Showing posts with label La Rioja. Show all posts
Showing posts with label La Rioja. Show all posts

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wine. Two for the Meat. One for the Sweet.

Wine: Two for the Meat. One for the Sweet

I have been dipping into SuperValu’s 12 wines for Christmas and reckon these three are ideal companions for the season. The first can match most desserts while the others will go well with your roasts, including the turkey. All are reduced from the 10th of December until the end of the month.

Vinha do Foral Moscatel de Setubal (Portugal), 17.5%, €12.00 SuperValu
The beautiful amber colour catches your eye and the aromas (orange skin, honey) are quite intense. On the palate, this sweet wine, well balanced and not at all “sticky”, is crisp and fresh, enough sweetness to pair with desserts (even the Christmas pudding), yet dry enough to shine as an aperitif, maybe even as an apres digestif. Either way there is a prolonged finish. Oh, by the way, it seems you can have it with two or three ice cubes. I haven’t tried that.

Made by the Cooperativa de Pegoes from one hundred per cent Moscatel grapes, this is a Very Highly Recommended. Do note the higher alcohol content. Like Port, this is a fortified wine.
Right bank ahead. Crossing the Garonne
at Langoiran

Chateau Sissan Grande Reserve 2011, Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux, 13.5%, €10.00 SuperValu.

This is a relatively new (2008) denomination and covers a narrow strip on the right bank of the Garonne, more or less across the river from Barsac and Sauternes. According to the World Atlas of Wine, the area produces “toothsome reds”.

And this one certainly is toothsome! It has a lovely ruby robe and, on the nose, has lots of red fruit aromas, some spice too. A well made wine with superb ripe soft fruits on the palate and again hints of spice; it is full bodied, mellow and with a lingering finish.

Blend of Merlot (55%), Cabernet Sauvignon (40%) and Cabernet Franc (5%). Very Highly Recommended.

La Rioja

Finca Labarca Reserva 2007 (Rioja), 14%, €10.00, SuperValu
Rioja, and its Tempranillo, is a favourite here, so this was welcome when it arrived and even more so after opening. It may well be seven years old and the red may not be as deep as early on but there is no shortage of fruit on the palate and there is lively spice as well (quite a match for the local spiced beef!). The oak has been well integrated, the tannins are soft, the finish long. Another wine for the Christmas where its versatility will be a bonus. Very Highly Recommended.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Campo Viejo. Still and Sparkling

Campo Viejo. Still and Sparkling

Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva 2008, 13.5%, €14.31 Widely available.

Campo Viejo is the "dependable" Rioja. Even in Spain, according to our guide on a recent Tapas Trail. And not just in Spain. It is in the No. 1 Rioja position worldwide. And one can see why, or at least taste why, in this bottle. The wine has been aged for 18 months in French and American oak and a further 18 months aging in the bottle.

Colour is a clean and bright ruby and it has inviting red fruit aromas. You’ll find rounded fruit flavours and spice notes on the palate. Really well balanced with little or no sign of tannins and it has a lovely long finish. Made mainly from Tempranillo (85%), it is added to our Very Highly Recommended list.

Campo Viejo Cava Brut Reserva, 11.5%, €15.38, O’Brien’s nationwide .

Cava is usually associated with the Catalunya region of Spain and indeed the vast majority of this traditionally made sparkling wine is made there. But it is also produced in quite a few other regions such as Aragon, Navarra, and La Rioja. The usual grapes in the blend, and in this wine, are Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo.

Take a look at this in the glass and you see a clean greenish yellow colour, bright and with no shortage of rising bubbles. There are white fruit aromas which I've seen described as complex but I didn't find anything very intense. White fruits too on the palate and a terrific balancing acidity. Fresh for sure and with an excellent dry finish. A good value Cava, made by the Metodo Tradicional, and Highly Recommended.

They also produce a Rosé Brut, made with 100% Trepat.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Telmo sees future of Spanish Wine in the past

Telmo sees future of Spanish Wine in the past
Magnificent Seven
Wine lover Telmo Rodriguez, he doesn’t particular like being called a wine-maker, declared in Ballymaloe last evening that wine in Spain “had been in the wrong hands, now it is starting to be in the right hands. I am between a boring generation and an exciting generation”.

To find the brighter future, Telmo went back to the past. He could have had comfortably slotted into the family winery Remelluri but, after an intensive wine education in France, he eventually headed off on his own.

And to the most unlikely places. Barren hillsides where vineyards had been abandoned. Sometimes a few survived with practices dating back five hundred years, including “beautiful bush vines”.

“I support the bush vines,” he said and, pointing to the wines he was showing, “I am proud that none of these were on trellis. Small bush produce rich concentrated wine. And the bush protects the grapes from the hot sun. Grapes on trellis are like a sun-burned Irishman in Marbella.”

He deplores the New World concentration on the grape variety as the most important element. “In the Old World, the grape is the loudspeaker to show a place”, a medium to convey “the taste of a place”. Oak he sees as an enemy of that taste. “When oak becomes cosmetic, we are destroying the taste of the place. None of my wines are called Crianza – doesn’t matter to me.”

He spoke fondly of the family vineyards at Remelluri which have a history dating back hundreds and hundreds of years – in the 16th century the monks were already producing wine there.

Telmo remembers the mules coming in and working in the vineyards and also when his father bought the first tractor. After France, Telmo worked there for a while before moving out from what was considered the first Bordeaux style chateau in Rioja.

But now he is back. And has been for some years. The big estate, which had always tended that way, is now “absolutely organic, with plenty of grass and flowers, and we are always working to be more pure, more radical. The sense of history and place is very important to me.”
Yours truly and Telmo (right)
He showed seven wines in all and each had a story. Perhaps the strangest was that of his Mountain wine, the Malaga Molino Real, a sweet wine. This was a dream he pursued, having heard references to it via the unlikely pairing of Shakespeare and Hugh Johnson.
But it had disappeared and off he went to Malaga and began to search for the high altitude old vineyards and, as is his habit, talked a lot to the old people and in particular to the old women drying grapes by hand and they told him that “every single grape was massaged by hand” in the old days.
He didn’t go that far but, in 1998, settled on an area and with advice from Château Y’Quem, started production. He secured a plot and then planted it with Moscatel.  It took three or four years. He finally got it right and the exquisite result was in our glasses last night. “Never did any business with this wine but I’m proud of it.”
Reckon Telmo has quite a lot to be proud of. And, with a record of longevity in the family, he has quite a future ahead of him and is sure to keep Spanish wine-makers on their toes, to all our benefit.

Albariño de Fefiñanes 2012

Mountain blanco 2011

 As Caborcas 2010

Pegaso granito 2008

R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja Reserva  2001

Remelluri Gran Reserva 2005

Lanzaga 2008

Molino Real 

During the tasting, we had some lovely Spanish nibbles provided by Sylvia and Olga of La Cocina who can see at local Farmers Markets, including Douglas (Saturday) and Blackrock (Sunday).

White Gems from NW Spain

White Gems from NW Spain
Samaniego, an old village in Rioja
taken thorugh the glass of the Baigorri winery
Vina Tondonia Blanco 1996 Reserva, Rioja Alta, 12.5%

When I first noticed this 100 per cent Viura, with a rich honey colour, on the shelf in Tondonia in Haro, I thought “this has to be a dessert wine”. I said as much but was quickly corrected: “All these whites are dry,” said the lady in the bodega, who had learned her English in Dublin.

So we had a taste and yes it is dry. And so much more! There are gorgeous floral blossoms on the nose. On the palate, there is a soft explosion of beautiful exotic flavours but, while rich, the aged wine is well crafted and well balanced, all leading to a very pleasing, lingering dry finish. Indeed, there are constant reminders of sherry. This is surely something different and very highly recommended.

I had accidentally come to the right place for old whites! “To talk in our bodega of white wines being exclusively young and uncomplicated, would be asking for trouble. We have never been averse to ageing white wines in oak for as long as reds, and the result is much more surprising than might be expected.”

“ When this type of wine has spent a long time in contact with oak, the oaky tastes and aromas are overly noticeable and even unbalanced. Nevertheless, when left for a few more years in bottles, the rough edges of oak become sufficiently polished and balanced to create a seductive bouquet of spice, bitter almonds, vanilla and walnut, trademarks of the majestic and opulent Viña Tondonia whites.”

Tondonia or, to give it its full title, Bodegas Lopez de Heredia/Tondonia, is run by two sisters who proudly protect the reputation and practices (sometimes they use material from a previous year to “correct” an unsatisfactory vintage) of this long standing family firm.

Whatever they do, they do it well. Just to finish with a quote from The Finest Wines of Rioja and Northwest Spain: “..the reason Tondonia deserves a position of prominence on the Rioja podium is the sheer quality and seductiveness of its wines, across virtually the entire portfolio”.

2011 Bodegas Rafael Palacios Valdeorras As Sortes Val do Bibei, 13.5%, Ballymaloe Wines at BT.

This was the star of the wines featured at the Jancis Robinson appearance in this summer’s Ballymaloe Literary Festival. And indeed Jancis herself is a big fan: “This is clearly the most wonderful harvest of a great wine. Great length and balance, although still very young. ..... A lovely wine with elegance to be deployed for many years.” Alas, my bottle didn’t last too long!

Jancis is not the only one to approve. The authors of The Finest Wines of Rioja and Northwest Spain (worth getting your hands on a copy) are also major fans of this Godello and the results that Palacios has achieved.”This is one of the finest whites, not only in Valdeorras or Galicia, but in the whole of Spain.”

High praise indeed, so there is hardly much need of my tuppence worth which just confirms that it is a very good wine indeed and well worth a trek into Brown Thomas in Patrick Street.

Palacios, just like Thursday’s Ballymaloe visitor Telmo Rodriguez, seeks out what look like poor hillside terroirs from which he extracts gems like this one. Indeed, the name As Sortes has to do with small plots, the result of inheritance being drawn by lot, often out of a hat, and called sorte in Galician.

Martin Codax Albariño 2011, Rias Baixas, 12.5%, €15.85 Karwig Wines

Martin Codax was a famous troubadour in Galicia in the 13th century. When 270 wine makers of the region banded together in 1986, they took the name as a symbol of the region and of its culture. Thanks to the local winemakers and in particular to the local grape Albariño, Martin is now the best travelled of all Galician troubadours.

Hope this Albariño keeps travelling in this direction. Albariño is the main grape of the appellation and now one of the best known of Galicia. Its bunches and berries are small, allowing for an early ripening. It is a sweet and lingering grape, with high levels of sugar and acidity which give the wines an amazing freshness. Traditionally cultivated in “emparrado”, it is one of the main symbols of Galicia.

This 2011 is bright and clean, full of flavours and complex aromas, a little tingling on the palate and a good dry finish, a very good example of the Albariño, pretty much an unknown grape until that coming together in 1986 when it began to emerge as a varietal, both locally and internationally.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Baigorri Crianza and Reserva

Baigorri Crianza and Reserva

Baigorri Tempranillo Crianza 2008, La Rioja, 14.5%, €11.40 in the bodega at Samaniego.
Baigorri Tempranillo Reserva 2006, La Rioja, 14.0%, €18.66 in the bodega at Samaniego.

Happy day: the 12th June 2012. That was the day I pulled into the winery of Baigorri, its glass cube rising above but not dominating the nearby medieval village of Samaniego in La Rioja, and left with some really lovely wines, including these two.

We rang the bell and Pilar met us at the door and let us in. We were too late for the tour but had a lovely chat with the young lady who had polished off her English on the Clash Road in Little Island (Cork).

I was amazed at the stunning winery, designed and built by the architect Inaki Aspiazu, creating an unmissable yet compatible landmark. The cube is just the top of a seven storey structure that carries on underneath the surface and means that virtually every movement of the wine making process owes much to gravity.

And the results in the bottles are brilliant too.

The Crianza

Colour is dark red and there are intense aromas of red fruits, regularly found with Tempranillo in this region.

But the palate is something else, above expectations. Full of fruit flavours but very rounded, quite sophisticated. A really well made wine with a persistent finish.

Probably the best value of the wines that I bought here and very highly recommended.

The Reserva

The Reserva is another excellent wine but is pretty expensive. If I were stuck for money and in the bodega again, I’d probably buy two Crianza rather than one Reserva!

There are good reasons for the big price difference. It has been a good deal longer in the process, including longer in oak. The grapes are picked from very old vines, manually selected and de-stalked before being fermented in French oak.

It is one hundred per cent Tempranillo whereas the Crianza is a blend of 90% Tempranillo, 5% Garnacha and 5% indigenous varieties.

The colour is a dark ruby red. The nose is rich with ripe fruit and hints of spice and leather. On the palate it is pleasant, warm and fruity, slightly spicy, with a supple texture drawn from the tannins and the oak, rounded and so well balanced with a persistent dry finish. Another in the very highly recommended category.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A twinning proposition: Timoleague and Samaniego

A twinning proposition: Timoleague and Samaniego
Timoleague (above) and Samaniego

Let us twin the ancient villages of Timoleague (West Cork) and Samaniego (La Rioja). Maybe I can’t pull that off but I sure can get Ummera and Baigorri together. Ummera is a famous state of the art smokehouse in Timoleague while Baigorri is a renowned state of the art winery in La Rioja.

Indeed, I have already brought them together, stumbling on a fantastic wine food pairing, as an unforeseen postscript when I recently opened a bottle of Baigorri Garnacha that I had purchased in Samaniego last summer.

Approaching the end of this bottle, I remembered that I had a few slices of the fantastic Ummera smoked duck to be finished off. Thought to myself that they might make a match.

For once, heaven agreed with me. Chewed a sliver of the duck and added a little wine. Eureka! The "chemistry"  revealed depths of smoky flavour, hitherto unsuspected. Amazingly, products from two ancient villages met on my palate and turned it into a flavour filled paradise.

Baigorri Garnacha, Rioja 2009, 14.5%, €19.54 at the winery in Haro.

Baigorri tend to experiment a bit and they even have a “garage” wine. This Garnacha has been influenced by the winemakers, a vin de l'auteur they call it. A well made wine for sure and highly recommended (very highly recommended if you add the smoked duck!) but a little pricey in comparison with their excellent Tempranillo Reserva.

Quite a dry introduction and then a bubbly rush of fruits. A flavoursome wine then with a stirring persistence. It has a rich red colour with calm fruity aromas, especially plum, plus hints of spice. Overall, the experience in the mouth echoes that of the bouquet.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Excellent Rioja Crianza

La Pinaleta Crianza, Rioja 2009 Limited Edition 23,500 bottles, 13.5%

The blend: Tempranillo 80%, Garnacha and Mazuela 20%.

The colour and nose (pretty intense) are typical of the modern Rioja style and the blend (above) gives a light, elegant and fruity wine. The attractive palate and persistent finish means it has that all important second glass appeal.

A few months before Christmas, Wine Alliance introduced some excellent new Spanish reds including: Las Pizarras Si O Sy Syrah and Yaso Tinto de Toro. This classy Crianza is from the same Osborne stalls. Perhaps, if we ask Wine Alliance nicely, the importers will add this one to the portfolio.

Very Highly Recommended. VHR

* Called to the fantastic Baigorri vineyard during a drive in La Rioja last summer and wasn't at all empty handed when I left, having been served by a lady who learned her English while staying on the Clash Road in Little Island. Am now engaged in sampling some of the fruits of that trip and will let you know in due course. Watch this space!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Stars of the La Rioja Alta Winery

Stars of the La Rioja Alta Winery

Talking here about the winery of La Rioja Alta and not the region of the same name in La Rioja. The winery, headquartered in Haro, was established in 1890. In particular, I’m talking about two excellent reds, the Ardanza and the Arana, which I bought on a visit to their boutique (in Haro) this summer.                                             One unusual thing here is that they actually charge you for the tastings, anything from €1.50 to a fiver a glass. You don’t really want to be tasting glassfuls on a road trip, so we shared. The lady, Maria, who served us, had polished off her English in Dublin!                                                                                              In the late 19th century, when phylloxera struck in France, Haro was one of the first towns that French merchants called to, looking for replacement wines. The little town prospered and was only the second Spanish town to get electricity - the first was Jerez.

Vina Arana, Rioja Reserva 2004, 13%, €11.92 at the boutique.

As we sipped our glass (€2.00), we were told that 2004 was a very good year and that the blend is 95% Tempranillo and 5% Mazuelo. It is produced in Haro in a Bordeaux style and was originally known as Rioja Claret.

Colour is a dark cherry red with intense berries on the nose. Drinking from the bottle at home, I found it a smooth fruity medium bodied wine, with pleasant spice and silky tannins. For sure, this is an elegant Rioja with a pleasing aftertaste and excellent length. Highly recommended. Available at Mitchell’s  €22.95.

Vina Ardanza, Reserva 2004, Rioja DO, 13.5%, €15.49 at the boutique.

Made from Tempranillo (80%) and Garnacha, this too has the dark cherry colour with an intense nose of berries, some spice. It is full bodied, a superb combination of power and elegance and comes with a long finish. This ticks all the boxes, even those above 90. Amazing and very highly recommended.

Also look out for the 2001, as they told me that it is amazing and, released in 2009, is available in Ireland with a Reserva Especial on the label. By the way, the tasting glass cost €2.40.

The 2001 is available at Mitchell’s  €26.95

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Two of the old Reserves

Two of the old Reserves

Marques de Riscal, Rioja Reserva 2006, 14%, €12.80, Venta Gora (Navarra).
Ninety per cent Tempranillo in this Cherry red Rioja. Dark fruits and spice, balsamic hints on the nose. On the palate, it is full and fruity, rich and rounded, super tasty with a persistent finish. A classic Rioja and highly recommended.

Remelluri, Rioja Reserva 2006, 13.5%, €13.32, Venta Mugica (Irabar).

The nose is your normal Rioja, fruity with a bit of spice. Some spice also on the palate and rounded fruit flavours, maybe too rounded I thought at first! Seemed to lack any distinctive characters but I had started it off too cool and, on warming up, we re-introduced ourselves, the characters came through and we got on well together. Subtle rather than in your face, it is tasty and smooth with a warm and persistent finish.

The grapes used are Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano. It has spent 17 months in oak, 70% French and 30% US. Unusually for Rioja, all Remelluri wines are made from estate grown grapes and this dark red is a good one. Highly recommended.

I bought these at Ventas on the Spanish side of the French border. Ventas are rather ugly concentrations of purpose built large shops selling everything from shoes to wines to petrol at prices cheaper than just across the road in France. Rioja wines are fairly widely available in Ireland. Try places like O’Brien’s, Superquin, Bradley’s Off Licence, Mitchel & Son. On the net, check via
A hilltop Venta

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Delicious White Wines of Tondonia

Delicious White Wines of Tondonia

R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, Viña Gravonia Crianza 2002, Rioja DO, 12.5%, €11.00 (at the vineyard bodega in Haro).

When I first noticed this Gravonia, 100 per cent Viura, on the shelf in Haro, I thought “this has to be a dessert wine”. I said as much but was quickly corrected: “All these whites are dry.”

So we had a taste and yes it is dry. The colour though is like rich honey and there are gorgeous floral blossoms on the nose. On the palate, there is a soft explosion of beautiful exotic flavours but, while rich, the aged wine is well crafted and well balanced, all leading to a very pleasing, lingering dry finish.
This is surely something different and very highly recommended.
Door to the tasting room!

Vineyard notes
Colour: Pale gold slightly evolved. Nose: Fresh and aromatic. Complex and developed. Bouquet with aromas of third generation. Taste: Fruity, complex, developed and fine.Issued Quantity: 29.000 bottles.

R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, Viña Tondonia Reserva 1996 Rioja DO, 12.5% abv, €20.00 (at the vineyard bodega in Haro).

The nose is complex and the colour is even richer than the Gravonia, red/gold, like a good whiskey. I was told the extra richness in the colour comes from the ten per cent Malvasía used; the rest is Viura. Even though I had been told it was dry, I was still expecting something sweet. But, yes, it is really dry. It is also rich and elegant, shaping up like a good smooth sherry before finishing long and dry. Gorgeous. Very highly recommended.

It has spent six years in barrel and just 20,000 bottles were produced. They say it is perfect with all kinds of fish, with seafood and well seasoned white meat.

Vineyard notes: 1996 was officially a good year. There was a perfect balance in all parameters: colour flavour and taste. The white wines keep evolving in a fantastic way, showing elegance and finesse as per the best vintages.
For even more details, click here

I had been hoping to get some of their famous Viña Tondonia Rosé Gran Reserva, another aged wine, but there was none available and, because it is not made every year, none will be available for another year or two.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Exquisite Rosado from La Rioja

Marques de Caceres, Rosado, Rioja 2011, 13.5%.

Vibrant summer fruits on the nose while the colour is a really strong pink. In the mouth, the fruit is delicious; the wine has a charming mouthfeel and a decent dry finish. This blend of Tempranillo (80%) and Garnacha hits the right rosé spot. Exquisite but not at all delicate. Highly recommended.

This type of wine is associated with sunshine and higher temperatures and indeed I got it out Sunday evening when the big yellow ball made one of its rare appearances this summer. But I wouldn’t follow the guideline too seriously as there are many occasions when a rosé is suitable.

I bought this bottle, and a few companions, while on a recent trip to Spain but you should be able to find it in places like Nash Wines,, and Wines Made Easy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Super visit to La Rioja

Baigorri's glass cube


Tondonia's tasting rooms

Me and a favourite vine at La Rioja Alta

Vineyards through the Baigorri glass

Hillside ventas

Super visit to La Rioja
Tuesday 12th June
More pics here

With a showery forecast for Hendaye, we decided to take the trip to La Rioja where the forecast for this Tuesday was for marginally better weather. It wasn't blue skies all the way but it didn’t rain and we enjoyed the most fantastic wines between Haro and the medieval village of Samaniego.

The Spanish road system is just brilliant in these parts. We had been on the San Sebastian to Bilbao highway before but weren't quite prepared for the amount of tunnels when we turned off and headed for La Rioja, still on the toll roads. One of the tunnels, at 3405 metres, was the longest I have ever driven.

Haro, a small town, is regarded as the wine capital of La Rioja, as it was here it all started. Our first call was to La Rioja Alta, where they actually charge you for the tastings, anything from €1.50 to a fiver a glass. You don’t really want to be tasting glassfuls on a road trip, so we shared. Highlight here was the Reserva Vina Ardanza, priced at €15.49 a bottle. The lady who served us had polished off her English in Dublin!

Then off to the nearby Lopez de Heredia premises and their gorgeous tasting rooms. This is better known to us as Tondonia (though apparently Lopez has taken off in US). Highlight here was their incredible Tondonia Blanca Reserva (1996) and, of course, the lady who served us had learned her English in Dublin.

Then we headed towards Logrono looking for Bogedas Ysios but that journey was interrupted when we spotted the original glass cube of Bodegas Baigorri which marks their seven storey downwards building where much is done by the simple use of gravity. We missed out on a full tour but saw much of the operation.

And, of course, we visited the shop. Crianza, Reserva and “a vin d'auteur”, not the most popular with traditionalists, were bought and the lady that served us here broke the sequence. She polished off her English in Cork, having many happy memories of her stay in Little Island's Clash Road about three years ago!

Sunday was supposed to be very rainy in Hendaye and we did get 90 minutes of heavy stuff around lunchtime. Before that, we had walked the beach and seen the many surfers in action. Afterwards, we walked to Spain, as you would, if as here, it is just across a bridge. Checked out some of the nearby wine shops. Perhaps, we’ll call again.

Don’t think we call again though to any of those Ventas, the bargain places for French people, just on the Spanish side of the border. We did visit Ventas Ibardin on Monday. High on a hillside pass, with a great view of the French coast, including of St Jean de Luz, some years back they bulldozed away the trees and about 12 big buildings were set up for business.

They are mainly supermarkets, all selling much the same stuff, with some perfumeries and leather goods. We had been looking for shoes but the selection disappointed. Perfumes were priced much the same as on the ferry (Brittany Ferries) but bargains were found in one spot.

The alcohol outlets, some specialist, most in supermarkets, generally disappointed in terms of wine, though one specialist had a great selection of sprits. Did get a few bits and pieces but nothing worth talking about.

Indeed the only thing worth talking about was a spectacular thunderstorm that broke out while we were sitting in the car. We had come up through Spain and returned to Hendaye via France. Interesting but hardly profitable.