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Archive for October 2010

Spanish Surprises & Rioja Gripes

This week we've had another batch of new Spanish wines arriving, and it's noticeable that they're not from the "obvious" regions of Rioja and Ribera del Duero. We seem to be getting more excited about the less well-known stuff.

A recent trip to Spain to seek out "House Rioja" featured an array of lollipoppy sweetish "easy drinking" reds made using Carbonic Maceration (as with most Beaujolais) and confirmed that I should look for sub £10 Tempranillo based wines elsewhere. This sentiment was echoed by a client who has replaced a Rioja on their wine list with the "Bajondillo" 2009 (£10.00) made by Jimenez-Landi in the Mentrida region of central Spain. They felt not only that they got more bang for their buck, but also that the Mentrida tasted more like what they expected from Rioja. It's hard to keep loyalty if you don't conform to some degree to customer preconceptions.

That's not to say that we've given up on Rioja; whites are a bit hit and miss, especially as the traditional Reservas and Gran Reservas are phased out, and the same-old-same-old Chardonnay and Sauv Blanc are introduced to try to raise sales figures. But we've tasted lots of very good reds albeit in the £10+ sector and from (to us anyway) familiar names. There is a newish category clumsily called semi-Crianza (a bit of oak ageing) which is meant to be a halfway house between party wines and the serious stuff and so should address the concerns laid out above, but I haven't tried anything with wow factor yet. As I write we have an "Introduction to Rioja" event coming up on Thursday, so we are definitely commited to the cause. Similarly with Ribera del Duero we've been looking beyond the ubiquitous brands and have taken a while to hit on something but think we may be there...you'll just have to watch this space.

I digress; here are three of the  Spanish surprises.

The region of Penedes is not as well known as it's biggest brand, Torres. It's the heartland for Cava but there are also some interesting wines featuring the Cava grapes. "Massis del Garraf" 2009 from Terraprima is a vibrant, zesty white which blends some Riesling in with the local Xarel-lo (one of my favourite grape names; it sounds like a relative of Superman.) Yours for £11.00.

Bobal is a grape  I had most associated with good value gluggers from Central Spain; I remember in the early days of my wine career enjoying an unpretentious little number at £4.99 from M&S. We've been stocking the marvellously named Manchuela winery Bodegas y Vinedos Ponce's Clos Lojen (£12.00) for some time, but myself and Chris were both blown away with their top wines. So salute the "P.F" 2009 Manchuela (£18.00) which marries vibrant cherry fruit and nutmeg with well balanced tannin and acidity.

I have to admit I had to look up Conca de Barbera in my wine Atlas; it's also in Catalunya, just inland from the Tarragona region.  "Les Paradetes" 2006 by Escoda Sanahuja (£21.50) is an epic well structured red full bodied red with a hint of medicinality - it certainly made me feel better.

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