Tag Archives: Spain

Pretty simple, simply pretty (Rias Baixas, Spain – Day One)

Travelling around Europe these past six months I have encountered a select few regions that exemplify my general philosophy of elegance in simplicity, and that there are varieties that express their origin much better than others but should only be grown in certain places. I have mentioned a few of these in the past, but it is safe to say that I would add the albarino variety and Rias Baixas to these lists. Many people have compared albarino to riesling which is a pretty fair assessment, not only for the fact that the wines are generally made without oak in a fresh mineralic style, but also the tendency for mature albarino wines to acquire the same oily aromas and viscosity that riesling does. It is the first reason that I feel so strongly about these wines, as albarino can be amazingly uncomplicated and unpretentious yet filled with character and style, the purest expression you can imagine. These are wines that everyone can enjoy for various reasons, and also everyone can afford. With so little influence from the winemaker there is really nothing to hide; if you don’t have good grapes then you don’t have good wine. Pretty simple really but with the propensity to use so many techniques to influence wines in the winery I think this is lost somehow, and the wines are thought of merely as simple. Why should all white wine be made like white burgundy?
A beautiful albarino leaf

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Castro Martin – 20/07/2012

2011 Albarino A2O
Clean fresh very fruit-strong citrus lychee lime. Vibrant fresh fruit, quite tight and some nice sharpness. Looking a little too linear and sharp at the moment, needs to settle a little before bottling.

2011 Albarino Family Estate
More subdued fruit and more floral notes, slightly richer but softer in it’s ripe citrus notes. Fuller texture and ripeness, even a little fruit sweet viscosity. Less sharp, but no less focused. More of a textural extension on the palate.

Val do Salnes 2010
Showing much more minerality, looking slightly tired and fat, but still retaining plenty of freshness and fruit characters. Riper and more viscous and round, matured nicely.

Family Estate 2010
More subtle and complex on the nose, slightly flintier and finer, slightly green and herbal notes. Wonderful lines, crisp straight and pure, zippy yet textured and characterful through the palate. Finesse and brightness with mineral concentration, very slight floral notes.

Angela and Andrew at Bodegas Castro Martin

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Pazo Senorans – 20/07/2012

Albarino 2011
Lovely and flinty, very crisp and fresh, wonderful citrus and dried floral elements, nice purity and life. Nice lines, purity and freshness, quite precise but not sharp, very light.

Seleccion de Anada 2005
Lovely intense nose, showing candied floral, oily and slightly tropical ripe, really opening up. Creamy texture. Some very delicate cheese elements, ripe fruit texture but losing the sweetness on the palate, a little savoury and mealy in the mouth, in fact it has excellent mouth-feel.

Pazo Senorans wines

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Eidosela – 19/07/2012

Arbastrum Condado de Tea 2011
Grassy green fresh citrus melon citrus apricot. Clean fresh precise, nice ripeness and richness of fruit, some subtle floral elements, kiwi and guava, good texture and depth but over-delivering on the freshness, acids and personality.

Eidosela Albarino 2011
A little brighter and fresher, more floral and fruit sweet, apricots and citrus. Full textured and rich but very light and fresh, textured and very slightly green in a nice way, a bit of bite and zing. Focus and drive on the palate, with a juxtaposition of sweet and green fruit.

Eidosela Albarino Espumante 2010
Nice fine bead, bright yellow green colours. Closed on the nose, but showing potential. Classic albarino fruit character, no yeast autolysis influence, good acids and freshness, really no more than a sparkling albarino. Just with a fine bead.

Seleccion Albarino 2009
Very quiet fruit. Ripe rich and more volume and texture, showing a little sweeter and a little more viscous. Bold yet restrained, not seeing as much fruit on the palate, some very late caramel nut characters.

Eidosela Albarino 2011

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Valminor – 19/07/2012

Valminor Albarino 2011
Lovely grassy citrus notes, slightly floral and perfumed, some depth but just good solid fruit on the nose. Fresh fruits and acidity, vibrant texture and intensity. Great structure and flavours across the palate, fresh and vibrant but not one-dimensional. Body and expression.

Darila Blanco 2011 (albarino, loureiro, treixadura)
Slightly more brooding and intense, interesting character coming from the blend and/or the lees contact, deeper more honeyed notes, less citrus and floral. Finer broader and less fruit-driven, more lean through the palate, less expressive, more minerality and more sea influence.

Villa L100 2010 (loureiro)
Riper and more intense, more grassy and herbal, showing some toasty honey spice notes, along with some very delicate floral aromas. Riper and yet more subtle and soft, more textural but quite light, ripe yet fresh, citrus tropical notes and some very delicate honey sweetness.

Villa M100 2009 (albarino, louriero, caino blanco)
Denser and crunchier, quite noticeable influence from oak. More texture and body, slightly more warmth and crunch, nice partnership with the fruit, not overly expressive, more about the mouth-feel. A tad aggressive for now, perhaps due to vintage and youth.

Villa M100 2007
More golden oily colour. Honeyed maturity, more oily and rich on the nose, ageing a little quickly. Deeper darker notes, but still fresh and very delicate. Oak has softened out and gained some complexity. Very fine and rich wine, but not flabby at all.

Albarino leaf

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The Sherry Revolution (Jerez, Spain – Day Two)

As I talked about in my previous post, most people think sweet when they think sherry, but there is far more to it. Different styles were developed over time, but essentially the principle of the fortification process was to allow the wines to age in an oxidative process whereby barrels were not completely filled and in the case of the dry styles a thin layer of yeast was allowed to form on the surface of the wine known as flor. With the sweeter and higher alcohol wines this flor does not exist and are thus more oxidative in nature, and often age for longer both in solera and bottle. After all, if the wine is already oxidised in the barrel it hardly matters if you drink it several months after opening the bottle. With the sherry rainbow of styles on offer, it actually means that sherry is a versatile and unique companion to food. Possibly one of the most famous food matches with manzanilla for example, is freshly grilled sardines which are very salty and pair perfectly with the fresh acids of the sherry. There is currently a sherry revolution as new generations are discovering this ancient wine style, most notably in London and New York. Several wine experts still maintain that sherry is woefully undervalued and I couldn’t agree more. It just takes a little while to understand the wine, and shake the image of it being for old fuddy-duddies.
Can you tell I’m missing home?

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Hitting the flor (Jerez, Spain – Day One)

What comes to mind when you hear the word sherry? Depending on where you are from, the most likely response is little old ladies of British descent sipping on sweet wine out of small glasses. Considering the history of this particular wine this image is makes a lot of sense, but certainly isn’t 100% accurate. There is a certain irony in the fact that many of the sweet wines in the world were actually heavily targeted towards the British markets of the past, possibly none more so than sherry. They even designed specialty wines for them, most notably cream sherry which is still today the most familiar style to consumers in many parts of the world. Sherry wine as it is today is one of the oldest wine styles in the world, dating back to the Moors who introduced distillation and fortification over a thousand years ago. The British fell in love with the wine after Francis Drake sacked Cadiz and took several thousand casks back to England, and since then the UK has been their biggest market. To maintain consistency a system was devised to always have a constant supply, and this was the solera system. A minimum of four rows of barrels were stacked, and a minimum of three times a year the barrels are filled one-third from the top down. In the past this was done by hand using jugs, but today the wine is transferred to tanks and blended before being passed down. Therefore you can bottle sherry three times a year, which is important for the drier styles which are much better when they are fresh. With the higher alcohol fortification the wine can live longer in the bottle even after opening, which is why it is so common to find really old bottles in your grandparents bars. But the dry styles really need to be drunk within six months of bottling, as they tend to become a bit tired. Not easy for us down in Australia, hence my desire to taste from the solera when I visited. The two producers I visited are some of the oldest and most important in the region.

The first of many attempts to remove some sherry from the solera

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Sea change (Malaga, Spain)

What motivates people to step away from their comfort zones and start a new adventure in an unfamiliar place? This is a question that I ask myself quite regularly as I make my journey around the world, and encounter people who somehow have ended up somewhere far from their roots, much like myself. In my travels I have encountered viticulturalists and winemakers who are working in a region or country not their own, mostly for the love and challenge of great wine. Everything from Kiwis in the United States, South Africans in Canada, to Swiss in Germany and Spain, and Germans in Italy. And without question there are French everywhere, which is probably to do with the fact that outside of France there are more opportunities to create a reputation for themselves and build something from the ground up. This has particularly been the case in Spain, with at least six wineries I have visited being either founded by a French winemaker or at least employing one.

A cortijo where moscatel grapes are left to dry in the sun

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Vote for pedro (Montilla-Moriles, Spain)

Quite often on my trip I show my ignorance and/or naivety when it comes to wine. This isn’t hard to believe considering how big the wine world is, how many wineries and how many regions there are. It was one of the first things that excited me about working with wine, is that it is essentially impossible to know everything about wine, but I liked the challenge regardless. Sometimes these instances are a little more embarrassing, such as not knowing what the whole left bank-right bank thing referred to. My former employer King & Godfree prides itself on the range of fortified wines it stocks, particularly their sherries, so I was familiar with the different styles and many of the better known houses. So when I got in contact with one of my favourite producers noting my dates in Jerez, I was very embarrassed to discover that they aren’t even in the same province. The surprises didn’t stop there, as I had one of my most enlightening visits in Spain.
Dreams can come true

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The heat is on (Yecla, Spain)

I’d just like to point out a few things about myself and where I come from. It is true that I come from Australia, which is very hot and dry and is famous for the outback and the beaches, the latter I am familiar with but not the former. I’ve spent 29 summers in Australia, and I know how hot it can get. The part of Australia I am from is far from the hottest in the country, and is actually more famous for the rain. Particularly in winter it can get pretty chilly (rarely below zero), and doesn’t fit the image of Australia that most people may have. Thus I was somewhat unprepared for example, for the desert like conditions of Mendoza in Argentina, where the sun beats mercilessly down for 16 hours a day with very little respite or anywhere to hide. Nor was I prepared for southern Spain, particularly in the centre of the country, where you can easy go through six t-shirts in a day through sweat alone. Priorat and Montsant were pretty hot, but this was worse because it seems much drier. In a way it did remind me of some very well-known regions in Australia, and I wasn’t surprised that famed Barossa winemaker Chris Ringland is actually making wine in this part of Spain. What did surprise me is that there hasn’t been more investment in the Yecla region, as the potential to make the kind of wines the markets are crying out for is outrageous. With very little time to spend I was able to visit the cooperative winery, which is doing an outstanding job bringing Yecla to Spain and the world.
Sadly it is empty

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