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Great-value reds back to 1978 EVERYDAY SPANISH BUYS Exciting diversity from just £8
10 winemakers hitting new heights in Spain
EXPERT INSIGHTS Priorat, top Rioja bodegas and Ribera del Duero
ALSO • Travel: Vinho Verde & San Sebastián • Galician & Txakolí whites
BUYING GUIDE 83 Introduction 84 Steven Spurrier’s fine wine world Decanter’s consultant editor picks fine wines for drinking and laying down, priced from £25
86 Weekday wines Christelle Guibert recommends 25 great-value wines on the UK shelves for under £25
89 Mature Rioja 95 wines tasted No other region can rival its wealth of quality, aged wines at such value, said our experts
48 72 Ribeira and me: a complex relationship
From sparkling wines to Sherry and everything in between Sarah Jane Evans MW picks out her favourites, starting from just £6
Sarah Jane Evans MW looks at why these highly rated Spanish reds are hard to love and meets the producers determined to change that
36 Spain’s young guns Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW chats to 10 new-generation winemakers who stand out from the crowd, setting new standards for their industry
48 Priorat: high ambitions
101 Galician whites 96 wines tasted A look beyond Albariño to the other indigenous whites of this northwest Spanish region
110 Expert’s choice: Txakolí The lower alcohol and fresh fruit notes of these coastal northern Spanish whites are fast winning new admirers, says Sarah Jane Evans MW
80 Meet the almacenistas You won’t know the names of these bodegas, but you should seek out their aged Sherry, says Paula MacLean
Andrew Jefford meets the producers searching for balance and terroir character in this extreme corner of Spain
60 My top 10 Rioja producers
112Travel: Vinho Verde
The joy of terroir Urizar vineyard, Biscay, Spain
A month in wine Obituaries: Bruno Giacosa and Robert G Wilmers
12 Letters 20 Events November 2017 Decanter Fine Wine Encounter
118Notes & queries Cloudy glasses, vines in freezing weather, world’s oldest vine
It was a hard task, but Tim Atkin MW managed to whittle his own list of top winemakers and producers down to just 10
SUBSCRIBE to Decanter from only £48.49 and save up to 25% For full details, visit www.decantersubs.com/14DK
Columnists 6 14 16 18
John Stimpfig Andrew Jefford Jane Anson Hugh Johnson
Portugal’s northern wine region is the ideal getaway, says André Ribeirinho
116Travel: My San Sebastián Juan Muga gives us his insider’s guide
Collectors 122Market watch 124Fine wine price watch 130Wine legends Recaredo, Turó d’en Mota 1999 Don’t miss Decanter’s Spain & Portugal Fine Wine Encounter on Saturday 24 February. See p22 for details
D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 3
Cover photograph: Mike Prior
24 30 Spanish wines for everyday drinking
Written by Laura Seal
The joy of terroir
The Urizar vineyard covers 2ha of lush hillsides in Etxano, just outside Bilbao in the Basque Country’s Biscay province. It was created in 2003 when Gorka Izagirre planted Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia vines beside the stone farmhouse pictured, now his family home. The south-facing vines of this white variety grow in shallow clay-loam soils over marl bedrock, which are well-adapted to the region’s steep slopes and rainy conditions. Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia is one of the three main indigenous grapes used to make Txakolí (see p110). Izagirre keeps it as a varietal or blends it with Hondarrabi Zuri to make wines particular to the Txakolí de Bizkaia appellation: light-bodied, mineral and low in alcohol. In winter, the Urizar vineyard is occupied by a herd of Latxa sheep, owned by a local shepherd who makes the area’s prized Idiazabal cheeses. Taste top Spanish wines at our Spain and Portugal Fine Wine Encounter (see p22)
4 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
Urizar vineyard, Biscay, Spain
D E C A N T E R â€¢ M a r c h 2018 | 5
John Stimpfig â€˜Miguel Torres continues to make a difference â€“ and not just in wineâ€™
MIGUEL TORRES IS an example of all that is good in life and wine. Now aged in his 70s, the president of Bodegas Torres and 2002 Decanter Man of the Year is learning Russian, playing his guitar and travelling the world. Heâ€™s no longer involved in day-to-day decision making at the global winery group, but that doesnâ€™t mean he has slowed down. Arguably, the opposite is true; he continues to make a difference â€“ and not just in wine. Most recently, he was rallying support for his beloved city of Barcelona which has suffered in the wake of a terrorist attack and the divisive Catalan independence movement. His consuming passion, however, is the fight against climate change. This began in 2007 when he saw the film An Inconvenient Truth: â€˜Afterwards, I said to my wife, â€œwe have to do something for the sake of our vineyardsâ€?.â€™ Since then, Torres has immersed himself in climate science and become a vigorous and effective campaigner. Moreover, as reported on Decanter.com, Bodegas Torres has spent more than â‚Ź12m on a range of technologies to reduce its own carbon footprint. This is already paying dividends. By 2020 Bodegas Torres plans to reduce its CO2 emissions per bottle by 30%. And by 2030, Torres expects all the groupâ€™s wineries to be carbon neutral. â€˜This isnâ€™t a pipe dream; we will make it happen,â€™ he asserts. â€˜Climate change is the biggest challenge facing the wine industry. In PenedĂ¨s, the harvest takes place 10 days earlier than a decade ago, so we need to act.â€™ With regard to adapting its own viticulture, Torres has explored measures to delay grape ripening. These include changing plant density and using more drought-resistant rootstocks. It is also planting at cooler altitudes and latitudes. Additionally, for more than 30 years the group has been actively recovering and reviving ancient Catalan (and Chilean) grape varieties. Because many have high natural acidity and are well adapted to a hot climate, they give Torres another tool in the war against global warming. Though planted in small quantities so far, several of the most interesting are nearly ready for commercial release and promise to be worthy additions to Bodegas Torresâ€™ innovative and impressive portfolio. Look out for the exciting white Forcada variety, which is set to appear next year. You definitely wonâ€™t be disappointed. D
John Stimpfig is content director of Decanter Taste top Torres wines at our Decanter Spain and Portugal Fine Wine Encounter on Saturday 24th February. See p22 for details
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A month in wine
Photograph: Gerard Uferas, Clay McLachlan/Cephas
All the important issues affecting you across the globe, compiled by Richard Woodard
Robert G Wilmers
BRUNO GIACOSA DIED on the night of 21 January, in Alba’s San Lazzaro hospital, aged 88. He had reportedly suffered from ill health for some time. Giacosa had attained legendary status among Barolo producers, having been part of a new wave of winemakers in Piedmont in the 1960s. Bottling Barolo and Barbaresco wine since that decade, Giacosa acquired his own vineyards in 1982. His Falletto vineyard in Serralunga would go on to become one of the finest crus of the Langhe. He would later buy Barbaresco vineyards, mainly in Neive, and other prime Barolo parcels, including in La Morra, while also managing vineyards owned by other growers. From his first apprenticeship at the family winery, he showed his propensity for breaking with tradition, selecting bought-in grapes and bottling on the basis of vineyard site. Giacosa was most recently featured in Decanter’s 2018 Italy Guide (published with the February 2018 issue) in Richard Baudains’ ‘Italian icons’ article. ‘Behind those dark-rimmed spectacles lies one of Italy’s greatest wine producers of all time,’ wrote Baudains. ‘Giacosa once said that he preferred his wines to speak for him and this perhaps explains his legendary perfectionism.’ Giacosa was perhaps most celebrated for his riservas, regarded as some of the most masterly expressions of Nebbiolo. His artful handling of the white Arneis grape has also earned him wide acclaim for his Roero wines. Winemaker Dante Scaglione left his long-held position in 2008, replaced by Giorgio Lavagna. But Scaglione returned to work with Giacosa from 2011. No Barolo or Barbarescos were bottled from the 2006 vintage, a decision made in 2009 because Giacosa was ‘not satisfied that the Barolos and Barbarescos produced met his exacting standards’. After Giacosa suffered a stroke in 2006, his two daughters, Bruna and Marina, aided their father in running the estate during his recovery.
ROBERT G WILMERS, known widely as Bob Wilmers, died suddenly and unexpectedly at his home in Buffalo, New York, on the night of 16 December, aged 83. Owner of Château Haut-Bailly in Pessac-Léognan since 1998, and neighbouring Château Le Pape since 2012, he was also the long-term CEO of M&T Bank, which he grew into one of the biggest financial institutions in the US. Investor Warren Buffet said of him, when learning of his death, ‘he was a remarkable banker, an even more remarkable citizen and wonderful friend’. In Bordeaux, he will be remembered for elevating Haut-Bailly into one of the region’s leading estates, investing in both vineyard and cellar, while putting his full trust in the talents of its director, Véronique Sanders. Wilmers once said of the estate, ‘I am awed by the whole place. The first thing I do when I arrive back after being away is get reacquainted, starting with a stroll around the vineyards. Haut-Bailly has a soul, an elegance, a subtlety that it has had for generations – our work is just to keep making tiny adjustments that build on its past.’ In 2017 he was awarded ‘Officer’ status in France’s Legion of Honour system, in recognition of his charity work and contribution to French wine. Services of remembrance were held in New York City, Buffalo and Bordeaux. Significantly, Wilmers chose to be buried in his beloved Bordeaux, rather than his native US. Wilmers is survived by his wife Elisabeth Roche Wilmers, his son Chris and grandchildren Dylan and Theodore, as well as four step-children and 11 step-grandchildren. Château Haut-Bailly announced that Chris Wilmers will take over the running of the estate from his father, alongside its director, Véronique Sanders. ‘We will write a new chapter to match the ambitions expressed by my father for Haut-Bailly’, said Chris Wilmers, who will also head up Château Le Pape. ➢ D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 9
A month in wine Around the wine world Bordeaux wine magnate tied up and burgled at home Multi-millionaire businessman Bernard Magrez, owner of Château Pape-Clément in Pessac-Léognan among other wine estates worldwide, has been attacked at his home in Bordeaux’s city centre. Magrez, 81, was assaulted between 3am and 4am on 12 January, according to French newspaper Sud-Ouest. Armed with a knife, a screwdriver and possibly a handgun, up to five men burst into Magrez’s home and tied him up before ransacking the house. They took luxury watches, cash, art and other valuables before escaping in Magrez’s car. Magrez remained bound until 7am, by which time he managed to loosen his ties and call police. Although shaken by the ordeal, Magrez was reportedly unhurt. According to police, the thieves would have had to follow Magrez for several
Bernard Magrez days and know the area well enough to carry out the attack. As well as owning several Bordeaux wine estates, Magrez has also invested significantly in the region’s wine tourism, such as his La Grande Maison restaurant and in support for the Cité du Vin wine cultural centre. He has recently expanded his wine portfolio further to include a parcel of vines in St-Estèphe, in order to create a new, small-scale wine label.
High-tech Coravin and app on sale in September Coravin is planning to release an automated version of its wine preservation gadget, together with an app that can match wines with music. Coravin Model Eleven was demonstrated at the CES 2018 tech show in Las Vegas in January and is set to cost $999.95 when released globally in September. It works in the same way as earlier models, in terms of its ability to extract wine from the bottle without pulling the cork, but the new version has automated features to tell owners when the wine is ready to pour. Using Bluetooth, Model Eleven can be connected to a new app, Coravin Moments. Coravin partnered with Delectable, the app acquired by online wine publication Vinous, to provide information on the wines for Coravin Moments. The Moments app can also match wines with food, music or films, as well as flag up when it is time to order replacement needles and argon gas capsules.
UK retailers renew focus on vegan wines
Signorello rebuild ‘symbol’ of Napa renewal after fires
UK supermarket Co-op has said it plans to expand its vegan wine range to 100 labels this year and has challenged its suppliers ‘to make wines vegan where they can’. Rival retailer Majestic Wine has added vegan and vegetarian symbols to the wine details on its relaunched website, saying: ‘Vegan wines will not have been fined, filtered or come into contact with anything derived from an animal or dairy source.’ Traditional fining agents, like egg whites or casein (milk protein), are used by some wineries, but there is no legal requirement to state this on wine labels in the EU or US.
The owners of Signorello Estate have started plans for rebuilding after the Napa winery was razed by fires in September. Ray Signorello Jr has hired Taylor Lombardo Architects and Nordby Construction – companies which have worked on other Napa wineries. New features will include an estimated 745m2 space for ageing wines, alongside a professional kitchen for food pairing. ‘The world saw Signorello as the face of the Napa fires,’ said the partners of Taylor Lombardo. ‘Soon they will see it as a leading symbol of the region’s comeback.’
10 | M a r c h 2 018 • D E C A N T E R
In brief ■ Alfred Georgis was sentenced to 37 months in prison for conspiring to transport more than $500,000 worth of wine, stolen on Christmas Day 2014 from Michelin-starred restaurant The French Laundry in Yountsville, Napa. Georgis admitted to being involved in the heist, which involved the burglary of 110 bottles of wine, including Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Screaming Eagle and Dom Pérignon. Davis Kiryakoz, his co-conspirator, is currently serving a 15-month prison sentence. ■ Ian Harris, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours for his services to the wine and spirit industry. Since Harris joined as chief executive in 2002, annual candidate numbers have risen from 10,000 to 85,000. In addition, Gerard Basset OBE, MW, MS, MBA, OIV MSc has received the Mérite Agricole from the French Ambassador, for his work in promoting the wines of France. ■ Kent-based winery Chapel Down has launched its own line of gin and vodka. Both spirits are made from distilled grape skins left over from the 2016 harvest. The gin is made from Bacchus grape skins and the vodka from Chardonnay skins. ■ A golden ticket to see inside Moët Hennessy’s Shangri-La winery in the remote mountains of China was on offer at January’s 2018 Naples Winter Wine Festival auction. Organisers said the lot included an allexpenses-paid trip for two couples to visit the winery and meet the team behind the project in Yunnan province. It is the first Chinese winery package to be offered at the annual charity auction. Stay up to date with the latest wine news on Decanter.com, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter @Decanter
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Enraged or inspired by what you’ve read? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: The Editor, Decanter, Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Street, London SE1 0SU, UK
Champagne and age I ENJOYED JOHN Stimpfig’s reflections on ‘agedefying Champagnes’ (January 2018 issue) – wines that improve over decades, ‘sometimes even centuries’. What a contrast with your Champagne tasting in the same edition. Here three experts unanimously deemed André Jacquart’s 2008 ‘Outstanding’. So, how many decades might this wine, from a great vintage, last and improve? The drinking span given was just four years, to 2022. And Michael Edwards called the wine ‘a true classic, a real keeper’! So who do we believe? I recently enjoyed a bottle of Perrier-Jouët’s Belle Epoque 1996. It was only towards the end of my second glass that it started to open up. My conclusion is that the wine would benefit from further cellarage. So I am with John Stimpfig on this. Howard Ripley, by email I recently told a friend that my wife and I had Dom Pérignon 2004 on New Year’s Eve. I’ve wondered ever since whether I misrecalled the vintage. I’m certain it was 2004 but, living in California, I don’t expect a sparkling wine to last 12 years. It was the best Champagne I’ve ever tasted. Mr Stimpfig has educated me that what I thought was aged was just a baby. Curt Fry, Sacramento, CA
Cork vs screwcap IN 2004 I bought 24 bottles of 2003 spätlese Riesling direct from Weingut Gunderloch in Rheinhessen, Germany – a dozen under cork and a dozen under screwcap. After cellaring them for two years, I decided to taste a bottle of each, blind, every year with friends. In the early years, preferences tended to be evenly split. After five years, however (most recently in September 2017), it was agreed that the bottle under cork was superior to the screwcap – lively and fresh compared with dull and flat. I contacted Agnes Hasselbach from the estate with this information. She was not surprised by the results with a sweeter wine, but said the restaurant trade and their overseas customers demand screwcaps. With UK supermarkets being the biggest marketplace for wines, bottles are generally opened within a week of purchase. This explains the demise of fine Riesling, which often demands patience to show its real glory and potential. And commands a certain price. Robin A Head, by email
Letter of the month Patience rewarded WHEN IS THE right time to open an old wine? All too often we end up leaving the bottle for another day… And thus we arrive at my 65th birthday in December 2017. The time has arrived! A 1975 Croizet-Bages had lain undisturbed under the stairs for 25 years but my heart sank on retrieving it; the level was halfway down the shoulder. I pressed on. The capsule disintegrated, and the cork was soggy – then crumbled. I’d already decided not to decant, fearing that aeration would simply bring it on and kill it off too quickly. A tea strainer served the purpose well. The aroma was unremarkable. The colour was rich red, the rim light but not brown. But the taste! The most delicious, soft, and rounded flavour; everything I could want a claret to deliver! So fellow amateurs, take heart. The vintage may not be lauded, the low level may horrify, and every step of opening your treasure may go wrong. But keep the faith – it may yet exceed your wildest dreams. And that’s what makes collecting fine wines so special. Ray Roberts, Surrey
WIN A MAGNUM OF CHAMPAGNE BOLLINGER Wine is all about opinions, so why not share yours? If you are amused, enraged or intrigued by anything you’ve read in Decanter or Decanter.com, write or email us at the address listed above. Each month the sender of our star letter will receive a magnum of Champagne Bollinger, courtesy of Mentzendorff, the UK agent (www.mentzendorff.co.uk).
Jefford’s Burgundy woes ANDREW JEFFORD’S DREADFUL luck with Burgundy (January 2018) is as unfortunate as it is difficult to explain – premature oxidation did not really originate until the mid 1990s. If someone offered me a well-stored bottle of Leflaive’s 1992 Chevalier-Montrachet now, I’d be very excited. As for the 1999 Bonneau du Martray, Corton-Charlemagne, yes, there were problems, though the domaine has graciously replaced any dead bottles I’ve suffered. On Jefford’s red Burgundies, I’m shocked – both at the then prices and his ill luck. I can’t opine on the merits of Rousseau’s Chambertin 1990, but from my limited experience of top domaines, I believe these subtle wines take time to shine. As for village wines, one is being unfair to expect much structure or complexity, though for me this year Domaine Leroy’s 1998 and 2000 Pommards defied hierarchical gravity, though the prices required today are also stratospheric. I hope his luck will turn. Adrian Latimer, Paris
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Andrew Jefford ‘2017 must be one of the most disaster-strewn years since phylloxera’ AS YOU READ this, the vine-pruners of the northern hemisphere will be finishing their lonely winter’s work. The sap will soon rise and the pruning cuts weep – and a new year will be underway. What horrors await for 2018? Apologies for the phrasing, but 2017 must be regarded as one of the most disaster-strewn years the wine world has endured since the onset of phylloxera. It would be imprudent not to prepare for more of the same. Or worse. Savage April frosts, the typically random depredations of hail, and fierce summer heat gave both France and Italy their smallest crop for more than 50 years in 2017, with Spain barely faring better. Around half the world’s wine comes from these three nations. Their shortages also followed poor 2016 harvests for both Chile and Argentina. Last year began with wildfires in some of Chile’s oldest vineyards, and in parts of South Africa’s winelands, too. Wildfire struck Portugal in June, and it then sprinted no less terrifyingly through northern California’s wine heartland in early October, before returning to Portugal and northern Spain in mid-October, and to southern California in December. The 2017 fire death toll in these three countries exceeded 150, a figure approaching the fatalities exacted by fire on Australia’s Black Saturday in February 2009. You might regard all of these events as isolated incidents, and consider 2017 an unlucky year. I’m not so sure. As I wrote in a blog on Decanter.com on 15 May last year (‘Big frost is back – but why?’), the April 2017 frosts may have been due to a disorderly polar vortex, caused in turn by warming oceans. Such frosts may therefore become a regular feature of European springs of the future, at a time when milder winters provoke ever earlier budburst. This would be a catastrophic combination for wine-growers. Drier, hotter summers for large wine-growing regions seem certain (2016 is at present the warmest year on record, with 2017 likely in either second or third place),
What I’ve been drinking this month Here’s an attractive varietal combination for moderate sites in warmer zones: Cabernet Franc and Syrah. Bone and bite from the former; flesh and caresses from the latter. I found the two together (plus a little bit of Grenache and Merlot) in a bottle of Château Ventenac, La Réserve de Jeanne 2015, grown in the Mediterranean-Atlantic zone of Cabardès, a southern French appellation sited just to the north of the city of Carcassonne. Served slightly cool, it was a perfect Sunday-lunch, roast-beef wine.
and will be a feature of decades to come. Vines will struggle with drought and with problems associated with heat-damage. The overall warming trend may mean that growers need to replant with later-ripening varieties or drought-resistant rootstocks – or, where possible, move vineyards to higher altitudes. The ever-present fire risk in landscapes with woody shrubland like garrigue – typical of the Mediterranean climate zones where most of the world’s vineyards are found – is already acute, as 2017 has comprehensively proved. Warming oceans, too, provide fuel for hurricanes and other extreme weather events (including hail storms in continental climate zones). The October 2017 fires in Spain and Portugal were in part caused by the remnant winds of hurricane Ophelia. Human-influenced climate change drives much of this, but there are other worrying developments too, assignable not so much to climate change as to human population pressure. The global population was 1 billion in the early 1800s; it reached 7 billion in 2012, and is predicted to peak at around 9.5 billion later this century. Every living human today impinges on the environment in a way that was inconceivable in 1800. One consequence is that 58% of the world’s animal life has been lost between 1970 and 2012, while some 75% of flying insects in one European country (Germany) disappeared between 1990 and 2017. Statistics of this sort are horrific enough to defy belief, yet they spring from credible scientific studies. The threat to the food web on which all human life depends is evident. Wine stands at the apex of agriculture, in that the most expensive plots of agricultural land are constituted by the world’s top vineyards, and the wines made from them represent the world’s most sought-after agricultural products. The tiniest nuances in the quality or quantity of the wine-grape crop consequently receive clamorous media attention. Wine is not a staple – but it matters enough to us for events like those of 2017 to hammer a warning bell: we must mitigate our effect on the environment. If you care, act. D
Andrew Jefford is a Decanter contributing editor and the Louis Roederer International Columnist of 2016 for this and his ‘Jefford on Monday’ column at Decanter.com/jefford
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Jane Anson ‘The ambition and drive you find in Ningxia is infectious’ THE SCALE OF the achievement in China’s Ningxia wine region was perhaps best brought home by Yanling Ren, chief winemaker at Pernod Ricard’s Helan Mountain Winery. She began at the winery 17 years ago as a vineyard worker, soon after it opened as a government-backed operation in 1997. She worked her way up through the ranks to her current job after it was taken over by Pernod Ricard in 2008 (first as a joint venture, now wholly owned), and is today in charge of making 74,000 cases each year from 132ha. Ren learned winemaking at Northwest University in Xi’an City and through on-thejob training, but is from the village where Helan Mountain is based, where her parents first planted a hectare of vines 25 years ago. As a child, her village and those nearby were regularly obliterated by sandstorms. These have almost entirely ceased since the local government bulldozed dunes and laid irrigation channels in the Gobi desert along the foothills of the Helan mountains to make way for the vines, planting swathes of forest as an extra windbreak. Today Ningxia Hui autonomous region is most dynamic wine area in China. Pernod Ricard’s impressive facility lies along a newly constructed road that takes you along hundreds of kilometres of vineyard (or potential vineyard) lined with wineries, none of which date beyond 1997, and the vast majority less than five years old. Cabernet Sauvignon is the main grape in the region, though there are some interesting experiments with Marselan, and the wines are racking up an impressive number of international awards. The ambition and drive you find in Ningxia is infectious; it took just a day before I was itching to make my own wine there. The local government offers long leases of 50 years for companies wishing to invest in wine, extended to 70 years if they build a winemaking facility, and hopes to more
What I’ve been drinking this month It’s a bit of a hobby right now, tasting the 2013 Bordeaux vintage, perhaps the trickiest of the past 20 years. My tip would be to take the 10-year rule that usually holds true for classified Bordeaux and halve it – broach your 2013s now! And ignore second wines and go for the firsts – the Château Brane Cantenac 2013 is a perfect example of why. A blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc, it is hugely enjoyable, with finesse, succulence and clever oak toasting. Drink now or over the next five years.
than double the existing 40,000ha of vines in the region over the next few years. It also offers equipment rental, oversees local vine nurseries to protect against trunk disease, funds sales and promotional trips, and has effectively used government policy to make wine a key pillar of the economic future of the region. Half of all overseas visitors to Ningxia come for this; it’s blindingly obvious why. For locals looking to break into the industry there is now a Ningxia wine university, started in 2011, that has 650 undergraduates and 150 masters and postgraduate students learning everything from viticulture to wine marketing under impressive teachers such as microbiologist Dr Gang Jin and oenologist Wen Ma, who did her post-doctorate in Bordeaux. To take all of this to the next level, the university has a lot resting on its shoulders. During a four-day visit to Ningxia we toured dozens of wineries, some recreated in the shape of Loire châteaux, others with traditional Chinese design. Their cellars were filled with the latest equipment, from horizontal presses to rows of new French oak barrels. And yet there were clear signs that basic winemaking best-practice was not always being followed. The main issues were TCA in corks, premature ageing or colour-loss in young wines, and harsh acidity levels. One of the most modern wineries I visited had left barrels empty without cleaning sufficiently, and had allowed acetic acid to take hold. Dr Jin said bottles were often not left upright for long enough, allowing the wine to leak before the cork fully expanded. Winemakers might also adjust the naturally low acidities of the region with too much tartaric acid at the wrong point in the winemaking process. Further issues can arise from well-meaning and often high-profile consultants who don’t spend enough time training cellar staff to continue with the job in their absence. The good news is that these issues are almost all easily fixed. And that is an inspiring lesson for all winemakers – in China or anywhere. Being meticulous about the details goes a lot further than a large cheque. D
Jane Anson is a Decanter contributing editor, and Louis Roederer International Feature Writer of 2016. Read her ‘Anson on Thursday’ blog on Decanter.com/anson
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Hugh Johnson ‘Has quality moved on from the heady days of the 1960s and ’70s?’ STYLISH PARTY GIVERS in the Napa Valley are busy these days. Many leading wineries are marking 50th birthdays: Robert Mondavi winery in 2016, Chappellet in 2017 and now Trefethen. In November, Janet Trefethen hosted a lunch to celebrate ‘about’ 50 years since her father-in-law Gene Trefethen bought and planted the Oak Knoll estate. It was also about 40 years since his 1976 Chardonnay was voted the best in the world in the Gault & Millau Wine Olympics. At lunch we drank the ’77; it was ‘still dancing’. 1976 was an embarrassing year for France: at Steven Spurrier’s Judgement of Paris tasting, another French jury voted Chateau Montelena’s Chardonnay the tops, and Stag’s Leap Cabernet finer than Bordeaux first growths. Hardly surprising, then, that California is opening its old vintages, pacing them against their French counterparts. At the Trefethen lunch, the 1974 Cabernet was full of fruit, deep, intense, with a hint of tar and Rioja-like oak; great character and style. A hint of volatility seasoned it perfectly. The 1984 was soft, creamy and nutty with fine length and a gentle, open palate. The 1999 (a late harvest) was still fresh, had a lovely baked currant nose and a faint whiff of cigar. Moving to the present, the 2015 was intense, with a lovely frank smell of ripe currants, huge vigour and a grainy mouthfeel that made me think of Haut-Brion. Ageing is not something most California vintners design their wines to do. Not many of even the $100-plus wines in liquor stores (and no French region offers as many labels in this price range as California) are left to rest even for a day before their corks are pulled. It’s fair, though, to ask whether the current wines of celebrated wineries are really better than their forebears. Has quality moved on since the heady days of the 1960s and ’70s, or even since the ’40s and ’50s, whose rare wines are still legends? There have certainly been changes in style. Modern judges – without naming names – don’t approve of the relatively lean, high-acid style of those far-off days. Part of this is because just-bottled wines need fat (and sugar) to make their tannins acceptable. American food, of course, provides a lot of both. Ambitious winemakers slather their trophy wines with the vinous equivalent of Teflon. It takes years to wear off. The question is what are you left with? And if the wine’s all been drunk, does it matter? D
Hugh Johnson OBE is a world-renowned wine writer
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Decanter Fine Wine Encounter The 20th editon of Decanter’s flagship event on 11-12 November attracted a sell-out crowd of 2,000 wine lovers. Guests had the chance to taste more than 600 wines from 100 producers who had flown in from around the globe, as well as attend exclusive Masterclasses and Discovery Theatres 1 2 Olivier Krug, director of Champagne Krug, led a Masterclass of eight wines, including Krug 1995 in magnum 3 Paolo De Marchi, owner of Chianti estate Isole e Olena, presented a Masterclass that included six vintages of his SuperTuscan Cepparello 4 Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, the DWWA joint Regional Chair for Spain & Sherry hosted the ‘Single-Vineyard Estates of Spain’ Discovery Theatre 5 Decanter’s Lindsay Greatbatch with Frédéric Barnier, chief winemaker of Burgundy domaine Louis Jadot, whose Masterclass explored eight vintages of its Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 6 7 Encounter visitors flocked to the Landmark London Hotel’s Grand Ballroom for the Grand Tasting, and could enjoy lunch in
the splendour of the Palm Court 8 Six vintages from 2016 to 1986 were showcased at the Château Lafon-Rochet Discovery Theatre 9 Marc Hochar, family owner of Chateau Musar, hosted a Masterclass covering five decades of the famous Lebanon estate 10 Christian Seely, managing director of AXA Millésimes, led Masterclass guests through 12 vintages of Château Pichon Baron 11 Grégory Viennois, Domaine Laroche winemaker, hosted a Discovery Theatre on ‘Premium Wines from Burgundy’ 12 A selection of wines tasted at the ‘China Conquers Cabernet with Chateau Changyu Moser XV’ Discovery Theatre, where Austrian winemaker Lenz Moser introduced his joint project in Ningxia.
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Photographs: Nina Assam (www.ninaassam.com); Stephen Howse (www.stevestills.com)
FINE WINE ENCOUNTER
SPAIN & PORTUGAL
24 FEBRUARY 2018 THE LANDMARK HOTEL LONDON NW1
Discover more than 350 of Spain and Portugal’s finest wines PORTUGUESE PRODUCERS INCLUDE: ALENTEJO - Casa Relvas - Grous - Herdade dos - Herdade do Esporao - Reynolds Wine Growers DOURO VALLEY - Chapoutier - Domingos Alves de Sousa - Douro Boys - Poças Júnior - Quinta da Boeira - Quinta da Romaneira - Quinta de Lemos - Quinta do Espinho - Quinta do Noval - Quinta dos Murças - Sogrape - Symington Family Estates - Wine & Soul
DÃO - Caminhos Cruzados - Magnum - Carlos Lucas - Soito Wines - Vinha Paz
- Ncampelo - Parras - Quinta do Sagrado - Vidigal Wines - ViniVerde
LISBON - Garrocha Wines - Quinta De Chocapalha
VINHO VERDE - Guapos Wine Project - Quinta da Pousada
MADEIRA - Henriques & Henriques
SPANISH PRODUCERS INCLUDE: ALICANTE - Bodegas Volver
SETÚBAL - Herdade do Portocarro VARIOUS REGIONS - Broadbent - Caves Do Casalinho - Caves São João - Garrocha Wines - José Maria da Fonseca - Lima Smith - ManzWine - Messias
BIERZO - Arturo Garcia - Prada a Tope - Viños de Arganza CASTILLA Y LEÓN - Abadia Retuerta - Castilla y Leon - D.O. Rueda - Tenoira Gayoso
CATALUÑA - D.O. Cataluña - Torres
- Viña Pedrosa - Viñedos Alonso del Yerro - Pago De Los Capellanes
- Viñedos y Bodegas Sierra Cantabria - Bodegas Murua
CAVA - Gramona - Pere Ventura
RIOJA - Familia Martínez Bujanda - Roda - Azores Wine Company - Bodegas Bhilar - Bodegas Corral - Bodegas Juan Carlos Sancha - Bodegas Muga - Bodegas Perica - Bohedal - Castillo de Cuzcurrita - Castillo de Sajazarra - Conde de los Andes - CVNE - El Coto de Rioja S.L. - La Rioja Alta, S.A - Marqués de Cáceres - Marques de Riscal - Muriel Wines - Remirez de Ganuza
TORO - Bodega Numanthia
MONTES DE TOLEDO - Dehesa Del Carrizal PRIORAT - Clos Galena - Ferrer Bobet - Marco Abella RIAS BAIXAS - Bodegas Fillaboa RIBEIRO - D.O. Ribeiro RIBEIRO DEL DUERO - Aalto - Bodegas Protos
VALDERRAS - O Luar do Sil VALENCIA - Chozas Carrascal VARIOUS REGIONS - Barbadillo - Bodegas Fariña - Bodegas Mustiguillo - Celler Ametller - El Escocés Volante - Gleva Estates - Màquina & Tabla - Matarromera
GRAND TASTING Â£55
11am A thrilling comparison of classic versus modern Spanish wines
Learn from the experts at Decanterâ€™s world-class tutored tastings. Masterclasses last 90 minutes. Tickets are sold separately to Grand Tasting tickets and places are strictly limited.
Book tickets today DISCOVERY THEATRE
In less than three weekâ€™s Spain and Portugalâ€™s top producers will attend this special Decanter Fine Wine Encounter to pour their wines for you. Your ticket gives you access to the Grand Tasting rooms throughout the day, so you can meet the winemakers and taste some of the best wines from all the key regions in the Iberian Peninsula. Donâ€™t miss out on your chance to taste hundreds of outstanding wines in one place.
LAST FEW TICKETS REMAINING
Speaker: Sarah Jane Evans MW, Co Chair of DWWA Join Sarah Jane Evans MW at an exceptional tasting of the best of Spain from north to south and east to west. In this comparative tasting, Sarah Jane has invited her unique contacts in the wine world to unlock their cellars and offer Decanter a selection of rare classics to taste alongside premium new wines to illustrate the dynamic changes at work in Spain today. 13 wines will be showcased from Jerez, Ribera del Duero, RÃas Baixas, Rioja and Priorat and the tasting will include the first appearance of Dominio de Pingus at a London Decanter Fine Wine Encounter event. This will be a fascinating masterclass and one not to miss. s 0AZO DE 3EÃ—ORANS 3ELECCIÃ˜N DE !Ã—ADA 2Ã“AS "AIXAS
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A series of informal tutored tastings featuring six great wines per session. Tickets are sold separately from Grand Tasting tickets. 11.30am Portugal â€“ a journey through authenticity and diversity
LAST FEW TICKETS
Explore a line up of celebrated vintages from some Portugalâ€™s best producers 1.45pm Vintage Rioja with Conde de los Andes Discover six top wines from one of Riojaâ€™s oldest cellars 4pm Ribeiroâ€™s top wines Now is the time to discover this exciting region, with Sarah Jane Evans MW
1.30pm Spanish masters of terroir from Rioja, Ribera and Bierzo
LAST FEW TICKETS REMAINING
Speakers: Ricardo Palacios from Descendientes de J. Palacios; Javier Zaccagnini from Aalto; Juan Carlos LÃ³pez de Lacalle from Artadi In this special masterclass a trio of top bodegas from three different Spanish regions showcase their finest wines.Widely regarded as visionaries and leaders, Descendientes de J. Palacios,Aalto and Artadi have each in their own way pioneered new paths to excellence.The Palacios family, who need no introduction on the Spanish wine scene, put the Bierzo region firmly on the map;Artadi famously left the Consejo Regulador de Rioja in the pursuit of a more terroir driven approach and Aaltoâ€™s winemaker Mariano GarcÃa was former winemaking director at Vega Sicilia for 30 years. Spainâ€™s most thrilling winemakers come together in this masterclass to bring you nine unforgettable wines to taste. s $ESCENDIENTES DE * 0ALACIOS 6ILLA DE #ORULLÃ˜N
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4pm Discover the ageing potential of Douro wines
Speakers: Francisco Ferreira from Quinta do Vallado; Miguel & TomÃ¡s Roquette from Quinta do Crasto; Dirk van der Niepoort from Niepoort Vinhos; Francisca van Zeller from Quinta Vale D. Maria; Francisco Olazabal from Quinta do Vale MeÃ£o Join Decanter for an exciting double tasting with the Douro Boys â€“ a group of five estates recognised as among Portugalâ€™s best producers. Each estate will be presenting two vintages, one old, one young, to give you a fascinating insight into these incredible wines and how they develop over time. Encompassing white, red and fortified, hear from the winemakers first hand about the array of factors influencing the wines and what might shape them in the years ahead. s 1UINTA DO 6ALLADO 2ESERVA $OURO 7HITE AND s 1UINTA DO #RASTO 4OURIGA.ACIONAL$OURO2ED AND Terms and conditions apply.The information is correct at time of publication but the organisers reserve the right to change any part of the event without notice. No under 18s, including babes in arms.
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This Decanter event is kindly sponsored by:
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Top 30 Spanish wines for everyday drinking Few countries can rival Spain for its breadth and diversity of wine styles – and even fewer can compete on value. From sparkling wine to Sherry, and everything in between, Sarah Jane Evans MW picks out her favourites, from just £6 SPAIN IS A fascinating country for wine. The millennia of winemaking, the exceptionally diverse geography and its economic and cultural history all make it a great source of discovery. Add in the new generation, starting afresh with family vineyards or tracking down abandoned sites, and there is so much to like. Choosing just 30 wines for this article has been hard! I narrowed my selection down to cover as many different regions as possible and as many different styles. First, some essentials for the fridge: a bottle of Cava or traditional-method sparkling, a rosado, and a white or two. I can already guarantee there’s fino or manzanilla at home, so I have included another, more complex Sherry. Then I’ve added something quirky for my husband and I to enjoy which I know may not appeal to all my friends (Bernabé Navarro’s Alicante red, p31); some classics for comfort – for memories of times when I have enjoyed them before; and some ‘little brother’ wines – the cheaper version of grander wines that my weekday wallet doesn’t stretch to. When I am looking for great value, then Garnachas from Campo de Borja and its neighbours in Aragón come top of the list. 2 4 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
However, I recognise that my good deals are damaging growers’ livelihoods. Spain still sells too much of its wine too cheaply in bulk to France and elsewhere, and as consumers we need to be willing to pay more for quality. I return to Rioja regularly, but remember that Rioja is like Bordeaux – there are many producers and not all of them are perfect. Read recommendations (see also p60 and p89), go to tastings, talk to retailers and find the ones you like. As for whites, Mediterranean Spain is particularly interesting, with complex, textured wines from Garnacha Blanca. Finally, the people are as important as the wines in Spain. Among the producers on the following pages, there’s an expert on orange wines and a great cook too (Rafa Bernabé); an ever-innovative family that drives you around in electric cars (Torres); a thoughtful, quiet man making top-scoring wines (Marcos Eguren of Sierra Cantabria); and another who makes his wine in sight of the sea (Chicho Moldes of Bodegas Fulcro). All of the producers I’ve featured welcome visitors, though you will need to make prior appointments. I urge you to meet them and their wines, and to savour the sense of place.
‘I narrowed my selection down
to cover as many regions and styles as possible’ Sarah Jane Evans MW is an award-winning journalist and author, and co-Chair of the DWWA. Her latest book, The Wines of Northern Spain, is on sale from April 2018 (£30, Infinite Ideas) • Join her Spanish masterclass on Saturday 24 February (see p22)
Waitrose, Cava Brut in partnership with Castillo Perelada, Penedès NV 89 £9.49 Waitrose Crispy, crunchy, very refreshing, pristine Cava, with just the right amount of fruit. Reliable year-in year-out, and from a historic business. A good example of a supermarket own-label delivering value and quality. Drink 2018-2019 Alcohol 11.5%
Bodegas Fulcro, Finca a Pedreira Albariño, Rías Baixas 2016 93 £18.95 Handford, Caviste A garage wine, no less, made within sight of the sea, grown on granitic, sandy soil. Manuel ‘Chicho’ Moldes ferments it in stainless steel and adds just a touch of barrel-aged wine for texture. An Albariño that is far more complex than the usual fare. Terrific! Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13%
Tomàs Cusiné, Finca Racons, Vinyes Velles de Macabeu, Costers del Segre 2014 91 £17 The Wine Society Intense, seductive aromatics, followed up by a deliciously fleshy palate. Plump, with zesty greengages toned down by a short time in oak, all leading to a memorably long, stony finish. From the oldest Macabeu (Viura) vines in Costers del Segre. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 13%
Pazo Tizón, Extramundi, Ribeiro 2016 91 £18.95 Fields Morris & Verdin This is the year to discover Ribeiro wines: famous in medieval times, now undergoing a revival. A glorious blend of local Galician varieties Treixadura, Albariño, Godello and Loureiro, with peachy richness and a saline finish. Made by Oscar Aragón of star Ribera del Duero bodega Cillar de Silos (see p103). Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13%
José Antonio Garcia, Unculin, Bierzo 2016 90 £18.99 Handford A generous and aromatic blend of Doña Blanca and Godello. The palate is fresh and long, spicy with white pepper notes and supple with a lovely texture. Altogether fascinating. García farms his family vineyards in the highly rated sites of Valtuille and Corullón. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13%
Loxarel, Cora, Penedès 2016 90 £12-£13 Bottle Apostle, Les Caves de Pyrene, Noble Green, The Dorset Wine Co, Vin Cognito
Here’s a surprise! It starts with glorious grapey charm, but then finishes brilliantly dry, with saline length – like drinking it after a dip in the sea. It’s an organic blend of Xarel-lo, Moscatel and Sauvignon Blanc from a producer of fine traditional-method fizz. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 13.5% ➢
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Torres, Viña Esmeralda, Catalonia 2016 90 £8.89-£9.90 Banstead Vintners, Exel Wines, Ocado, Sandhams, Tanners, Tesco, The Drink Shop, Waitrose, Winedirect
An old favourite, consistently good and ideal for when the sun shines. Terrifically grapey Moscatel with a dash of blowsy Gewürztraminer, fresh and delicate in alcohol. A sumptuous match for Asian dishes with coconut and spice. And three cheers for the screwcap! Drink 2018-2019 Alc 11.5%
Màquina & Tabla, Páramos de Nicasia Rosé, Toro 2016 90 £14.95 Lea & Sandeman Named after Nicasia who owns the vines, this is a star from a DO better known for its big, hot reds. A revival of the pale red clarete style, made with Garnacha, Tinta de Toro and 30% Malvasia – hence the lifted fruit and firm structure. Nothing jammy here. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 13.5%
Ramón Bilbao, Lalomba Rosado, Rioja 2016 90 £16.35-£19.95 Enotria & Coe, Exel, Great Western, Sommelier’s Choice One of the new wave of Riojas to make a Provence-style rosé, from Garnacha grown at altitude in Rioja Baja plus 10% Viura. It’s spicy and aromatic, with notes of redcurrant and white pepper: refreshing, polished, and very likeable. This is a real wine, not an insipid pink drink, with generous, Rioja character. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 13%
Alfredo Maestro, Almate, Castilla y León 2016 91 £10.95-£11.99 Buon Vino, Joseph Barnes, Les Caves de Pyrene, Noble Fine Liquor, The Smiling Grape Co
Alfredo Maestro is well known for his natural wines, and this is a striking, pure example, full of concentrated plum and blueberry juice from old-vine Tinto Fino (no added sulphur). Bright, crisp and lively, it would be perfect with roast pork. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14%
Cara Nord Celler, Mineral, Montsant 2015 91 £14.29-£16 Highbury Wines, Noel Young, The Oxford Wine Co Snap this up! Bright and full flavoured from 80% Cariñena (and 20% Garnacha) grown on slate, showing that variety’s delicious blueberry fruit. Another well-judged project from Tomàs Cusiné (producer of Finca Racons). Top value from Priorat’s neighbour. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 14.5%
Coca i Fitó, Aloja Mare, Montsant 2011 91 £12.95 The Wine Society This may well now be sold out – and for good reason! It’s a spot-on choice by The Wine Society and another cracker from Montsant. This super-juicy blend of Garnacha, Cariñena and Syrah is bursting with flavour and carries its years very well. A real discovery – look out for the new vintage. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 14.5% ➢
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CVNE, Imperial Reserva, Rioja 2012 91 £20-£27 Christopher Piper, Eagle Wines, Majestic, Noble Green, Planet of the Grapes, Tesco by the Case, Winedirect
This doesn’t quite squeeze in under £20, but for a quality Rioja Reserva it’s worth it. With 24 months in cask and six months in bottle and a few years of maturity since, it’s an oaccasion wine where the red berry fruit, vanilla oak and rich flavour will please everyone. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 14%
Daniel Ramos, K Amphorae 100%, Gredos 2015 91 £18 Bottle Apostle, Corks of Cotham, Reserve Wines, Salut In recent tastings with consumers, this cuvée has been popular. It’s one of the (fashionable) Garnachas from Gredos, to the north of Madrid. The weather can be extreme there, but the soils make for elegant, pure reds. This is made in 1,000-litre tinajas (clay amphorae). Chewy, textured and layered, with a warm cloak of alcohol. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14.5%
Descendientes de J Palacios, Pétalos, Bierzo 2015 91 £17-£21 AG Wines, Berry Bros & Rudd, Drinkmonger, Harvey Nichols, Highbury Vintners, Majestic, Noel Young, Prohibition, Uncorked, Winedirect, WoodWinters
This is an archetypal ‘little brother’ wine. I love Petalos, but I would so much rather be drinking Las Lamas or, best of all, La Faraona: wines of my dreams. In the meantime, this floral, spicy Mencía will do very nicely. Bierzo’s keynote freshness is an original. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14.5%
LaFou, El Sender, Terra Alta 2015 91 £10.99 Waitrose, Waitrose Cellar From the Roqueta family, long in the business and doing innovative work. This Garnacha with a dash of Syrah and Morenillo has rich and fleshy flavours of blueberry, liquorice and green pepper. Terra Alta is a great source of high-quality value wines. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14%
Regina Viarum, Mencía, Ribeira Sacra 2016 91 £11.50 The Wine Society From the spectacularly steep landscapes of Ribeira Sacra, where cultivating grapes is rightly called ‘viticultura heroica’: the vineyards slope at more than 45° down to the Sil river. ‘Sacrifice has a different taste’, they say. Undoubtedly! This is an original: unoaked, so very pure and very fresh with dark fruit. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13.5%
Sierra Cantabria, Garnacha, Rioja 2013 91 £15.05-£17.25 Enotria & Coe, Exel Wines, Great Western, Noel Young Great value from one of Rioja Alta’s top wineries. It comes from a Garnacha vineyard planted in 1927 – a relatively rare variety for the region. As always from this producer, it’s finely balanced, with pure red fruits. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14.5% ➢
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Bernabé Navarro, La Amístad, Alicante 2015 90 £10.31-£15.80 Exel Wines, Les Caves de Pyrene, Noble Fine Liquor Rare Rojal grapes, organically farmed, are fermented and aged for four months in 200-litre tinajas (clay pots), to make a red wine that looks like a dark rosé. One for ‘natural’ wine fans, as it’s cloudy, with fine tannins to support strawberry and smoke flavours. La Amístad (‘friendship’) reflects all the warmth of winemaker Rafa Bernabé. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 13.5%
Beronia, Reserva, Rioja 2013 90 £13.99 Majestic, Ocado, The Oxford Wine Co, Waitrose Cellar Beronia’s Rioja Reserva has risen very rapidly up the bestseller’s ladder to become a consumer favourite. It’s the result of plenty of investment by owner, Sherry giant González Byass. Though 2013 was not the best vintage, this remains a reliable buy. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 14%
Celler de Capçanes, Mas Collet, Montsant 2015 90 £12-£14 Alliance Wine, Banstead Vintners, Connolly’s, Flagship, Mr Wheeler Capçanes is an outstanding cooperative, at the heart of reviving the once-fading Montsant region. Its wines are pretty good too, and excellent value! Mas Collet is a typical blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Samsó, with a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon. Full of fruit, and oakaged – give it an extra year or two to develop. Drink 2020-2023 Alc 14%
Enrique Mendoza, La Tremenda, Alicante 2014 90 £10.54-£11.95 Christopher Piper, Slurp, Ultracomida Old-vine Monastrell from the high vineyards of Alto Vinalopó. Full of suppressed energy, this is a joyous wine full of ripe fruit softened by six months in French oak. Enrique Mendoza is a cheerleader for the great wines and traditions of Alicante. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14.5%
Espelt, Sauló, Empordà 2016 90 £8.25 The Wine Society A blast of sun from the Viticultors de l’Empordà on the Mediterranean coast close to France. This Garnacha/Cariñena blend – grown on sauló, the name for the region’s decomposed granite soil – has an irrepressible energy, and a burst of cranberry fruit. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 13.5%
La Rioja Alta, Viña Arana Reserva, Rioja 2009 90 £18.50-£25 Armit, Caviste, Drinkmonger, Grand Vin, Hic, Harrods, Highbury Vintners, Just in Cases, Loki, Noble Green, Secret Cellar, South Downs Cellars, The
Drink Shop, The Wine Society, Twelve Green Bottles, Waitrose Cellar, Winedirect
Arana is a great-value choice, with five years of ageing, no less. However, big brother Ardanza is a steal at just £5-£10 more; and, even better, 890 (see p91) would be a fab gift! Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13.5% ➢
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Tandem, Ars in Vitro, Navarra 2014 90 £9.75-£12 Exel, GP Brands, Hallgarten, Hailsham Wine, Hay Wines, Wineman On a visit to Tandem a frequent sight outside is pilgrims passing along the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. Inside, the winery is a study in concrete, which enables the winemakers to make fresh, fruity, unoaked wines. I’m not a huge fan of Merlot in Spanish blends, but this Tempranillo-Merlot works well. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14.5%
Vegalfaro, Caprasia, Utiel-Requena 2016 90 £10.99 Vintage Roots Look out for Bobal; this once-rustic variety is coming up in the world. Lower yields and conscientious viticulture and winemaking are making the difference. Utiel-Requena and its neighbouring DOs are great hunting grounds for full-flavoured, honest reds. Caprasia has a note of Merlot, and just three months’ oak ageing. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 14%
Vintae, La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo, Ribera del Queiles 2015 90 £7.95-£9.99 Majestic, The Wine Society Vintae has a range of Garnachas from the Pyrenees to Rioja via Navarra. I particularly like this ‘wild’ (Salvaje) Garnacha from the Moncayo mountains from Aragón. It’s grown at 820m and has a plummy, ripe palate with a bright freshness. Great value. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 13.5%
Peique, Mencía, Bierzo 2016 89 £10.99-£14 Butlers Wine Cellar, Dorset Wine Co, Hennings, Hercules Wine, Quaff, Salut, The Sampler
Mencía, one of Spain’s Atlantic red varieties, should be one of your at-home essentials – there’s nothing that can match its zip of freshness. Peique’s is a lively option: it’s the youngest of its series; unoaked and the most appealing. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13.5%
Tajinaste, Tradiciónal Listán Negro, Orotava, Tenerife 2016 89 £14.70-£16.49 Bybo, Exel Wines, Forest Wines, Les Caves de Pyrene If you haven’t already, make this the year you discover the wines of the Canary Islands, especially Tenerife. Admittedly not all of them are under £20, but Tradición is vibrant and textured with damson fruit and a chalky finish. It’s mildly rustic but with lots of energy. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13%
Lustau, Morrisons The Best Oloroso, Jerez NV 92 £6/37.5cl Morrisons Astonishing value. This oloroso from top producer Lustau is all roasted nuts and caramel richness on the nose, a punch of citrus zest on the palate and a long, dry, saline finish. It sets the palate alight! Lamb roasted in oloroso is a delicious dish, though extravagant; but at this price it is definitely worth doing. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 20% D
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Muriel Wines One of Spain’s leading wine groups focuses on quality and diversity
ocated in the historic village of their inherent ripeness and richness. Elciego near the banks of the From its more modest, everyday River Ebro, it was almost one wines right up to its very finest century ago, in 1926, that Muriel offerings, each range is broken down Wines was born; a year that also by regions, towns and then plots, thus coincided with the creation of Rioja’s ensuring that they all deliver unique regulatory board which set in stone identity and peerless quality. the region’s geographical Within its portfolio it counts boundaries and the essential Bodegas Muriel, Bodegas Eguía quality of the product within and Bodegas Marqués de Elciego them, and Muriel has been (all situated in Rioja Alavesa); unflinching in maintaining those Bodegas Pazo Cilleiro in Rias standards. It was José Murúa who Baixas and its Vinos de la Tierra, laid the foundations of Muriel and Bodegas Real Compñaía de Vinos. it is now his son, Julián Murúa The jewel in crown, however. who continues his legacy. unquestionably comes from its Today it has the luxury of outpost in Rioja Alta: Conde de working with old vines, many of Los Andes from Bodegas Ollauri; which are well over half a century a wine which exemplifies Muriel’s in age and situated in some of the decades of efforts in its relentless highest zones of Rioja Alavesa drive for both uniqueness and and Rioja Alta. This naturally faultless quality. Above: Viña Muriel, brings refreshing lift to Muriel’s Wine has been made here Rioja Alavesa 2011 by 20 generations of families wines which helps balance out
Muriel vineyard at harvest time
Muriel vineyards Elciego, la Rioja Alavesa
since the 15th Century and its present, enchanting, character-laden, vaulted caves, or calados - the oldest parts of which date back to the 14th and 15th Century and stretch over one kilometre in length– have recently been conscientiously and respectfully restored. Here are stored over 400,000 bottles, including many from Rioja’s most celebrated vintages such as 1892, 1918, 1964, 1970, 1983 and 2001, as well as historic documents detailing the property’s enviable heritage. Furthermore, as a reflection of Ollauri’s embrace of wine tourism, all are on show and deliver an award-winning, captivating tour of the winery’s spectacular history and beauty, polished off by a candle-lit tasting in those atmospheric caves. The range comprises of a red, a white and a semi-sweet. The white is unadulterated Viura made from vines which are around 30 years old. It’s fermented in French barrels for three months before being matured for a further six in the very same barrels and is a fabulous expression of modern-day, luxurious Viura, and is a fine partner for
seafood dishes, and plates such as mushroom risotto or white meats. The tinto of the range is 100% Tempranillo, from meticulously selected fruit grown on small plots of land and coming from old vines. A three-week fermentation period in stainless steel is followed by maturation in a combination of new and aged French wood, before it spends one year settling down in barrel. From vines grown on clay-limestone soils, this seriously slick, polished wine benefits from both Mediterranean and Atlantic influences and cries out for food such as roasted meats such as lamb cutlets, cured cheeses, stews and strongly-flavoured pasta dishes. Conde de Los Andes’ motto is: ‘Rioja as it was; Rioja as it is’, perfectly encapsulating its mission to respect and cherish its history, while at the same time embracing modernity and the future. It certainly seems to have found the perfect equilibrium. These are superlative wines, and while they certainly represent Muriel’s apex, they are no less demonstrative of the dedication and desire the company brings to each of its wines, regardless of the price tag.
Conde de los Andes Conde de los Andes vaulted caves date back to the 15th Century. Their cementerio or cellar has wines dating back to the 1892 vintage. Right: Conde de los Andes, Rioja Alta 2001
10 young guns Spain’s economic woes since the global crash of 2008 have, observers say, given rise to a wave of innovation among young entrepreneurs frustrated by a lack of employment opportunities – and the signs are unarguably there within the country’s wine sector. Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW picks 10 new-generation winemakers who stand out from the crowd, setting new standards by pushing Spanish winemaking in different directions, developing long-disregarded terroirs or revitalising ancient native vine varieties
Alejandro López Bodegas Bilbaínas – Rioja
mong the world’s oldest wine brands (there are references to winemaking since 1551), Codorníu is ideally positioned to take a long-term view in its business development In the 1990s the group bought Bodegas Bilbaínas, a classic Rioja producer that was going through difficult times. It set to work reviving its most prestigious brand, Viña Pomal. Codorníu followed a young-gun strategy, first by hiring Diego Pinilla, now the group’s technical director, who trained and was replaced by Alejandro López. López is a man of his land, educated in Rioja and Navarra, but has a global vision, acquired during time in Chile, Italy and the US. His present scope of work at Bilbaínas is a winemaker’s dream. He follows three
principles: first, to introduce gradual improvements while keeping the character of the top brands Viña Pomal and La Vicalanda; to develop a number of single-vineyard and single-varietal wines; and to experiment with new wines, new cultivation methods and whatever else makes sense to try. López has free rein. He has made lovely sulphur-free Garnachas and an amazing orange wine – something quite surprising for a large concern such as Bilbaínas (which produces 5 million bottles a year). López’s example is being closely followed by other producers, large and small. His capacity to influence the whole Rioja market, and his openness to innovation, are key assets for the present and the future.
Bodegas Bilbaínas, Viña Pomal Alto de la Caseta, Rioja 2015 92 £60-£63.79 GP Brands, The Surrey Wine Cellar
Refined, very classic Rioja Alta expression, showing lots of fruit and an impressive concentration, which results in a soft but firm touch on the palate. Very long. Drink 2018-2037 Alcohol 14%
Almudena Alberca Viña Mayor – Ribera del Duero, Rueda lmudena Alberca started her career producing boutique wines, such as Viñas del Cénit in Zamora. Then she added Dominio de Atauta to her portfolio – an amazing winery in Ribera del Duero with pre-phylloxera Tempranillo vineyards, planted in sandy soils interspersed in a wild forest. Alberca’s hand in Atauta resulted in remarkable leaps in quality. Her wines won top marks from American wine critics and sold very easily. Then, instead of remaining in her comfort zone, Alberca moved to brand new turf, accepting the job of technical director at one of Spain’s big-volume players, Viña Mayor. Each year, Viña Mayor releases 4 million bottles of red wine from Ribera del Duero and white wines from Rueda, sold at affordable prices through major retail chains such as Tesco in the UK. When Alberca accepted the job, her objective was to move the entire production up the quality ladder, while keeping the wines’ market appeal. A difficult task, considering that grapes are supplied by a very high number of vine-growers. But Alberca got things moving: she launched a new premium Viña Mayor brand, El Secreto – a selection of
‘Alberca’s efforts will change what the mainstream consumer drinks’ the best grapes. The name is to show growers and consumers that this premium path is the secret to Viña Mayor’s contined success. Alberca’s efforts may not seem as glossy as those of the other nine winemakers on these pages, but will likely be much more relevant to Spain’s wine industry, because she is changing what mainstream consumers drink. Viña Mayor, El Secreto Reserva, Ribera del Duero 2015 91 £22 Bibendum-PLB Well-structured and balanced, elegant yet serious and long, while retaining its freshness. A Ribera del Duero benchmark for blind tasting lovers. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 14% ➢
Photograph: James Sturcke
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‘He has Diego Magaña Bierzo, Navarra, Rioja produced wines that are an expression of his own personality as much as of their terroir’
ne of the most challenging times for a family winery can be the point of transition from one generation to the next – a moment when the younger family member looks at things afresh. New generations need to have different opinions to their forebears, otherwise they would feel useless. But innovations last only one generation… Magaña is the son of Juan Magaña, a selfmade man who, 40 years ago, was a true revolutionary in Navarra, importing French grape varieties when this was forbidden by Spanish law, introducing modern winemaking techniques and stamping an indelible influence on the whole region. His Merlots are among the best in Spain, and many others win high accolades. The winery now owns more than 100ha and exports to many countries. His son is another revolutionary, of a different type. He seeks the purest expression of terroir through an intimate understanding of the vineyard, and minimises interventions in the winery. While the father shocked with his innovative brio, the son is admirable in his deep conviction. Juan learned from the
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Bordeaux extroverted school, where wines impress with their power and depth; Diego’s maestro, by contrast, is Raúl Pérez, that bearded genius who conveys pure delicacy in his wines. Diego Magaña went to Bierzo, far from Navarra, to learn how to achieve his aims and fine-tune his methods. He has produced wines that are an expression of his own personality as much as of their terroir. Now he has moved to Rioja Alta, and it’s certain that some time in the future his father’s magnificently modern and complex wines will be complemented in Navarra by his own. Dominio de Anza, Finca El Rapolao Mencía, Bierzo 2015 93 £32.41 Vinissimus Well-defined and complex aromas of myrtle, liquorice, violet and sweet baking spices. Silky and juicy black fruits on the palate, then becoming much more powerful and multi-layered on the finish. This is a wine to keep – an impressively new Bierzo style. Drink 2018-2035 Alc 14.5%
Paola Medina Williams & Humbert – Jerez
aola Medina symbolises the so-called ‘Sherry revolution’, pooling energetic youthfulness, deep respect for Sherry heritage and amazing know-how and creativity. She is aware of the needs for the region – ‘to focus on premiumquality wines, keep volumes down, and to integrate Sherry with the finest gastronomy’ – and is well positioned to see the way ahead. Williams & Humbert is 130 years old, but 40 years ago fell victim to fraudulent practices by its then owners. It was expropriated by the Spanish Government in 1983, which sold it on to a Dutch supermarket chain, before it was bought in 2005 by the Medina family. Its mission has been to steer Williams & Humbert back to its former glories.
Medina believes those objectives can be achieved only with the finest – and newest – Sherries, and she has explored many avenues to create these wines of the future. For instance, non-fortified Sherry, made with overripe or sun-dried grapes from carefully cultivated vineyards. Or oloroso made from the finest musts. Or the recovery of Pedro Ximénez and other native varieties. But Medina’s most amazing innovation so far is her idea of vintage fino Sherry: to replace the traditional solera system (in which newer vintages are blended into mature wines to keep a consistent expression over time) with a single-vintage system. The wines are bottled when the flor (a layer of yeast floating over the wine that protects
it against oxidation and changeS the wine’s character) is close to exhaustion. The flor is as much a terroir as the vineyard, being an eco-system in itself, that sometimes results in excellence. Follow Medina closely to enjoy Sherry as you never imagined. Williams & Humbert, Williams Colección Añadas Tiento Fino, Jerez 2007 98 N/A UK www.williams-humbert.com
A wine full of glorious aromas, with one of the most impressive and complex expressions of the Sherry flor. Creamy, suave, deep, charming and eternal. An unforgettable wine experience. Drink 2018-2077 Alc 16% ➢
Jorge Monzón & Isabel Rodero Dominio del Aguila – Ribera del Duero
pain is a country of great winemakers and unknown vine-growers. Jorge Monzón is an exception to this rule. His customers – Pingus, Berrouet, Vega Sicilia and the García family of Aalto – produce with his grapes some of the most distinguished wines in Ribera del Duero. He is proud of his job as grape producer, which he undertakes jointly with his father. Monzón was trained in Bordeaux and Burgundy, including a stage at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. No wonder that he has a particular skill in spotting the best old-vine vineyards, grown organically.
‘They have shifted the perception of Ribera del Duero from concentration and power to finesse’ He started making wine only in 2010, when he and his wife Isabel (the architect behind the winery) launched Dominio del Aguila. His success was almost immediate: international critics quickly recognised the amazing finesse of his wines, which are field blends from very old vines, vinified in ancient lagares, with no destemming, no filtration and long ageing. By these methods, the wines express their Ribera del Duero terroir with a purity unheard of until Dominio del Aguila was released. Each of its wines has a distinctive personality, from the lovely Picaro del Aguila Claret (a wine between rosé and red) to its regular reserve or top cuvées. Monzón and Rodero have shifted the perception of the region’s wines from concentration and power to finesse, balance and complexity. Others now try to emulate them. Thanks to this couple and the precedent they have set, wine lovers will be able to reap the rewards. Dominio del Aguila, Peñas Aladas Gran Reserva, Ribera del Duero 2012 97 £150-£165 (in bond, 2010) Crump Richmond Shaw, Wine Owners
Restrained nose that is distinguished by delicate ripe fruit, giving way to a balanced, dense but fresh palate with fine-grained tannins, and a slow finish of great elegance. Drink 2018-2032 Alc 14.5%
Photograph: Heinz Hebeisen/IberImage
Maite Sánchez Bodegas Arrayán – Méntrida
ánchez is the daughter of one of Spain’s greatest wine journalists, Bartolomé Sánchez. She shares her father’s passion, but came to wine by a different route. Instead of tasting and writing, she first learned the scientific principles of oenology and then how to make wine. After training in major classic regions around the world – Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorat, Marlborough, Casablanca and Burgundy – she got a job at Bodegas Arrayán, originally a candidate for becoming a Vino de Pago in Castilla-La Mancha, and which has a top-notch vineyard planted with international varieties. Sánchez did well there, making some very balanced and enjoyable wines that carved out a niche in competitive markets. But her rise to fame came when she convinced the owner to produce Garnacha from very old bush vines in the neighbouring Gredos area. With this move she took a leap into the wild side. Previously her wines had been politically correct, with well-defined fruit, good concentration and textbook balance. But Sánchez’s Grenaches are
an inspiration, showing untamed fruit, passion from the soil and velvety rusticity. Now Arrayán is bursting with innovations. Part of its vineyard is being regrafted to create individual wine styles. Its classic, international wines are set to be progressively replaced by challenging but terroir-driven wines from native varieties. Garnacha will feature more prominently, but also Bruñal, Graciano, Mizancho, Rufete and Albillo – a white grape that was on the verge of extinction only five years ago. Something new is afoot in central Spain, and Sánchez is part of it. Bodegas Arrayán, Garnacha de Arrayán, Méntrida, Castilla-La Mancha 2014 93 £23.90 Bodega Soul A delicate, high-altitude Garnacha that is very pure and intense in red cherry characters. Fresh, fruity and textured on the palale, with a long finish and a lovely touch of regional rusticity. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 15% ➢
‘Sánchez’s Grenache wines are an inspiration, showing untamed fruit, passion from the soil, and velvety rusticity’
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Roberto Santana Envínate Group – Tenerife, Almansa, Manchuela, Ribeira Sacra, Extremadura, Montilla
antana is a perfect archetype for how winemakers can reinvigorate and innovate the world of fine wine. He holds a deep and well-informed understanding of the complexities of producing high-quality wine, and a conviction that teams work better than individuals. His endeavour is inextricably linked to three colleagues – he met Laura Ramos, Alfonso Torrente and José Angel Marchante when studying oenology at Alicante University. In 2007, they created Envínate, with the aim of creating wines that speak of their origins in diverse areas of Spain, by focusing on careful work in the vineyards and the delicate handling of grapes and must. They started in Ribeira Sacra then expanded into Tenerife, Almansa, Manchuela, Extremadura and, most recently, Montilla in the south. Highly acclaimed by international critics, their wines are not easy to find as they are all sold on allocation, but are well worth seeking out. They come from remote locations such as Taganana in Tenerife, unknown varieties such
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as Moravia from Manchuela, extremely old vines or impossible sites such as Camiño Novo at Ribeira Sacra. Despite their different birthplaces, the wines all share an utter originality, individual sense of place and shared characteristics of delicacy and elegance. Envínate will never produce millions of bottles, but several dozen young talents are already looking at Santana and his peers as examples of how a new generation of authentic, diverse, exciting wines, in Spain and abroad, can be produced. Envínate, Lousas Parcela Camiño Novo, Ribeira Sacra, Galicia 2015 94 £26.99-£29.95 Highbury Vintners, Hook & Ford, Noel Young, Vin Cognito
A wild wine that is intense, particular and utterly exhilarating. The vibrant, honest red berry fruit is deliciously concentrated, becoming more velvety on the finish. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 12.5%
‘Santana and his peers are seen as examples of how a new generation of authentic, diverse, exciting wines can be produced’
Fernando Mora MW Campo de Borja, Valdejalón
ora likes living fast. He is only 35 years old but is already succeeding in his second professional life. Mora started as an industrial engineer, specialising in renewable energy sources, but moved out of his comfort zone when his wife introduced him to the world of wine. He says it was a life-changing moment, and that he had no hesitation in dedicating himself to this new passion of vine-growing and winemaking. He started at home as an amateur, while getting a fast-track education. Then he joined efforts with Paco Latasa and Mario López to create Frontonio, a winery from an improbable origin for quality wine – Valdejalón in Aragón. With lots of hard work and very little money, the trio succeeded in putting this IGP on the map with their vibrant, fruity Garnachas. There was no stopping the intensely focused Mora. He completed Wine & Spirit Education Trust courses until he got the Diploma then, with no break in between, embarked upon the gruelling Master of Wine programme, which he completed in 2017 after just three years, winning an award for his research paper on a proposed approach to categorising vineyards in Aragón’s more well-known DOC of Campo de Borja. In 2015, in the middle of his studies, Mora launched an ambitious project in that region, Cuevas de Arom. And today, making his thesis a reality, he is differentiating its vineyards, improving wines in the DOC even further. In just a short time, Mora has become one of the leading players in the renaissance of Aragón Garnacha as a global fine wine grape. But you can be sure it won’t stop there. Keep an eye on his progress – if you can keep up! Cuevas de Arom, Os Cantals, Campo de Borja, Aragón 2015 94 N/A UK www.facebook.com/ undergroundgarnacha
An amazingly complex and concentrated Garnacha – a precious jewel to be enjoyed in small sips. This is the true essence of Aragón. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 15% ➢
‘Mora has become one of the leading players in the renaissance of Aragón Garnacha as a global fine wine grape’
‘I never Borja Pérez Ignios Orígenes – Ycoden-Daute-Isora, Tenerife dreamed I’d achieve this kind of success’
Taste more than 300 fine wines at the Decanter Spain and Portugal Fine Wine Encounter See p22 for details
érez prefers to introduce himself as a fourth-generation vine-grower rather than winemaker. Indeed, he started operations in his winery only in 2011. Right from the very beginning his ideology was clear: to support sustainable development in his region, Ycoden-Daute-Isora on Tenerife’s northwestern coast, through grape growing. To achieve that, he farms only indigenous Canary Islands grape varieties – a pleasure for any wine lover’s vocabulary: Baboso, Listán Blanco, Listán Negro, Marmajuelo, Tintilla and Vijariego. Then, in this region characterised by steep slopes and a variety of aspects, the grapes from each plot of land, whatever the size, are fermented separately. The final step is to observe rather than intervene; to learn from those native vines and those volcanic soils, and to produce unique wines that convey their landscape’s message. From early on, his Ignios Orígenes wines (now three reds, two whites and a sweet) were internationally acclaimed. They are difficult to find even in Tenerife, as practically all his production is sold in mainland Spain and the
US. He modestly confesses: ‘I never dreamed I’d achieve this kind of success.’ Pérez considers his global profile as just one step in a broader aim to support local grape production. His Artífice project, a line of wines made with fruit bought from local growers of native old vines, shares the philosophy – and success – of Ignios Orígenes. At 32, Pérez is a leading figure in Tenerife’s wine industry, showcasing new and worthy examples of Canary Islands wine to a wider community, while developing his own.
Ignios Orígenes, Marmajuelo, Ycoden-Daute-Isora, Canary Islands 2015 93 N/A UK www.igniosorigenes.com A barrel-aged white that smells alluringly of lava and dried herbs. It is round and individual, revealing lovely texture on the palate, finishing with notes of broom and flowers. Drink 20182020 Alc 13% ➢
D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 45
Elías López Montero Bodegas Verum, La Mancha
astilla-La Mancha is the largest vineyard region in the world: 400,000ha of vines are planted here, much of it producing an ocean of mediocre wine for distillation, bases for sparklings and vermouth, and lots of other cheap wines. However, there are areas within the region with real potential – if the right varieties are planted and the right viticultural practices applied. One needs courage in abundance to launch a quest for quality and originality in La Mancha. The prejudices among fine-wine consumers and critics about the region make it extremely difficult to achieve recognition, no matter how valiant the efforts put in. Elías López Montero’s father was already a pioneer in the region, being the first to plant Cabernet Sauvignon together with the local Cencibel (Tempranillo) and Airén, and then continuing with other international varieties. The results were good, but not good enough for his son. Montero first improved quality by selecting the best plots of grapes and vinifying them separately. He made a varietal Airén (a usually bland white, and the main variety in La Mancha) from ungrafted vines, which was
remarkable for its freshness, along with some of the best varietal Tempranillos in the region. Next he embarked upon an ambitious quest to rescue old native varieties, such as Tinto Velasco, and to introduce other Spanish varieties into the region, including Graciano and Malvasía, which offered the potential to retain acidity and good aromatics in the harsh La Mancha climate. The results are impressive: a range of wines with distinctive character and lots of appeal, that are bound to change the perception of La Mancha in the minds of both mainstream consumers and wine aficionados. D Bodegas Verum, Malvasía, Castilla-La Mancha 2016 91 N/A UK www.bodegasverum.com Aromatic and original with a lovely lightness of touch for this region. Floral and fresh on the palate too, brightened by vibrant acidity. All this follows through to a lifted, perfumed, moreish finish. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 13%
‘One needs courage in abundance to launch a quest for quality and originality in La Mancha’
Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW is the DWWA Regional co-Chair for Spain and on the governing board of the Spanish Tasters’ Union
Ars Collecta Codorníu The master of Cava Founded in the mid-16th Century, the Codorníu Raventós Group is utterly synonymous with Cava, but its contemporary roots spread far deeper and wider
oday it owns 10 wineries totalling 3,000 hectares of vines, making Codorníu group the largest vineyard owner in Europe. Eight wineries are located in Spain, in regions including Priorat (Scala Dei), Rioja (Bodegas Bilbainas), Legaris (Ribera del Duero) and Costers del Segre (Raimat); but it also has properties further afield such as Artesa in California’s Napa Valley, and Séptima in Mendoza, Argentina. These overseas adventures reaffirm Codorníu’s dedication to diversify and evolve, however it has never taken its eye off the ball when it comes to its heartland of Spain and Cava. Codorníu is world-renowned for its famed Anna de Codorníu Cavas and has won over 150 awards for its wines over the past five years, but its ambition and drive are exemplified no better than through the launch of its Ars Collecta range: the result of an eclectic mission to produce and release only the very best Cavas possible. The Ars Collecta range is made up of five boutique wines with borderline miniscule production and come from three of Codorníu’s most precious estates. Three of the five boutique wines in the Ars Collecta range are among the best ranked in the Cava de Paraje Calificado - a new classification used to represent cavas of the highest quality. “457”, the world most expensive cava with a total elaboration of no more than 1,000 bottles, together with “Jaume Codorníu” complete the collection. ‘A group like ours has to mark the way forward,’ says CEO Javier Pagès. With these three certified estate Cavas we are showcasing the value of Codorníu’s almost 500 years of winemaking expertise. This recognition is a milestone in the history of Cava and helps us to do away with the myth that only small wineries can craft artisan and quality offerings. We feel responsible for a sector of which we are leaders and prescribers, and for our part we hope to surprise and contribute our bit that reflects the pioneers that we are.’
Bruno Colomer, Winemaker at Codorníu
El Tros Nou Ars Collecta 457
Photograph: Mick Rock/Cephas
With its isolated mountain vineyards and arid summers, Priorat is an area for extreme winemaking. Andrew Jefford meets the producers searching for balance and regional character in this demanding corner of Spain PRIORAT IS A secret wine kingdom, hidden and remote. Its loneliness strikes you most clearly at night. You can prowl the constantly twisting roads and never see other headlights; turn off the engine, and the silence can make your ears ache. Even the dogs seem shy of barking. Perhaps they’re awed by the glitter of the stars. If ever a place was destined to lure monks, this is it. The Carthusians had to find their way here – and they did, back in the 12th century. They went to the furthest recesses of the region, hard up against the cliffs of Montsant, literally ‘the sacred mountain’. It’s a remote fastness, even today; back then it must have been wild enough to defy survival itself. What else should they call the spot they chose for their fragile little chartreuse but Escaladei, or ‘God’s ladder’? Not only did they survive, but they prospered to the extent that much of this inland island eventually became their dominion – hence its present-day name, and that of the wine it reluctantly surrenders. Ask local winemakers to describe DOQ Priorat itself, and its relationship to the DO of Montsant which surrounds it, and most resort to the image of the fried egg. Montsant is the lower lying white; Priorat the domed, glowing yolk. The image is so striking as to be irresistible. Don’t visualise the yolk, though, as gold – but dark brown, to reflect the dense, light-absorbing llicorella (variously translated as slate or schist, both of them interrelated metamorphic rocks), which dominates Priorat. 4 8 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
Nothing, meanwhile, could be less like a seamless yolky membrane than the bucking contours of the hills, which pack this fierce enclave. Every house here has a view that inspires. Or scares.
Splendid isolation We’re in southern Catalonia, near Tarragona – but also far from Tarragona, with its dreary coastline and heavy chemical industry; a light year away in terms of topography; several biomes away as the landscape is dressed. Few roads find their way into Priorat; most come knocking at the back door, the southern part of the region, close to Falset, the only small town hereabouts. From there, you climb into the secret kingdom and its 12 widely scattered little villages. In pre-phylloxera days, when plantings were more extensive than today, the vineyards were often a day or two’s mule trek away. Vine-tenders would leave their village homes for a week to work. I ask one wine-grower, Sara Pérez of Mas Martinet and Venus La Universal, to ➢
‘Priorat may lie in the northern half of Spain, but it is very definitely a southern European wine region’
Below: vineyards below the Sierra de Montsant at Morera de Montsant
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describe Priorat to me. ‘Heavy, dark, intense,’ she says, ‘gravity; density. But also the sensation of vertigiousness, of rising and falling.’ She works in Priorat, but goes home every day (with some relief) to Montsant, where the generally limey soils are lighter in both colour and texture, the hills more muted, and the atmosphere conveyed by the landscape is gentler, less oppressive, less confronting. ‘In Priorat, the darkness absorbs the light. In Montsant, the light absorbs the darkness.’ What does all this mean in terms of aroma and flavour? We are, here, at a latitude roughly equivalent to Bari in Puglia, Italy; Priorat may lie in the northern half of Spain, but it is very definitely a southern European wine region. The Consell Regulador’s 2010 climate figures for Torroja del Priorat in the centre of the region showed it had an average annual temperature of 14.5°C and average rainfall of 518mm (it’s been less in recent years); annual sunshine hours usually measure around 2,600. This puts it in the same league, for example, as France’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape, for which the equivalent figures are 14.8°C, 650mm and 2,800 hours. The fact that the mountain of Montsant lies to the north of the region protects it from cold northern winds; indeed the region is surrounded by mountains to the east and the west, too, like a kind of protective horseshoe. Daytime temperatures regularly reach 40°C at some point or other in summer.
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‘In Priorat, the darkness absorbs the light. In Montsant, the light absorbs the darkness’ Sara Pérez, Mas Martinet
Below: vineyards near the ruined Carthusian monastery of Escaladei
measure 14.5%-15.5% alcohol and Garnatxa (Garnacha or Grenache) can easily crest 16%. Garnatxa is the most widely planted Priorat variety, at 730ha of the DOQ total of 1,844ha; then comes Carinenya (Cariñena or Carignan, sometimes also called Samsó here): 510ha, ➢
Photograph: Jordi Camí/Alamy. Map: Maggie Nelson
Given all of this, it should surprise no one that these are Big Wines. Most of Priorat’s reds
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Vin de Vila Villages
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‘Neither Cabernet nor Syrah enjoys the often searingly dry Priorat summers’ There we are, I’ve said it: balance. Few questions of wine aesthetics are more discussed than this one at present, and it was a topic raised by almost every grower I spoke to in the region. They’re aware that 15.5% on a label doesn’t necessarily play well in the international fine wine market any more – and yields are so low (usually 25hl/ha or less) and costs (especially labour) so high that Priorat must convince the market at £30 a bottle, or €15-€20 at source. That’s the break-even point here. The question of balance, though, is more than usually resistant to simple answers.
Hitting the heights
Cabernet Sauvignon (234ha), Syrah (228ha) and Merlot (99ha). The Bordeaux varieties and Syrah, by the way, are the legacy of the early years of the Priorat renaissance, back in the 1980s, when they were thought ‘more qualitative’ than the indigenous Garnatxa and Carinenya, but also in some sense necessary if Priorat was to be taken seriously as a fine wine region. No one thinks that today, and few are still planting these varieties, so they will gradually fade from the scene. Don’t be prejudiced against wines that contain them. In a region like this, the stamp of origin will always eclipse varietal style; a Priorat Cabernet is Priorat first and foremost. These varieties also bring a certain intricacy of flavour to blends, and can outperform in cool vintages. ‘They give more than they risk,’ is the summary of Anne Cannan of Clos Figueras. If they are not being replanted, it’s because they struggle for balance both as plants and in terms of their fruit constitution. Neither Cabernet nor Syrah enjoys the often searingly dry Priorat summers, while in many sites Merlot sugar-ripens too quickly, leaving pyrazines in the skins. 52 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
Above: tending the vines at Mas Alta
Below: the Grenache grape is known as Garnatxa in Priorat
Before I outline some of the Priorat responses, let’s explore the physical texture of the place in more detail. When you tiptoe into Priorat via Falset, you’ll find yourself at 350m above sea level; the lowest of the 12 villages, tiny El Molar on the southwestern boundary, sits at 200m. From there, the region gradually ramps up northwards, via Porrera and Gratallops via Torroja, the two Vilella villages and breezy Poboleda towards Escaladei and then Montsant mountain itself. The highest village, La Morera de Montsant, lies at 780m; and Terroir al Límit’s Les Manyes vineyard, which straddles the northern boundary between Priorat and Montsant, lies at 900m. That makes 700m ➢
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of altitude differential within the region: a huge span, with a commensurately dramatic effect on the constitution of musts and wines. As a rule, you lose 1°C over the growing season for every 180m of altitude; a vineyard at 500m can often ripen up to two weeks later than one at 300m. It means that wines from the southern end of Montsant have a different, richer and softer style to those of the north, where the wines have more acidity, are more bracing in youth, and need longer to mature. In any case, this is a region of marked diurnal temperature differences. According to the Consell Regulador, some locations in Priorat can reach daytime temperatures of 40°C, followed by night-time temperatures of 12°C: an astonishing range rarely matched elsewhere, in either hemisphere. This, by the way, is an absolute contrast to conditions in Châteauneuf (or, for that matter, Bordeaux), where the altitude range is 23m-128m, and where diurnal temperature differences in summer are slight.
In search of balance The result of these altitude and diurnal temperature differences is that Priorat wines rarely lack acidity, so if you’re one of those drinkers who defines ‘balance’ by reference to acidity, you’ll have no grounds for complaint. In tasting a wide range of red Priorat wines for
Jefford’s top 10 Priorat reds to try Clos Mogador 2015 97 £40.20 Georges Barbier A blend of 40% Garnatxa, with 20% each of Carinyena, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Soft, suffusing, earthy aromatic warmth with almost meaty plum fruits. A concentrated, deep and forthright wine, ballasted by dense tannins and vivacious, fruit-saturated acidity. Plum and stone modulate towards notes of pine and Mediterranean scrub on the finish. Drink 2018-2028 Alcohol 15%
tannins, fresh red fruits, juicy acidity and savoury depths. Drink 2018-2028 Alc 15%
Mas Alta, Cirerets 2015 94 £33.33 (2014) Millésima This blend of old-vine Carinyena with Garnatxa that’s grown on soft schist has poised, fresh and lively aromas of raspberry fruits, just smudged with a little herbal complexity. The palate is brisk, with swish red and black fruits that are deftly balanced by vivid textural wealth. Drink 2018-2024
70% Garnatxa and 30% Syrah. Complex, calm and settled aromas – ripe red and black fruits and brushed, fragrant thyme and mint. Mouthfilling, intense, deep and amply ripe, with firm though finely milled
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Clos Figueras, Clos Figueres 2015 93
Mas Martinet, Clos Martinet 2015 94 £60 Fine & Rare
£37 Georges Barbier Blend of older vine Garnatxa and Carinyena with a little Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Smells sweetly enticing. The easy, swinging balance of the damson-like fruit is evident on the palate, but so too is the concentration and innate drama of the wine. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 15%
Deftly sewn, refined and classy – a blend of Garnatxa and Carinenya with smaller quantities of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Aromatically subtle, with
Clos i Terrasses, Laurel 2015 93 £34.40 Vin Cognito This limpid blend of 60% Garnatxa plus
Alc 15.5% Clos i Terrasses, Clos Erasmus 2015 96 £226 (ib) Honest Grapes
flower and spice notes, then delicate, poised and complex on the palate. Fig, plum and pomegranate notes are lent gravity by the rounded, wealthy tannins. Drink 2018-2028 Alc 15%
this article, indeed, it often seemed that the problems of balance came when high acidity was unaccompanied by central palate density, structure, flesh and texture; there are red wines here from higher altitudes and cooler sites which almost mimic the balance of whites. (Priorat whites can be excellent: see my blog ‘The white question’ on Decanter.com, 20 November 2017.) There is a further threat, too. Not alcohol in itself, which plays a submissive, indeed supportive, note in wines with the innate concentration and drama of those of Priorat (a legacy of the region’s stony soils and generally extreme conditions), but any hint of raisiny fruit, and particularly raisiny fruit in conjunction with lavish oak: a drying combination, and one that hardly sits well with the sustained acidity of higheraltitude sites or stark diurnal temperature differences. If there was a general failing of some of the most ambitious pioneer Priorats of the 1980s and 1990s, it was this. Few Priorat wines are raisiny or over-oaked today. ‘We don’t want the ripe, ripe grape,’ says Cokè Bálon Jiménez of Terroir al Límit. ‘We want the fresh grape.’ So in addition to seeking out higher altitude sites, the Terroir Al Límit response is to favour earlier picking – so early, indeed, that the team sometimes has difficulty matching Priorat’s minimum alcohol requirements (13% for white wines and ➢
equal quantities of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon is a tonic contrast to its slowdropping, sumptuously upholstered sibling Clos Erasmus. Its freshness and scent – both blackcurrant tips and citrus blossoms – provide the keynote for the palate too, with tannins waiting in reserve. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 15%
Mas Alta, La Basseta 2015 93 £46.67 Millésima The dark, smouldering and suggestive La Basseta (80% Garnatxa and 20% Syrah) is the perfect foil to its light, graceful (and slightly cheaper) sibling Cirerets. Rich aromas combine herbs with a little sweet smoke – and it’s yielding on the palate, too, though sustained acidity stops it being languid. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 15.5%
Mas Doix, 1902 2015 93 £174.62 (2013) Vinissimus Pure Carinyena, planted at almost 600m in 1902. A whiteknuckle ride: gentle and seductive as you edge through the perfumed sweet leather, liquorice and currant scents – then one sip of the explosive palate with its plunging acidity and redcurrant and blackcurrant fruit leaves you grasping your seat. All is resolved later via grippy, slow-release tannins. Drink 2019-2028 Alc 14.5% Terroir al Límit, Les Manyes 2014 93 POA Indigo Wine Old-vine Garnatxa (from 70- and 80-yearold vines), which is grown at 900m up on Montsant itself. Lifted, fragrant aromas of strawberry fruit and meadow flowers. On the palate, you’ll find a sense of energy and
‘We don’t want the ripe, ripe grape, we want the fresh grape’ Cokè Bálon Jiménez, Terroir al Límit
Left: barrels in the cellar at Clos Erasmus
thrust, which is allied to a charming lighter red-fruit spectrum; there’s a saline edge, too. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 14%
Nit de Nin, Coma d’En Romeu, Porrera 2015 91 £59.96-£60.52 Indigo Wine, Vinissimus
A blend of 60% old-vine Garnatxa Peluda and 40% Carinyena. Beguilingly perfumed at present, with scents of gardenia and citrus. Those perfumes linger on the palate, too; where the folds of dark fruit conceal the wine’s inner vitality. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 15% These are abridged notes: Jefford’s full tasting notes, plus reviews and scores of five additional wines, are available on Decanter.com/Premium
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Right: Christopher Cannan with daughter Anne Cannan in their vineyard at Clos Figueras 13.5% for reds). Having switched from 300-litre barrels to larger foudres, Bálon and owner Dominik Huber are now moving away from wood altogether, towards concrete storage. ‘Big oak and big ripeness kills the fruit and kills the terroir,’ claims Bálon. This is a team that doesn’t destem grapes, either. One effect of whole-bunch fruit is to provide a sense of freshness. Others in the younger generation are moving in the same direction: Pérez of Mas Martinet is ageing more and more of her wines in demijohns and amphorae rather than wood or concrete, and she is also favouring successive picking dates stretching over as much as a month-and-a-half. It’s also striking how many of Priorat’s younger winemakers tend to prize the later-ripening, lower-alchohol and generally higher-acid Carinyena over Garnatxa, though historically esteem lay in the opposite direction. ‘The Garnatxa on top of the hills was all planted by the rich people of the region,’ says Pérez. ‘The poor people’s vines were the Carinyena planted at the bottom of the slopes.’ It’s now generally recognised that Carinyena can cope with the hottest sites more effectively than Garnatxa.
‘Now everyone is doing things differently; everything is changing. It’s the start of finding out what Priorat really is’ Anne Cannan, Clos Figueras
Down to earth What everyone is agreed on, though, is that the best place to solve any issues of balance is not the cellar but the vineyard. Ester Nin, who looks after the Clos Erasmus vineyards on behalf of Daphne Glorian, says they have had a
Below: stunning views over Poboleda from the highest point in the Mas Doix vineyard
programme since 1985 aimed at creating sloping rather than terraced vineyards which permit higher planting densities, and that they have been working biodynamically and with intensive use of composts (their own composts since 2012) in order to improve the life, vitality and responsiveness of the soils. This work, according to Nin, has paid off over the last four years; in particular the vines don’t suffer from drought stress as they used to. ‘We have managed to pick grapes with lower potential alcohol and better acidity at maturity compared to what we used to get,’ she says. ‘The soils here are very difficult, with very low levels of organic matter, so the composts really help.’ Winemaker Bixente Oçafrain at Mas Alta voices the general concern that summers in Priorat are growing steadily warmer. Old vines and north-facing exposures, he says, help in the quest for balance (full ripening is possible on almost any open slope in Priorat), ‘but our choice is to go towards organic and biodynamic cultivation; that seems to be the best way to get balance in terms of freshness and acidity’. The Mas Alta team cultivated 6ha biodynamically last year (out of a total of 45ha), and will double that this year.
Search for identity Bordeaux wine merchant Christopher Cannan was an early believer in the potential of Priorat, having traded the wines of many of the initial pioneers; he eventually bought his own estate, Clos Figueras near Gratallops, releasing the first wine in 2000. Since 2002 he has been joined by his daughter Anne, an observer of 56 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
Photograph: Clos Figueras/Winerist
the Priorat scene who is wise enough to put all these questions in context. ‘In Spain,’ she says, ‘everyone is always comparing themselves to other people, but I think it’s misguided. You’re different: that’s what matters. When we first began here, there was a lot of similarity of aspiration and of approach; everyone was trying to make big, impressive wines. Now actually there is a revolution, and everyone is doing things differently; everything is changing. It’s the start of finding out what Priorat really is. ‘It’s a bit like adolescence: one day you cry because you want to be like everybody else, and the next day you cry because you want to be different.’ So what does she, a woman brought up on Bordeaux and other global fine wines, think Priorat really is? ‘Priorat will always be full-bodied. If you want to try to make Burgundy here, you will always be fighting with nature.’ On the last afternoon of my visit, I stood up on the high costers (slopes) of Poboleda with Sandra Doix of Mas Doix, whose family has lived in the region for many generations. Her oldest Carinyena vines were planted by her great-great-grandfather, who remembered the village in its pre-phylloxera heyday when it had 2,000 inhabitants; today there are just 374. Rounded masses of stone fell away on every side, and a cold dusk wind was tugging the last leaves of autumn from the sparsely planted vines. Those we were looking at were 110 years old; I wouldn’t have guessed they were any more than 30. A tough life means a thin trunk. The family did plant Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah, but they are now gradually grafting the Cabernet and the Merlot back to Garnatxa and Carinyena. ‘It’s so hard for anything to grow here. We realised in the end that the traditional varieties are the best ones.’ ‘Balance?’ she said, in answer to my question. ‘It comes from the fruit; only there.’ She looked around, in the fading November light. ‘We’re at almost 600m here; it’s always breezy because of the river Siurana, so we have a lot of acidity; sometimes I worry it’s too much. The key is to wait until the skins are truly ripe; that’s when you get the really good flavours, no matter what the sugars are. That is the sense of Priorat. We can’t have much impact on these vineyards; the landscape is too big and we’re too small. What we have to do is observe them, interpret them. But they will be what they are.’ D A Decanter contributing editor, Andrew Jefford won the Louis Roederer International Columnist of 2016 for articles in Decanter and Decanter.com
Right: Viticultors del Priorat estate
The Freixenet family’s stunning single estate in the heart of Priorat
riorat is less than an hour’s drive from Tarragona and the coast. Yet it’s a different, magical world, named after the medieval Carthusian priory tucked in under the beetling mountain cliffs. Today this isolated wine region is a DOQ, one of only two highest ranking denominations in Spain (the other is Rioja). Tucked away in the south-eastern part of Priorat, close to the town of Bellmunt, lies the glorious estate of Viticultors del Priorat. You need to know where to look to find it. As we drive up to the gates winemaker Judit Llop smiles with delight, ‘it’s a lost zone in the middle of nowhere’. Ferrer Family Wines, and three
Above: an example of Priorat’s costers
business partners founded Viticultors del Priorat in 1997. Ferrer Family Wines manage the estate on behalf of them all. The gates open slowly to reveal 82 hectares of vineyards, forest, olives and almond trees, and hills, of which 13 ha are vineyard, at 630-730m. At the heart of the property is a little house where the team (only four people including Llop) and their guests - can shelter from the scorching sun of midsummer. The Morlanda wines are named after the highest hill on the estate. Garnacha and Cariñena are the grape varieties here, and they flourish on Priorat’s distinctive soils. Specifically, that’s llicorella, slate, in their case a reddish- bronze colour; calcareous clay; and red clay. The vines are aged between 25 and 40 years, with 3 special parcels of 80-year-old vines on white clay. Many of the vines are grown on Priorat’s costers. It’s not possible to use a tractor on these stony slopes; a horse is the first choice as it has been for centuries in these parts. The wines are made only from estate fruit; nothing is bought in. Llop is passionate about reflecting the terroir. ‘We must defend our local varieties – Garnacha and Cariñena. It’s super-important to me to preserve the identity of this special place.’
Judit Llop, Viticultors del Priorat winemaker Winemaker Judit Llop hails from Terra Alta just up the coast. She recalls that she was practically born in the vineyard. Some of her earliest memories are of helping her father as he brought in the harvest. She was destined to work in wine but before coming to Priorat she worked for other wineries including a spell at Errázuriz in Chile. Since then, she says, ‘I’ve dedicated almost 15 years to transforming this property’. She loves the splendid isolation of the estate because it means that she has been able to introduce organic farming. From the 2018 vintage the wines are certified organic. Significantly Llop has been using probiotics in the vineyard to restore it to optimum health. She had noticed the benefits of probiotics on her own health when she was run-down. So in 2013 she began a project with the local university, using probiotics to increase soil biodiversity and encourage microbial activity. The first treatment is in the autumn, spraying the soils and the vines. Then in the spring before flowering. Again after budburst, and finally during ripening.
Above: Judit Llop, Winemaker at Viticulors del Priorat
In just a few years Llop has already observed that the vine root systems are stronger, with a greater quantity of fibrous matter, enabling better uptake of nutrients. The treatments have been expensive, especially at the outset where they needed to apply plenty, but the investment has undoubtedly improved the natural immunity of the vines. Very quickly Llop noted that non-probiotic vineyards needed more treatments such as sulphur and copper. The estate will be certified
Organic from the 2018 vintage onwards. Llop’s researches continue in the winery, where she has been making a Garnacha in 150 Ltr tinajas, clay pots. ‘I love Garnacha’, she confesses, ‘it’s a lovely grape if you now how to work with it.’ She adds, ‘I particularly want my wines to have that lovely sensation of dulzor, sweetness.’
The Viticultors del Priorat group also own several vineyards in Montsant DO, where Judit Llop produces a red and rosado in the Garbó range; and a crianza from Merlot and Syrah, a savoury, wintry red called Fra Guerau. Garbó Negre Semi Crianza, Montsant DO, Ocado, £11.99, is a Garnacha/Shiraz blend.
A selection of Viticultors del Priorat’s wines Morlanda Blanc 2016, Priorat DOQ 100% Garnacha Blanca. Winemaking One third was fermented in French oak barrels, and the balance in stainless steel tanks. The oak fermented part remained on in its fine lees in barrel for six month with batonnage. Tasting note The Moscatel gives an aromatic floral charm, while the Garnacha delivers a very fine texture in the mouth, and a citrus lift. The oak lends a delicate complexity. Lovely now, and will develop in 2-3 years. 15,000 bottles produced.
Morlanda Criança 2013, Priorat DOQ Garnacha 50%, Cariñena 50%. Winemaking Fermented in stainless steel tanks to preserve the fruit, with some 25 days maceration. After malolactic, aged in 300 Ltr French oak barrels for one year. Tasting note The Garnacha from the estate is dense and fully flavoured, while the Cariñena adds wonderful colour and a firm structure, overlaid by the light spice and complexity of oak. Llop calls this a ‘Vi de Guarda’, one that improves in the cellar, structured to enjoy for 5 to 10 years. She recommends
decanting it before drinking, to allow the flavours to blossom. 6,800 bottles produced. Mas del Subirá 2015, Priorat DOQ Cariñena 60%, Garnacha 40%. Winemaking Fermented in stainless steel tanks. After malolactic in tank the wines were aged for 9 months in a selection of 300l second and third year French oak. Tasting note Bursting with the vivid fruit of Cariñena, with dark cherries and a note of liquorice and sweet spice. Oak ageing provides a smooth, complex background. 42,000 bottles produced.
My top 10 Rioja producers
Photograph: Tim Atkin MW
We asked Tim Atkin MW to whittle his own list of top winemakers and bodegas in this famous Spanish region down to just 10 favourites. Far from an easy task… RIOJA WAS ONE of the first regions I visited as a fledgling wine writer, and if it wasn’t quite love at first glance, it’s been an enduring and fulfilling relationship that’s lasted for 30 years and counting. As I drive across the Sierra de Cantabria, invariably swapping the rain, mist and grey skies of Bilbao for the brighter, more intense colours of Spain’s most famous DOCa, my spirits rise. People forget that Rioja is incredibly beautiful, especially in autumn. It’s been a pleasure to witness significant changes over those three decades. Rioja likes to present an immutable image – built on the foundations of crianza, reserva and gran reserva, blended across the region for consistency – but it has always been much more complex and interesting than that. The move towards single-vineyard and village wines, following a Burgundian rather than a Bordeaux model, has become unstoppable over the past year, culminating in a decision by the local consejo regulador to allow both from the 2017 vintage. How do you pick just 10 favourite producers? I could easily have selected 30 or more. Those who feature on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs must feel like this! In the end, I tried to pick a representative selection: traditional and modern; small and large bodegas; established and up-and-coming winemakers. On another day, I could have chosen a different set, but I’m happy with these because they represent the huge diversity of Rioja. More than anything, that is what keeps me going back for more. 6 0 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
Muga Visit Muga’s winery in Haro for a tasting and there’s every chance that half of the extended family will join you. The bodega was founded in 1932 by Isaac Muga. He was succeeded by Manuel and Isacín (the latter still visits the vineyards every day) who, between them, had five, unfeasibly tall sons – Manu, Juan, Eduardo, Jorge and Isaac – all of whom work in the business, as do several members of the fourth generation of Mugas. Is Muga traditional or modern in style? In truth, it’s a bit of both, depending on the wine. The white, Seleccíon Especial Reserva, and the long-lived Prado Enea Gran Reserva belong in the former camp; Aro and especially Torre Muga in the latter, with 100% new French oak barrels, all made in the winery’s own cooperage to prove it. The Mugas were grape growers before they were winemakers (the family has been in Haro for more than 300 years) and own 250ha of vineyards, with contracts for another 150ha, mostly in the Rioja Alta sub-region. Their ability to combine different parcels, some picked early, others as late as the first week of November, is the hallmark of their winemaking.
Above from left: three of the five Muga brothers – Juan, Manu and Jorge
Muga, Prado Enea Gran Reserva 2010 96 £44-£45 BI Wines, Christopher Piper, Highbury Vintners, Majestic, The Wine Society, Waitrose Cellar
Only made in the best vintages – and they don’t get any better than 2010 – this is a brooding, ageworthy blend of mostly Tempranillo with 20% Garnacha and 10% Mazuelo. Rich, dark and complex with stylish tannins and scented oak. Drink 2025-2040 Alcohol 14% Muga, Selección Especial Reserva 2011 94 £23.95-£25.80 Alexander Hadleigh, BI Wines, Christopher Piper, Frazier’s, Harvey Nichols, Majestic, Martinez, Nickolls & Perks, The Wine Society, Ultracomida, Uncorked
Fruit from cooler Villalba contributes winning zip and freshness to this Tempranillo-dominated blend. Dark berry sweetness, Asian spices and deftly integrated oak with plush tannins and the backbone to age for a decade or more. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 14% ➢ D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 61
López de Heredia Even by the standards of the Barrio de la Estación, Haro’s historic station quarter, López de Heredia is a traditional winery. It’s sometimes described, not least by co-owner Maria José López de Heredia, as ‘the last of the Mohicans’, but that is incorrect. For all its adherence to an ultra-classic, lower-alcohol, earlier-picked style, it is no museum piece, as demonstrated by the modernist, Zaha Hadiddesigned wine shop in its courtyard. Heritage is certainly important here – a walk around the 19th-century winery and the old cellars is a must – yet this is a dynamic business that has achieved great things under the direction of the great-grandchildren of founder Rafael López de Heredia. Low intervention and long barrel ageing in old wood are part of what makes these wines special – the current vintages of Viña Tondonia white and red are 2004 and 2005 – but what happens in the vineyard is every bit as important as the time they spend in those cobwebbed cellars. The winery has 170ha of vineyards, all close to Haro. Plantings are dominated by the Viña Tondonia vineyard
Marqués de Murrieta If Rioja has a bodega that can rival the appearance of a great Bordeaux château – a Margaux, Cos d’Estournel or Pichon Baron perhaps – then it is surely Murrieta. Turn off the busy main road from Logroño to Zaragoza and the winery sits at the end of a long drive, surrounded by lawns and cypress trees. Built in 1872 and lovingly restored in 2013, it makes wines that are every bit as stylish as its façade, combining traditional and contemporary techniques. Murrieta made its first wines in 1852, but its modern success dates to 1982, when it was acquired by the Count of Creixell, Vicente Cebrián-Sagarriga, who planted new vineyards and began to update the old cellars. His son, also Vicente, has gone even further since he took over after his father’s death in 1996, helped by long-term winemaker, María Vargas. The winery’s 300ha produce some of the best and most celebrated wines in Spain, led by its occasional Castillo Ygay bottlings (both red and white), Dalmau (one of the few local wines that includes Cabernet Sauvignon) and Left: Vicente Dalmau Cebrián-Sagarriga, who took over Marqués de Murrieta in 1996 62 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
Left: López de Heredia and its Reserva Blanco
Juan Carlos Sancha
(more than 100ha), with additional grapes supplied from the Viña Cubillo, Viña Bosconia and Viña Zaconia vineyards. At their best, these are unforgettable wines.
Juan Carlos Sancha is an unusual academic, as good at practical cellar and vineyard work as he is at the theoretical, pointy-headed stuff. A professor of oenology at the University of La Rioja in Logroño, he was also instrumental in rediscovering old Rioja grapes, such as Maturana Tinta and Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco and Monastel, and has always made wine professionally, first at Viña Ijalba and, since 2008, at his own eponymous bodega in Baños de Río Tobía, deep in the south of the Rioja Alta sub-region. Here, too, Sancha is at the forefront of innovation – he has 27 different varieties in the organically certified 4.5ha around his house. He makes a series of wines under his Ad Libitum label, but the superstars are the eight old-vine Garnachas, all sold under his Peña El Gato brand. These are: Peña El Gato, Natural (one of just a few Riojas made without sulphur), Jacinto López, Rubén Olarte, José Luis Martínez, Fernando Martínez de Toda, Manolo López and Juan Carlos Sancha. Using grapes from slopes high up in the Sierra de la Demanda foothills, Sancha is resurrecting the profile of Garnacha in Rioja.
López de Heredia, Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco 2004 97 £28-£35 Georges Barbier, Hedonism, Hennings, Noble Green, The Solent Cellar, Uncorked, Wine Boar
A great wine in a great year: Tondonia is unique. Aged for six years in wood, this Viura with 10% Malvasia ages brilliantly, with nutty almost Sherry-like notes, remarkable freshness, acidity, grace and length. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 13% López de Heredia, Viña Tondonia Reserva 2005 96 £23.76-£36.50 Berry Bros Exchange, Georges Barbier, Hennings, Laithwaite’s, The Good Wine Shop, The Oxford Wine Co, The Solent Cellar, Waitrose Cellar
Traditional Rioja at its ageworthy best, the Tondonia red is a cuvée of Tempranillo with 20% Garnacha and 5% each of Graciano and Mazuelo. Leafy, gamey and sweet, with tangy acidity and a volatile lift. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13.5%
‘The winery’s 300ha produce some of the best and most celebrated wines in Spain’ its ageworthy Capellanía white. Also commendable is its reliable Reserva, which accounts for 85% of Murrieta’s production. Marqués de Murrieta, Capellanía Reserva 2013 94 £22-£24.99 Banstead Vintners, Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols, Laithwaite’s, Tasting Room, The Wine Society
Photograph: Tim Atkin MW
This single-vineyard, all-Viura wine is a modernised traditional white Rioja entirely aged in new French oak. Pear, white pepper and subtle vanilla spice are complemented by chalky minerality, bright acidity and a saline finish. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 14%
Juan Carlos Sancha, Ad Libitum Maturana Blanca 2015 93 £14.50 Le Vignoble, WoodWinters Made without sulphur for the first time in 2015, this is a brilliant example of Rioja’s best rediscovered white grape, showing notes of white pepper, pear, vanilla, a drizzle of honey and a grapefruity tang. The oak is very subtle. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13% Juan Carlos Sancha, Peña El Gato Viñas Centenarias Garnacha 2016 94 £19 WoodWinters One of eight Garnachas in Sancha’s range, this comes from a remarkable, 100-year-old parcel in Baños de Río Tobía. Floral, peppery and spicy with dense berry fruit sweetness and some tannic grip. What a bargain! Drink 2018-2028 Alc 14% ➢
Below: Juan Carlos and Marian Sancha
Marqués de Murrieta, Dalmau Reserva 2013 96 £54.99-£57 Banstead Vintners, Cellar Wines, Le Vignoble, Portland Wine Co, Wine Utopia
Dalmau comes from the Canajas vineyard, which has a high limestone content. The sweet, savoury, red-fruited Tempranillo core is underpinned by the grassy, tannic structure of 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Graciano. Drink 2020-2033 Alc 14.5% D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 63
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Artuke Arguably the leading member of the exciting Rioja ’n’ Roll group, which includes some of the best young winemakers in the region, Artuke is based in relatively unglamorous Baños de Ebro in the Rioja Alavesa. Run by Arturo and Kike de Miguel (hence the name Artuke), the bodega was founded as recently as 1991 by their father Roberto, but has achieved new heights under the second generation. It was their grandfather who laid the foundations of the business, however, buying vineyards on less fertile soils away from the Ebro river. At the time, he was considered insane for doing so, but today has been well and truly vindicated. The two brothers farm 25ha in Baños itself as well as in Avalos and Samaniego, up to a height of 700m. They make a vibrant carbonic maceration Tinto Joven simply called Artuke (one of the best-value wines in Rioja), as well as a village-level Avalos wine (Pies Negros). But they are best known for their remarkable, terroir-expressing range of single-vineyard reds: Finca de Los Locos, Cerro de Mulas, K4
and (one of the great wines of Spain) La Condenada: an abandoned 1920 parcel that was rescued in 2012 and brought back to life. Artuke, Tinto Joven 2016 90 £10.95 Lea & Sandeman Unwooded, juicy and Above: Arturo de Miguel bursting with bramble is one half of Artuke and red berry fruit, this is made using carbonic maceration in the traditional ‘cosechero’ style of the Rioja Alavesa. Best drunk chilled with a smile on your face. Drink 2018 Alc 13.5% Artuke, La Condenada 2015 97 £39.95-£47.50 Lea & Sandeman, The Sampler Rescued from neglect – hence its name, The Condemned – this is a Tempranillo-led field blend, planted in 1920. Intense, ferrous and beautifully poised, with layers of mint, cassis, aniseed and black and blue berry fruit. Drink 2020-2035 Alc 14%
Photograph: Tim Atkin MW
Finca Allende Ask Miguel Angel de Gregorio where the grapes for Allende, the bodega he founded in 1995 with his sister Mercedes, come from and his reply is unequivocal: ‘Briones, 100% Briones.’ This attractive village on the south side of the Ebro has long been known for the quality of its Tempranillo and Graciano, especially when they’re grown on iron-rich clay soils, but it’s de Gregorio who has done most to promote it. He’s often (rightly) described as one of Rioja’s great modernisers, influenced by France as much as Spain, and his drive to express individual vineyard plots is positively Burgundian. Even when de Gregorio was forbidden to do so by Rioja’s Consejo Regulador, he used the phrase ‘Single Vineyard’ on labels. Unusually in Rioja, Allende makes whites that are every bit as thrilling as its reds. The Mártires barrel-fermented Viura is one of the great wines of the region – up there with de Gregorio’s single-vineyard reds, Mingortiz, Gaminde, Calvario and Ausus. Concentration and new French oak are the order of the day, but the Allende wines never lack freshness or precision. And if you can’t afford the top reds, the straight Finca Allende (recommended here) is a steal.
‘Miguel Angel de Gregorio is often (rightly) described as one of Rioja’s great modernisers’ Finca Allende, Blanco 2013 93 £20.95-£26 Berry Bros & Rudd, Hedonism, Highbury Vintners, Raffles, The Secret Cellar, Winedirect
Showing a honeyed note from a little botrytis in 2013, this is always one of Rioja’s best whites, made in a modern, almost Burgundian style. Wild herbs, citrus peel and some phenolic grip on the palate from partial skin contact. Ambitious stuff. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13.5% Finca Allende, Tinto 2010 94 £20.95-£23.40 Highbury Vintners, Master of Malt, Prohibition, Virgin Wines, Winedirect, WoodWinters
It’s hard to recall a better vintage of the ‘entry point’ Allende red, demonstrating the balance and poise of the year. Floral, nuanced and elegant, with stylish oak, stony minearality and the sweetness and purity of great Tempranillo. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 14% ➢ D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 65
David Sampedro in the vineyards at Bodegas Bhilar
Bodegas Bhilar David Sampedro and his American wife Melanie Hickman run this biodynamically farmed boutique winery in the village of Elvillar, which released its first wines in 2003. Sampedro also consults to other Spanish wineries, but his heart will always lie here and in the surrounding vineyards. Now working from a new winery on a panoramic slope above the village, his whites and reds are increasingly impressive. ‘I only use grapes from Elvillar,’ Sampedro says. He is a vigneron to his core, who ploughs his own vineyards, prunes the vines and makes all the wines himself. His rugby playing past has kept him fit – which is just as well, given how hard he works. The style here favours low yields, older oak and minimum intervention, with partial or complete whole-bunch fermentation for most of the reds and plenty of lees and oxidative handling for the whites. Some are blends of parcels (Phincas, Bhilar Plots and Thousand Milks), while others are 6 6 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
single-vineyard wines (El Vedao, Phinca Abejera, Phinca La Revilla and the remarkable Phinca Lali, made from a 0.6ha site planted in 1910). Hickman also makes her own wines under the Phinca Hapa label, sourced from grapes in – where else? – Elvillar. Bodegas Bhilar, Phinca Abejera 2012 94 £36.25 Bibendum-PLB David Sampedro’s top red is a blend of Tempranillo with 40% Graciano and 10% each of Viura and Garnacha, planted in 1932. Spicy, stemmy and very complex, with fine-grained tannins and the merest whisper of wood. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 14% Bodegas Bhilar, Phinca Lali 2012 93 £42.45 Bibendum-PLB Sourced from a vineyard planted in 1915, this is a field-blend cuvée of Tempranillo with 15% Viura, made with 100% whole bunches. Spicy, balanced and refreshing, with chalky nuances and hints of raspberry and dried herbs. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 15% ➢
Contino One of three wineries owned by the Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (universally known as CVNE, pronounced koo-nay), Contino is a 64ha estate located in the Rioja Alavesa on a bend in the Ebro river. It’s a special, unusually warm site, recognised as such in the early 1970s by CVNE’s then vineyard manager, José Madrazo, who suggested the company make a standalone wine with the grapes. This it duly did in 1974, producing the second single-vineyard wine in Rioja, after Remelluri. The Madrazo name has a long association with Contino. José’s son, Jesús, was winemaker for more than 30 years until he left in July 2017. (One of Madrazo’s new projects, Leizaola’s El Sacramento, is worth looking out for.) For the time being, the Contino wines on the market are Madrazo’s, but his youthful successor Jorgé Navascués is every bit as talented. Weather permitting – 2013 was marked by a violent hailstorm – Contino usually makes seven wines. There’s a rosé, a white and five reds: a varietal Garnacha and Graciano, a Reserva, a Gran Reserva and, best of all, Viña del Olivo, named after a small parcel of vines in the upper part of the estate.
Above: Jorgé Navascués in Contino’s barrel room Contino, Blanco 2016 94 £24.99 Dulwich Vintners, Waitrose It’s easy to overlook Contino’s white, such is the fame of its reds, but this barrel-fermented blend of Viura with a little Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca is complex, floral, leesy and flinty with structure from 24 hours’ skin contact. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13% Contino, Viña del Olivo 2014 96 £49.50-£66.80 Berry Bros & Rudd, Handford Wines, Harrods, Hedonism, The Wine Society
There was no Olivo in 2012 or ’13, but in 2014 it’s back with interest! Still young plum, cassis, liquorice and fennel with polished tannins and powerful underlying structure. Drink 2020-2030 Alc 14%
Photographs: Tim Atkin MW(2)
Abel Mendoza The name above the door says Abel Mendoza, but this highly respected grower couldn’t make the wines he does without his oenologist wife, Maite Fernández. They are a brilliant team who, together, have made a string of exceptional wines since 1988, inspiring a new generation of terroirdriven wineries in the process. Mendoza farms 18ha of vineyards, spread over 37 parcels, in San Vicente, Labastida and Abalos. He knows the terroirs of the north bank of the Ebro better than anyone. The best time to visit is when the duo’s rumbustious ‘grano a grano’ (berry to berry) picking party is in progress, but it’s always fun to sit around their kitchen table, taste through the range and listen to Mendoza in full, expletive-laden Spanish. The pair make everything from a carbonic maceration Above: Abel Mendoza quaffer, Jarrarte, to a
no-sulphur Tempranillo and three Grano a Grano reds. But it’s the whites that are really exciting, even if they only account for 20% of production. There’s a Viura, a Malvasia Blanca, a Tempranillo Blanco, a Torrontés, a Garnacha Blanca and (my personal favourite) 5V, which combines all five grapes in a delicious blend. Abel Mendoza, 5V 2016 93 £25.75-£31.95 Alliance Wine, Drinkmonger, South Downs Cellars, Uncorked, Winedirect
5V uses five different varieties – Viura, Tempranillo Blanco, Garnacha Blanca, Malvasia and a splash of Torrontés – to produce a rich, textured, waxy white with stone fruit flavours, subtle oak and brisk, balancing acidity. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13.5% Abel Mendoza, Sin Sulfuroso 2015 96 £25.75-£32.99 Alliance Wine, Highbury Vintners, Winedirect
Biodynamically farmed and made, as its name indicates, without sulphur additions, this is a fruit bomb, with less new oak than most of Mendoza’s reds. Plum, liquorice and blackberry flavours combine appealingly on the palate. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13.5% ➢ D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 69
Telmo Rodríguez of Bodegas Lanzaga is a brilliant marketer and trained oenologist
Photograph: Tim Atkin MW
Bodegas Lanzaga Based just outside the village of Lanciego in the Rioja Alavesa, Bodegas Lanzaga is the Rioja outpost of the Compañía de Vinos Telmo Rodríguez, which runs winemaking projects from Malaga to Valdeorras. Rodríguez is a brilliant marketer, as well as a trained oenologist, who works alongside long-term friend and collaborator Pablo Eguzkiza, who quietly runs the vineyards and cellar. Lanzaga made its first wines in 1998 with the idea of producing Riojas from a single commune. It now owns 15ha of bush-trained vines in Lanciego, as well a further 4.6ha in Labastida, close to Rodríguez’s family property, Remelluri, which the partners also make together. The wines that have propelled the young company to the front rank of Rioja are the single-vineyard bottlings, which began in 2011 with Las Beatas and have since expanded to include La Estrada, El Velado (formerly known as Veriquete) and Tabuérniga. Of the four wines, it is Las Beatas that has 70 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
received the highest praise, which is reflected in the price it commands after only five (bottled) vintages. To walk along its southeastfacing terraces, co-planted with nine different varieties, is to experience the past, as well as the exciting future of Rioja. Bodegas Lanzaga, Las Beatas 2014 98 £143 Hedonism The fourth vintage of this stunning single-vineyard red, sourced from a 1.9ha site in Labastida, is pure and graceful, with flavours and filigree tannins that wouldn’t look out of place in a grand cru Burgundy. Rioja’s Chambertin? Drink 2019-2028 Alc 14% Bodegas Lanzaga, Lanzaga 2011 95 £27.50-£28.50 Hghbury Vintners, New Generation McKinley
Combining Tempranillo grapes grown on both red and white soils in Lanciego, this sees no new oak. It’s a taut, high-altitude style that’s fresh, scented and very mineral, even in a hot vintage like 2011. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 15% D
Tim Atkin MW is an award-winning wine writer and regular contributor to Decanter. His 2018 Rioja Special Report is available at www.timatkin.com
Ribera and me: a complex relationship The quality of its top wines is not in question, but this highly rated Spanish region has struggled to win the affections of some wine lovers, including Sarah Jane Evans MW. Here, she explains why, and meets producers determined to fulfil their regionâ€™s potential
RIBERA DEL DUERO
LET’S START WITH this fact: Spain’s most historic and internationally famous winery is in Ribera del Duero. It’s so famous that I don’t need to name it, but for the sake of clarity I will: Vega Sicilia. The second fact is that in 1982 a wine from Alejandro Fernández, the simply named Tinto Pesquera, was spotted by US critic Robert Parker. In the same year the Ribera del Duero DO (Denominación de Origen) was created, and the Alvarez family purchased Vega Sicilia. Ribera was on the map. The third fact is that in less than 40 years since then Ribera has undergone huge growth, and is today home to almost 300 wineries. Now let’s move on to the awkward part, my opinion. Generalising wildly, I find it hard to fall passionately in love with wines from this exceptionally highly rated region. For a long time I thought I was alone, like the person who says a rude word during a sudden silence at a dinner party. However, having researched this more closely I realise I am one among many.
‘Ribera del Duero delivers structure, power, intensity. Plus also freshness, dark A Spanish wine enthusiast, a buyer for a top-end independent business in the UK, says despairingly: ‘I just can’t sell Ribera del Duero; my customers won’t buy them, they just don’t like them.’ He stocks wines from Vega Sicilia and a couple of other brands, but cannot delve deeper. Another common complaint is price: Ribera isn’t cheap. Says one buyer: ‘I can’t find a wine I like that my customers can afford.’ The price of Ribera del Duero is certainly an issue, but the key factor is the style. John Hoskins MW of Huntingdon’s Old Bridge Hotel notes: ‘If someone asks for Rioja we can sell them anything Spanish, if it’s in a round, “smooth” [the favoured word] style. And of course Ribera rarely does that, normally trying too hard.’ He goes on: ‘We do have consumers who like big wines, but they tend to want big and soft. So big Garnacha works well. But big Tempranillos rarely work.’ To get a Spanish perspective I spoke to Amaya Cervera, the perceptive commentator of the award-winning wine website ➢ Left: the Ribera del Duero vineyards of Vega Sicilia, Spain’s most famous producer D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 73
Photograph: Mick Rock/Cephas
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www.spanishwinelover.com. I asked if it was a national or cultural issue in Spain. ‘You’re right; the English critics have never been very keen on Ribera del Duero’s wines. The region that produces naturally powerful wines with a very fruity, oaky profile is still the most popular in the Spanish market – above all in the mass-market roble category which, with rare exceptions, is very marked by oak.’
Learning curve Riojano Ricardo Arambarri, whose company Vintae makes wine in Ribera del Duero and elsewhere, explains how this has come about. ‘It’s not necessarily due to the vineyards and the grapes, but the style in which it is made. Ribera del Duero is a very young appellation and has a short history of fine winemaking. Apart from Vega Sicilia, the first successes came at the end of the 1980s through to the early 2000s,’ he says. ‘Those successes came from a very overextracted, oaky style that stood apart from the classic Rioja style. During that time, the market, influenced by Robert Parker’s preferences, welcomed that style and the appellation enjoyed huge success.’ Ribera del Duero delivers structure, power, intensity. Plus also freshness, dark fruit and tannins. The clue is in that stylistic preference for tannin and the oak ageing. As a producer says, off the record: ‘I often hear winemakers saying, “If it doesn’t taste tannic, it’s wrong”. Unfortunately there’s a trend here among winemakers in Ribera del Duero – it’s an alpha male fight over who can make the biggest.’ In La Aguilera, one of the towns that is highly rated for its old vines, Germán Blanco of the young project Quinta Milú adds that in Ribera del Duero an additional factor is that they work with ‘a variety – Tempranillo – which makes wines with high polyphenols delivering colour and tannin, and low acidity’. The other factor, he says, is: ‘The boom a few years back, when people planted vines like
mad. As a result we have lots of young vines – and lots of young vines planted in poor sites.’ In that sense, Ribera’s future is all ahead of it. For while the region has fine bush vines, some of them pre-phylloxeric, two-thirds of vines have been planted since 1991. Blanco’s comment about sites holds the promise for the future, as producers better understand the diversity of their plant material and soils. One such is María del Yerro of Alonso del Yerro, who thinks it has taken almost 10 years of effort. Stéphane Derenoncourt, her consultant, is well respected in Bordeaux, but had no prior experience in Spain. ‘Our aim has been to make wines with ageing potential, fine wines with vintage character that reflect the terroir,’ she says. ‘Stéphane started in that unbearably hot vintage of 2003. Since then we have changed the way we manage the vines and understand our soils better with the help of Claude Bourguignon, and of course the vines are older. Since 2012 our soils have begun to give wines of a really exceptional quality.’
‘Since the unbearably hot vintage of 2003, we have changed the way we manage the vines and understand our soils better’ María del Yerro
Photograph: Diana Mewes/Cephas
Long-term plans Del Yerro mentions the heat. Ribera del Duero is no easy place to work. It’s a continental climate, hot and dry in summer. A significant feature is that temperature ranges from -20°C in winter to 42°C or higher in summer. And the risk of frost lasts until late, often into June. Altitude is important too: even the DO’s lowest vineyards are higher than most of Spain’s. A key is the heterogeneity of its soils. The DO measures 111km by 35km, running along the Duero river. Within that, there are some 35 different soil types, spread between the ➢
Above: Germán Blanco with Quinta Milú’s old vines in La Aguilera Left: harvesting Tinto Fino grapes at Hacienda Monasterio
D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 75
river banks and the high plateau. There has been work on soil mapping, but sub-zones are not yet formally recognised. This will undoubtedly help consumers to understand specific characters of Ribera del Duero and find the sub-zones they prefer. There’s an urgent need to preserve the old vineyards and enhance younger vines. Peter Sisseck has been working in Ribera for several years. His Psi project was created to foster Ribera del Duero’s vine heritage. ‘There are high potential vineyards, but they need to be managed properly. For this we need people with skills. But there’s no prestige working in the vineyards, so we have to find a way to give that prestige back. That’s why we will be doing courses, teaching young people pruning and vineyard work’.
‘Wine is released when it is too young, when all the tannins are still playing rock and roll’ Almudena Alberca, Viña Mayor He adds: ‘The idea of Psi is not just to help the old bush vines. We need to ensure the vines are in the right place: they are our connection to the past. We used to have 9,000ha, of which 6,000ha were old. We now have 22,000ha, and 2,000ha of them are old. It’s not that people aren’t replanting, but they are planting in the valley. In 10 years’ time, the kids won’t remember where the best places are.’ Above: the Viña Mayor winery, surrounded by Tinta Fino vineyards
Ribera del Duero: best recent vintages
Devastating frost in April means it will be a very small harvest for many of the region’s producers, but they are positive about the quality of fruit they have
Photograph: age fotostock/Alamy
A cool year, but producing balanced and fresh wines
2010 Turning out to be an excellent vintage: the wines are powerful, structured but still fresh
A hot vintage, but the wines are nevertheless ripe and
balanced, though perhaps a little less powerful than 2010
Some outstanding wines were made in this year, with depth and generosity, plus firm tannins
2004 Another excellent year: supple, pure fruit and fine elegance
2000 A really good year, better perhaps than 2001 which was Rioja’s outstanding vintage; the long-lasting wines have developed with fine balance
76 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
Positive moves So how best to enjoy Ribera del Duero, and its changing styles? The simple message is don’t drink it too young (unless it’s a joven, or roble). Says Almudena Alberca, technical director of Viña Mayor: ‘Ribera wines are meant to be aged in bottle and consumed when they’re old, when all the polymerisation has been done, and the wine is soft and elegant. But this is not the reality of today’s markets. Wine is released when it is too young, when all the tannins are still playing rock and roll.’ Like other producers across the region, she is adjusting and tweaking in the vineyard and the winery. Even at Vega Sicilia, technical director Gonzalo Iturriaga says he is making trials in the wineries across the group, reducing time in oak, using concrete vats, and experimenting with coopers. Oscar Aragón at Cillar de Silos has a new project at Dominio del Pidio, and it’s about fermenting in concrete and ageing in traditional underground cellars in ➢
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RIBERA DEL DUERO
Quintana del Pidio. At the east end of the DO, in the vineyards in Soria province, producers such as Dominio de Atauta and Dominio del Aguila are releasing wines that have more elegance, and less oak. But Cervera warns: ‘It’s very complicated there in cold years and can produce really tannic wines.’ Ribera del Duero has established success in its national market, and this risks stifling
innovation. But Blanco is positive: ‘There’s an alternative trend of those of us in smaller bodegas who want to reveal the soils in our wines, and we prefer the wines to mature without being drowned in oak. The good thing is that quality restaurants and independent wine shops rate our fresh wines highly.’ However, it’s not easy. Says Alberca: ‘A few of us want to produce something that is easier
Evans’ dream dozen from Ribera del Duero Arzuaga Navarro, Gran Reserva 2004 93
Hacienda Monasterio 2012 92 £28.33 (ib) Berry Bros Exchange
Montecastro, Reserva 2013 90 £26.99 (2011) Waitrose Cellar
£85-£89.99 Fine & Rare,
A delicious wine: fine, savoury style, with a tannic edge softened by fresh red fruit (including 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot and a dash of Malbec). Distinctive, polished and long. If you like this, then try the reserva. Drink 2018-2023
One to watch: Hacienda Monasterio became a 50% partner in 2012, bringing in both vineyard and winemaking expertise. High-altitude vineyard parcels; Tempranillo with a dash of Bordeaux varieties. Wines are fermented in concrete, with finely balanced use of oak. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 15%
Selfridges, The Good Wine Shop
Go ahead, spoil yourself. If you love a gran reserva, then this is spot-on. Glorious oak, toneddown after all these years; fine blend of forest floor, truffle and red cherries. Superbly polished. Drink 2018-2022 Alcohol 14%
Cillar de Silos, La Viña de Amalio 2014 93
£41.25-£50 Christopher Keiller, Majestic Cillar de Silos keeps getting better. Oscar Aragón makes this wine, named after his father, from a 50-year-old single vineyard. Refined, finely balanced, with ripe dark fruit and matching not dominant oak. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 14%
Dominio de Atauta 2014 92 £22.99-£25.80 (2013) D Byrne & Co, Prohibition, Rannoch Scott
Now for something different. From the far east in Soria, very old vines on sandy soils over calcareous bedrock deliver a fresh intensity. Nothing baked or roasted here. Refined and penetrating, with a saline edge. Drink 2019-2024 Alc 14.5%
Photograph: Carlos González Armesto
Garmón Continental, Garmón 2015 92 £36.50-£37.60 (2014) Circle Wine, The Wine Society
A relatively new wine from Mariano Garcia (of Aalto, formerly Vega Sicilia) and his sons; the brand comes from a merger of their surnames. Made from 30- to 80-yearold Tempranillo, from a blend of vineyards. Very fine fruit expression with a rasp of tannin. Controlled and not at all overextracted. Drink 2019-2023 Alc 14.5%
78 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
Alc 14.5% Alonso del Yerro, María de Alonso del Yerro 2012 91 £44 (ib) Fine & Rare The top wine from a fine estate, which is much improved. Stéphane Derenoncourt consults here. Generous brambly aromatics characterise the nose. A deep, dark palate powers through to a long finish. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 14.5%
Bodegas Cair, Tierras de Cair Reserva 2012 91 £41-£47.50 (2011) Alliance Wine, Hennings, The Halifax Wine Co
Fine cedar aromas on the nose lead to an attractive, juicy and fleshy palate. Vivid, with freshness and complexity. Still young and with potential; very promising. From La Aguilera, and made with grapes from lowyielding vines that are more than 60 years old. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 14.5%
Aster, Finca el Otero 2014 90 £28.75-£32 Armit Wines, Crump Richmond Shaw, Hic, Winedirect
Nicely balanced wine, which is sourced from vineyards in Anguix. A polished and accomplished style from the team at La Rioja Alta; this is proof that Tempranillo producers from Rioja can work with Tinto Fino. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 14.5%
Quinta Milú, La Cometa 2016 90 £20.50 Corks of Cotham, Highbury Vintners The top wine, from 70-year-old bush vines in La Aguilera. Made with 50% wholebunch and foot-trodden fruit; 13 months in used French oak barrels from 225 to 3,000 litres. Dense yet fresh black cherry and damson flavours and a dark, spicy finish. Drink 2019-2023 Alc 14%
Viña Pedrosa, Cepa Gavilán Crianza 2014 90 £11.50-£16.95 Bancroft Wines, KWM Wines, The Wine Society
The Pérez Pascuas brothers – and now the third generation in José Manuel Pérez Ovejas – make Ribera del Duero classics. Cepa Gavilán is the teenager in the family, a firm crianza, structured with lots of oak and dark fruit. Great value. Or trade up to the gran selección. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14.5%
Vintae, De Bardos Romántica Crianza 2013 89 £12.99 Cambridge Wine Merchants I’m not in love with the name of this wine, but the important thing is that the liquid is convincing. It spends 14 months in oneand two-year-old French oak barrels giving the bright, dark fruit a polished sheen. 2013 wasn’t a good year in Ribera, but this makes the best of it. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 14%
‘We can’t make Burgundy here. Our wines are full of character – the tannins must be ripe and well-extracted’ Peter Sisseck (pictured above) to drink. That doesn’t mean simple – these are complex wines. However, my clients feel that something is missing. They name another brand and they say, “That wine has more colour than yours, and more oak; yours only has 10 months’ ageing – does that mean yours is lower quality than a crianza?”’ As in Rioja, the quality wine classification requires specific time in specific barrels. This system values time in oak above vineyard age or quality. But things are changing here, as in Rioja: Cervera notes that Pago de Carraovejas, for example, has stopped making its crianza and reserva, and produces a ‘generic’ wine, meaning it can choose the time in and type of barrel, resulting in less obvious oak. Sisseck reminds me to celebrate the essence of Ribera del Duero: ‘We can’t make Burgundy here. Our wines are full of character. That’s why you have to be careful with the tannins – they must be ripe and well-extracted. You can build texture, but you need to do it with care.’ D Sarah Jane Evans MW is co-Chair of the DWWA, and author of The Wines of Northern Spain (on sale April 2018, early orders via Amazon)
Who are the almacenistas? You won’t know their names; but you should seek out their Sherry... Paula MacLean sheds light on the little-known bodegas that specialise in aged wines THE WINES FROM the Jerez area have been produced for more than 3,000 years, and have developed more complexities than most – both in terms of wines and customs. Among these is the virtually unique role of the almacenista. The word itself derives from the Arabic ‘al-makzan’ meaning ‘store’ (which also gives us the word ‘magazine’). Thus an almacenista is literally ‘one who stores wine’. Some also make wine and all of them age it, then supply it in bulk to the large bodegas who might want to add a flourish to their blends or need more wine to fulfil larger seasonal orders. Some producers based in Jerez buy almacenista manzanilla as it must be aged in Sanlúcar and they do not have bodegas there. From 1733 the Sherry trade was controlled by the Gremio de la Vinatería or wine-growers’ guild, which ostensibly represented growers but was inefficient, with crazy rules preventing growers from also being merchants and prohibiting merchants from holding large stocks. The Gremio thus severely restricted the growth of the industry and the quality of its wines, a situation that infuriated the shippers, whose numbers had dwindled to very few.
Photograph: Mick Rock/Cephas
A new start Juan Haurie, whose firm would later become Pedro Domecq (famous for La Ina fino), led a campaign for the Gremio’s abolishment, which eventually bore fruit in 1834. After that date the use of the solera system became generalised and bigger bodegas needed to be built to house them. At this time almacenistas began to be established too. Most started out as growers who made their own wine and developed modest soleras. They were usually small family businesses with a deep understanding of the land and the wine, but without the necessary commercial skills or bottling facilities to involve themselves in 8 0 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
the domestic market, let alone the export markets. As a result their wine was sold in bulk to the shipping bodegas, which did. This was expedient for both parties, as the shippers no longer needed to concern themselves with vineyards and winemaking. Many of the almacenistas developed outstanding quality wines. For a long time this remained the status quo, and at the high point there were some 130 almacenistas.
Business models After the establishment of the Denominación de Origen Jerez-Xérès-Sherry in 1933 and the subsequent founding of the Consejo Regulador, the rules provided for three types of bodega: Bodegas de Producción or production bodegas, of which there are currently eight; Bodegas de Crianza y Expedición or shipping bodegas (43); and Bodegas de Crianza y Almacenado or almacenistas (nine). Only the shipping bodegas are known to the public through their brands. To get a shipping licence a bodega needed a minimum stock of 12,500hl (or 2,500 butts), which was more than most almacenistas possessed, and their wines were thus never seen on the marketplace. In any case, they currently produce less than 5% of all Sherry. Things changed in 1981 when Rafael Balao, then manager of Bodegas Emilio Lustau, originally an almacenista itself, decided to bottle small quantities of his almacenista wines individually, detailing the producer’s name and number of butts in the solera on the label. The Lustau Almacenista Range was a great success, and the eyes of wine lovers were opened to the quality and variety of these hitherto unknown wines. The Lustau range originally consisted of 21 almacenistas, but that has slowly dwindled to six (see box). This reduction is due to two main factors: some almacenistas converting to
Above: fino being poured from cask at Bodega Emilio Lustau – whose Almacenista Range of wines helped spread the word about these small producers’ aged Sherries
Where to find almacenista wines in the UK Lustau Almacenista Range ■ Cayetano del Pino (The Wine Society, Waitrose) ■ José de la Cuesta (Vivino) ■ José Luis González Obregón (Highbury Vintners) ■ Juan García Jarana (Berry Bros & Rudd, Highbury Vintners) ■ Manuel Cuevas Jurado (Vinissimus) ■ Vides (Roberts & Speight, Vinissimus) Pedro’s Almacenista Selection ■ Sourced by Peter ‘Pedro’ Dauthieu of Viniberia (Majestic Wine)
shipper status and the continued decline in sales of Sherry, causing others to cease trading. Indeed, today many almacenistas rely on some other form of business to survive, and only carry on for the love of it.
Evolving for the future In 1996 an important change was made to the regulations, which reduced the minimum stockholding for shipping to just 500hl (100 butts). This allowed almacenistas – some of whom were fed up with long waits for payment – to sell bottled wines on the open market. This sensible regulatory change (along with the success of the Lustau range) encouraged them, and now some have converted to shipping bodegas, though without necessarily abandoning their bulk business. This resulted
Almacenistas/small bodegas ■ Alvaro Domecq, formerly Pilar Aranda (Naked Wines) ■ Arfe (Sherry Boutique) ■ Callejuela (Sherry Boutique) ■ Cayetano del Pino (The Wine Society) ■ César Florido (Les Caves de Pyrene) ■ El Maestro Sierra (Indigo Wines) ■ Faustino González (Sherry Boutique) ■ M Sánchez Ayala (Les Caves de Pyrene) ■ Santa Petronila (Sherry Boutique) ■ Urium (Sherry Boutique)
in the appearance of quite a few bodegas which seem new to Sherry aficionados, but which may in fact have existed for a long time. Looking ahead, while sales of Sherry continue to decline, all is not lost. An examination of the statistics clearly shows that while the cheap commercial Sherries (often bag-in-box) are in steep decline, sales of the genuine natural solera wines are increasing. This increase is due to a number of factors, including innovations such as the introduction of age-statement wines – 12 and 15 years old and the VOS (20 years) and VORS (30 years); some new añadas or vintage wines; en rama wines; and the arrival of independent bottlers. International chefs and sommeliers have also discovered how versatile Sherry is with food; Sherry bars are becoming popular; and wine tourism has increased (Sherry bodegas are the most visited wineries in Europe). The documentary film Jerez & El Misterio del Palo Cortado and the large number of medals awarded to Sherries by wine competitions have also helped. It is most unlikely that Sherry will ever recapture the sales volumes of its heyday, and an increase in the number of almacenistas is equally unlikely, as the big bodegas rarely need them. But some will survive by supplying the independent bottlers and smaller bodegas – indeed today the lines are slightly blurring between small bodegas and almacenistas. Thankfully, a new generation of aficionados is seeking out the rarer and more interesting wines and is prepared to pay a fair price for their outstanding quality. D
‘Most almacenistas started out as growers who made their own wine and developed modest soleras’
Paula MacLean is a freelance writer based in Spain who publishes Jerez-xeres-sherry. blogspot.com.es
D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 81
The Decanter guarantee Our buying guide is here to provide you with trusted, independent, expert recommendations on what to buy, what to drink and what to cellar. Each panel tasting is judged by three experienced tasters chosen for their authority in the category of wine being rated. All wines are tasted blind and are pre-poured for judges in flights of eight to 10 wines. Our three experts taste and score their set of wines individually but then discuss their scores together at the end of each flight. Any wines on which scores are markedly different are retasted; however, judges are under no obligation to amend their scores. Judges are encouraged to look for typicity in wines, rewarding those which are true to their region. Prices are not revealed, and thus not taken into consideration when scoring. The tastings are held in the controlled environment of Decanter’s tasting suite: a plain white room, with natural light and no noise. We limit the number of wines tasted to a manageable level – a maximum of 85 per day – allowing judges to taste more thoroughly and avoid palate fatigue. Drink-by dates are based on how long it is prudent to keep the wine in question. However, some wines will have a longer ageing capacity if stored in pristine conditions throughout their lifespan.
Buying Guide Expert recommendations • Essential reading This month’s panel tastings
Mature Rioja & Galician whites 84 Steven Spurrier’s fine wine world Our consultant editor and 2017 Man of the Year picks fine wines to drink now and lay down, all priced from £25
86 Weekday wines
Tasters rate the wines using the 100-point scoring system. The overall Decanter rating is the average of all three judges’ scores.
By Christelle Guibert Want something more adventurous in your midweek wine selection but don’t want to make an expensive mistake? We’ve found 25 exciting wines to try for under £25
The ratings are as follows:
98-100: Exceptional A great, exceptional and profound wine
95-97: Outstanding An excellent wine of great complexity and character
90-94: Highly Recommended
89 Mature Rioja 95 wines tasted No other region can compare in its wealth of high-quality, aged wines at such value. Our experts were enthralled
A very accomplished wine, with impressive complexity
86-89: Recommended A well-made, straightforward and enjoyable wine
83-85: Commended An acceptable, simple wine with limited personality
76-82: Fair Correctly made, if unexciting
101 Galician whites 96 wines tasted Look beyond Albariño to the fresh, easy appeal of the other indigenous whites of this northwest Spanish region
70-75: Poor Unbalanced and/or bland with no character 50-69: Faulty Displays winemaking faults For the Exceptional and Outstanding Decanter ratings, judges’ individual scores and tasting notes are listed in addition to the average score. For the Highly Recommended and Recommended wines, individual and average scores are also listed but tasting notes are a combination of the three judges’ notes. For the tasting notes of the Commended wines, please go to Decanter.com
110 Expert’s Choice: Txakoli By Sarah Jane Evans MW The lower alcohol and fresh fruit character of these coastal northern Spanish whites are fast winning new admirers Glasses kindly supplied by
D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 8 3
fine wine world Decanter’s long-standing consultant editor and 2017 Decanter Man of the Year hand-picks fine wines for drinking now and recommends others to lay down, all priced from £25 upwards From the cellar Saintsbury Club dinner
For the cellar Douro reds 2015
At the 171st dinner of the Saintsbury Club in October we were served a trio of 2000 clarets, all (as is every wine served on these occasions) presented by one of the 50 male members, who are split between industries of wine, arts and letters. Following the Dom Pérignon 2002 on arrival at the Vintners’ Hall – fuller than expected – came a splendid Broadbent, Verdelho, Madeira 1954, rich and warm with lively acidity. The solitary white was an exceptionally good Jean-Noël Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Caillerets 2009. Then, with a confit of duck leg, lentils, pancetta, wild mushroom and mashed
Members of The New Douro showcased their wines last year under the title ‘Taste along the River’. Since many burst on the London scene 20 years ago under the Douro Boys banner, their wines have shown a fascinating trajectory, and the red 2015s were deemed their best ever. In his speech, Cristiano van Zeller of Quinta Vale D. Maria said that until 1970 almost all the Douro vineyards were field blends planted at a high density of 8,000 vines per hectare. Tractors have now replaced mules and broad terraces have been carved out, density has halved and varietal planting is now the norm. ‘But the best blend in the vat still
potato, came the 2000 clarets: De Fieuzal, Pessac-Léognan was broadly youthful but not really going anywhere; Du Tertre, Margaux was classic and firm, showing Margaux fragrance as it opened up; and the La Fleur-Pétrus, Pomerol, easily dominated – a really great wine, elegantly earthy with a decade and more in front of it. With the cheese came Croft 1977, a rich and surprisingly vigorous Port in its 40th year, spicy and warm, while coffee was served with a Bas-Armagnac 1983, landed in Bristol in 1996 and bottled in 2008, presented by eau-devie specialist John Barrett – a truly spirited way to end another great evening.
comes from a field blend in the vineyard,’ he stressed. Most wines listed here (all 92-95pts and drinking 2019-2030) are just that: Casa Ferreirinha, Callabriga (importer Liberty Wines); Duas Quintas, Reserva (MMD); Poeira (Fields Morris & Verdin); Niepoort, Batuta and Charme (Raymond Reynolds); Quinta do Crasto, Reserva Old Vines (Enotria & Coe); Quinta do Vallado, Reserva Field Blend (Bibendum-PLB); Quinta Vale D Maria, Curriculum Vitae (Tanners); Quinta do Vale Meão, Tinta Roriz (Raymond Reynolds); and Wine & Soul’s Pintas and Quinta da Manoella VV from vines planted in 1900 (Corney & Barrow).
The Spurrier selection Mas de Daumas Gassac, Languedoc, France 2016 92 £27-£34 Christopher Piper, Corkr, Davis Bell McCraith, Dulwich Vintners, Highbury Vintners, Les Caves de Pyrene, The Good Wine Shop, The Wine Society
Lifted summer florality. 31% of Viognier brings beguiling stone fruit notes, while Chardonnay, Petit Manseng and Chenin Blanc offer lovely vivacity. Will show complexity as it matures. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 14% 8 4 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
Chapel Hill, The Vicar Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia 2012 95 £34.95 Hailsham Cellars Established in 1973, Chapel Hill’s wines gained global status with the arrival of winemaker/CEO Michael Fragos in 2008. The oldest vines are reserved for this Shiraz: dense but layered black berry fruits and savoury texture show vibrant class. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 14.5%
Long Meadow Ranch, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA 2013 93 £55 Roberson Wines Combining fruit from its Mayacamas and Rutherford estates at up to 335m, this is a true mountain Cabernet, with 7% each of Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah. Densely flavoured but pure and not exaggerated fruit and a fine, balanced finish. Drink 2019-2030 Alc 13.5%
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Weekday wines Looking to try something different or adventurous, but don’t want to make an expensive mistake? Decanter’s tastings director Christelle Guibert has done the hard work for you, picking out 25 exciting and accessible wines available in the UK for £25 or less
Baron Albert, L’Universelle Brut, Champagne, France NV 91 £20.95 Lea & Sandeman A Champagne this delicious at this price is an extremely rare find. It’s an easy-drinking style, with 7g/l dosage, made mainly from 2012 and 2013 Pinot Meunier. Light and zesty green apple and fresh citrus intensity with tension and a persistent mousse. Alcohol 12.5%
Ebner-Ebenauer, Hermanschachern Grüner Veltliner, Weinviertal, Austria 2015 92 £20 Roberson
Le G de Guiraud, Bordeaux Blanc Sec, France 2015 91 £16.50 Lea & Sandeman
From a group of Rías Baixas wineries which joined forced in the 1980, this has lifted notes of ripe apricot, tropical fruit and some grapefruit too. A modern, very approachable style with lip-smacking acidity and crystallised citrus fruit on the finish. A food-friendly wine ideal for drinking now. Alc 12%
An equal blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon from estate grapes. Aromas of citrus, freshly cut grass and creamy richness from the oak, then a mid-weight palate with tension and energy, lifted by lemon acidity and a creamy finish. Aged in barrels previously used for its famous Sauternes. Alc 14%
Sierra de Toloño, Rioja, Spain 2014 91 £14.50 Lea & Sandeman
Weingut Klumpp, Auxerrois, Baden, Germany 2016 91 £16.95 Yapp Brothers
8 6 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
Marion Ebner runs this 10ha estate with husband Manfred Ebenauer. This full-bodied single-vineyard wine is crisp and fresh with concentrated, fleshy ripe apple and stone fruit and a rich, round texture, ending with a nice saline finish. Alc 13%
ViniGalicia, Dona Luci Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain 2016 92 £12.50 Borough Wines
White Rioja isn’t as well-known as its red sibling, but as a result is underrated and great value. This is from winemaker Sandra Bravo, who returned home after broad global experience to start this project in 2012. Delicate white flowers, apple and lemon zest on a weighty palate thanks to the French oak, and saline acidity to refresh. Alc 12.5%
Auxerrois is mainly planted in Alsace, but there are 180ha in Germany too. The grape has many similarities to Pinot Blanc, but is a bit fleshier. This wine is all about the texture – it’s smooth and creamy but with fine tension, lemony acidity and nutty sweetness of ripe apple fruit. A great food wine. Alc 13%
Druida, Encruzado Reserva, Dão, Portugal 2015 93 £17.50-£19.50 Portugal Vineyards, Uvinum Encruzado is a local Dão grape, whose taste profile is like crunching into a juicy green apple. This has a vibrant zesty character, along with delicate white stone fruit and floral hints. It’s light on its feet but has enough weight, precision and focus to be taken seriously – on its own or instead of a fine Chardonnay at your next dinner party. Drinking beautifully now, but it will age too. Alc 13%
25 UNDER £25 Domaine de la Rochette, Fleur de Printemps Sauvignon Blanc, Touraine, Loire, France 2016 90 £13.50 Swig Not as pungent as New Zealand Sauvignon and not as flinty as a Sancerre, this shows pretty and forward flavours of apple, garden peas and a squeeze of lemon. It’s weighty and ripe but remains vibrant and fresh, with pristine acidity. Alc 12.5%
Törley, Talisman Dry Furmint, Hungary 2016 89 £6.99 Adnams This is a light, zesty and refreshing tipple from Hungary’s signature white grape, and offers fabulous value for money. Expressive and easy-drinking, with green apple characters and a hint of honey on the finish. One to have in the fridge on standby. Alc 11.5%
Domaine ZindHumbrecht, Zind, Alsace, France 2015 90 £17.99 Waitrose Year in, year out, this blend of 65% Chardonnay and 35% Auxerrois always delivers. From grapes that are now 25 years old and farmed organically and biodynamically, this shows gentle tropical, floral and grapefruit notes. Precise and pure lovely weighty texture and underlying minerality. Alc 13%
Château St-Estève de Neri, Grande Expression, Luberon, Rhône, France 2010 91 £14 Borough Wines
From vineyards certified organic and biodynamic comes this equal blend of Syrah and Grenache with lovely bottle age. You can taste the Mediterranean sunshine in the richness of weighty yet elegant blackberry fruit, balanced by a savoury pepper finish. Alc 14%
Domaine de la Meynarde, Côtes du Rhône Villages Plan de Dieu, France 2016 91 £10 Marks & Spencer
Monte Bernardi, Retromarcia, Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy 2015 91 £17.99 Virgin Wines
Located just 15km from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this rich and hearty southern red is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. Deliciously juicy red cherry, blackcurrant and black pepper notes sing on a soft, easy-going palate. A top-value winter warmer. Alc 14%
A touch of leather blends with redcurrant and red cherry fruit in this fine example of 100% Sangiovese, where tomato notes and spice are backed by chewy tannins and fine acidity. Raw fruit dominates a bit now, so may benefit from another year or so in bottle. Alc 13.5%
Montonale, La Venga, Benaco Bresciano, Lombardy, Italy 2015
£19 Berry Bros & Rudd
Villa St-Roch, Quartet, Minervois, Languedoc-Roussillon France 2015 91 £12.95 Stannary St Wine Co
From grapes sourced on the southern side of Lake Garda, this is a blend of Marzemino and Barbera. No oak has been used, to preserve the purity of the seductive strawberry and raspberry fruit and to retain its sense of place. A complex and stylish discovery. Alc 13%
An unoaked southern blend of Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre, offering rich cassis and blackberry fruit and spice. It’s rich and bold with ripe juicy fruit, a smooth texture and polished tannins with a peppery finish. One to enjoy with roast lamb. Alc 14%
Adam Mason, Marvelous White Blend, Western Cape, South Africa 2016 91 £9.75 Oddbins Marvelous is a collaboration between a chef, an entrepreneur and winemaker Adam Mason, now of Mulderbosch Vineyards. It’s an eclectic blend of Chenin Blanc, Muscat de Frontignan, Semillon and Clairette Blanche. Expressive and forward with peach and apricot flavours and a honeysuckle edge. Aromatically inviting with subtle creaminess from the oak, and a zesty finish. Alc 12.5% ➢ D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 87
25 UNDER £25 Alexandre Burgaud, Lantignié, BeaujolaisVillages, France 2016 90
£11.50 Berry Bros & Rudd
Atkins Farm, Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia 2016 90 £9.99 Waitrose
Alexandre Burgaud works at his uncle Jean-Marc Burgaud’s domaine in Morgon and his own venture: 5ha of vines up to 100 years old. This shows real purity with violet, crunchy red cherry fruit and lifted florals. Light yet complex with a refreshing mineral finish. Alc 12.5%
Aromatically inviting spiced plum and blackcurrant aromas lead to a smooth, rich and concentrated palate infused with vibrant black fruit. It may have a powerful kick of alcohol on the finish, but this will marry brilliantly with barbecued grilled red meat. Lots of wine for the price! Alc 14.8%
Château de Roquefort, Gueule de Loup, IGP Bouches du Rhône France 2015 90 £14.75 H2Vin
Jurgen Gouws, Intellego Syrah, Swartland, South Africa 2015 90 £18.50 Oddbins
Sourced from vines up to 52 years old, this boasts expressive aromas of Provençal herbs with red and black fruit. The opulent, bright palate tastes of the south with its classic dark fruit and garrigue characters. Lovely on its own but best enjoyed with roast lamb. Alc 13.5%
This is almost Crozes-like with its peppery, red cherry fruit, made with minimal intervention from old, unirrigated bush vines, bottled unfined and unfiltered. Medium-weight, it’s juicy and fresh, balanced by well-judged oak. Graceful, lifted, long and moreish. Alc 12.5%
Le Macchiole, Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy 2015 90 £20.95 Lea & Sandeman
Mayne de Beauregard, Bergerac, France 2016
Mainly Merlot with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. A touch rustic on the palate, it has polished tannins, exotic spice and lots of ripe red and black fruit characters, balanced by fine acidity. A vibrant and gastronomic wine which will benefit from ageing. Alc 14.5%
Bergerac may be a popular holiday destination but its wines are often overlooked. That’s a shame, as some real bargains can be found – like this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It’s herbal and savoury with red cherry and plum flavours backed by structured tannins. Alc 13.5%
Quinta de la Rosa, DouROSA, Douro, Portugal 2015 90 £13.75 Oddbins This is an approachable, aromatic delight that opens up to forward cherry and cassis flavours, and a sprinkle of sweet spices. Fresh and vibrant with soft tannins and plenty of juiciness, it’s a versatile wine that can be enjoyed slightly chilled on its own or with tomato-based dishes. Alc 13.5%
8 8 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
£8 Marks & Spencer
Rustenberg, Red Muscadel, Western Cape, South Africa 2015 92 £13.49 Waitrose A real treat to have chilled on its own or with cheese, this is made using a centuries-old process of fortifying the gently pressed juice of sweet, late-harvested grapes. It’s luscious but also refreshing with warm spices, ripe red cherry fruit and a hint of rose petals. Alc 16.5%
Domaine des Lises, Crozes-Hermitage, Rhône, France 2015 93 £19.95 Yapp Brothers Made by Maxime Graillot, the son of Crozes legend Alain Graillot, this is a real beauty. The delicate palate shows juicy, vibrant blackberry and red cherry fruit and black pepper characters along with polished tannins. It’s very quaffable now, in its youth, but has the fruit weight and structure to develop into something more serious and complex with time. A must-buy at this price. Alc 13.5%
Mature Rioja As a reliable and plentiful source of quality wines that come with years of ageing already behind them, Rioja is surely unequalled, says Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW
Bay of Biscay
Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW is a Decanter World Wine Awards Regional co-Chair for Spain and Sherry
30 River Ebro
Santo Domingo de la Calzada
DE A RA AND R E M SI DE LA
Rioja: know your vintages
2009 Very hot, saved by late rains. The best are great, but most not likely to last long
became worse. Average year, some good wines
An excellent vintage, although more marked by drought
2008 Cool, with
considered excellent; great capacity to age
lots of rain. Top wines are elegant. Particularly suited for gran reservas
Older Up to 1964, if
2007 Cold, late year preceded by long, slow ripening. Lower alcohols and good freshness. Drink soon
2006 The drought
River Ebro Alfaro
The best wines are suited to long cellaring
Villamediana de Iregua
SIER CAM RA DE ERO S
2010 Great vintage.
Laguardia San Asensio
S PA I N Haro
SIE C A NR R A D E TA B RIA
Easy access In the 1990s, most (but not all!) wineries followed a programme of replacing old American oak barrels with newer ones, often of French oak, and reducing ageing periods. The market took enthusiastically to those new styles, with fruit that was much more vibrant, and abundant tannins. However, some experts predicted that new-wave Rioja wines would not age as well as their classic siblings. This tasting includes some of those new-style wines, and they defy that early criticism. Wine lovers can find examples of mature Rioja in the form of classic wines that have been aged in oak for a very long time, or post-modern wines made with short ageing in French oak, and all sorts of styles in between. Some producers keep impressive botelleros, where the bottles rest until the producer decides the wine is ready to drink. Others sell the young wine à la bordelaise, charging the consumer with the effort and the benefit of ageing it in bottle. It is not difficult to find old Rioja wines in the market. Until recently, Spanish people used to offer older wines as a gift of distinction. There was a market for this kind of wine (which now seems to be re-emerging). In addition, the Rioja wine region has never suffered any military invasion: wineries were able to retain stocks undisturbed and release them when matured. There is probably no other wine region in the world with such stocks of old wines. Maybe, Rioja is the best entry point into the world of fine old wines.
Map: Maggie Nelson
BACK IN THE 1850s, the Marquises of Riscal and Murrieta brought Bordeaux know-how on how to age wine to Rioja. The results were so spectacular that Rioja became a recognised fine wine region in less than 20 years. Indeed, the best Rioja wines benefit much from oak ageing and have a unique capacity to gain complexity and silkiness after many years in bottle. The 1895 Riscal or 1900 Murrieta are nowadays excellent, complex wines, ready to drink but still capable of keeping. This is why, until recently, Rioja categorised its quality wines according to ageing time (crianza, reserva and gran reserva), rather than by geographic origin or brand. Nobody knows why those wines have that capacity. Some say it is because of classic Rioja viticulture, on bush vines with no chemicals. Others speak of traditional winemaking methods, exposing the wines early to oxygenation and then to long periods in old barrels. Finally, some experts talk of exceptional terroirs. But it is also worthy of note that both red and white Rioja wines share this capacity for lengthy ageing.
Rioja: the facts Production figures for the Rioja DOCa (2016) Area under vine 63,593ha (red grapes 57,998ha) Grape production 442m kg Wine production 317.83m litres Varieties Tempranillo 79.68%, Garnacha 7.12%, Mazuelo 1.99%, Graciano 1.86%, Viura (white) 6.48% Oak barrels 1,326,000 ➢
kept in good conditions many vintages may well be excellent. Then 1970, ’75, ’81 and ’82 are generally the vintages to try, up until 1994 and 1995, the renaissance vintages, and 2001, the dream vintage
D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 8 9
The results There’s exciting stylistic variation in these ready-aged reds. Taste around, find a producer whose approach you like, and enjoy superb value, says Christelle Guibert THE JUDGES WERE presented with 95 wines across 15 vintages, from 2010 going all the way back to 1978. With more than 55% of the wines below £25, Rioja has a very strong case for being the best value red wine. Sarah Jane Evans MW pointed out: ‘So often we are drinking wines that were made last year, but these wines give so much pleasure from those extra years’. There’s certainly no region with a better offering of old vintages straight off the shelf. This though could be about to change as, according to Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, production of the classic gran reserva style is dwindling. ‘You have to invest a huge amount in order to produce a classic gran reserva – you cannot expect the new generation to wait 10 or 15 years to release a wine. This explains the increase in modern styles of Rioja, with no indication of ageing.’ Evans agreed, adding: ‘Gran reserva may be seen as the old person’s drink, but they are outstanding wines. They are a kind of hidden secret, a bit like how Sherry was regarded in the past.’ During the tasting, there was much discussion on the topic of discerning stylistic differences. ‘It’s really hard,’ said Pierre Mansour. ‘Wine styles revealed more about the winemakers’ and producers’ philosophy than whether a wine was a reserva, a gran reserva or even one with no age requirements. There were 2010 wines that looked and tasted quite young, while others showed much more maturity, so it’s very much a producerinfluenced approach.’ Ballesteros Torres said: ‘In the past, if you were not able to sell your crianza, you could sell it as reserva. Changes to legislation mean things have changed, but what is shocking is that we had a lot of gran reserva wines that look like a reserva. The wines are very good, but you are completely lost.’ Indeed, some of the gran reservas in the tasting had been aged for 72 months, while others had been aged
‘Gran reserva Riojas are outstanding wines – they’re a kind
The scores 95 wines tasted Exceptional
of hidden secret’ Sarah Jane Evans MW for just 24-36 months. Ballesteros Torres recalled when ‘a reserva was 24 months and the gran reservas were much more oxidised. But it is changing, and this is a new style.’ Mansour reiterated: ‘It’s a bit like Burgundy: you follow the producer, depending on what style you prefer – and that’s what makes Rioja so exciting.’ This winemaker-led approach meant that over a wide range of vintages our experts found it very difficult to generalise. In Rioja, as in Burgundy, so much depends on how the producers choose to make the wines. Evans remarked: ‘You could say a good producer would always produce a good wine. There are different styles, and consumers will fall in love with one kind of producer or another.’ The panel found the tasting exciting, with the best wines offering real pleasure. Mansour described them as ‘gorgeous, gentle, mellow and silky when fully mature, and with this incredible fresh acidity and vigour.’ In terms of grape varieties, Evans had a preference for the blends: ‘As a consumer, you don’t have to worry what the blend is: producers have thought about what they have in their vineyard and what they do with it’. Ballesteros Torres added: ‘Garnacha was the grape variety of Rioja Alta traditionally, but it was grubbed up in order to plant Tempranillo. However there are a few producers now producing lovely single-varietal Garnacha.’ All concluded that Rioja is one region where you can buy a normal bottle of wine and find it ready to drink and likely to be delicious, but there are also wines that can be kept in the cellar for even longer.
7 Highly Recommended
Entry criteria: producers and UK agents were invited to submit mature red Rioja wines from the 2010 vintage or older
The judges Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW
Sarah Jane Evans MW
Ballesteros Torres is a DWWA Regional co-Chair for Spain. He studied in Jerez, Burgundy, Napa and Bordeaux, and has a masters in viticulture and oenology. He is a columnist for Vino y Gastronomía and Planeta Vino magazines, and is on the council of the Institute of Masters of Wine, as well as the governing board of the Spanish Tasters’ Union.
Evans is co-Chair of the Decanter World Wine Awards. An awarded journalist and author, she was knighted into the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino for services to Spanish wine in 2010, and she held the role of chair of the Institute of Masters of Wine from 2014 to 2016. Her new book The Wines of Northern Spain (£30, Infinite Ideas), will be published in April 2018.
Mansour has worked in the wine trade for his entire career since 1995. In 2000 he began overseeing tastings and events for The Wine Society, before becoming a buyer in 2004, sourcing wines from Australia, New Zealand and North America. Since 2014, he has been buying manager for the company, currently buying Champagne, Spanish wines and Sherry.
9 0 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
La Rioja Alta, 890, Gran Reserva 2005 Decanter average score: 96/100pts Individual judges’ scores: Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW 96 Sarah Jane Evans MW 96 Pierre Mansour 96
£110 Armit, Fine & Rare, WoodWinters Founded in 1890 as a consortium of five families, La Rioja Alta is an integral part of Haro’s Barrio de la Estación district, with its modern winemaking facilities in Labastida. The 890 name stems from the first wine made by the company’s first winemaker, Monsieur Vigier, in 1890. Predominantly Tempranillo with a little Mazuelo and Graciano, aged for six years in American oak, then for a few more years in bottle.
Bodegas Palacio, Glorioso, Gran Reserva 1978 95 PBT 95 SJE 95 PM 95 POA Conviviality Located in Laguardia, between the Sierra Cantabria mountains and the Ebro river, Bodegas Palacio is at the heart of a group of wineries set up in 1894, today making wines in Ribera del Duero, Rueda and Toro, as well as Rioja. The location bodes well for its Tempranillo grapes, grown on high-altitude, chalky clay soils with a south-facing aspect, all in Rioja Alavesa. New French oak barrels are used in the ageing process, which lasts at least 24 months, followed by further ageing in bottle.
Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW The unmistakeable style of classic gran reserva, with its vanilla tones, this is so refined and long, so delicate. Great.
PBT A lovely decadent style which is juicy and appetising in the mouth, leading to a clean finish. For a wine that is almost 40 years old this deserves an accolade.
Sarah Jane Evans MW All about truffles and forest floor. Rich and velvety textured with red berries coming through. Confident, superb.
SJE 1978, what a treat! This is all about what Rioja can do. Graceful, elegant and berry fruited with citric freshness in a slightly rustic style.
Pierre Mansour The classy nose suggests proper traditional-style Rioja. Complex and savoury yet fresh, round and graceful. Very long.
PM A Light, delicately framed gran reserva of considerable age and finesse, this retains remarkable vigour and freshness. A delight.
Drink 2018-2030 Alcohol 13.5%
Drink 2018-2022 Alc 12.5%
Bodegas Perica, Oro, Reserva 2010
CVNE, Imperial, Gran Reserva 2009
95 PBT 95 SJE 95 PM 96
95 PBT 95 SJE 95 PM 95
N/A UK Please contact Bianca Trading
£49-£52.55 Fine & Rare, Hailsham Cellars, Hedonism, Luvians, Tanners,
A family winery with around 56ha of vineyards in Rioja Alta, Bodegas Perica was started by Don Juan García in San Asensio in 1912. It was his son Don David García who passed on his own nickname, Perica, to the winery after he inherited the estate. Today, oenologist Rafael García ensures all processes are meticulously carried out, from winemaking to transfer into French and American oak barrels. Oro is 95% Tempranillo and 5% Graciano, from 60-year-old vines, made only in top vintages. PBT Oaky at first glance, this then opens up into a complex multilayered fruit expression with a very long finish. A wine of great dimension with a respectable capacity to improve with age. SJE Roasted blackcurrants and dark fruits on the nose unfurl onto a dense and spicy palate that is punchy and fresh, with a driving acidity underpinning the whole. PM Dense, black fruit aromas and polished new oak suggest a youthful, more modern style that is concentrated yet controlled, velvety and punchy with great presence and length. Flashy and luxurious. Drink 2018-2033 Alc 13.5%
Whole Foods Market
Imperial was first bottled in 1920 and has gained a reputation as one of the best known wines of Rioja. The name traces its origins back to a special bottling intended for the English market which was called ‘Pinta Imperial’, Imperial pint. The grapes come from CVNE’s 28ha of vineyards, as well as from selected sites in Rioja Alta, where the vines are on average 20 years old. Ageing in French and American oak lasts for 24 months, with another 48 months in bottle. PBT Dense, highly concentrated style that’s already very impressive and will please many. One hopes that its concentration of fruit will come to terms with the heavy oak with some more time in bottle. SJE Aromatically bursting with red fruits, this is a very perfumed, full-flavoured wine with notes of cranberries. It is a mouthwatering, confident wine that will last a long time. PM Spicy new oak floats across the dense and layered palate, giving a chunky, compact wine with lovely plum fruit. Complete. Drink 2018-2032 Alc 14% ➢ D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 91
Outstanding (continued) 95–97pts
La Rioja Alta, 904, Gran Reserva 1997
Ramón Bilbao, Mirto 1999
95 PBT 95 SJE 95 PM 95
95 PBT 95 SJE 95 PM 95
£62 Armit, BI Wines & Spirits, Fine & Rare
£39.50 Fine & Rare, Great Western Wine
This vintage of La Rioja Alta’s 904 highlights its difference as a producer. A ‘good’ rated vintage didn’t stop this quality-conscious winery from producing a superb wine. With its 400ha of vines, La Rioja Alta is almost self-sufficient: unusual among Rioja producers. This blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano has seen four years in cask, and a few more in bottle prior to its release. The company imports American oak from Ohio and Pennsylvania, in order to supply the huge requirements of its in-house coopering operation.
Ramón Bilbao was founded in 1924 in Haro and acquired by family firm Diego Zamora, a prominent spirits and liquors company, in 1999 – the year that also saw the first production of Mirto from a blend of selected sites from seven villages around Haro. Each is fermented separately and winemaker Rodolfo Bastida takes samples to French coopers to match each lot with the most appropriate French oak. This wine is 100% Tempranillo and aged in French oak barrels for 20 months.
PBT An amazing, classic style with unique aromas, round tannins and a velvety texture, finishing suave and gorgeous. SJE Gloriously smoky American oak. The palate is all about American oak too, but the blend of vanilla and berries is irresistible. PM Lovely sweetness and vigour here, with the acidity supporting the mellow texture and fruit. A superb classic Rioja. Drink 2018-2028 Alc 13%
PBT A round, soft, balanced Rioja that has been deliciously built, giving it great persistence. Great experience, very typical. SJE Finely made and elegant. Supple in the mouth, this is a wine that is still brightly alive with typical vivid acidity, and just a little dry on the finish. Impressively alive – this is Rioja. PM Leathery notes combine with cedar portraying that this is certainly evolved. There is superb acidity to lift the fruit; it’s a stylish Rioja at its peak. Excellent traditional style with amazing oak influence. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13.5%
blend spends two years and six months in French (60%) and American (40%) oak, and a further three years in bottle before release. PBT A multi-layered, dense and concentrated wine that is showing evidence of French oak. It is a modern style of Rioja at gran reserva level, and really shows the best of both worlds.
Valserrano, Gran Reserva 2010 95 PBT 95 SJE 95 PM 95
£31.50 Davy’s Bodegas de la Marquesa Valserrano is a family business that was started in the second half of the 19th century by Francisco Javier Solano y Eulate, who took the advice of a Bordeaux winemaker to use the Médoc method of ageing and storing wine. Their own 65ha provide the majority of the grapes used for the production of their wines, all fully owned by the family. This 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano
SJE Truffle and balsamic aromas dance across the glass. On the palate the wine is vibrant, with cherries, peppers, citrus, and a fine line of tannin. A long and elegant example. PM Smoky oak unfurls onto an intense, generous palate with heaps of depth and richness. The fruit is sweet and plump so there is real appeal here. A lovely contemporary style with plenty of life. Drink 2018-2031 Alc 14% ➢
Don’t miss Decanter’s Spain and Portugal Fine Wine Encounter
SATURDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2018
11am to 5pm
In less than three weeks’ time, Spain and Portugal’s finest producers will be coming to London to pour their wines for you. More than 300 wines will be available to taste from a number of iconic wineries, with Masterclass and Discovery Theatre tickets available to book too.
To buy tickets visit www.decanter.com/events or call +44(0)20 3148 4513
DEC ANTER PROMOTION
DECANTER RECOMMENDED MATURE RED RIOJA
Ramón Bilbao Mirto 1999
95 Bodegas Ramón Bilbao, S.A. Avenida Santo Domingo 34 26200 Haro, La Rioja A26012021 Tel: +34 941310295 www.bodegasramonbilbao.es/en Contact: Kirsty Loftus Tel: +44 7802 835 433 email@example.com
POINTS UK Importer: Enotria &Coe 23 Cumberland Avenue, London, NW10 7RX www.enotriacoe.com E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ramón Bilbao Gran Reserva 1999
Bodegas Faustino Carretera de Logroño, s/n 01320 Oyón. Alava. Spain Tel: +34 945 62 25 00 E: email@example.com
UK Importer: Cellar Trends Tel: +44 1283 217 703 www.cellartrends.co.uk
Bodegas Campillo Carretera de Logroño, s/n 01300 Laguardia.Alava.Spain Tel: +34 945 600 826 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bodegas Murua Veguin de Murua 2007
Bodegas Murua Reserva 2009
Bodegas Murua S.A Ctra. de Laguardia S/N 01340 Elcieg, (Álava) España
www.bodegasmurua.com E: email@example.com
Looking for UK importer
UK Importer: Inverarity Morton Address: 7 Evanton Drive, Thornliebank Industrial Estate, Glasgow, G46 8HL T: 0141 620 6100 / F: 0141 620 6199
T: +34 945 606260 F: 945 606326
Highly Recommended 90–94pts
Montecillo, Edición Limitada, 2010
Sierra Cantabria, Amancio, 2008
Bodegas Ontañón, Reserva 2010
94 PBT 94 SJE 94 PM 93
93 PBT 91 SJE 93 PM 94
94 PBT 94 SJE 94 PM 94
£57 Fine & Rare, Great Western Wine
£15.99-£16.99 Banstead Vintners, Corks Out,
£19.50-£22 Good Wine Online, Harvey Leonards,
A fine aromatic blend of oak and fruit, with earthy, peppery, tobacco notes pushing forward alongside fleshy red fruit. The palate is layered and rich, poised and classy with lovely flow. A typically vibrant Rioja. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 14.5%
John Hattersley, Red Pebble Wines, Vino Wines,
Bodegas Riojanas, Monte Real, Gran Reserva 1998
Contino, Reserva 2010 93 PBT 93 SJE 93 PM 93
Marqués de Murrieta, Castillo Ygay, Gran Reserva 2007
93 PBT 94 SJE 92 PM 93
£22-£22.50 Define Food & Wine, Harrods,
93 PBT 95 SJE 92 PM 92
Lively aromatics mingle with wood smoke and forest floor. Classy new oak characters in a modern style. Delicious fruit, fine tannins and a persistent finish. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 13.5%
Cedar and vanilla notes followed by smoky, toasty elements. Full-flavoured and finely balanced with knitted tannins and dark mocha fruit. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13.5%
£55 Adnams, Harrods
Noel Young, Planet of the Grapes, The Shenfield Wine Co,
£65.95-£85 Available via UK importer Maisons
A rustic but classic gran reserva that is graceful and perfumed with a lovely animal thread running through. It is still concentrated, and fresh acidity provides lift to this mature wine. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13.5%
The Wine Society
Marques & Domaines
Real clarity of ripe red fruit and tobacco characters. Oak, fruit and freshness supported by high-quality tannins and an almost mineral finish. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 14%
Appealing red fruits sweep across a sweet and succulent palate. Lively fruit and finely grained, grippy tannins. Great drinkability and superb balance. Drink 2018-2027 Alc 14%
Marqués de Riscal, Finca Torrea, 2010 93 PBT 95 SJE 93 PM 91 £30.99 Barwell & Jones, Dylans, Partridges
Ramón Bilbao, Gran Reserva 1999 93 PBT 92 SJE 95 PM 92 £22.50 Great Western Wine
Roda I, Reserva 2004
Seductively perfumed, with spicy and floral notes over almost overripe fruit. Powerful but still fresh, this is an opulent style with a load of chunky muscle. A brisk lift of acidity gives a long, velvety finish. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 14.5%
Still shows vibrant flavours after almost two decades. Mellow tertiary aromas emerge with a firm undertow of American oak and a slightly dusty nature. A touch austere, but original and clean. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 14%
Nichols, Hedonism, Uncorked
Bodegas Bilbainas, Viña Pomal, Gran Reserva 2010
Bodegas I Petralanda, Marqués de Zearra, Gran Reserva 2005
Bodegas Larchago, Pagos de Tahola, Gran Reserva 2007
92 PBT 91 SJE 92 PM 92
92 PBT 94 SJE 92 PM 89
92 PBT 91 SJE 90 PM 94
£23-£27 Exel, Fenwick, Wine Rack
£18.50 Yapp Bros
A densely flavoured example, with savoury notes and a hint of liquorice and chocolate. Well structured, possibly a touch overripe, but there is a lovely rasp of ripe tannins and a lively finish. Drink 2018-2028 Alc 14%
Juicy and vibrant, this rustic gran reserva is displaying vegetal and herbaceous notes with a savoury undertow of tar and smoke. Fresh red fruit rises brightly above it. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 14%
Flashy use of new oak gives a dense, concentrated wine that is spicy and fullbodied. There is a bold entry of dark fruit, followed by a rich boom of alcohol and sweet spices. Drink 2018-2027 Alc 14%
9 4 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
93 PBT 93 SJE 93 PM 92
£62-£75 Cru World Wine, Farr Vintners, Harvey A gloriously truffley nose backed by animal and leather developed notes. Palate still very much alive, bursting with red fruit interwoven with exotic spice. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 14.5%
Highly Recommended (continued) 90–94pts
Bodegas Riojanas, Viña Albina, Gran Reserva 2010 92
Campo Viejo, Gran Reserva 2010
Contino, Gran Reserva 2009 92
92 PBT 91 SJE 91 PM 93
PBT 92 SJE 94 PM 91
PBT 92 SJE 92 PM 93
£17.35 Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco
£128.80/magnum Harrisons Fine Wines,
£22 Adnams, Harrods, Hayward Bros
Stylish on the nose and punchy in the mouth, this displays bright cherry characters, a creamy, supple palate and vivid acidity. Even though it is well defined and long already, it will benefit from more time. Drink 2018-2027 Alc 13.5%
A very ripe gran reserva that has bags of red fruit flavour with layers of tar and tobacco. It is still a baby, needing time to mature, but this is a very high quality classic showing impressive potential. Drink 2019-2031 Alc 13.5%
Overt, plummy, warm fruit pushes through the voluptuous, generous palate overlaid with oak and a fine rasp of tannin. Bursting with juicy red fruit flavours: an extremely expressive example. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 14%
Urbina, Gran Reserva 1994
Valserrano, Gran Reserva 2001
Beronia, Gran Reserva 2009
92 PBT 93 SJE 92 PM 92
92 PBT 90 SJE 93 PM 92
91 PBT 89 SJE 90 PM 93
£28.50-£29 Available via UK importer Burridges of
£19.95-£24.99 Cambridge Wine Merchants, Exel,
Mature and delightfully perfumed on the nose, this is exuding caramel, cherry cola and leather elements. The palate is delicate, with slight oxidative notes and a riot of red fruit. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 14%
Impressive aromas of flowers and a palate built upon density and fruit, facing the test of time with amazing results. A lively expression of gran reserva with excellent persistence, flowing beautifully. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 14%
Bodegas Murua, Veguin de Murua, Gran Reserva 2007 91 PBT 91 SJE 92 PM 91
N/A UK www.bodegasmurua.com Powerful and expressive, with a complex, smoky interplay between oak, fruit and bright citric acidity. Medium length, but well balanced. Drink 2018-2027 Alc 14%
Campillo, Gran Reserva 2009 91 PBT 90 SJE 91 PM 92
£19 Inverarity Morton Marked with creamy vanilla new oak, this is a rich and polished wine that is a touch confected. It is full-bodied with notes of roast nuts and smoke; an exuberant style that people will love. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 14%
Inverarity Morton, Majestic, Sainsbury’s
Bright fresh fruit characterises this gran reserva. The ripe, opulent palate has generous flavours leading to a persistent finish. The counterpoint is firm acidity and darker oak notes. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 14%
Bodegas Palacio, Cosme Palacio, Reserva 2010 91 PBT 90 SJE 92 PM 90 £21.13 Tiny’s Tipple
Bodegas Ysios, Reserva 2008
Baked plums and wood smoke come forward on the nose and unfold onto a rich and fleshy palate. The fruit is sweet, showing its youth in an intense, persistent fashion. Drink 20182024 Alc 14%
Full of promise to improve further with time, right now this is showing a supple, enticing reserva style that is characterised by creamy, grainy oak tannins and an open-ended finish. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 14%
Marqués de la Concordia, Federico Paternina, Gran Reserva 2006 91 PBT 90 SJE 91 PM 91 £17.99 Available via UK agent Ehrmanns
Marqués de la Concordia, Rioja Santiago, Gran Reserva 2006
An evolved, graceful wine with a nice Garnacha touch, giving raspberry and strawberry aromatics to a lively wine with a silky overlay of oak and clean balancing acidity. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13.5%
91 PBT 92 SJE 90 PM 92
£27.99 Available via Pernod Ricard UK
91 PBT 92 SJE 90 PM 90
£15.99 Broadway Wines, Charles Wells, Cheers, Eatapas, Grapevine, Moorwine
Suitably developed, yet fresh and lively with a fragrant spicy palate and plump structure. Has a fine undertow of liquorice and a savoury, salty finish. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13.5% ➢ D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 95
Highly Recommended 90–94pts
Félix Martínez Lacuesta, Gran Reserva 2010 91 PBT 94 SJE 89 PM 89 £34.99 Vindependents
Muga, Prado Enea, Gran Reserva 2010 91 PBT 93 SJE 92 PM 88 £37 (2009) The Wine Society
Urbina, Gran Reserva 1995
This has a lovely open personality with an exotic touch giving freshness to a slight onion skin character, enhanced by a hint of roast nuts in the mouth. Finishes with a rasp of tannin. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13.5%
Incredible freshness here, its pure, limpid aromas screaming of red cherries, smoky oak and notes of polish and resin. Seriously built, for the long run. Drink 2018-2029 Alc 14%
Fantastic concentration for its age. With heaps of rich juiciness and Rioja character, it is boldly oaky, transmitting delicate earthy, savoury, spicy elements through the nose and palate. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13%
Bodega Classica, Hacienda Lopez de Haro, Gran Reserva 2009 90 PBT 90 SJE 89 PM 90
£18.99-£19.99 Available via UK importer Vindependents
This is all about freshly picked strawberries and cherries on a full-bodied, fleshy palate. It is showing delightful maturity too, alongside the sweet fruit and well-absorbed tannins. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 14%
‘A bit like Burgundy, you follow the producer depending on what style you prefer – that’s what makes Rioja so exciting’ Pierre Mansour
91 PBT 91 SJE 91 PM 90
£28.50 Fareham Wine Cellars, Mr Wheeler
Bodega Luis Alegre, Seda Vermella, Reserva 2010 90 PBT 89 SJE 90 PM 90
£19 Corkage, Drinkmonger, StarmoreBoss Multi-layered on the nose, this shows cedar and lovely oxidative qualities backed up by punchy red plums and deft oak ageing. Could be a touch bolder on the palate, but is very accomplished. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 14%
Bodegas Corral, Altos de Corral, Reserva 2010 90 PBT 89 SJE 89 PM 93 £24.97 Matthew Clark
Bodegas Corral, Don Jacobo, Gran Reserva 2004
Bodegas Murua, Reserva 2009
90 PBT 90 SJE 91 PM 90
N/A UK www.bodegasmurua.com
Very perfumed on the nose, red fruits combining with fine oak spice and a ripe plummy quality, albeit somewhat confected. There is a good creamy texture here, yet could do with more time. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 14%
£22.30 Matthew Clark
Meaty leather and oak elements make this a serious, dense, attractive wine. The concentration is underpinned by fine tannins and a good length of flavour, albeit with a touch of green. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 14.5%
Bodegas Valdemar, Conde Valdemar, Reserva 2010
CVNE, Viña Real, Reserva 2010
Faustino, I, Gran Reserva 2006
90 PBT 89 SJE 89 PM 92
90 PBT 89 SJE 92 PM 89
90 PBT 90 SJE 89 PM 92
£18.50 Christopher Piper, Goedhuis & Co
£18 Asda, Costco, Majestic, Tesco
£15.55-£18.99 Camber Wines, Czerwik Wines,
A wine that speaks of ripe cooked fruit, lively acidity and finely judged tannins. It is ambitious and successful in a commercial style, showing elegance yet drying a little at the end. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 13.5%
A burst of black fruit followed by a full-bodied palate with a grainy texture. It has intensity and length, if a little warm on the finish. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 14%
D Byrne & Co, Exel, Oakham Wines, Ruby Red Wines
Classy and poised, this is showing typically Riojan warm red fruit, lovely leather tones and a light freshness. Inviting, yet could be more concentrated. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13.5%
9 6 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
Restrained yet stylish on the nose, this is youthful and vigorous but opens out onto mature leathery notes. Medium weight with a gentle grip of tannin, leaving the finish a touch short. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13.5%
90 PBT 91 SJE 89 PM 91
Highly Recommended (continued) 90–94pts
Gómez Cruzado, Reserva 2009
La Rioja Alta, Viña Ardanza, Reserva 2008 90 PBT 91 SJE 89 PM 90 £22-£31 Armit, Cambridge Wine Merchants,
Marqués de Cáceres, Gran Reserva 2009 90 PBT 91 SJE 91 PM 89 £19.99 Available via UK agent Halewood
Subdued aromatics unfurl onto a rich, warming palate full of baked red fruits and spices. Has a chunky, chewy structure but the tannins are nicely ripe, the alcohol a touch prominent at the end. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 14%
Drinkmonger, Harvey Nichols, Jeroboams, The Oxford
Discreet mocha tones on the nose suggest maturation is beginning to show. Full of dense juice in the mouth, a black-fruited profile over clear oak ageing. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 14%
Marqués de la Concordia, Lagunilla, Gran Reserva 2009
Urbina, Reserva 1998
90 PBT 92 SJE 89 PM 89
Wine Co, The Wine Society
Savoury notes of Grenache and a lovely Tempranillo structure. Tannins are silky, if beginning to tire. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 13.5%
90 PBT 90 SJE 89 PM 92
90 PBT 88 SJE 91 PM 90
£21.50 Les Caves de Pyrene, Mumbles Fine Wines,
£10.50-£14.99 Bargain Booze, Moorwine, Ocado,
Tesco Wine by the Case
Mahogany in appearance, this clearly shows its development. There is a delicate savoury bouquet full of tertiary characters of toasty fruits and roast nuts. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 13%
There is a plummy, baked quality to the fore here, which evolves on a savoury, well oaked mid-palate. Maybe drying out a little, but still a lovely joyful Rioja. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 13.5%
Viñedos de Páganos, El Puntido, 2007 90 PBT 91 SJE 90 PM 88 £25 Great Western Wine Cherries play hand-in-hand with cedar and spice and lead onto a fruit-forward palate, youthful for its age. Velvety and suave, this will develop even more with time. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 14.5%
Recommended 86–89pts Wine
Bodegas Altanza, Lealtanza, Gran Reserva 2010
American oak and developed fruit are predominant characters here, with a leafy cedar note and a slight confected edge.
Bodegas Heredad, Hebabe, 2007
A lovely example of a 10-year-old 100% Graciano Rioja. Damsons mingle with 14% a peppery note and a touch of greenness with supple tannins underneath.
De Burgh Fine Wines
Bodegas Lan, Gran Reserva 2010
Fleshy and approachable, this exudes truffle and earth aromas with a welcome freshness on the palate balancing evident oaky flavours.
Exel, Inverarity Morton, Liberty
Bodegas Manzanos, Gran Reserva 2007
A fruity style that flows through the nose and palate in an easygoing way, finishing with a darker, more savoury mineral note.
Bodegas Nestares Eguizábal, Segares, Reserva 2008
Smoky oak aromas mingle with polish and leather atop a touch of truffle. Warm on the palate, but provides pleasurable drinking.
Stone Vine & Sun
Bodegas Olarra, Cerro Añon, Gran Reserva 2008
With its ripe quince, chocolate and savoury style, the wine gives an overall oxidised expression with some remaining power and generous flavours.
Alexander Hadleigh, Dalling & Co, Goya 23, Ivy Wines, Ultracomida
Bodegas Perica, Viña Olagosa, Gran Reserva 2009
A flamboyant Rioja with slightly confected black fruit and some bright citrus acidity punching through, finishing quite quickly.
Bodegas Tobia, Alma Tobia, 2009
A different style of Rioja with heaps of character, full of plush violets and elderberries and a lot of volume in the mouth, to be drunk now.
Barwell & Jones, The Wine Circle
Bodegas Valdemar, Conde Valdemar, Gran Reserva 2008
Showing the expected development on the nose but keeping fresh and lively 13.5% 2018at the same time, finishing firm with grainy tannins and a truffle aftertaste. 2025
Czerwik Wines, D Byrne & Co, Exel, Grape & Grain, Oakham Wines, Stone Wines
Campillo, Reserva 2010
Baskets of rich plums start this off, with a baked note and streak of vanilla following through. It is persistent and well made.
Carlos Serres, Gran Reserva 2010
Plenty to like about this, with its bright red fruit and rustic vegetal development; the oak is driving to the forefront to give a drying finish.
La Rioja Alta, Viña Arana, Reserva 2009
Evolved and oxidative, this is displaying forest floor aromas and a gentle palate of creamy red fruit, leading to a flash of tannin. Easygoing and direct.
Armit, Cambridge Wine Merchants, The Wine Society
Luis Cañas, Gran Reserva 2010
Serious clarity of flavour with smoky, high-quality oak and classic meaty notes. A wine for old-style Rioja lovers.
Marqués de la Concordia, Viña Alarde, Gran Reserva 2008
Lifted and herbaceous on the nose with a savoury palate, much influenced by 13.5% 2018Garnacha. The crisp acidity balances out the drying oak in the mouth. 2022
D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 97
Recommended (continued) 86–89pts
Marqués de Vitoria, Gran Reserva 2009
A full-bodied, velvety wine built to age, which is currently showing enticing cedar and tobacco fragrances.
Latitude Wine, Street Wines, The Drink Shop
Señorío de San Vicente, 2007
A benchmark Rioja that is charmingly fruity with classy vanilla overtones. Developed flavours alongside grippy tannins and a moderate finish.
Great Western Wine
Urbina, Gran Reserva 1996
Preserving the Rioja tradition: discreet gamey elements and a peppery cedar 13% tone. Not overly elegant in style but concentrated, with substance.
Exel, Fareham Wine Cellar, Les Caves de Pyrene, Mr Wheeler, Rodney Densem, Yorkshire Vintners
Bodega Classica, Hacienda Lopez de Haro 30 Meses, Reserva 2008
An ambitious wine that shows rich, fleshy fruit, round and dense in the mouth, 14% overlaid by extracted tannins and evident oak.
Bodegas Covila, II, Gran Reserva 2010
Carrying its oak very well, this gran reserva speaks of caramel and spice in a safe, smooth style with decent fruit poking through.
Bodegas Franco Españolas, Rioja Bordón, Gran Reserva 2008
Restrained on the nose; some cedar and herb aromas can be picked out. Characterised more by ageing than by fruit, with fine tannins on the finish.
Bodegas I Petralanda, Marqués de Zearra, Crianza 2010
Supple and juicy, this is an approachable, drink-me-now style that combines meaty-savoury flavours with fruit and freshness.
Bodegas Manzanos, El Piadoso, Gran Reserva 2008
Marked by toasty new oak, yet a good reliable flavour profile. A jammy midpalate is backed up by punchy tannins.
Bodegas Manzanos, Finca Manzanos, Gran Reserva 2001
Fresh for a 16-year-old wine, with black cherry and spice coming through, yet 13.5% 2018ends a little bitter. Chewy and muscular with a long tannic finish. 2022
Bodegas Tarón, Old Vintage Selection, Reserva 2005
This has plenty of the generous fruit of the vintage, showing what aged Rioja 13.5% 2018can do, even though the oak is relatively prominent. 2020
Bodegas Tarón, Reserva 2008
Sweet fruit prances alongside vegetal development giving a graceful, straightforward wine. Should probably be drinking now or soon.
Bodegas Zugober, Belezos, Gran Reserva 2005
A wine with good presence, making its meaty, oaky nose evident and its liquorice and blackcurrant characters profound, with a rustic salty edge.
Corney & Barrow
Martínez Lacuesta, Gran Reserva 2005
An earthy quality pervades this wine: in the classic, dusty, mature style with tobacco touches that has many fans.
Miguel Merino, Vitola, Reserva 2009
Shows appropriate development on the nose, with a greenish edge. Clean and round tannins but perhaps losing a touch of the generous fruit.
Santalba, Ermita de San Felices, Gran Reserva 2010
Oxidative flavours characterise this wine, its truffle and balsamic notes interspersed with tight, piercing acidity.
Castelnau Wine Agencies
Unión Vitivinícola, Don Sebastián, Gran Reserva 2009
A posy of pretty red fruits on the nose underpinned by balsamic meaty qualities. A good attack, but perhaps a touch on the warm side.
Valenciso, Reserva 2009
Open and leathery on the nose, this unfolds onto sweet fruit, spice and wellabsorbed tannins. Clearly Rioja style with a bold dry finish.
Define Food & Wine, Drinkmonger, The Wine Cellar, Woodwinters
Bodegas Franco Españolas, Rioja Bordón, Gran Reserva 2007
Largely characterised by herbal stalky notes and an overall savoury impression. Could do with more fruit but there is still freshness here.
Bodegas Ontañón, Gran Reserva 2005
Defined by polished oak, even after 12 years, the vanilla elements are clearly discernible. The fruit is also vivid, providing balance and good freshness.
Ake & Humphris, Camber Wines, John Hattersley, WoodWinters, Worsley Wines
CVNE, Viña Real, Gran Reserva 2010
Starting well with a developed oxidative complexion, the elegant black cherry 13.5% 2018and velvety oak becomes a touch hollow. 2022
BI, D Byrne & Co, Hailsham Cellars, Luvians, Planet of the Grapes, Wimbledon Wine Cellar
Finca Valpiedra, Reserva 2010
Leafy pyrazines combine with plum and chocolate hints, giving an atypical but round and fleshy palate.
Bottle Stop, Eton Vintners, James Nicholson
Ortega Ezquerro, Don Quintin Ortega, 2010
Intensely distinctive in its aromatic vanilla berry fruit and dusty quality, it is showing its alcohol on the finish.
Ostatu, Gloria, 2010
A youthful and bold blackberry bouquet with subtle leafy undertones, suggesting this is likely to develop with more time in bottle.
Rioja Vega, Gran Reserva 2008
Framed by its peppery oak, this wine is on the dark, tarry side of gran reserva. 14.5% 2018It is jammy, yet tannins provide firmness to the finish. 2021
House of Townend
Salva, Reserva 2010
Showing some oxidation, this is clearly a mature style that is mellow and simple but enjoyable and drinking now.
Quantock Abbey, RS Wines
Bodegas Casa Primicia, Carravacas, Gran Reserva 2007
Chunky extracted tannins give this wine an impression of power atop its black 14.5% 2018fruit and confected elements. 2024
Faustino, Reserva 2008
Juicy, peppery and leafy with pleasing leather and forest aromas yet a slightly 13.5% 2018pinched finish. 2021
Rioja Vega, Gran Reserva 2009
Cedar is a leading flavour here while the acidity shows up later, slightly dominating but giving some freshness.
From Vineyards Direct, House of Townend
Viña Bujanda, Gran Reserva 2010
Roasted, oxidised notes and fine acidity lifting a creamy palate, some may say a fine old-school expression of Rioja.
Viña Hermosa, Santalba, Reserva 2009
Approachable now with its creamy lactic notes and cherry-fruited palate, perhaps not built for the long haul.
Q Bodegas Tarón, Reserva 2006 84, 2018, 13.5%, £16.25 Ellis Wines
Q Finca Nueva, Gran Reserva 2005 82 Q Alto del Obre, Reserva 2005 81
98 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
My top three Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW Q La Rioja Alta, 890, Gran Reserva 2005 The most precise picture of what a
My top three Sarah Jane Evans MW
My top three Pierre Mansour
Q La Rioja Alta, 890, Gran Reserva 2005 It would be unfair to call 890
Q Bodegas Perica, Oro, Reserva 2010 A modern expression from a
classic top-quality gran reserva should be: a benchmark style. Simply great – one of those rare inimitable wines. A must for wine connoisseurs. 96 Drink 2018-2030
textbook Rioja – the pleasure it gives surpasses anything you could find in a textbook. A glorious blend of truffles and red fruits with velvety tannins. Utterly memorable. 96 Drink 2018-2030
Q Bodegas Palacio, Glorioso, Gran Reserva 1978 Take it as an aesthetic
Q Bodegas Palacio, Glorioso, Gran Reserva 1978 When so many wines are
pleasure as much as a delicate drink; give it time to fix in your memory, even when the liquid is no longer there. A wine of endless appeal. 95 Drink 2018-2022
made today and drunk tomorrow (more or less), this is an indulgent joy to demonstrate the pleasures and longevity of fine mature Rioja. 95 Drink 2018-2022
Q Ramón Bilbao, Mirto, 1999 When
Q Sierra Cantabria, Amancio, 2008
some top Rioja producers replaced the classic long maturation processes with shorter French oak ageing, and selected riper fruit for their top wines, many critics felt the wines would go downhill quickly. Mirto is a living example of a new-age Rioja that ages gracefully and has long-term potential. 95 Drink 2018-2024
Named after the great-grandfather of the current Eguren generation, this is a vibrant, forthright style, full of flavour and sweet spices. Beautifully elegant, plenty of years ahead. 94 Drink 2018-2026
bodega I have not come across before. Layered with black fruit, spicy new oak and chunky yet ripe tannins: impressive and voluptuous. 96 Drink 2018-2033
Q Bodegas Palacio, Glorioso, Gran Reserva 1978 A delight and a treat, this is graceful and mellow with savoury flavours supported by surprising freshness. A perfect example of a fully mature red wine. 95 Drink 2018-2022
Q Contino, Reserva 2010 Still the original single-vineyard wine from Rioja, the 2010 sits comfortably between modern and traditional. Real clarity, a generous, layered palate perfectly supported by high-quality tannins. Long, and very impressive. 93 Drink 2018-2023
NB: the tasters’ top wines are not necessarily their top-scoring, rather those which, on learning the wines’ identity, they feel are the most notable given their provenance, price or other factors
DEC ANTER PROMOTION
DECANTER RECOMMENDED MATURE RED RIOJA OUTSTANDING
Viñedos Sierra Cantabria Amancio 2008 Viñedos Sierra Cantabria T. 945 600 590 E. firstname.lastname@example.org www.sierracantabria.com UK Importer: Enotria & Coe T: 020 8961 4411 E: email@example.com www.enotriacoe.com
La Rioja Alta 890
La Rioja Alta 904
La Rioja Alta SA T: +34 902 123 904 www.riojalta.com E: firstname.lastname@example.org
UK importer: Armit Wines Limited www.armitwines.co.uk T: +442079080655 E: email@example.com
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Galician whites There’s much more to these northern Spanish wines than just Albariño, says Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, who looks at the five main regions and their key varieties
The dominant variety in Ribeiro is Treixadura. Forty years ago it was almost extinct, being replaced by the neutral and productive Palomino from Jerez, but thanks to a revival, it is now the flagship for the region. Treixadura offers refined aromas, balanced acidity and, in the best terroirs, a complex, multi-layered finish. It is most often blended with Albariño and other varieties, rendering wines that often express an origin rather than varietal character. Going inland within Galicia, where the climate is markedly more continental, Albariño and Treixadura become less relevant in blends, with Godello taking the lead role in the wines of Ribeira Sacra and Monterrei. Once in Valdeorras, bordering Castilla y León, Godello becomes the almost exclusive variety. In 1974 Godello looked set to disappear – just 200 vines were left in Valdeorras. Thankfully, a research programme launched by Horacio Fernández saved it from extinction, and put Valdeorras back on the fine wine map. A few years later, Rafael Palacios and other quality-minded producers surprised national and international markets with their Godellos of amazing finesse. Now the variety is widely planted in Ribeira Sacra and Monterrei too, where it gives rounder wines. Other grape varieties play an increasingly interesting role on the Galician scene. Loureiro is distinguished because of its aromatic appeal; Caíño Blanco, a recent discovery by Terras Gauda, gives amazing minerality; and Doña Blanca, quite neutral, becomes very attractive in the hands of a few experts. Torrontés (nothing to do with the Argentinian Torrontés), Lado and Verdejo are other promising varieties.
Santiago de Compostela
CASTILLA Y LEON
1 Rías Baixas 4 Valdeorras 5 Monterrei 2 Ribeiro 3 Ribeira Sacra
Bay of Biscay
ASTURIAS Cangas del Narcea
A IL L E R C O R D A B R IC A CANT
Santiago de Compostela
P O RT U G A L
Wine producers (red and white) Rías Baixas: 6,031 growers, 170 wineries Ribeiro 5,782 growers, 115 wineries Valdeorras: 2,721
Galicia: know your vintages
Galicia: the facts Total area under vine (2016) Rías Baixas: 4,048ha Ribeiro: 2,232ha Valdeorras: 1,351ha Ribeira Sacra: 1,241ha Monterrei: 467ha
growers, 18 wineries Ribeira Sacra: 2,438 growers, 89 wineries Monterrei: 381 growers, 24 wineries
Widely considered an excellent vintage. Drink over the next five years.
Annual white grape production (2016) Rías Baixas: 33.2 million kilograms Ribeiro: 16.4 million kg Valdeorras: 3.1 million kg Monterrei: 3 million kg Ribeira Sacra: 0.4 million kg
Variable because of issues with rot, but the average quality is quite high. Drink or keep.
Challenging in Rías Baixas, but excellent in other appellations, Valdeorras in particular. Drinking well now.
2013 Cool, humid Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW is an awarded wine journalist and educator and the DWWA Regional co-Chair for Spain
vintage. Most wines are uninteresting. Ribeiro is the exception, enjoying a great year. Drink. ➢
D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2 018 | 101
Map: Maggie Nelson
Revival of the fittest
Bay of Biscay
MOST CONSUMERS ASSOCIATE Galicia with the Albariño grape from Rías Baixas. Understandable, given Albariño’s success in the international market, but this singular view is far from the reality in this diverse region. Galicia has a remarkable grape heritage that is structured around Albariño and two other key white varieties, Treixadura and Godello, but includes at least 15 other native grapes. Indeed, Albariño is a parvenu in historic terms. Galician wines were imported and highly appreciated in the United Kingdom as long ago as the 14th century. These were not just from Albariño but a blend of varieties cultivated further inland in the Ribeiro denomination, including Treixadura, Loureiro, Godello, Torrontés and Lado. Such was the fame of those wines that, in 1579, the local government of Ribadavia set up a law to prevent frauds, protecting the wines’ indication of origin and accepted winemaking practices. Ribeiro was arguably the world’s first wine appellation.
The results Consumers should look beyond Albariño to Galicia’s other indigenous grapes, said our experts, who enthused over these fresh, delicate whites. Amy Wislocki reports ALBARINO IS WITHOUT doubt Galicia’s calling card when it comes to white wines – or wines in general, for that matter. But it’s time that wine lovers discovered the other varied whites from this region, urged our tasters. ‘We had a Taste of Galicia stand at a consumer event recently, where we showed two Albariños, a white from Ribeiro and a red from Ribeira Sacra,’ said Beth Willard, a buyer for Direct Wines. ‘It was great to be able to use the success of Albariño, and customer knowledge of that grape, to encourage them to try the white Ribeiro – and they loved that full-bodied richness, fruitiness and complexity of the wine, and the freshness that was such a recurring theme in this Decanter panel tasting.’ ‘Ribeiro is reliably the one Galician appellation that is absolutely wonderful,’ said Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW. ‘There were very few wines from here that didn’t show great personality. And it’s a personality built on style rather than varietal character. These producers are looking for delicacy and subtlety rather than power, and these wines have an incredible freshness and length.’ ‘If people like the richness and ripeness of a fruity Chardonnay, and they like the acidity and zestiness of Sauvignon Blanc, then Ribeiro is a good place for those drinkers to go,’ said Willard. ‘It bridges both styles, but with more delicacy. They are not overly complex wines, but very appealing, drinkable and enjoyable.’ Another strong performer was Doña Blanca, a grape found mostly in the Monterrei sub-region. ‘Until now, it’s been considered supremely uninteresting,’ explained Ballesteros Torres. ‘But a growing number of producers are making very unique wines from this neutral variety, by playing with old vines, and/or lees contact.’ Sarah Jane Evans MW also praised the three examples of Loureiro: ‘It was a real discovery for me. You usually encounter it in blends, but here it made
‘If you like the rich ripeness of Chardonnay, and the zesty acidity of Sauvignon Blanc, Ribeiro is a good place to go’ Beth Willard
The scores 96 wines tasted Exceptional
lovely, pale-coloured, low-alcohol wines with freshness and acidity that was reminiscent of Australian Riesling.’ The Godello grape came in for more criticism, from all the tasters. ‘It’s being seen as the next big thing in Spanish wine, and I think that’s completely misguided,’ Ballesteros Torres stated firmly. ‘It can excel in a few areas, but it’s very capricious and site-sensitive, and in most places it’s just boring. It lacks the fresh acidity of Treixadura [found in many Ribeiro whites], and it lacks the attractive bitterness of Albariño.’ The sub-region of Valdorreas also failed to impress. ‘It’s a bit warmer there, and it may be that the winemaking isn’t being done in the best way to preserve acidity,’ said Evans. ‘Quite a few of the wines weren’t as fresh or delicate as I would wish – think tinned yellow peaches rather than white peaches, for example.’ But the overall mood was high. ‘Galicia is a region I’ve always loved drinking,’ said Willard. ‘You’re getting complexity but you don’t have to work too hard, which is perfect at this price point. It’s all about the freshness and the fruit. Most wines are unoaked, and would be a perfect match for the region’s fantastic fresh fish.’ But you don’t necessarily need to drink them with a meal. ‘There were only a few notes where I used the word “gastronomic”, meaning that I wouldn’t drink it without food,’ said Evans. ‘These are lovely, very versatile and good-value whites – definitely something you should have in the fridge.’
5 Highly Recommended
0 Entry criteria: producers and UK agents were invited to submit their latest-releasse wines made from Galican grapes (excluding 100% Albariño) and blends (including no more than 50% Albariño) from the DOs of Monterrei, Rías Baixas, Ribeira Sacra, Ribeiro and Valdeorras
The judges Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW
Sarah Jane Evans MW
Ballesteros Torres is the DWWA Regional co-Regional Chair for Spain and holds a master’s in viticulture and oenology among his qualifications. He is on the council of the Institute of Masters of Wine, the boards of the Spanish Tasters Union, and International Federation of Wine Journalists and was made a member of the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino.
Evans is a DWWA co-Chair and an award-winning journalist who began writing about wine in the 1980s. She is a recognised expert in Spanish wine and a member of the Gran Orden de Caballeros de Vino. A past Chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine, Evans divides her time between wine writing, education and judging.
Willard started her wine career in events and promotions at Hardy’s Canberra winery, Kamberra, and then worked for a small family producer, Capital Wines. Making the shift to Europe, she spent a year working at the Syndicat de Bordeaux before moving into buying. As part of the buying team for Direct Wines, her specialties Spain and Eastern Europe.
102 | M a r c h 2 018 • D E C A N T E R
Emilio Rojo, Ribeiro 2015 Decanter average score: 97/100pts Individual judges’ scores: Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW 98 Sarah Jane Evans MW 96 Beth Willard 96
N/A UK +34 988 48 80 50 Emilio Rojo left his engineering job at Siemens to pursue winemaking back in his native Galicia in 1987. He farms 4,200 vines on just 1.5ha of steep, north-facing vineyards around the town of Ibedo and limits bunches to about six per vine to boost concentration. The wine is 75% Treixadura blended with small amounts of Loureiro, Albariño, Lado, Torrontés and Godello. Only 5,000 bottles are made each year. Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW A wonder of discretion and personality – an impossible complexity and an unusual pleasure. This is a unique, distinctive wine that sings of its origin. Great! Sarah Jane Evans MW Vivid and fresh, with ripples of pure, zesty passion fruit acidity. Lively, long and characterful. Quite unique. Beth Willard Lively saline nose leading to a fleshy concentrated palate lifted by exuberant acidity. White pepper and sherbet finish. Elegant.
Pazo Tizón, Extramundi, Ribeiro 2016 96 PBT 96 SJE 96 BW 97
£18.95 Fields Morris & Verdin Pazo Tizón in Moldes was founded in 2001 by Pedro Paz, whose father’s constant reminders to him to not forget where he was from was the inspiration behind the project. This wine is a blend of Treixadura, Albariño, Godello and Loureiro, made by Oscar Aragón of Cillar de Silos in Ribera del Duero. The name Extramundi refers to the ‘otherworldly’ nature of the region that strongly persists in local superstitions. PBT Green fruit and herbs float across the nose, while there is lovely concentration on the palate, resulting in a long and distinctive wine. Excellent! SJE Really interesting! I love the interplay of lemon curd acidity with ripe fruits – strawberries even – and the very slightest touch of oak. BW Perfumed and tropical, the nose is reminiscent of a fruit salad. Fresh pink grapefruit acidity uplifts the long, fruity, sweet finish. Long and very persistent. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13%
Drink 2018-2024 Alcohol 13%
Attis, Atalante, Rías Baixas 2015
Finca Viñoa, Ribeiro 2016 95 PBT 95 SJE 95 BW 95
95 PBT 95 SJE 95 BW 95
£15.50 Hangingditch, H2Vin
POA Ralph Wines
Finca Viñoa is a 10ha farm growing Treixadura, Godello and Albariño. The vineyards are on terraced plots of granite and schist soils at altitudes of between 150m and 325m. In 2001, José and Javier González decided to resurrect vines in Ribeiro’s Avia Valley and in 2003 bought this farm, from which the winery takes its name. Their first vintage was in 2011, producing 10,000 bottles.
Attis is located in Val del Salnes in Morouzos, a small village on the slopes of Mount Penaguda overlooking the Arousa and Pontevedra estuaries. Several plots make up the vineyard, on slopes with sandyloam soils at between 100m and 400m altitude. The bodega is a family business spanning generations, today run by technical director Jean-François Hébrard. Atalante is 100% Caiño Blanco, but Attis also makes other indigenous varietal wines from Espadeiro and Albariño. PBT Gorgeous freshness and complexity, with a delicious fruit character and a long, open finish. SJE A beautifully complex wine. It starts off like a regular Albariño in style and then gains complexity in the glass, ending with a very long and persistent finish. BW Creamed honey and spice cake aromas. In the mouth it is rich and oily, with more spice and a very zesty green finish.
PBT Great balance, intertwining approachability and complexity. Long and complex with citrus and white fruits with some herbal notes. SJE Ripe and fleshy wine that is wonderfully complex with a citrus edge, making it deliciously zesty. A hint of minerality and a floral character too. The length goes on and on. BW This is saline and fresh with great minerality combined with tropical fruit and a rich and creamy texture. It is weighty but very balanced, and the ripe fruit makes for a very appealing wine. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13% ➢
Drink 2018-2022 Alc 12.5%
D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2 018 | 10 3
Outstanding (continued) 95–97pts vineyards which are planted on deep granite soils. The winery produces between 9,000 and 10,500 bottles a year, depending on the vintage, and this cuvée is fermented in 300-litre barrels of 70% Hungarian and 30% French oak.
Lagar do Merens, Fermentado en Barrica, Ribeiro 2015 95 PBT 95 SJE 94 BW 96 £23.88 Georges Barbier Lagar do Merens was founded in 2001 in the picturesque village of Arnoia, the current owners having restored the ancient stone and wood cellar. Native grape varieties of the Ribeiro region – Treixadura, Godello, Torrontés, Loureira and Lado – are grown on the 3.5ha of
PBT Delicately subtle but also complex, this evolves nicely on the palate, with a fruit mix that is unique. Long, with perfect texture. SJE A bright attack makes this a vivid style, even though the oak is just a little too dominant at the moment. Overall, a good gastronomic wine. BW Full bodied, rich and creamy, this shows oaky and balsamic aromas followed by flavours of melon, green apple and peach. Long, sweet finish of spiced bread. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13.5%
Highly Recommended 90–94pts
Coto de Gomariz, The Flower and the Bee, Ribeiro 2016
Parente Garcia, Quinta do Avelino Treixadura, Ribeiro 2015
Señorío de Beade, Primacía Treixadura, Ribeiro 2016
94 PBT 93 SJE 93 BW 95
93 PBT 94 SJE 93 BW 92
93 PBT 95 SJE 92 BW 91
£16 Bottle Apostle, Indigo Wine, The Good Wine Shop
N/A UK www.beadeprimacia.com
A Treixadura with a herbal, leafy aspect and pithy undertones. It is powerful in its greenness, but there is also a caramelised pineapple complexity, with spice, richness and great personality. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13%
Complex white pepper and creamy aromas lead onto a stylish, rich palate with floral touches underneath caramel and pineapple tones. Spicy and sweet apricot and lime on the finish make this an excellent, memorable benchmark. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13.5%
Aromatic and particular, this is a very pure Treixadura with green fruit and spice notes. Elegant but concentrated, with bright, frisky acidity, this is a wine with a sense of place and a long, fresh finish. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13%
Valmiñor, Davila L100, Rías Baixas 2013 93 PBT 93 SJE 93 BW 93 £28 Champagnes & Châteaux
Atrium Vitis, Silius VOS, Galicia 2015 92 PBT 92 SJE 89 BW 96 N/A UK www.atriumvitis.blogspot.co.uk
Manuel Formigo, Finca Teira, Ribeiro 2016 92 PBT 93 SJE 93 BW 90 £17 Raymond Reynolds
A floral, zesty, limey number that has typical laurel aromas and an extremely refreshing character from zippy acidity, tight minerality and sound structure. Could this be Spain’s answer to Riesling? Drink 2018-2023 Alc 12.5%
Aromatically intense with perfumed white flowers coming through. It is balanced and deceptively easy on the palate – full-bodied with honeysuckle, spice and clove and a slightly bitter note, finishing with peach and pear. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 14.5%
Original and distinctive, this wine showcases orange blossom and appealing green fruit, with a fine interplay of zesty characters and a lift of green apple. Pink grapefruit acidity shines through on the long, vivid finish. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 12.5%
Don’t miss Decanter’s Spain and Portugal Fine Wine Encounter FINE WINE ENCOUNTER
SPAIN & PORTUGAL
SATURDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2018
11am to 5pm
In less than three weeks’ time, Spain and Portugal’s finest producers will be coming to London to pour their wines for you. More than 300 wines will be available to taste from a number of iconic wineries, with Masterclass and Discovery Theatre tickets available to book too.
To buy tickets visit www.decanter.com/events or call +44(0)20 3148 4513
Highly Recommended (continued) 90–94pts
Quinta do Rebolo, Godello, Ribeiro 2015 92 PBT 92 SJE 93 BW 92 £20 Humble Grape
Altos de Torona, Godello, Rías Baixas 2016 91 PBT 91 SJE 93 BW 90 £8.30 Vinissimus UK
This has all the generosity of Godello overlaid with fine oak, giving a touch of spice. The palate reveals a saline, mineral nature and some crunchy green apple acidity. A very individual wine. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 13.5%
A gorgeous wine that has a lovely balance of peaches and cream. There is a fair bit of concentration here, with juicy stone fruit and lime characters. Vivid acidity and citrus tones on the finish. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13%
Atrium Vitis, Silius Bucce, Galicia 2015 91 PBT 92 SJE 92 BW 89 N/A UK www.atriumvitis.blogspot.co.uk
Bodegas Carballal, Erebo Godello, Valdeorras 2016
Casal de Arman, Ribeiro 2016
91 PBT 92 SJE 90 BW 90
Notes of fennel, herbs and hops in an unusual but complex style. It is oily in the mouth and somewhat oxidative, with bruised apple, peach, white flowers and amazing creaminess. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 14.5%
£12.95 (2014) Caviste Subdued nose but a fresh and lively palate full of ripe, golden stone fruit and citrus flavours with a mineral edge. Limey, fresh finish – an excellent terroir wine. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13%
A fresh and multi-layered wine built upon dried pineapple, tropical peachy fruit, fresh acidity and an oily mid-palate. A lovely unique white with a spicy, saline touch on the finish. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13%
José Estévez Fernández, Mauro Estévez, Ribeiro 2016
Karma do Sil, Maga, Ribeira Sacra 2016 91 PBT 88 SJE 92 BW 92 £12.95 Lea & Sandeman
Manuel Formigo, Cholo, Ribeiro 2016 91 PBT 90 SJE 92 BW 90 £20 Raymond Reynolds
Typical expressions of grapefruit and honeyed aromatics. There is a saline freshness to this wine and a soft herbaceous quality. Punchy acidity mingles with roasted lemons and a hint of caramelisation. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13%
Thrillingly acidic palate surrounded by green herbs. Showing evidence of lees ageing, and plump fleshy fruits also help to soften the acidity. A clean lift of minerality at the end. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 12%
Pago de los Capellanes, O Luar do Sil Fermentado en Barrica Godello, Valdeorras 2015
Rafael Palacios, Louro Godello, Valdeorras 2016 91 PBT 90 SJE 90 BW 93 £19.50-£21 Indigo Wine, Noel Young, Philglas &
Pago de los Capellanes, O Luar do Sil Godello, Valdeorras 2016 92 PBT 92 SJE 93 BW 92
£15 Carruthers & Kent, Exel Wines, Great Western Wine Plump, fleshy golden peaches come to mind on the nose, nicely balanced by a hint of spice. The palate has excellent minerality with a pleasant saline element alongside tropical fruit. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13%
91 PBT 92 SJE 91 BW 91
£16 The Wine Society A touch reduced on the nose, opening up to perfumed ripe peaches, lime and tropical notes. Impressive balance and depth of fruit here. It finishes with roasted lemons and a note of bitterness. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13%
Minius, Godello, Monterrei 2016 91 PBT 92 SJE 92 BW 90
£15.99 Czerwik Wines, GrapeVine, Loki Wines Shy and restrained but subtly elegant, this wine is showing a refined expression of peach and grapefruit. The concentration improves during tasting, revealing rich golden fruit flavours. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13%
91 PBT 92 SJE 92 BW 90
£32 Carruthers & Kent, Great Western Wine The oak is apparent here, giving real depth to the palate plus a caramelised sweet note. The fruit stands up well to the oak, backed by remarkable acidity. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 13.5%
91 PBT 93 SJE 90 BW 90
Swiggot, Selfridges, The Good Wine Shop
A pretty peach and lemon sherbet nose unfurls onto honeyed golden fruit and integrated oak. Punchy acidity drives this forward, making it zesty and refreshing with appealing tropical notes. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 13.5% ➢ D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2 018 | 10 5
Highly Recommended (continued) 90–94pts
Viña Vella, Godello-AlbariñoTreixadura, Ribeira Sacra 2016
Adegas Moure, Abadía da Cova Barrica, Ribeira Sacra 2016
Adegas Valdavia, Cuñas Davia Barrica, Ribeiro 2015
91 PBT 88 SJE 90 BW 94
90 PBT 87 SJE 92 BW 90
90 PBT 91 SJE 90 BW 90
£9.99 (2014) Judith Hardy
£24 Duncan Murray, Spirited Wines
£19 Lea & Sandeman
Full of character: lively green apples, saline minerality and exotic pineapple and waxy fruits all coming together to give a fresh, easy-going wine with a long, slightly bitter citrus finish. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13%
A different style that shows more honey and spiced bread aromas from the oak influence, layered with pear and citrus fruit on a rich and concentrated palate. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13%
Marginally oxidised in style, with an oily and evolved palate. It is powerful and expressive, with the creamy lees work making it quite heavy. Nonetheless, it is an ambitious, rich and interesting wine. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 13.5%
Alter, Ribeiro 2016 90 PBT 89 SJE 89 BW 91
£14.10-£14.99 Exel Wines, Liberty Wines Tropical fruit blends with white pepper in a very engaging way here, with fresh lime acidity and a prickle of bitterness on the finish to give some character. Very drinkable! Drink 2018-2020 Alc 12.5%
Coto de Gomariz, Ribeiro 2016 90 PBT 90 SJE 89 BW 92
£18 Indigo Wine, The Good Wine Shop With a prominent oak persona, this wine is aromatic and the palate feels very youthful with a pleasant, stony finish. The fruit is peeking through now but will integrate further in time. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13.5%
Manuel Formigo, Teira X, Ribeiro 2016 90 PBT 92 SJE 89 BW 90 £20 Raymond Reynolds Spicy aromas and flavours flit through this wine alongside an elegant herbaceous element. Tropical fruit notes have produced a lightly confected style with crisp acidity to balance. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13%
10 6 | M a r c h 2 018 • D E C A N T E R
‘Ribeiro is reliably the one Galician appellation that is absolutely wonderful. Its producers are seeking delicacy rather than power’ Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW
Joaquín Rebolledo, Finca Trasdairelas Godello, Valdeorras 2015 90 PBT 91 SJE 89 BW 89 £22.50 Burridges of Arlington St Evolved aromas lead to a rich palate showing a lot of fruit and a lot of oak. The flavours are complex, and the finish is appealingly bitter and subtle, with acidity poking through at the end. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13%
Pago de los Capellanes, O Luar do Sil Sobre Lías Godello, Valdeorras 2015 90 PBT 90 SJE 93 BW 88 £24 Exel Wines, Great Western Wine Aromas of lemon curd and sweet fruit. This is a polished, accomplished wine, with yellow fruit highlights and lees influences. Fresh lemons and a balancing acidity run through it. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13.5%
Bodegas Docampo, Señorio da Vila, Ribeiro 2016 90 PBT 91 SJE 90 BW 90 POA Jascots Typical of Godello, this shows delightfully plump tropical fruit, a hint of banana and cooked greengages alongside lovely lemon and white peach. With its zippy acidity it is likeable and fresh. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 12.5%
Lagar do Merens, Ribeiro 2016 90 PBT 90 SJE 90 BW 90
£15.54 Georges Barbier A reductive nose opens up to melon, peach and pineapple fruit. Beneath this lies a leesy, creamy character and a vivid streak of acidity that is fresh and precise. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13%
Quinta da Muradella, Monterrei 2015 90 PBT 92 SJE 90 BW 88 £20 Vine Trail An intriguing, lingering wine with aromas redolent of fruit salad and subtle oak. It is richly textured but also crunchy and fresh, with green notes, quince, sour lemon and grapefruit characters. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13.5%
Highly Recommended (continued) 90–94pts
Valdesil, Godello Sobre Lias, Valdeorras 2015
Vía Arxéntea, Treixadura y Godello, Monterrei 2016
Viña Mein, Ribeiro 2016
90 PBT 90 SJE 90 BW 91
90 PBT 89 SJE 91 BW 90
£15.75 Desoutter & James
£16 The Wine Society
£15.95 Carte du Vin, Palmers, Steevensons
Ripe rhubarb and yellow plums are the forward characters here, with a fine mineral edge and a limey, saline flash to balance. The finish is long and bright with a touch of pear. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13.5%
Starts quietly and develops to reveal a hoppy note and powerful fruit flavours. There are hints of development, probably due to lees ageing, giving a honeyed, floral touch. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13%
An enchanting wine that starts off full of ripe peachy notes sprinkled with toasted nuts. A creamy texture follows through the palate and finishes with a chalky undertone. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 12.5%
90 PBT 90 SJE 91 BW 90
Recommended 86–89pts Wine
Adega Alecrín, Ribeiro 2016
Perfumed and a touch sweaty but a highly pleasurable, straightforward style £12 full of oranges and mandarins alongside fresh green fruit and crisp acidity.
Adegas Sameirás, 1040, Ribeiro 2015
Nicely structured oak but a little austere, with sweet concentrated flavours on £18.60- 2018£29.90 2021 the palate and a peachy finish.
Exel Wines, Les Caves de Pyrene
Antonio Montero, Autor, Ribeiro 2016
Savoury, juicy and easy-going – a well-made wine that is broader in style, supple and velvety. Lacks some acidity but there’s a fine creamy backdrop.
Dessouter & James
Attis, Coribante, Rías Baixas 2015
Honeyed components suggest oak and lees influence in quite a commercial style. Creamy with a somewhat bitter profile and a spicy finish.
Bod. Pazos del Rey, Monterrey Godello, Monterrei 2016
Ripe lime curd intertwined with saline mineral tones and a nice bitterness which enhances the wine’s flavours. A jab of darting acidity wraps it up.
£11.49- 2018£12.49 2020
D Byrne & Co, Noble Green, Noel Young, Winearray
Bodegas Terras Gauda, La Mar, Rías Baixas 2015
A candied nose redolent of Muscat grapes that are distinctive and ripe. Bonbons combine with tinned pineapple and apricots in a well-executed style.
£23.50- 2018£27.50 2020
Exel Wines, Les Caves de Pyrene
Fraga do Corvo, Godello, Monterrei 2016
A fine expression of jasmine on the nose while the palate is alive with yellow fruits, gooseberry acidity and a prickle of white-pepper freshness.
H2Vin, Terra Wines, Wine Trust 100
Franck Massard, Audacia Godello, Valdeorras 2015
Ripe apricot jam characterises this rich wine. It is weighty and high in alcohol £13.77- 2018£15.20 2021 but relieved by fresh acidity and a fine-grained texture.
Carruthers & Kent, Exel Wines, Great Western Wine
Les Trois Amis, Audacia Godello, Valdeorras 2013
Bags of fresh lemons and pineapples here, with a slight reductive hint and a roasted nut streak, perhaps a touch confected underneath.
Quinta da Muradella, Alanda, Monterrei 2015
An easy and original style from Monterrei that is full of orange and tropical fruit notes. Attractive and approachable.
Quinta da Muradella, Doña Blanca, Monterrei 2015
A struck-match character leads onto some green fruit that is fresh and balanced, albeit slightly bitter and lean.
Quinta da Muradella, Fisterra, Monterrei 2015
Subdued on the nose but juicy on the palate, this is a savoury and very gastronomic wine with well-integrated oak.
Quinta da Muradella, Gorvia, Monterrei 2013
Very aromatic with clear notes of oak, stone fruit and some caramelised dried £15 mango coming through. A nice neutral style that will be very good with food.
Quinta da Muradella, Sabrego, Monterrei 2013
Youthful and perfumed in the glass with lees and dried fruit coming through. £13 Pretty grapefruit and orange notes on the finish.
A Coroa, Valdeorras 2016
A bright, peachy attack which melds into lemon and grapefruit peel in the mouth. Straightforward and zesty with peppery spice.
Adegas Galegas, Andaina Godello, Monterrei 2015
Plump, exotic fruits such as pineapple and guava and the vivid freshness of passion fruit make this a simple yet modern style.
Corney & Barrow
Ailala, Ribeiro 2016
A wine that is lightly green but nonetheless enjoyable in its spicy and saline characters, with a touch of sweet pineapple on the finish.
£11.60- 2018£13 2019
Booths, Exel Wines
Algueira, Ribeira Sacra 2015
A briny element characterises this wine, which also has white pepper seasoning and evidence of lees ageing.
£21.25- 2018£23.22 2020
Bibendum-PLB, Exel Wines
D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2 018 | 107
Recommended (continued) 86–89pts
Adegas Sameirás, Ribeiro 2016
A lean, mineral style of Ribeiro that is pleasantly nutty and spicy along with apricot and stone fruit. A wine that speaks of its origins.
Adegas Sameirás, Viña do Avó, Ribeiro 2016
Fuller bodied and youthful, this is packed with stone-fruit flavours and good concentration, yet lacks a bit of complexity.
Bodegas Docampo, Viña do Campo, Ribeiro 2016
Floral aromas that are lively and expressive. In the mouth there are lemon and POA lime flavours with opulent, punchy freshness.
Bodegas Eidosela, Etra, Rías Baixas 2016
Vibrant and spritzy with ripe fruit underneath some fennel and aniseed touches, the extract grasping the mouth persistenly.
Casal de Arman, Eira Dos Mouros, Ribeiro 2016
El Paraguas, Atlántico, Ribeiro 2016
Fedellos do Couto, Conasbrancas, Ribeira Sacra 2015
Gran Alanis, Treixadura y Godello, Ribeiro 2016
Lagar do Merens, Canto del Cuco, Ribeiro 2016
£13.80- 2018£15.50 2020
Exel Wines, Les Caves de Pyrene
Albion Wine Shippers
Albion Wine Shippers
There is a good, savoury, green edge to this wine, woven with some pepperiness to add interest alongside a sweet-fruited finish.
Alliance, Carruthers & Kent
Bright pineapple fruit leads the way, with a savoury oak texture and flavour following close behind to add structure and balance.
Definitely particular in style, with an evolved, slightly dusty character lurking £23 beneath the dried mango fruit and herbal oak spice.
Aromas of white and yellow fruit and a very light bitterness. There is lots of fresh acidity in this straightforward, commercial wine.
Intriguing aromas of fennel and garrigue give a freshness to this wine, which has a tingle of aniseed and pepper on the slightly bitter finish.
Mara Moura, Godello, Monterrei 2015
A vibrant, honeyed Godello overlaid with a mineral edge but lacking some precision. Improves on the steely finish.
Señorío de Beade, 25 Autor Loureira, Ribeiro 2016
The nose is redolent of pine air freshener twinned with grapefruit and flinty characters. Fennel and lime undertones flow onto a chalky finish.
Señorio de Rubios, Piñeiral Condado, Rías Baixas 2016
An interesting blend of Albariño, Treixadura and Loueiro that displays both tropical and stone fruit flavours plus a fresh, herbal, limey character.
Viña Costeira, Colección 68, Ribeiro 2016
A pretty nose of grassy notes and passion fruit hints that leads onto a rich palate where the fruit is slightly too ripe, yet it has persistence.
Bodegas Nairoa, Alberte Treixadura, Ribeiro 2016
Fresh and summery aromas of lime and tropical fruit interwoven with green herbs and spices making it a touch uneven, but fresh nonetheless.
The Wine Society
Codos de Larouco, Valdeorras 2016
Simple and fresh aromas and flavours complemented by lemon acidity and a NA/UK 2018touch of white pepper on the lightly confected palate. 2020
Finca os Cobatos, Godello, Monterrei 2016
A silky style of Godello expressing apricots and green apples which are vaguely overpowered by a bitterness on the finish.
£10.75- 2018£11.99 2019
Exel Wines, Great Wines Direct, Hallgarten, Strictly Wine, Wineman
Joaquín Rebolledo, Godello, Valdeorras 2016
Golden peaches dominate the plump and fleshy palate. Pepper and spice notes add great seasoning to the ripe fruit.
RS Wines, Spirited Wines
Maetierra, Atlantis Godello, Valdeorras 2015
Nutty oak aromas sit on top of floral and stone fruit. It is not super defined, but a juicy and sweet wine all the same.
£7.30 2018(2014) 2020
Maetierra, Atlantis Treixadura, Ribeiro 2016
Expressive and finely balanced between golden greengages, a creamy texture and a simple, spicy finish.
Mara Martín, Godello, Monterrei 2016
A hint of reduction at first but it opens to grapefruit and lemon sherbet on the £10.50- 2018£11.99 2019 palate in a lively, punchy style.
Carruthers & Kent, Exel Wines, Liberty Wines
Pazo de Mariñán, Monterrei 2016
Evidence of lees ageing complements the peachy and floral elements. Not hugely complex but balanced and solidly built.
Señorío de Beade, Ribeiro 2016
A bright attack at the start mellows into fresh fruit and dominating oak that seems a little overworked despite its openness.
Terras do Ciagrrón, Monterrei 2016
Delicate banana and peach aromas lead to an elegant mid palate and a pithy note on the finish which could last longer.
Viña Costeira, Modus Vivendi, Ribeiro 2015
Juicy and sweet pear and grapefruit characters in an easy style that hints at confection, but still hits back with fresh acidity at the end.
Viña Costeira, Pazos de Ulloa, Ribeiro 2016
A confident blend of varieties including 50% Palomino, which gives a juicy and sweet wine that is clean and simple.
Viña Costeira, Ribeiro 2016
Grapey aromas flow onto a palate full of white peach and savoury elements with brisk acidity poking through.
10 8 | M a r c h 2 018 • D E C A N T E R
Recommended (continued) 86–89pts Wine
Viña Somoza, As 2 Ladeiras Godello, Valdeorras 2015
Oak is the dominant character here, giving a balsamic, honey and spiced element ahead of fruit that is still quite fresh and lemony.
Vinigalicia, Verdes Castros Godello, Valdeorras 2016
Lime, pineapple and garrique are expressed on the nose and palate but the fruit is a little over-extracted.
Adega Alecrín, Thank You by Carlos Rodríguez, Ribeiro 2015
There is good fruit here, yet the heavy oak influence adds a confected character and hides the fresh appeal.
Pazo das Tapias, Alma de Godello, Monterrei 2016
The nose is subdued and leads to herbal and apple flavours on the palate which is full bodied and oily in character.
£9.50- 2018£9.90 2019
Booths, Exel Wines
Terra Minei, Ribeiro 2016
Young and juicy with bright jammy pineapple fruit. There is not much complexity here but it is a cheerful style.
Texadal de Casaio, Valdeorras 2016
An interesting blend of lime curd and pith with hints of lees complexity, but it NA/UK 2018is a touch warm on the finish. 2019
Val de Souto, M&S, Ribeiro 2016
Perfumed and grapey with a flicker of white flowers. The energy is a little masked but it is clean and fresh nonetheless.
Mark & Spencer
Valdesil, Montenovo Godello, Valdeorras 2016
Shy pear fruit aromas at first lead to a mineral palate but the alcohol seems a £10.99 2018tad high on the finish. 2020
Commended 83-85pts Q Adegas Valdavia, Cuñas Davia, Ribeiro 2016 85, 13%, 2018-2019, N/A UK www.vinosdoribeiro.es Q Casal Novo, Godello, Valdeorras 2016 85, 13.5%, 2018-2021, £15.20 Ellis Wines Q Lagar da Xestosa, Godello, Monterrei 2016 85, 13%, 2018-2019, £10.99 Alliance, Carruthers & Kent Q Ponte da Boga, Godello, Ribeira Sacra 2016 85, 12%, 2018, £11.20 Uvinum UK Q Valdesil,
Pezas da Portela Godello, Valdeorras 2014 85, 13%, 2018-2021, £23.60 Lay & Wheeler Q Viña Somoza, Ededia, Valdeorras 2016 84, 12.5%, 2018-2019, POA Matthew Clark
Next month’s panel tastings St-Emilion satellites, Californian Cabernet 2014 & Australian Riesling
Q Pilares de Belesar, Asolagados Godello, Ribeira Sacra 2016 81
My top three Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW
My top three Sarah Jane Evans MW
My top three Beth Willard
Q Emilio Rojo, Ribeiro 2015 This
Q Emilio Rojo, Ribeiro 2015 This is the joy of blind tasting – suddenly encountering an astonishing wine! It’s a wine that makes you want to grab the bottle and a glass and share it with the world. Singingly pure, with passion fruit acidity. A unique treasure from Ribeiro. 96 Drink 2018-2024
Q Pazo Tizón, Extramundi, Ribeiro 2016 I was really excited when this wine
wine bewitches the mind and the senses with its refinement and understated complexity. Its unique profile is not down to any grape variety or winemaking practice, but to an origin. If there was one ‘terroir wine’ in this tasting, this was it. Wonderfully distinguished and delicately characterful. An icon! 98 Drink 2018-2024
Q Attis, Atalante, Rías Baixas 2015 Multi-layered fruity freshness – almost Albariño-like, but with distinctive minerality and a very long finish. The confirmation that Caíño Blanco is a top white variety, with great potential. This has great appeal. 95 Drink 2018-2022
Q Atrium Vitis, Silius Bucce, Galicia 2015 An original style, built upon lees contact, but keeping a distinctive aroma. Creamy, dense, long: a provocative drink for adventurous wine lovers, with real consistency and complexity. A wine to keep an eye on – there is something special here. 92 Drink 2018-2023
Q Attis, Atalante, Rías Baixas 2015 There is more to Rías Baixas than its lovely Albariños. The local Caiño Blanco grape is still not often found unblended. Here, it starts charmingly, then develops fine complexity, with a lick of refreshing acidity. Very long. 95 Drink 2018-2022
was revealed: I’ve loved it since tasting the first vintage, and great to see a top Ribera del Duero producer behind it. Ripe tropical, herbal fruit with a racy backbone and saline finish. 97 Drink 2018-2021
Q Emilio Rojo, Ribeiro 2015 A really unique and beautiful wine. It is fleshy and concentrated but still lively: it feels like it is dancing on your palate! Lemon sherbet, tropical fruit, wild herbs and a touch of white pepper on the finish. Delicious. 96 Drink 2018-2024
Q Finca Viñoa, Ribeiro 2016 Another
Q Lagar do Merens, Fermentado en Barrica, Ribeiro 2015 I don’t know
treat from Ribeiro, showing the quality and potential of the Treixadura grape. This is a relatively new project, reviving the terraces of the Avia Valley. Beautifully balanced, with exotic fruit notes and thrilling acidity. 95 Drink 2018-2021
this producer, so it was great to taste something new at this quality level. It’s rich but balanced with a creamy texture and flavours of green apple, peach and a lovely touch of pain d’épices. Needs to be enjoyed with food. 96 Drink 2018-2024
NB: the tasters’ top wines are not necessarily their top-scoring, rather those which, on learning the wines’ identity, they feel are the most notable given their provenance, price or other factors
D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2 018 | 10 9
Txakoli There’s far more to Txakoli than spritzy whites. Sarah Jane Evans MW chooses her favourite bottles that showcase the versatility of this on-trend Spanish style TXAKOLI HAS AN image problem. It’s one of those wines where traditional reputation has not caught up with reality. For far too long it has been regarded as a rustic white, with punchy acidity and a spritz, that’s poured from a height into a tumbler. It’s much more than that. First of all, it’s a wine style; there’s no grape called ‘Txakoli’. Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarribi Beltza are the main varieties, but there are others, depending on the DO, including Chardonnay, Riesling, Hondarribi Zuri
Zerratia (Petit Courbu) and Mune Mahatsa (Folle Blanche), as well as Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng. Nor is it just white wine. There are a few reds (Doniene Gorrondona makes one from pre-phylloxera vines), traditional-method sparklings, and a very small number of sweet wines, the best of which are terrific. There’s also a well-made orange wine, Itsasmendi’s Bat Berri. It’s made in three DOs. Txakoli de Getaria, clustered around San Sebastián, is the largest, and home to the
Astobiza, Malkoa, Txakoli de Alava 2015 93 N/A UK www.astobiza.es
Goianea, Uno, Txakoli de Alava 2015 92 £14.03 GP Brands
Itsasmendi, 7, Txakoli de Bizkaia 2014 92 £20.12 Alliance Wines
A parcel selection from estate vineyards by consultant winemakers Ana Martín and Pepe Hidalgo. Two years in concrete eggs on its lees then some months in bottle. Gentle, leesy, wild herb and citrus notes, freshness and restrained elegance. Lovely! Drink 2019-2023 Alc 12.5%
The result of a joint project between ‘a priest, a restaurateur and a stockman’, who manages 10ha of vineyards. Firm, structured and linear, lees-aged for five months. Pure, with punchy citrus acidity. Very long but needs time to knit. Impressive stuff! Drink 2019-2023 Alc 12.5%
From one of Bizkaia’s leading wineries, this cuvée has been made since 2003 and uses fruit from seven vineyards. Shows Txakoli’s ageability and capacity for richer, rounder wines. Opens beautifully; freshness wrapped in plump peach flesh. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 14%
Doniene Gorrondona, Doniene Barrel Fermented, Txakoli de Bizkaia 2015 91 £19.95-£20.90 (2014) Sampler, Ultracomida
Doniene Gorrondona, Gorrondona, Txakoli de Bizkaia 2016 91 £12.95-£14 The Sampler, Ultracomida
Gorka Izagirre, 42 by Eneko Atxa, Txakoli de Bizkaia 2015 91 £26-£28 Amps Fine Wines, Hangingditch, Highbury Vintners, Noel Young, WoodWinters
Can oak be sensible in a pure, crunchy Txakoli? When it’s as good as this, yes! Fermented in new French oak barrels with four months on lees. Deftly done, with the wood’s richness and texture adding complexity to the apricot and lemon zest fruit. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 13%
A young team runs this bodega with its hillside vineyards in Bakio, home of Bizkaia’s Txakolis. This is its ‘regular’ Txakoli: Hondarribi Zuri, with 4% of Mune Mahatsa and 5% ‘others’. Vibrant and crisp with fresh herbs and a saline edge. Long finish. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 11.5%
Try this at Michelin three-star Azurmendi, near Bilbao airport. Chef Eneko Atxa is part of the family and the winery is below his restaurant. Hondarribi Zuri Zerratia grapes have 10 months in barrel on lees: subtle smoke with crisp fruit and sweet spice. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13%
Doniene Gorrondona, Doniene, Txakoli de Bizkaia 2016 90 £14.95 (2014) Ultracomida
Gorka Izagirre, Txakoli de Bizkaia 2016 90 £17 Hangingditch, Highbury Vintners, Sommelier’s Choice
K5, Argiñano, Txakoli de Getaria 2015 90 £16.99-£17.95 Butler’s Wine Cellar, Drinkmonger
100% Hondarribi Zuri. Parcels fermented separately with native yeasts, then aged on lees in stainless steel. Simple, but the vineyard selection sets it apart. Subtle, citrussy, mineral, complex and long. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13%
This Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarribi Zuri Zerratia blend has peachy aromatics and vibrant acidity. The finish is fresh, with a grapefruit edge and a saline finish. A modern, international style. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 12.5%
A project of Spanish TV chef Karlos Argiñano, and a wine with real gastronomic character. This is far more complex than most Hondarribi Zuris. Mineral, with herbal aromas and a long, savoury, saline finish. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 12%
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TXAKOLI ‘Txakoli is in tune with a current trend for lighter, fresher wines’ style of spritzy freshness that has defined Txakoli. Txakoli de Bizkaia lies to the west, centred on Bilbao and its hinterland, while Txakoli de Alava is the smallest. What’s interesting is that in this tasting Alava produced the highest-scoring wines; yet when the DO was created in 1989 Alava was dying; just 5ha of vines were left.
Lots to explore Whatever the style or DO, Txakolis are all Atlantic wines – some more than others. Many vines have their toes practically in the ocean! This is not an easy place to grow grapes. As a result the wines are fresh, some of them
Adur, Txakoli de Getaria 2016
tartly so, and most of them have low or moderate alcohol. In that respect they are in tune with a current trend for lighter, fresher wines. Only three of the wines I tasted had that textbook spritz – you can find it if you want it, but there’s plenty more to explore. Some producers are making the traditional styles, others are working with lees; a few are maturing wines in oak or concrete eggs, and many focus on parcel selection in their vineyards. Some are also bringing in consultant winemakers. Occasionally these are investors – new entrants to Txakoli. Export is an interesting issue. For a long time, few Txakolis were exported and, in general, many international markets still see the entry-level of a brand rather than the more interesting special selections. However, with such diversity, there’s so much more reason to look beyond the ‘regulars’.
Sarah Jane Evans MW is co-Chair of the DWWA and a member of the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino These wines were the best of those tasted, non-blind in London, in November
Gorka Izagirre, G22, Txakoli de Bizkaia 2014 89 £20 Amps Fine Wines, Noel Young, WoodWinters
Hiruzta, Berezia, Txakoli de Getaria 2016 89 £18.09-£19.75 All About Wine, Corking Wines,
A special selection from the best plots. 100% Hondarribi Zuri Zerratia and unoaked, so you can taste the purity of the fruit. A ringingly vibrant wine, with balanced freshness that rolls onto a complex and mineral finish. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 12%
Fintry Wines, Hallgarten, Strictly Wine, Turton, Wineman
100% Hondarribi Zuri spends six months on its lees in stainless steel. The acidity builds slowly but firmly on the fine, creamy, tropical fruit palate. It finishes with a lick of sea salt. Young, energetic, likeable. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 11.5%
Zudugarai, Txakoli de Getaria 2016 89 £12.25 Basco
Ameztoi, Txakoli de Getaria 2016 88 £14.25-£14.75 Ellis Wharton, Highbury Vintners,
Gaintza, Txakoli de Getaria 2016 88 £13.39-£14.49 Corks of Cotham, Eynsham Cellars,
A classic, traditional style of Txakoli from Geratia, with its low alcohol and crunchy apple fruit in a slim, green bottle. Fresh herbal aromas are followed by a full-flavoured palate. Despite its low alcohol, it’s brimming with ripe fruits. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 10.5%
Les Caves de Pyrene, Ten Green Bottles
Valvona & Crolla
The label describes this as ‘crystalline white and as fresh as the Cantabrian Sea’. A touch romantic, but captures the spirit of this classic Getaria style. Light and lean with brisk spritz and citrus acidity. Under screwcap, so ideal for drinking alfresco. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 10.5%
Gaintza’s Txakoli is a blend of Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarribi Beltza with some Gros Manseng. It’s a full-bodied style, with a ripe palate and a lively prickle of freshness to lift the richness. Textured finish with mineral notes. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 11.5%
Maetierra, Atlantis, Txakoli de Alava 2016 87 £12.50 Hennings
Txomin Etxaniz, Txakoli de Getaria 2016 87 £14.99-£15.80 Hedonism, Ocado, Oddbins, The
Itsasmendi, Urezti, Txakoli de Bizkaia 2011 92 £19.97/37.5cl Alliance Wine
This lively, young wine comes from the equally lively and young(ish) VIntae team, which has projects across Rioja and Navarra. Creamy but refreshing, polished palate of bruised apples. Long, soft finish. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 12.5%
Oxford Wine Co
Txakoli can produce exceptional sweet wines – even DWWA trophy-winners! This was the loveliest of the tasting: marmalade aromas and a juicy, sweetly spiced palate of preserved ginger in syrup. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 12.5%
£14-£19.99 (2015) Blanco & Gomez, Enotria & Coe, Exel Wines, GP Brands, GWW, Qwines
Classic Getaria: all green apple fruit and brisk citrus bite, with a softening edge of ripeness. Long and light – a refreshing white with a chalky, stony finish. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 11%
This lees-aged blend of Hondarribi Zuri with some Gros Manseng has floral and green apple aromas and a smooth palate of apple and fennel, plus a saline finish. A lively, modern, approachable style. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 13%
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THE DECANTER TRAVEL GUIDE TO
Vinho Verde With its quaint medieval towns and vineyards, Portugal’s northern region of Vinho Verde is the perfect destination for wine lovers who want to get away from it all, says André Ribeirinho
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Key varieties White: Alvarinho, Avesso, Loureiro, Trajadura, Azal Branco, Arinto (locally known as Pedernã) Red: Vinhão, Espadeiro, Borraçal, Padeiro
Bay of Biscay
P O RT
Vinho Verde wineries
Melgaço Monção MONCAO E MELGACO
Above: Alvarinho grapes flourish in Vinho Verde’s northernmost sub-region of Monção e Melgaço
S PA I N
1 2 3 4 5 6
Ponte de Lima
Adega de Monção 7 Quinta de Raza Soalheiro 8 Aveleda Anselmo Mendes 9 Monverde Quinta do Ameal 10 Quinta da Lixa Aphros Wine 11 Quinta de Covela Quinta de Santa Cristina
MONCAO E MELGACO
Braga BASTO AVE
Photographs: Mick Rock/Cephas, Angel Simón/Alamy. Maps: Maggie Nelson
Vinho Verde is a region of many wine routes. So many, in fact, that the Vinho Verde Wine Route guide (rota.vinhoverde.pt) has been created. To get around, renting a car or hiring a local driver in Porto is highly recommended. Start your trip by heading to Braga. Located in the heart of the Vinho Verde region, it is one of the oldest cities in Portugal, built more than 2,000 years ago, and it is a great ➢
Area under vine 21,000ha, with an average vineyard size of just over 1ha for the 19,000 grape-growers
SO US A
PENDING A FEW days in Portugal’s far north means getting lost in a world of river valleys, lush green hills, breezy surfing beaches, ancient history, comforting food and refreshingly crisp white wines. While Vinho Verde might once have been a byword for simple fizzy white wines, it is now far more than that. Today a growing number of winemakers are producing elegant, fresh, often ageworthy whites focused on a few key varieties such as the fine, mineral Alvarinho, the floral Loureiro and the structured Avesso. Frequently listed among the best in Portugal, these wines are making Vinho Verde one of the most respected, and steadily more visited, wine regions in the country. Demarcated in 1908, Vinho Verde is Portugal’s biggest wine region. It stretches from the vibrant city of Porto (Oporto) to the river Minho, which forms Portugal’s northern border with Spain, and then inland through the margins of the river Douro until the west border of the eponymous wine region. Wine tourism is fast turning into one of the region’s most dynamic activities. Vinho Verde locals are discovering the joys of opening their doors to show off their rich wine and food culture. Vineyard visits, tasting rooms, wine and cycling routes, fine-dining addresses and comfortable accommodation are now plentiful. Those wishing to travel in style are particularly well served, with a good number of deluxe options available for those looking for five-star places to eat, sleep and drink.
MY PERFECT DAY IN VINHO VERDE
southeast in the direction of the Douro. Overlooking the river Douro is Quinta de Covela (www.covela.pt), a once-derelict winery whose fate has been turned around by the current owners. Sit on the porch of the tasting room sipping Avesso while admiring the historic surroundings. Then walk around the property up to the terrace and enjoy another glass of wine as you watch the sunset.
MORNING Wake up with views of the vineyards from your bed in the relaxed Monverde Hotel (see details, p107). Bathe in a tub overlooking the vines, and prepare for a beautiful day discovering the region. After breakfast, walk a circular route leading back to the hotel through the carefully trained vineyards of Quinta da Lixa (www.quintadalixa.pt).
LUNCH Take a 30-minute drive to Guimarães. The city is regarded as the birthplace of Portugal and its historic centre has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Polvo assado (roasted octopus), bacalau (salt cod) or the traditional cozido à Portuguesa (Portuguese stew) are among the local dishes to be found in the
Bacalau restaurants surrounding the city’s central square. After lunch take a stroll around the Castle of Guimarães.
AFTERNOON From Guimarães take a one-hour drive
A 45-minute drive away in Amarante, check in at the luxurious Casa da Calçada (www.casadacalcada.com). Take your time to admire the idyllic and magical setting of this five-star Relais & Château property, before heading to the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant Largo de Paço (www.largodopaco.com). Enjoy a lavish night of fine food and wine hosted by chef Tiago Bonito, one the rising stars of Portuguese cuisine.
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Photographs: Iurii Buriak, Dudley Wood, Mauricio Abreu/Alamy
Bom Jesus do Monte sanctuary in Braga central point for discovering the region. While still in the city, Braga Cathedral and the sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte are places not to miss. From Braga you can easily take day trips around the region to visit each of Vinho Verde’s nine sub-regions. Start your first day by heading to Penafiel for a visit to the region’s largest winery Aveleda (www.aveledaportugal.pt). The new tasting room, and surrounding parks and gardens with their rare species of trees, are worth the trip alone. From Penafiel head north for one hour to the town of Ponte de Lima for lunch with a view of the famous part-medieval, part-Roman bridge. Many of the local restaurants serve the popular arroz de sarrabulho (meat and rice cooked in red wine and pig’s blood) and rojões à moda do Minho (marinated and stewed pork with pig’s blood). Definitely not for the fainthearted, but an authentic local experience, especially when paired with a red Vinho Verde – still served traditionally in a ceramic bowl. Dipping bread in your food is also highly encouraged during meals around the region. Only 15 minutes away, Quinta do Ameal (www.quintadoameal.com) is an organic winery and country guest house producing ageworthy Loureiro wines which have been responsible for putting this high-quality white variety on the map. Nearby, Aphros Wine (www.aphroswine.com) is the only biodynamic producer in the region, applying holistic principles and ancient techniques – such as long skin fermentation – to make its surprisingly energetic wines. One hour north, in the direction of the Spanish border, you’ll get to Monção e Melgaço, the northernmost sub-region of Vinho Verde, and home to the fine Alvarinho variety. More protected from maritime influence than other sub-regions, thanks to the surrounding hills, the combination of grape and climate creates richer, fuller, subtly complex wines. In Melgaço, Quinta de Soalheiro (www. soalheiro.com) is an innovator with Alvarinho 114 | M a r c h 2 018 • D E C A N T E R
Above: the part-Roman, part-medieval bridge at Ponte de Lima, with the 12th-cetury Igreja Matriz church behind Right: many vineyards in Vinho Verde are pergola-trained so allow the wind to circulate and prevent rot and disease
GETTING THERE The nearest airport is located just south of the Vinho Verde region in Porto (Oporto). From there it takes less than an hour to drive to Braga or Guimarães.
and leads the region with some of the best examples of fresh, focused and ageworthy whites, including organic and natural versions of Alvarinho. Also in Melgaço, star winemaker Anselmo Mendes (www.anselmomendes.pt) has been experimenting with Alvarinho for over 20 years and is now highly regarded as one of the best in Portugal. In Monção, the local cooperative Adega de Monção (adegademoncao.pt) makes some of the most popular regional wines, and is currently working with indigenous yeasts and lees ageing in a bid to improve its Deu-La-Deu range. Many local restaurants here carry wines from several different producers, so visiting them is an opportunity to try a diverse range of Alvarinho.
YOUR VINHO VERDE ADDRESS BOOK ACCOMMODATION Monverde Elegant rooms are spread throughout the vineyards. There are also pools and a fine-dining restaurant with an impressive wine list. The programme of activities includes a ‘winemaker for a day’ option www.monverde.pt
Portuguese cuisine of chef Renato Cunha and explore the exciting wine list. www.ferrugem.pt
Hotel Minho A good base to explore Monção e Melgaço. This modern and intimate spa hotel features a wellness centre and two pools. The bar serves quality wines from the property’s vast cellar. www.hotelminho.com
Reguengo de Melgaço
Discovering nature Vinho Verde’s abundant natural beauty makes it especially enjoyable for those who enjoy outdoor pursuits. Hiking, biking, and kayaking on local rivers are often among the activities offered by local wineries and hotels. Quinta de Santa Cristina (www. garantiadasquintas.com) is part of the Vinhos Verdes Walking Trails network run by the local wine association – look out for guides in each winery. The quinta provides all the necessary provisions for a picnic in the vineyard or a Segway vineyard tour. The Linha do Tâmega bike path was once one of Portugal’s most beautiful railway lines. Travelling along the 40km track provides a chance to explore the region’s beautiful, dense forests. The smooth tarmac takes riders through many bridges and villages with the occasional old station, now often functioning as cafe and shop. It passes wineries, such as Quinta de Raza (www.quintadaraza.pt), where it’s possible to stop for a visit and tasting. If you want to enjoy the sun, relax at one of the sea or river beaches that the region offers. Meanwhile fans of kitesurfing and windsurfing should visit the beaches of Moledo and Cabedelo. D André Ribeirinho is a food and wine entrepreneur who founded online wine platform Adegga.com
Comfortable, well-priced rooms in a carefully restored wine estate, just 1km from the Spanish border and near the therapeutic hot springs of Melgaço. Simple, rustic charm. www.reguengodemelgaco.pt
Quinta dos Faunos Peaceful property with just two well-restored and modern rooms, located in a secluded grove in the heart of the biodynamic Aphros winery. www.aphros-wine.com
Adega do Sossego
Adega do Sossego Traditional Melgaço restaurant with a comprehensive local wine list to match with the regional cuisine. Popular with local winemakers. www.adegadosossego.com
Zé da Calçada Enjoy the famous cod dish at this restaurant in Amarante, which offers views over the Tâmega river from its terrace. www.zedacalcada.com
Cozinha da Sé Busy restaurant in central Braga that combines modern and traditional cuisine. The monkfish rice dish is a local favourite. www.cozinhadase.pt
Residencial Borges Homely restaurant and guesthouse in Baião. Traditional wood-oven cuisine and aged Vinho Verde wines from an impressive cellar to accompany it. www.residencialborges.com Carmo’s Boutique Hotel
Carmo’s Boutique Hotel Small luxury hotel with 15 glamorous suites just five minutes’ drive from the centre of Ponte de Lima, offering food, wine and cultural events. Stylish glamping tents also available. www.carmosboutiquehotel.com
SHOPS Solar do Alvarinho An Alvarinho-focused tasting room, wine bar and local crafts shop in Melgaço. +351 251 410 195
RESTAURANTS Ferrugem In Vila Nova de Famalicão. Granite walls and a modern fireplace set the mood to taste the inventive modern
Solar do Alvarinho
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My San Sebastián Situated on Spain’s northern coast, it’s a gastronomic hotspot with plenty of high-end dining and drinking. A local resident from one of Rioja’s top wineries guides us to some of his favourite venues SAN SEBASTIAN HAS always been a central part of my life, as much at the professional level as the emotional. After several years living outside Spain, I decided to come back to the city of my birth – and I have my wife María to thank for that. My family started as wine-growers in 1590, and my grandparents, Isaac Muga and Aurora Caño, founded Bodegas Muga at Haro in 1932. The tradition was continued by my father Manuel, and my uncle and aunt, Isacín and Isabelita. Now the third generation is at the heart of the business, with my brother Manuel and I in the commercial section, cousins Jorge and Isaac on the technical side, my brother Eduardo managing financial matters, and my sister Ana and cousin Eva in consultancy roles. Haro is not too far from San Sebastián, only about 140km inland to the southwest. My grandparents took regular holidays in San Sebastián from the 1940s, and ever since our whole family has been closely linked to this beautiful city. I attended the Lycée Français and Marianistas school, and still have many great friends here. With its sandy beaches facing out into the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastián is synonymous with good living. A city of just 170,000 people, not only does it boast more Michelin stars per resident than any other in the world, but it
Born in San Sebastián, Juan Muga is comanager at Rioja producer Bodegas Muga, family-owned and run since 1932
Below: a panoramic view over DonostiaSan Sebastiàn
also has three restaurants with three stars each: Arzak*, Martín Berasategui in LasarteOria (www.martinberasategui.com) and Pedro Subijana’s Akelarre (www.akelarre.net). Added to that are other great restaurants such as that of our family friend Txomin Rekondo*, which has a great European wine list; or Portuetxe* and Txokolo (www.asadortxokolo.com), serving traditional dishes; or La Venta de Curro (+34 943 45 60 87) with its wonderful oxtail stew. Nowadays, San Sebastián is a showcase for the image of the nation’s products: it’s the cradle of gastronomy in Spain. The Old Town area alone is famed for its pintxo bars, where you’ll find both a huge selection of the local speciality – pintxos are tapas-like snacks served in typical Basque style, usually on a skewer or toothpick (a pintxo) – and also a wide choice of wines that offers much greater variety than is usually found in Spain. You have to experience the mushrooms or a txangurro pie at Ganbara*, grilled crab at Bare Bare (+34 943 42 07 03), the seafood at Ubarrechena, a T-bone steak at Bar Néstor* or Gandarias*, the variety of pintxos at Bar Martínez (www.barmartinezdonosti.com) and A Fuego Negro (www.afuegonegro.com), or finish with the legendary cheesecake at La Viña (www.lavinarestaurante.com). Beyond the Old Town, enjoy the star pintxo La Delicia at La Espiga*, or cross the street (San Martzial Kalea) to sample wild mussels at Sansse Bar (+34 943 43 49 22). San Sebastián is one of the most elegant and cosmopolitan cities. Just something as simple as walking its three beaches – from Ondarreta up to Zurriola, taking in La Concha in between – is hard to describe in words. I love to ride my motorbike around downtown San Sebastián, and it is impossible not to feel the thrill of it every day. To fall in love with my beloved city is an easy thing to do. D *For further details of venues marked with an asterisk, see opposite page
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MY SAN SEBASTIAN
2 Arzak Father and daughter Juan Mari and Elena set a worldwide standard. The inventive cooking and three Michelin stars speak for themselves. They have a spectacular cellar of wines too, managed by the great Mariano. www.arzak.es
3 Portuetxe A reliable choice on the western outskirts of the city. Known as one of the best steakhouses in the Basque Country, but also serves fine seafood. Don’t miss the txuleta de vaca – aged T-bone steak. www.portuetxe.com 4
1 Rekondo I have wonderful childhood memories of the great friendship between my father Manolo Muga and Txomin Rekondo – a reference in Basque cooking who has one of the greatest wine cellars in the world. Try the rice with clams here. www.rekondo.com
Kaia-Kaipe, Getaria Located close to the harbour and serving the best grilled turbot I have tasted anywhere (along with nearby Elkano). The dishes are complemented by an outstanding wine list. www.kaia-kaipe.com
Bay of Biscay
GETARIA GI 20 AP 1
Elkano, Getaria This one-star Michelin restaurant – now run by Aitor, son of the late founder Pedro Arregui – has the best fish in the area (with its neighbour Kaia-Kaipe). The turbot reigns supreme. www. restauranteelkano.com
Bay of Biscay
ISLA DE SANTA CLARA
Bahía de la Concha each B
9 GI 20
Photopraph: Hercules Milas, age fotostock/Alamy Stock Photo. Map: Maggie Nelson
GI 41 GI 20
6 Ganbara The txangurro (crab) pie and the selection of mushrooms make this an essential call. www. ganbarajatetxea.com
Bar Néstor Arrive early to secure your place here, as it’s always overbooked. Justly famed for its tomato salad and the txuleta – T-bone steak. www.barnestor.es
7 Gandarias The best option in San Sebastián to enjoy a good lamb chop at any time of day, as the kitchen here stays open until midnight. www.restaurante gandarias.com
9 La Espiga One of the best bars in San Sebastián – don’t miss the pintxo La Delicia (pictured left), which is made with anchovy, egg, onion and parsley. +34 943 42 14 23
10 Bodega Donostiarra Has a deservedly high reputation based on the sheer quality of its raw ingredients. The pintxo completo (baguette of tuna, anchovy and pickled green peppers) is a must, and the tortilla is also an excellent choice. www. bodegadonostiarra.com
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Each month our experts answer readers’ wine queries and share their knowledge
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Post: The Editor, Decanter, Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Street, London SE1 0SU, UK
This month’s experts
Ronan Sayburn MS is head of wine for London members’ club 67 Pall Mall
Timothy E Martinson PhD is senior extension associate at the School of Integrative Plant Science’s Statewide Viticulture Extension Program in Geneva, NY
Cloudy glasses My wine glasses have a cloudiness staining the insides. Is there a way to get rid of this? Digby Scott, Market Rasen, UK Ronan Sayburn MS replies: Cloudy glassware is due to a build up of hard-water minerals plus the extended time your stems spend in the dishwasher during the cycle – especially the high heat of drying. Commercial glass-washing machines used in restaurants have mineral filters to avoid this, and the wash cycle only lasts a few minutes. At home I always wash glasses by hand in hot water and very little if any detergent, then immediately polish with a dry cotton or microfibre cloth. Once on your glasses, this cloudiness is hard to remove. You could try soaking the glasses in vinegar to dissolve the minerals, or rub the affected areas gently with bicarbonate of soda or nail polish remover, and then washing and drying by hand. I’ve also heard effervescent denture cleaners can help! If any of these methods work (and they might not if the minerals have permanently scratched your glasses), avoid using your dishwasher in the future or the problem will return. Otherwise you might have to put this down to experience and invest in some new stems.
Vines in freezing weather Will extreme cold events damage vines in their dormant season? I’ve been following reports about the severe weather in New York State. Edward Hylton, Surrey, UK Timothy E Martinson replies: Yes, extreme cold temperatures can injure grapevines – buds
can even freeze. The temperature at which this happens varies according to the grape variety and the time during dormancy. For Vitis vinifera grapes such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir (all grown in New York State’s Finger Lakes), temperatures that can cause bud injury in early January tend to be -21°C to -23˚C. We had significant injury in 2004, 2005, 2015 and 2016, but January lows this year have been -17°C to -20˚C, so we aren’t too worried. During damaging temperatures, growers slice open buds to see what percentage are dead. If more than 20% bud death is noted, growers adjust their pruning by leaving more buds to compensate. This works as growers typically prune off 90% of dormant buds. Other ways growers cope is to have several trunks on each vine (they renew trunks every few years) or by mounding up dirt over the graft union (‘hilling-up’) to protect scion buds so they can train up new trunks.
World’s oldest vine I was told the world’s oldest productive vine is 400 years old. Is this true? If so, where is it? Andrew Harvey, Sydney, Australia John Stimpfig replies: According to Guinness World Records, the world’s oldest vine still producing fruit does indeed date back four centuries and can be found in Slovenia’s Stajerska region, on the frontage of a house in the Lent Quarter of Maribor on the Drava River. Known as the Old Vine, it even has its own museum within the house (www.staratrta. si/en/) and an annual harvest festival.
John Stimpfig is content director for Decanter
Say what you see The two-word answer is a Spanish producer (see p105 for a clue) For the answer, see p120
118 | M a r c h 2 018 • D E C A N T E R
Tasting notes decoded
Written by Laura Seal
Elderflower Elderflower is a classic feature of English summer drinking, infused into cordials and even fermented to become elderflower wine. In grape-based wines, it is a less pungent floral than rose or violet, but not as intense or herby as geranium. Itâ€™s also linked with the tasting term â€˜hedgerowâ€™, along with gooseberry, nettle, blackberry and bramble. Elderflower in a tasting note expresses a delicate integration between herbaceous and floral notes that might be found in dry, cool-climate whites, such as Sauvignon Blanc from the Loireâ€™s Sancerre appellation or Marlborough in New Zealand. Itâ€™s often aligned with two other signature Sauvignon Blanc characters, â€˜blackcurrant leafâ€™ and the less appealing â€˜catâ€™s peeâ€™, although elderflower is usually softer and less acrid. If these notes are too pronounced, it could suggest the grapes were harvested before they were allowed to fully ripen. You can also look for elderflower in wines made from the Bacchus grape, a hybrid of MĂźller-Thurgau with a crossing of Riesling and Sylvaner, and widely planted in UK vineyards. Bacchus wines are often likened to Sauvignon Blanc for their herbal character and high acidity. A notable example is Winbirriâ€™s Bacchus 2015 from Norfolk, a Platinum Best in Show winner at the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards.
The vine is a red variety called Zametovka and produces just 100 250ml bottles of wine each vintage. In 2004, Guinness World Records stated the vine was â€˜at least 375 years oldâ€™ and â€˜could have been planted more than 400 years agoâ€™. The vineâ€™s age has been confirmed by experts on vine genetics in Paris and most recently in 2017 by Professor Richard Erker, a dendrologist from the biotechnical faculty of the University of Ljubljana. However the Old Vine House museum believes it was actually planted in the middle of the 16th century, concluding that the Old Vine was already at least 100 years old in 1657. D
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If you like Chablis... We have 30 alternatives – and not all are Chardonnay TASTED & RATED • Australian Riesling • St-Emilion satellites • Californian Cabernet 2014 ALSO... • Decanter Man of the Year 2018 • Southern Rhône 2016 vintage report
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Time to invest in Italy’s finest? Experts predict that buyers will be turning to top Italian names in 2018, as their market value increases and outside investment influences pricing
One of the leading Barolo market risers in 2017, this wine continues its ascendance into the new year, increasing in value by 149% in the past 12 months.
Opus One, 2010 Above: Sassicaia is one of the great Italian estates tipped for 2018 It has often been noted that top Italian names in Barolo and Brunello have failed to generate the sort of price inflation seen among top Burgundy and Bordeaux. However Liv-ex analysts have recently highlighted Piedmont as an ‘area to watch closely’, and pinpointed it as ‘a region undergoing rapid price discovery in the secondary market.’ Liv-ex’s Italy 100 index has risen in value by around 40% in the past five years. Recent outside investment in Italy,
such as the buyouts of Biondi Santi and Vietti, might also influence pricing over the medium to long term. That said, Italy is still a way off challenging Burgundy’s dominance in auction rooms. ‘Top growers from Burgundy were in huge demand globally [in 2017],’ commented Mould, ‘led by Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Henri Jayer, Georges Roumier, Armand Rousseau and Comtes George de Vogüé. I anticipate Burgundy prices will continue to soar,’ he added.
Wines from ‘secret grotto’ on sale at Sotheby’s Sotheby’s announced it would open it’s 2018 wine season with an unusual auction entitled ‘Secret Grotto in Northern Europe’, featuring a collection of wines from a privately owned rock cave. The auction house did not disclose the identity of the vendor, nor the location of the grotto. But Sotheby’s director of wine, James Reed, described the hidden cave.
‘I was confronted by a bare rock cavern, with smaller chambers branching off at random. Underfoot was bare earth. Scattered about were pallets of wine, plastic wrapped
122 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
against the damp, neatly and methodically stacked.’ He said that conditions in the cave were ideal for storing wines, as it was ‘consistently and evenly cool, with good natural humidity’. The 338-lot auction recorded pre-sale estimates of £825,000. Highlights included Lafite 1990, Latour 2000 and Margaux 2010, plus eight vintages of Pétrus and Le Pin ranging from 1989 to 2011.
Trading has picked up for Opus One 2010, which has hit £3,300 per case, compared to July 2017 when it was priced at £2,620. In the longer view, it has increased 63.9% in the past two years.
Château Ausone 2009 Value rose to £11,250 per case at the start of December last year, but has since dropped to £8,800 in mid-January. The 2012 vintage has also drifted.
Rousseau Chambertin 2001 A surge at the close of 2017 has been attributed to Asian buyers’ interest for the Chinese New Year. However this has since diminished and the value of this wine has dropped by almost £2,000.
All figures from Liv-ex 17/01/18, unless otherwise stated.
EARLY SIGNS SUGGEST that 2018 could see buyers’ interests broaden in the auction room, with top houses increasingly looking beyond Burgundy and Bordeaux to attract bids. In March, Christie’s will host the first of its ‘Estate Direct’ sales, offering a series of lots from the cellars of leading Italian producers. Christie’s vice president and senior specialist, Tim Triptree, identified a need for sales to represent a ‘widening interest beyond the traditional Bordeaux and Burgundy, into fine Italian wines, as well as the Rhône, Champagne and beyond’. Sotheby’s European head of wine, Stephen Mould, also tipped ‘Italian wines from great estates including Sassicaia, Masseto, Ornellaia, Conterno and Gaja’ for 2018. He added that ‘vintage Port had a renaissance in 2017’, which the auction house will look to perpetuate in this year.
Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Francia 2004
# "$ #
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!% ! '' $ " '' & " ' #! ! %
Fine wine price watch Below are the most recent merchant case prices (equivalent 12 x 750ml bottles) for wines that are actively traded among a global network of merchants on Liv-ex, the ﬁne wine market. Liv-ex records transactions between its merchant members in the UK, US, Asia and Europe. All prices are in GBP and exclude sales tax. The numbers in red indicate those prices which have changed since last month.
Bordeaux prices Red Bordeaux
7500 43200 16500 9600 8808
5172 8308 4800 4542 4450
4100 12450 4400 4944 8900
3620 7500 5215 4050 3950
17000 7400 4450 4200 4132
6800 6810 7189 9650 4046
4100 7400 4950 4600 4800
3850 9600 6250 5902 4858
4160 7570 4450 4100 4676
6600 13900 8000 7800 17000
3500 6700 4560 3950 4222
2850 3300 3926 2126 2781 4100 2400 2280 6995
1704 1520 860 1300 962 2130 860 1381 1850
2130 1550 2396 1150 956 3500 2169 1500 1993
1382 1277 905 1020 1036 1680 800 1359 2342
1860 1288 905 1111 1095 1600 4350 2197 1923
1800 1288 1850 1450 2950 2588 5400 2750 1324
1500 1452 920 830 834 1850 980 1071 1975
1580 1826 880 850 1017 2415 1380 1316 2060
1195 1220 630 720 771 1526 950 1044 1250
1550 1800 995 1134 1420 2450 1420 1900 2190
1225 1200 675 715 680 1407 926 1107 1188
1550 778 1900
1956 555 2300
1200 1008 2100
1092 888 2222
1697 780 3450
1490 1384 2730
926 660 1907
900 576 1940
799 605 2214
917 680 2780
717 624 2000
1980 2000 2235
1116 1036 1001
1028 1070 1200
1393 733 692
1066 672 795
984 998 890
880 626 800
778 900 820
890 648 600
1400 890 790
1126 695 590
2600 1032 2650 1596
1064 600 1798 708
1350 632 2150 930
818 553 1450 874
1000 517 3300 900
2100 695 3300 1663
1075 632 1475 798
1015 519 1330 772
575 485 1117 744
1000 640 2050 995
590 330 1250 690
1350 1172 1980 2934
2778 325 1864 1784
3258 717 1800 2039
3500 737 2210 1784
3250 2112 1850 1406
2750 1494 2608 1849
2662 747 1950 1524
2615 1000 1191 1750 1600
2769 1150 2406 1915 1740
2950 1170 2020 2700 1950
2720 1350 1712 1850 1757
1393 820 8460 1253 1163
871 1120 3195 1188 1090
840 908 2134 1316 402
616 898 2039 1496 535
850 951 12500 1290 1005
2500 907 5487 1600 1110
562 760 2134 880 820
640 740 1938 973 740
617 820 3050 1250 835
750 920 5200 1596 1224
515 750 1895 1170 1296
2660 6670 9265 888 3026 2278 1511
4500 5538 5026 1150 1728 2474 777
2371 3792 3991 1130 1899 2406 765
3246 3728 4228 1621 1526 2221 684
4800 3264 4151 1253 1550 2118 1800
6684 5000 9650 980 2400 1800 3052
3380 4800 4490 700 1559 1616 780
2850 5182 4000 700 1374 1770 620
3450 5400 5900 1280 1795 2665 844
4676 10434 7250 900 1650 5400 1150
3222 5400 3950 875 1406 2950 700
La Conseillante L’Eglise-Clinet L’Evangile Lafleur La Fleur-Pétrus Le Pin Petrus Trotanoy Vieux Château Certan
4500 1352 8100 35232 4589 196200 47398 4500 2781
3243 3225 2137 11464 2039 19691 19970 1769 1846
1690 1820 884 7570 2174 10620 18840 1660 1674
1750 1244 1360 5510 2195 18151 20386 1395 1679
3515 2200 2662 9532 2878 31872 39410 1900 1800
3800 4300 2928 17076 3495 40879 40475 2400 2500
1400 1820 1316 3975 1750 18300 24000 2039 1250
1105 1155 1250 3402 1956 16500 21277 1250 1200
1550 2550 1841 4700 2500 30754 30000 2900 2200
1900 2785 2661 12776 3000 38940 43670 2540 2150
1350 1580 1350 4900 1750 32000 22000 1700 1575
1421 806 792 8456
464 620 339 365 2970
1019 556 1032 612 2350
880 495 530 557 2650
695 512 600 394 2500
1080 450 563 540 2500
600 312 358 461 2022
570 330 290 354 1800
432 330 367 282 2022
526 201 330 371 2359
1950 380 840 540 4400
First Growths Haut-Brion Lafite Latour Margaux Mouton Rothschild
1998 2000 2001
Second Growths Cos d’Estournel Ducru-Beaucaillou Gruaud-Larose Léoville Barton Léoville-Poyferré Léoville-Las-Cases Montrose Pichon Baron Pichon Comtesse
Third Growths Calon-Ségur Lagrange Palmer
Fourth Growths Beychevelle Duhart-Milon Talbot
Fifth Growths Grand-Puy-Lacoste Haut-Batailley Lynch-Bages Pontet-Canet
Second wines Carruades de Lafite Le Clarence de Haut-Brion* Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild Les Forts de Latour Pavillon Rouge
Médoc Crus Bourgeois Chasse-Spleen Sociando-Mallet
Pessac-Léognan Domaine de Chevalier Haut-Bailly La Mission Haut-Brion Pape Clément Smith Haut Lafitte
St-Emilion Angélus Ausone Cheval Blanc Clos Fourtet Figeac Pavie Troplong-Mondot
Climens Coutet (Barsac) Rieussec Suduiraut Yquem
* Formerly named Château Bahans Haut-Brion; beginning with the 2007 vintage, it was renamed Le Clarence de Haut-Brion
12 4 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
The Liv-ex 100 Index
Index level at end of December 2017
| 312.69 | -0.09%
The Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 Index represents the price movement of 100 of the most sought-after ﬁne wines for which there is a strong secondary market and is calculated monthly. The majority of the index consists of Bordeaux wines – a reﬂection of the overall market – although wines from Burgundy, the Rhône, Champagne and Italy are also included. The index is calculated using Liv-ex Mid Prices and is then weighted to account for original production levels and increasing scarcity as the wine ages. As such, the index is designed to give each wine a weighting that corresponds with its impact on the overall market.
The Liv-ex 100 Index was rebased at 100 in January 2004.
3350 6600 4600 3700 4200
3700 9100 7147 4900 4813
3400 6350 4300 3600 4300
6400 7582 6900 6100 5200
3450 6500 4500 3750 4500
3400 6390 4000 3600 4025
3550 7150 4600 3750 4400
6380 7450 9900 6560 5700
6582 7200 11300 6550 5800
3300 4800 4500 3500 3750
3439 4750 3600 3600
1030 1199 600 630 590 1480 716 926 1180
1560 1400 580 950 1100 1616 1720 1200 1240
950 1195 575 640 660 1360 708 926 980
1550 1800 695 890 860 2100 1200 1180 1050
1000 1200 580 608 600 1400 800 979 1040
940 1080 520 570 575 1250 724 1005 900
960 1135 540 616 625 1250 775 998 934
2450 2275 725 840 1780 2132 2250 1325 1240
1700 1750 640 990 1050 1875 1998 1350 1312
950 952 478 480 550 1150 660 782 860
940 898 492 515 510 1135 660 780 816
766 315 1724
840 470 1716
616 419 1790
895 510 2425
800 410 1850
740 444 1691
760 375 1800
830 425 2400
880 440 2700
720 285 1798
720 290 1850
900 680 671
900 800 635
862 948 590
995 820 690
900 670 600
840 660 660
850 639 550
875 790 600
880 720 550
790 560 430
795 540 420
Beychevelle Duhart-Milon Talbot
400 360 1040 806
480 417 1271 834
425 450 1044 625
860 480 1250 1050
480 360 1000 710
440 300 975 610
400 580 970 680
628 360 1300 1580
680 372 1190 1600
380 243 780 570
370 296 800 600
Grand-Puy-Lacoste Haut-Batailley Lynch-Bages Pontet-Canet
2609 1014 1451 1650 1704
2980 960 1687 1900 1724
2800 890 2218 1810 1576
2662 972 2116 1790 1715
2600 895 2300 1626 1756
2775 958 2316 1920 1704
2500 920 2600 1700 1620
2470 975 2000 1780 1700
2530 990 2100 1870 1756
2496 873 1964 1640 1670
500 560 1500 860 800
420 734 1720 1000 680
440 550 1580 788 990
800 1000 4500 1500 1150
480 600 1650 900 744
395 480 1384 740 720
440 700 1700 850 745
617 1770 4800 1400 2150
640 1150 4496 1780 1117
370 580 1680 715 590
404 595 1820 762 617
Domaine de Chevalier Haut-Bailly La Mission Haut-Brion Pape Clément Smith Haut Lafitte
2542 4300 3768 499 1068 2417 510
3400 8700 3885 1320 1017 2800 590
3000 4100 3850 750 1064 2540 475
4500 12000 6336 1420 1680 3600 1950
3100 4700 4074 720 958 2550 691
3000 3760 3850 774 852 2200 595
2900 4800 3800 750 952 2224 640
3350 9000 6700 2160 1756 3150 1200
3200 10500 8400 1160 1810 3289 1200
2550 4738 3650 781 838 2040 628
3150 4200 3722 700 841 2449 638
750 850 980 2736 1650 19900 21674 1140 1200
958 900 736 3950 1600 21000 1438 1207
1011 890 1047 3000 1600 19200 20400 1100 1180
1970 4286 1980 13420 1900 30000 30000 2750 1850
900 1340 995 3800 1650 19750 20000 1300 1450
750 840 860 3500 1550 18200 19000 900 979
900 1190 1200 3900 1650 22000 21800 1750 1175
1384 2850 3000 11502 2100 37200 32000 2600 2500
1576 2600 1850 10600 2182 35000 31800 2200 2750
738 900 883 3100 1543 19159 20200 1080 1065
950 1780 900 3700 1450 19800 20000 1650 1250
La Conseillante L’Eglise-Clinet L’Evangile Lafleur La Fleur-Pétrus Le Pin Petrus Trotanoy Vieux Château Certan
510 227 362 270 2022
450 260 300 295 1800
310 231 260 312 1850
600 240 380 350 2150
425 225 265 300 1952
680 320 310 320 2200
425 446 230 348 1800
468 324 340 450 4200
500 370 300 370 3088
700 426 287 390 2220
434 295 299 1920
First Growths Haut-Brion Lafite Latour Margaux Mouton Rothschild
Second Growths Cos d’Estournel Ducru-Beaucaillou Gruaud-Larose Léoville Barton Léoville-Poyferré Léoville-Las-Cases Montrose Pichon Baron Pichon Comtesse
Third Growths Calon-Ségur Lagrange Palmer
Second wines 2503 Carruades de Lafite 873 Le Clarence de Haut-Brion* 2100 Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild Les Forts de Latour 1649 Pavillon Rouge
Médoc Crus Bourgeois Pessac-Léognan
St-Emilion Angélus Ausone Cheval Blanc Clos Fourtet Figeac Pavie Troplong-Mondot
Climens Coutet (Barsac) Rieussec Suduiraut Yquem
D E C A N T E R • M a r c h 2018 | 125
Fine wine price watch
Red Burgundy 1962
Domaine de la RomanĂŠe-Conti
Domaine de la RomanĂŠe-Conti RomanĂŠe-Conti La TĂ˘che
Domaine de la RomanĂŠe-Conti
PLEASE NOTE: The Fine Wine Price Watch features monthly prices for the most traded Bordeaux wines and rotates coverage of Port & Champagne, Burgundy, Italy and a Rest of the World basket of ďŹ ne wines from the Rhone, Spain, Australia, Chile and California.
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Recaredo, Turó d’en Mota 1999 Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Alt Penedès, Spain A legend because…
Cava has never had a great reputation, perhaps because most consumers expect a wine of middling quality given its modest price. Over the years some top producers have attempted more serious and ageworthy bottlings, but it was Turó d’en Mota in 1999 that broke through the barrier when released in October 2008. It was the first single-vineyard Cava, cropped at very low yields, and took its name from the Mota hill, turó being a Catalan word for hill. Its quality was swiftly recognised, and some maintain it is the region’s finest Cava.
This sparkling wine spends almost 10 years on its lees (some subsequent vintages have spent 130 months on the lees) and is closed with cork. The bottles are riddled by hand. More unusually, they are disgorged by hand, after the freezing of the neck of the bottle.
Looking back Recaredo was founded in 1924 by Josep Mata Capellades and specialises in single-vintage, brut nature Cavas. Its 65ha of vineyards are 40km from Barcelona in the Bitlles Valley, which experiences mild winters and hot, dry summers. Southerly breezes from the coast also help to moderate temperatures. The average annual rainfall is 530mm, most of which falls during autumn. More than half the vines are of the Xarel-lo variety. Some still wines are also produced separately under the Celler Credo label, so as to maintain the individuality of the Recaredo cavas. Today the company is run by Ton Mata, the third generation of the family, who is responsible for the innovations of recent years.
The vintage 1999 was marginally cooler than average but, more significantly, it was considerably drier, with an annual rainfall of only 393mm. The grapes were picked on 11 September.
The terroir This single vineyard of just under 1ha was planted in 1940 on limestone soils near the village of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. These are bush vines, trained up a stick. Since 2011, the vineyard, as well as others in the Recaredo portfolio, has been ploughed by horse to reduce compaction. All were converted to biodynamic farming in 2006, but the 1999 was made from an organically cultivated vineyard. The harvest is manual, as for all Recaredo’s vineyards. 130 | M a r c h 2018 • D E C A N T E R
The reaction The prestigious Spanish wine guide edited by José Peñin gave this debut vintage a cautious welcome with 90 points, but more recent vintages (produced biodynamically and made in a less oxidative style) have scored far higher; Peñin himself rates this wine as one of the two top Cavas ever produced. Another Spanish wine guide, Guía Proensa, rated it more highly on debut: noting: ‘A new dimension in the world of Cava. Shows complexity and elegance with pronounced mineral nuances. Harmonious and vigorous.’ In 2008, Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca (three Michelin stars; Restaurant magazine World’s Best Restaurant 2013 and 2015) in Girona, stated: ‘It is the first grand-cru Cava in history. It’s like a great white wine, but with bubbles. In spite of the 100-months-long ageing, it keeps the vividness, the intensity and the freshness of a great Cava.’ The Wine Advocate’s Jay Miller reviewed the wine in 2011 and gave it a score of 96, but did not provide a tasting note. In 2014, Tom Stevenson wrote that ‘the 1999 is fully mature with great concentration and muscularity’. Margaret Rand, writing in 2016 in The World of Fine Wine, said: ‘Ton Mata was 28 when this wine was made, and 38 when it was released – a long wait. It tastes chalky and fine, with fennel and grapefruit on the nose and honey on the palate. Lean, structured and precise; weighty, concentrated and very long.’ D
THE FACTS Bottles produced 2,973 Composition 100% Xarel-lo Yield 23hl/ha Alcohol 12% Release price €95 Price today £213 by Stephen Brook
Published on Feb 8, 2018