Zealand 14% Although Sauvignon Blanc is perhaps not my favourite white wine, if I had to pick a SB to take to a desert Island this would be it. I’m a big fan of Brancott Estate wines in general, from their entry levels right the way through to their premium range including the excellent…Read more
McWilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2005
I’ve been singing the praises of Aldi wines in my last post but this time it’s a big round of applause for Tesco with this superb tasting 10-year-old Aussie Semillon currently selling at an unbelievable £5.99. My only regret is that I didn’t try this earlier because unfortunately this wine will be unavailable soon, so…Read more
Primitivo Di Mandurie Paololeo 2012
Italy 14.5% If you’re looking for a reasonably priced Primitivo (Aka Zinfandel) and you enjoy the big hitting Zins from California look no further than this beauty from the very heel of boot in South east Italy’s Puglia region. When I picked this up I was amazed at how heavy this bottle was and it…Read more
Pizarras de Otero Bierzo 2011
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…Read more
Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc 2013
New Zealand 12.5% With the temperatures soaring here in the UK what better way to relax and cool down than sitting in the shade of a Gazebo, eating barbecue food and drinking a chilled glass or two of this very nice New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. I Love Marlborough wines especially anything from Brancott Estate…Read more
Yalumba Old Vine Grenache 2013
I first discovered the joys of Yalumba many years ago when I attended a wine show in London, I bumped into wine expert Oz Clarke at the event and chatted for a while, I must say he was very amiable and talked with great ease and enthusiasm about this wonderful liquid we all enjoy. I…Read more
Porta 6 Vinho Tinto Portugal First tasted this in the Majestic store in Calais a few months back, it was on the tasting counter and one of their featured wines. I was initially drawn by the bright cartoon like label which was painted by Portuguese artist Hauke Vagt. This wine was also featured on the…Read more
Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru 2008
France 12.5% I must admit I don’t drink enough Chardonnay but I hope to remedy this, especially with the better weather on its way. So it’s time to fill your fridges with a selection of quality whites and you may well find that every now and then you come across a wine that you drink…Read more
From the heart of Rioja next to the banks of the river Ebro, the ‘Monastery of Imas’ Baron de Ley’s headquarters is home to some brilliant wines including this made especially for British Supermarkets.
For me, the Baron can do no wrong and this bottle the ‘Camino Del Monte 2001‘ is no exception, from its brightly coloured label to what’s actually inside everything just works.
Imagine sitting in an old church in a sleepy Spanish town surrounded by aromas of incense, candle wax and wooden benches with flamenco music playing outside, well, this is exactly what this wine conjures up.
Darkish garnet in colour with a rusty tinge around the edge. The first mouthful tastes of red cherries, plums and strawberries, spicy and a little smokey. Mildish tannins and a generous hit of Vanilla / oak with a very long finish.
Bottle looks typically Spanish, smells Spanish and tastes Spanish. A classic Rioja all round with age and won’t break the Banco coming in at a full price of around £12 but often on offer for less.
There is a lot of Rioja out there and finding a half decent cheap bottle is pretty hard although this Cepa Lebrel 2010 may well be the answer. It’s from Lidl’s who, in my opinion and from what I have tasted so far have a pretty good selection of cheap wines this one, which is also a Reserva, is around £5, very good value I’d say.
Not overly complicated but this looks, smells and tastes like a Rioja twice the price. Lovely garnet like colour with a rusty like tinge to the edge, smells aged, plenty of ripe mushy strawberries, slightly smokey and for me a Rioja must have a candle wax like aroma and this did, like sitting in an old church.
This is oaky perhaps a little too much for some but it did show some juicy fruit and acidity, full of strawberries, cherries with fairly mild tannins. My wife who tends to like white wines, not so much reds, is my monitor and usually tells it as it, pulling that face if she doesn’t like it but she did finish the glass which she doesn’t always do with red wine.
Don’t get me wrong there are far better Riojas out there but perhaps not many better at this price, it’s a fiver after all and it actually tastes like a good old-fashioned, old world Rioja.