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Showing posts with label Priorat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Priorat. Show all posts

07 April 2018

Grenache / Garnacha: Australia, France (Roussillon), Spain (Catalonia).

Wine Australia says that Grenache 'was the most widely planted variety,' but the amount of Grenache crushed in Aus in 2012 was sadly one-fifth of the quantity harvested in 1979. Meaning somewhere along the line, Australian winemakers fell out of love with the grape, combined with the drop in demand for traditional fortified 'Port styles' based on the variety, which must have been removed in favour of Shiraz, for example among others, and/or very old vines died and weren't replaced. The Australians also claim they have 'some of the oldest vine varietals in the world, red and white,' in South Australia essentially where a successful quarantine policy has kept out the vine-destroying phylloxera louse, including cherished senior-citizen Grenache in the McLaren Vale.

24 April 2016

Spain: 'wines of the moment'

Catalonia
Vintage Cava 2011 Brut Nature Jaume Serra (Xarel.lo, Parellada, Macabeu, Chardonnay, 11.5% abv) - Attractive drink-now and dry version ('nature' here means zero added dosage) of the popular favourite, with oily roundness and a touch of style. Tesco 'finest' £7.
Marqués del Norte Vintage Cava Brut 2013 (11.5% abv) - Asda has been knocking out this own-label fizz at a ludicrous bargain £4! Also made by the Jaume Serra winery, less developed and fresher than above although more off-dry.
Frares Priorat 2014 (Garnacha, Carinena, 15% abv) - Tasty example of this often very expensive Catalan red from the hills behind Tarragona, full-on spicy liquorice with oomph and plenty of lush fruit. Marks & Spencer £13

Montilla – Moriles
Fresquito PX 2014 Perez Barquero (Pedro Ximenez, 14% abv) - Deliciously different dry white with the lively yeasty almond edges reminiscent of Fino Sherry, but a touch 'lighter' in style (despite that quite high alcohol). Marks & Spencer £9, on offer at £42 for 6 bottles online (late April).

Rioja
Marqués de Valido Reserva 2010 Bodegas Muriel (Tempranillo, 13% abv) - Always reliable Co-Op own-brand Rioja, not the greatest Reserva style around but has plenty of maturing charm and smoky smoothness for the price. £8.99
Perez Burton Tempranillo 2013 Telmo Rodriguez (14%) - A touch classier and more concentrated version from this well-known consultant winemaker. M & S £11.50.

Yecla - Murcia
Tapa Roja old vines Monastrell 2014 Bodegas del Mediterraneo (14.5% abv) - Same delicious unoaked style as the previous vintage featured on this blog a year ago (click there), layered with earthy dark fruit and black olive flavours. M & S £9/£7 on offer (late April).

Jerez/Sanlúcar de Barrameda - Andalusia
12 Year Old Oloroso Sherry Emilio Lustau (Palomino Fino, 20% abv) - Labelled as 'medium dry', but I think its inherent characteristic richness makes it taste less dry than it actually probably is. Towards stunning aged sherry for a bargain price, rich and baked walnut-y with complex lingering flavours. Sainsbury's 'taste the difference' £8 50cl.
La Gitana Manzanilla Bodegas Hidalgo (Palomino Fino, 15% abv) - Classic style dry and lively sherry with roasted salted almond notes and tangy finish. 50cl £8 Sainsbury's/widely available.

27 August 2015

Spain, Catalonia: Priorat, Montsant, Terra Alta, Penedès, Empordà

Hot on the heels of the last post about my updated Cava guide (click there), here are fifteen more tasty Catalan recommendations sourced from fashionable (and dear) Priorat and the (better-value) neighbouring wine areas of Montsant and Terra Alta (inland and west of Tarragona), Penedès (west/north-west of Barcelona) and the perhaps lesser-known (name- and wine-wise at least as it's very touristy) Empordà region (Catalunya's north-eastern corner bordering France Med-side). Some of the prices indicated below were taken from Wine Searcher.

From facebook.com/lafouceller
Priorat
Clos Mogador 2010 (Garnacha, Carinena, Cabernet, Syrah) - a "famous" vineyard I believe, owned by René Barbier. Dense rich red, fair amount of coconut oak but it's intense concentrated and extracted, firm and fresh mouth-feel layered with dark cherry/berry fruit and savoury flavours, powerful and still young on the finish. Expensive naturally: about €70 in Ireland, at least £50 in the UK and $75-$100 in USA.
Álvaro Palacios 2012 Camins del Priorat (Garnacha, Carinena) - Delicious wild berry and herb fruit, pure and tasty, concentrated too with nice grip and lively finish. €27, £17.50, $21-$23
Cartoixa de Montsalvat 2009 Mont Classic (Garnacha, Carinena) - Baked maturing liquorice and tobacco aromas, extracted and concentrated, big vs softening, power and length; quite a mouthful! €22, $32-$34
Bernard Magrez 2010 Herencia del Padri (Carinena, Garnacha, Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah) - Light coconut tones and fairly perfumed ripe berry and cassis, beginning to mature turning savoury and tobacco, powerful vs soft tannins, quite elegant actually. €21.25, $20
Bernard Magrez 2005 Alegría (Garnacha, Carinena, Merlot, Cabernet) - Fairly oaky still actually vs smoky maturing dark fruit, quite concentrated, some grip still although nice texture and balance, coconut hints merge with lush spicy fruit. €49.50

Montsant
Cellers Baronia del Montsant 2010 Cims del Montsant (Garnacha, Carinena) - maturing smoky tobacco nose, sweet liquorice fruit vs a touch of grip, attractive savoury finish, drinking well now. €16.99, $15-$20

Catalunya
Ramón Roqueta 2012 Vinya Nostra Nit de Tardor (Garnacha, Samsó) - Dark berries with liquorice and spice, nice fruity mouthful, fairly soft yet quite concentrated with lingering dark fruit and wild herb flavours. €17
Ramón Roqueta 2013 Vinya Nostra Xarel.lo (100% Xarel.lo) - Aromatic green fruit with yeast-lees edges, crisp and zesty mouth-feel vs fuller oilier side, fair weight and flavour in the end. Nice white. €17

Catalunya/Penedès
Torres 2013 Vina Esmeralda (Moscatel, Gewurztraminer) - Aromatic Muscat nose with a touch of lychee, light and off-dry with zesty finish. €13.99, £7.50-£8.50
Torres 2011 Coronas Crianza (Tempranillo, Cabernet) - Vibrant berry fruit and subtle oak notes, tasty fruity vs savoury palate, lovely balance and style. £8-£9, €13.99
Torres 2010 Gran Sangre de Toro (Garnacha, Carinena, Syrah) - Smoky with a touch of oak and nice lively spicy ripe black fruits, quite concentrated with smooth tannins plus an elegant touch despite the Grenache oomph. €13.99, £8-£9.50
Torres 2009 Gran Coronas (Tempranillo, Cabernet) - Concentrated and stylish, savoury tobacco notes vs chunky and dark-fruity, drinking well now but will last a bit longer, very tasty red. €19.99, £11.50-£12.50

Terra Alta
Lafou Celler 2012 Els Amelers (Garnacha blanca) - Juicy and honeyed, zesty and lees-y vs quite rich, pretty intense with steely vs weighty finish. Very good white. €22, $20
Lafou Celler 2012 El Sender (Garnacha, Syrah, Morenillo) - Perfumed wild herb/violet aromas, lovely blackberry/cherry, soft tannins, lush vs powerful. Delicious red. €22, $18-$20

Empordà
Clos d'Agon 2010 Amic (Garnacha) - Maturing wild dark fruit nose, big mouthful with chunky vs maturing finish, quite good although not exactly a bargain. €23.75, £15.95

21 December 2013

Spain v Australia: festive sweeties and reds, with or without chocolate

Well, not exactly one against the other, but a way of introducing five very different wines from these two diverse wine-lands ranging from essentially dry red to sweeter to very very sweet, started as white ended up brownish. First off, an aged dry red from Penfolds, the 2006 vintage of their Bin 28 Shiraz (about £14 in the UK). This was one of a few stars sampled with different types of chocolate at a recent Northern Ireland Wine & Spirit Institute 'wine with chocolate' tasting, with Deirdre McCanny of Belfast chocolatier Co Couture (a tad more about chocolate making etc. follows the wine blurb). This particular Penfold's 'Bin number' has been going since 1959 apparently, and the 2006 wasn't really showing its age that much. Powerful spicy nose with eucalyptus tones even, sweet blackberry and maturing savoury notes, has a fair kick still vs attractive spice and richness vs meaty flavours and softening tannins. Nice with the 'plain' Madagascan chocolate and the 'smoked sea salt' flavoured one even (read on...); or have with the usual red meat suspects I'd imagine.


Moving on to the Rutherglen region in north-eastern Victoria, which is famous for producing one-off sweet Madeirized style wines - deliberately oxidized by a special maturation process - fortified with alcohol (like Port and Sherry) and keeping hold of a large dose of natural sugar. Two different types are mentioned here, a 'Tawny' (the Portuguese won't like that) and a Muscat. Jen Pfeiffer is one of Naked Wines' bespoke winemakers, who's come up with a quirky little number called The Diamond 10 Year Old Rutherglen Tawny (19.8% abv). This showed cooked raisins and pecan nut on the nose, caramel fudge and toffee, oxidized Madeira notes but redder fruit, tangy toasted nuts vs sweet raisins vs punchy alcohol; quite balanced in the end despite all that going on (for a long time). £11.99 'Angel' price, £15.99 'normal' (more about their pricing here). I tasted this one at home recently (still am, a couple of mouthfuls at a time is enough, and it keeps for weeks) rather than at that choco event; try it with a selection of cheeses or mince pies.
Campbell's is a name almost synonymous with this particular style of sticky fortified wine, especially their legendary Rutherglen Muscat (17.5% abv - £13.99 Direct Wine Shipments and generally available in many specialist shops). Probably even sweeter than the tawny, with around 190 grams per litre residual sugar, this had a full-on cooked sultana and marmalade nose, very sweet and lush palate with treacly vs aromatic fruity flavours, the Muscat character does come through all that in the end lending a fruitier, dare I say 'fresher' side. The chilli chocolate worked well giving it a bit of bite; and similarly, the ginger choc also fought back! Was a bit weird with the sea salt one though.
Carrying on with the intense sticky theme, Sherry country in southwestern Spain is responsible for a variety of tasty styles of this fortified aged wine, from very dry (Fino, Manzanilla) to super sweet, such as Gonzalez Byass' extraordinary Matusalem (20.5% abv). Their press blurb describes it thus: "Matusalem is a premium cream sherry aged for 30 years in the Gonzalez Byass bodega in Jerez, Andalucia. Fine Oloroso sherry is blended with Pedro Ximenez (that's a variety not some bloke who works there, whose bunches are dried out lying on mats after picking, massively concentrating the natural sugar) and aged in American oak barrels where the flavours and aromas concentrate."
This is what I scribbled down after trying it a few times at home over a period of days with and without food (makes a nice dessert just on its own, or with dried fruit and nuts perhaps) - again good with mince pies, could be a substantial match for Christmas pudding or smooths the edges on blue and hard mature cheeses; and what about pouring some over vanilla ice cream too? Powerful 'volatile' Madeirized nose with cooked/oxidized and really toasted walnuts and molasses tinged with an almost extremely reduced wine/meat gravy edge! Caramelized soy sauce too vs mega dried fruit sultana/raisin cocktail, huge palate with the same array of flavours plus very nutty sweet walnut/pecan, nice kick/bite cuts through it a little, very intense tangy vs sweet finish. Wow, extreme wine or what. Tastes the same a few days later, another one that will keep for a week or three probably. Luckily comes in half-bottles - £19.99 from Ocado, Waitrose, Tesco, Majestic, Fortnum and Mason, Harvey Nichols, Cambridge Wines and other independents and sherry specialists.
Staying in Spain, I'll come back to an unusual slightly sweet Merlot from Priorat, found down the coast from Barcelona and inland a little on the hills, made by Joseph Puig called Dolc de Lluna 2006 (15% abv, £22.50 DWS). Nicely wacky mix of maturing meaty leather notes and dark vs savoury fruit, had a bit of grip still vs rounded mouth-feel with some sweetness and kick. Different for a Merlot. Again stood up well to the stronger flavoured chocolates even, ginger and chilli, as well as a nice match with the 'plain'.

Talking of that Co Couture chocolate, it seems like a good way of ending this post with a few facts and figures about making fine chocolate gleaned from Deirdre's introduction (hopefully accurate, as it was all scribbled down in a hurry). Cocoa beans are bigger than I'd imagined, although shrink when roasted turning them brown too, as are the pods, which resemble elongated coconut shells without the hair crossed with a shrivelled melon! There are three different varieties used for making choco: forastero, the biggest pod mainly grown in western Africa; Trinitario, a hybrid of the latter and Criollo that's smaller with rounder ends and more susceptible to weather and disease. Criollo is considered the finest, and there's a resurgence in growing this one, Deirdre said, although it's difficult to grow. There's no sugar in the beans but is in the pulp around them, so they're fermented together imparting more flavour into the beans. These are then dried and roasted.
We tasted three pieces of raw beans, all different with bitter vs sweet profile. It should have intensity and tannins but not particularly bitter; if a bean tastes heavily roasted, it means it's poor quality. The final roasted bean is about 50-50 cocoa solids and cocoa butter, which is pressed and separated. The butter is a fat, which does smell like cocoa-infused butter and melts in your hand. For dark choco, they then take 70% cocoa solids (any fine chocolate should be minimum 70%) and add 30% cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla (best fresh). There shouldn't be any other kind of fat, although you can add the useful soya lecithin nowadays. For milk chocolate, you need the cocoa solids blended with milk powder then the rest of the ingredients as above. And white chocolate is just cocoa butter and the rest without the cocoa solids. The solids are first refined to make a smooth paste with no particles. Typically, the darker the colour, the higher the amount of solids although this isn't always the case, e.g. from Madagascar, which can have lovely reddy brown hues.
Rubbing your thumb on the back of the chocolate helps release the aromas. Snap it - a nice 'clean' snap means it's high in cocoa butter. Let it melt in your mouth on your tongue to get more of the flavours. We tried four different types with various origins and styles, although it's not totally clear from my notes what they were each called, so I'll just say I was surprised how different they all looked and tasted (they were all 70% dark), and no real bitterness there either. There are essentially two production styles though, French and Belgian/Swiss (plus everyone else). The French like to taste the chocolate and use less sugar and more butter (better for cooking chocolate too for melting) than the Belgian/Swiss makers.

And have a look at part 2 of sweet wines and chocolate here (links to it, with a touch of Maury and Banyuls), plus more southern French 'reds of the mo' that have come my way from the Roussillon, Languedoc and St-Chinian in particular...

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