Sunday, July 14, 2013

Firmint Royal Tokaji 2010

What a lovely refreshing dry wine from Hungary. The grape Furmint is rarely found outside the country. Lovely alternative to Sauvignon Blanc I'd say.

Very dry white wine with high acidity. Quite a lovely mix of flavours: gooseberry,  honey, wet stone, and deciduous leaf. Light with interesting flavours, a great summer wine, and I'm drinking it on the hottest day of the year. Wonderful!

I'm imagining sitting in the shade of trees near a brook on Dartmoor.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

M&S Rioja for £8

I was going to buy a beautifully oaked Rioja as I'm missing Spain. The bottle I was going to buy was a Reserva at £13, then I thought, no I have to think like you, needs to be cheaper. So I went for the Crianza at £10, but then this non-Reserva, non-Crianza Rioja at £8 caught my eye.

It's far better than I was expecting. It does have some vanilla-oak flavour that I was craving. Although it has quite short length it is rather tasty. I think the Syrah helps balance the temperanillo. I recommend you try a bottle... What have you got to lose?

Well hey, it's a good choice for those of you who like rounded reds with lots of black fruit and something totally drinkable, no effort or wine knowledge required!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Wine in Barcelona

I've just had an amazing four-day trip to Barcelona, and of course tasted some delicious wines while I was there...

The fist night I started with a garnacha (grenache) rose. It was a Castillo de Javier from from Navarro region.  I was in the restaurant Celler de la Ribera, which had inoffensive food, and this rose was very dry, some raspberry and cherry fruit, but was a little tart.

We wanted to go to La Vinya del Senyor, which I had been to on several previous trips to BCN and know them to serve delicious local wines, but it was far too busy, there wasn't enough room for us to stand.

So instead we went to Bastaix around the corner. They serve Catalan food here, so looked like an interesting menu (not just jamon, manchego, and patatas bravas for the tourists like they serve everywhere else). Our waitress Marina explained Catalan food is much healthier than Spanish food, but tourists rarely get to try it. The wine here is divine. They have several bottles open at a time so you can have a glass of a very good wine, not just "una copa vino tinto" in this restaurant! Our recommendation was to have the Portal by Pinol from Terra Alta (in Catalonia of course!). This wine was amazing, you could tell just by the aromas that this was going to please the palate. Dry, lovely rich black fruits, with a balanced tannin/acidity to give complexity and ensure the lovely flavours stay in your mouth a while longer. This winery uses French, American and Hungarian oak to develop the flavours, using a multitude of varietals - this wine was made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah.

On the last night, in Matamala, I had quite a pleasing wine called 2piR from Priorat. As the name suggests, this is intended to be a round wine, and it was indeed a good all rounder - balanced, flavoursome, and easy to drink, probably due to the number of varietals selected for this wine. However, after some of the other delicious wines I had tasted, I felt it was lacking oak depth.

TIP: When you visit a wine region, be sure to try local wines. The people will be happy to give recommendations, and they will be delighted you want to try local produce. And I don't mean just drink Rioja when you're in Spain, try to find local local wines, like I tried to dig out Catalonian wine in Barcelona. The difficulty will be finding local haunts that will give you the good stuff by the glass.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Why Malbec is good value for money

I'm drinking a tasty Malbec and thought I'd share some knowledge on this classy wine.

The Malbec grape was originally grown in Bordeaux, until the phylloxera wiped it out. Phylloxera is an aphid that wiped out many grape varieties in Europe in late 1800s, which you hear about all. the. time. when you learn about old world wines. It is now still found in Cahors in SW France, but thrives in Mendoza in Argentina. If you're not a Malbec expert, then Mendoza is the region you will most associate with Malbec - and that's a great place to start!

I also just happen to be reading Nathalie McLean's book Unquenchable which also has a chapter on Malbec, so I'm stealing some points from there too...

Both Chile and Argentina produce wines that are well-priced for the quality. They have warm climates (so better crops), cheap land and cheap labour costs, often making theses wines much cheaper than wines from Napa, Tuscany and Bordeaux.

Malbec is a dark tannic wine, that can look inky, but goes very well with steak

TIP: Argentina is hot and dry, which can be difficult to produce good wines. If you want a more structured Malbec, look for high altitude, you'll find more complex flavours and higher tannins. 

Some producers mix high altitude with low altitude (the Andes range from 1200-10,000 feet) to make a blend, similar perhaps to the Merlot-Cabernet blends you find in Bordeaux. One brings the fruit and flesh, the other structure and tannin. I like that this grape can be so versatile.

The wine I'm drinking tonight is inky, has high tannin and tastes like tar, violets and boysenberries. It's called VinAlta from M&S for £8. It's good. It's a shame its not been aged in oak though, I prefer those Malbecs which are far rounder with lush caramel flavours. But oaking the wine probably would have pitched it over the £10 mark.