Taste of Spain in London

On the 28th May I attended the ‘Feria de Londres’ in the wonderful setting of Potters Fields Park on the banks of the river Thames overlooked by Tower bridge.

Over the bank holiday weekend the park was transformed into a celebration of all things Spanish including music, flamenco and wonderful food,tapas and drink.

I arrived early, the stalls and stages were being set up and the atmosphere was building as was the smell of different kinds of Spanish foods drifting across the park. There was lots of pop up bars serving ‘Cruzcampo’ beer, white and red wine and the excellent ‘Tio Pepe’ Fino sherry.

From about 12.00pm the sun came out and the festivities got underway as the noise level got louder as more and more people arrived. Before it got too busy I booked myself onto a Iberico Ham and Sherry Materclass and received my complementary drink and food tokens as I was there on behalf of ‘Mid Week Wines’.

With class booked I set out to enjoy the afternoon, first stop was the bar where I got a pretty large glass of chilled Tio Pepe Palamino Fino sherry which was just what was needed as the temperature and humidity was steadily rising.

For those of you who haven’t tasted the delights of Fino and Manzanilla sherry they are a delight with salty almonds and olives and as I found out later a real winner when paired with Iberico ham. This particular bottle of Tio Pepe (which needs to be served very cold) was extremely dry, a little yeasty but with a saline edge which smelled of the sea. There was also some lemon peel in the background and the finish was fresh if a little bitter

Food was next on the agenda and I got myself a freshly made plate of Valencian Paella made up of chicken, broad beans and green beans.

Next up was the Iberico Ham Masterclass with Jose Sol (Spanish ham Master) Complete with more Tio Pepe sherry which complimented the ham beautifully.

Iberico ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests (called dehesas) along the border between Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns during this last period. It is also known as jamón ibérico de Montanera. The exercise and diet have a significant impact on the flavor of the meat; the ham is cured for 36 months. Here Jose taught us about the different styles and quality of ham culminating in the excellent Pata Negra (best quality) ham from the black pig.

As well as the Toi Pepe Jose introduced us to a cold soup like substance called Salmorejo which he actually made that morning (basically soaked bread with tomatoes, garlic and lemon sprinkled with ham and sometimes sliced boiled egg), this again complemented the ham beautifully if a little garlicky. It was a very informative masterclass and big thanks to Jose for sharing his knowledge with us, I certainly learned a lot.

The afternoon and evening carried on with more drink (yes another glass of Sherry), food and Flamenco with  a performance by Tomasito (Flamenco dancer and singer) with lots of ladies and children dressed in traditional outfits.

The Feria de Londres was a free event and I for one will be back next year, Viva Espana

Spanish Sauvignon Blanc – anybody ?

jose-pariente-sb-2014In the Rueda region in the heart on the Iberian peninsula where Verdejo and Viura are kings, Sauvignon Blanc also plays a part even if it is overshadowed. The grapes for this wine come from the first Sauvignon Blanc vines planted in this area around 30 years ago and has resulted in this deliciously bright and fruity Jose Periente SB 2014.

This is more of a cross between French and New Zealand SB’s as it has elements of both, darkish straw like colour in the glass with bright fresh citrus fruits on the nose with some tropical passion fruit and a whiff of freshly cut grass.

Taste wise it is more subdued but still with a touch of bright acidic citrus fruits, again a little tropical sweetness and grassiness but finishing quite vegetal with green peppers, maybe even a little fresh pea pods and herbs.

I really enjoyed this and paired with steamed fresh Haddock it was even better. I bought this at Majestic for around £9.99 a little while ago but not sure if they still sell it but if you can find it give it a go you may well be surprised how good it is.

I tend to like Verdejo, Viura, Albarino, Godello to name a few but this is definitely up there with the best of Spanish white wines I’ve tasted recently.

8.5corks

My rating 8.5/10 Corks

Majestic ?    around £10

 

 

Two everyday Spanish reds

albaicampo-vTwo 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.

7corks

Castillo de Albai Rioja 2015

My Rating 7/10 Cork

 

7corks

Campo Viejo Garnacha 2015

My Rating 7/10 Corks

The three wine review

tale-of-three-winesThis week I review three contrasting wines, a South African Chenin Blanc, a Chilean Chardonnay and a rather nice Spanish Monastrell.

Firstly the Chardonnay from a new range launched by Morrisons called the Head Honcho which also includes a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot, these are all the sole property of Morrisons. Aimed primarily at the younger market with its bright eye-catching labels and its simplified consumer friendly wine description on the back, not to mention the price which is around £6.

The Head Honcho Chardonnay 2015 is an entry level wine so  I didn’t expect anything special, nothing to dislike but nothing to write home about either. Heady aromas of tropical fruits, pineapple, peach and mangoes, there was also a noticeable buttery nose.
Taste wise it had bright tropical fruits, touch on the sweet side which was almost slightly artificial. Did I enjoy it? well, it was OK but I do think a lot of people will like it.

Next, the  South African Zalze Bush Vine Chenin 2016 which was a wine selected by a member of our wine club ‘Cuvée Reserve’ for our monthly tasting in which we all take a turn at selecting a widely available bottle up to £10 to discuss and give our views.

Initially  I probably had this chilling for too long and the aromas were a little muted, but as the glass warmed up the nose became pretty full on with tropical fruits especially ripe pineapple, guava and peaches .
The tropical theme continued  in the tasting with the pineapple dominating but with some lemons and limes in the background giving it a fresh, crisp and bright hit in the mouth almost zingy.  Although fairly dry, there was a hint of sweetness as well which was appealing.

Overall thought this was pretty decent and probably worth the full price, I will say that it was even better 24hrs later as I had a little drop left, the flavours were more intense almost like a fresh fruit salad with a touch of cream. I also think that this would probably be even better aged for a little longer.

Lastly, the Mo Salinas Monastrell 2013 and definitely my favourite, from the Alicante region of south east Spain, which had a some what rustic charm about it. Made mostly with Monastrell (aka Mourvedre) with a splash of Garnacha and Cabernet.

Chilled this for about ten minutes as I often do with my reds. In the glass is was a deep purple with a nose of ripe bramble fruit, some smoke and a savoury, slightly earthy smell. On tasting this was medium bodied, with bright dark fruits, some spice, liquorice,  hint of oak. There was a hit of acidity giving it a fresh mouth-watering feel and it had moderate but noticeable tannins.

Nothing to complex but a very enjoyable bottle that I would certainly buy again and I have no hesitation in recommending if you want a fairly inexpensive midweek red.

6corks

Head Honcho Chardonnay 2015

My Rating 6/10 Corks

 

7.5corks

Zalze Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2016

My Rating 7.5/10 Corks

 

8corks

Mo Salinas Monastrell 2013

My Rating 8/10 Corks

Rioja Recognises Awards 2016

rioja-logoOn 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.

riojarecognises7
Sarah Jane Evans MW

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.

riojarecognises2The 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’.

riojarecognises10

 

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.

rioja-recognises-wine-list
List of the final wines selected from the earlier 10×10 tasting

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.

Special mention for the ‘Atlanza Reserva Especial 2010‘ Bright and lively, good balance, touch of oak and ripe tannins.

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.

riojarecognises3riojarecognises4riojarecognises5

El Corte Ingles – The Delivery Saga

El corte InglesI don’t often order things from abroad mainly due to shipping costs and the time it takes to arrive but when I saw a wine deal from the Spanish retailer ‘El Corte Ingles‘ it seemed too much of a bargain to let it go so I took the plunge, as did a few of our guys from Cuvee Reserve (an online wine forum I’m a member of) but as you will read, there was mixed results although things did end up on a positive note. Here’s the deal…

  • Brand: ALEJANDRO FERNANDEZ
  • Features: Includes:
  • 2 x 75 cl bottles of Dehesa La Granja 2007 Vijo red wine from la Tierra de Castilla y León
  • 2 x 75 cl bottles of El Vínculo Crianza 2010 red wine DO Castilla La Mancha
  • 2 x 75 cl bottles of Pesquera Crianza 2012 red wine DO Ribera de DueroEl Corte ingles deal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

casa de la vina
Extra bottle , superb Tempranillo

Six bottles for £47 with free delivery and for first time customers if I spent over £50 I would get £10 off with a Promo Code. Now I know the Pesquera sells in the UK for around £20 per bottle so this seemed like a really good deal. I scoured their site online and looked for another suitable single bottle to take the order over £50 and found a Tempranillo for £10 which took my spend to £57, so with the £10 off the final total was £47 which works out at roughly £6.70 a bottle, I think you’ll agree quite a bargain.

It was on February 27th that I ordered the case online and got a confirmation from El Corte that they were processing the order as did my friends on Cuvee Reserve, so far so good. Then the problems started. the confirmation stated that the order would arrived within 15 days and a couple of us got a further email saying that the order had been dispatched, no dispatch for me though.

Then the second email arrived for some, not me, stating that there has been a delay in shipping due to an issue with the courier. On March 11th I got my first email telling me that my order had been cancelled with no explanation, I emailed them back and got this response…………

Our head managers have just informed that unfortunately there was an issue on your order during shipping and it could not be sorted out in reasonable time.
Since wines quality may be affected,  we regret we had to cancel your order. 

Our managers have issued a 30% discount code for all the inconveniences we have caused. EC130′ Please accept our apologies.

I then received this…………..

Please accept our apologies. There was an issue on our system which prevented your order to be shipped.
That does not mean that we can not send new wines deliveries. In fact, our wines are still available now on our site.  It has been an isolated problem.
About your code, we have requested our managers to activate it for you. Our apologies for that.
As soon as we have their answer, we will get back to you.

Customer services assured me that no money has been taken, others on Cuvee Reserve all got similar emails either about delays or cancellations. As the deal was so good I decided to carry on and made the decision to cancel the order in writing and re-order  as the offer was still available. Then I got this email on March 14th…

We confirm there is no payment done into your order 342686 
About the order 347875, we have found stock delay, we expect new stock to arrive this week.

Followed by this on March 15th…

We regret to inform that your order is delayed. We expect it will be shipped during
the last week of March.
We apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused you.

Corte ingles damge
Friends case , remarkably only one bottle damaged and not the Pesquera

Completely fed up I decided to just wait and see what happens, in the mean time some of my Cuvee reserve friends finally got their cases delivered one on April 6th and another on April 12th although the second delivery was damaged (see picture) Corte Ingles did offer him 50% of his money back, which made it an unbelievable deal. Others got fed up and cancelled completely. Finally my order also arrived on the 12th April intact (actually surprisingly well packaged)  but six weeks and numerous emails after my initial order.

Corte ingles bottles
My order safe and sound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would I order from them again ? yes probably, if the deal is good (still got the 30% discount code). On the plus side the wines I’ve tasted so far have been superb and more than make up for this unfortunate saga.

Xarel-lo 2014

Xarel-loCan’t pronounce it and never heard of it I hear you cry but if you look on most bottles of Spanish Cava you will find Xarel-lo is one of the three main grapes used to make their fabulous sparkling wines.

This bottle is a 100% Xarel-lo (pronounced Shre-lo) made in the Penedes region of north-east Spain and not a bubble in sight. It’s a still wine that is wonderfully fresh and vibrant and has a Cava/Champagne flavour without the fizz although there is a slight zingy after-taste.

When poured it was very clear straw like colour with a very pronounced nose of peaches and cream, lemon curd and freshly buttered toast.

On first sip it is extremely bright with a sharp acidic kick. Again the peaches are there with apricots and some limes thrown in the mix but there is also a hint of rich creaminess about it.

Maybe not to everyone’s taste as this wine still has a sharp almost sour flavour but mixed with the richness the wonderful fruit and the slight breadiness this is a very good, unusual, interesting wine and I really liked it. Chilled on a hot summers day this would be perfect.

 

8corks

My Rating 8/10 Corks

M&S  £10 ( bought on offer for £7)