Monthly Archives: May 2016

Telmo Rodriguez – A Name to Follow

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Al MuvedreAl-Muvedre (Waitrose, £8.99) is a wine you could easily take a quick look at and put back on the supermarket shelf. The label shows it comes from Alicante – not a great start – a region best known for supplying cheap ‘plonk’ to undemanding tourists visiting the Spanish ‘Costas’. And many will not immediately recognise the local name of the grape variety, Monastrell, although its more common names, Mourvèdre (think of Bandol from the south of France) or Mataro, might make you take a little more interest. But the words on the label that attracted me are those of the brilliant and prolific winemaker, Telmo Rodriguez.

After studying in Bordeaux and serving his apprenticeship working with some of the top growers in the Rhône, Rodriguez returned to his native Spain to Remelluri, his family’s wine estate in Rioja. This was only to be a brief stop although, as a result of his work there, the property continues to enjoy a much improved reputation. But his real aim was to set up on his own and pursue his passion for rediscovering Spain’s forgotten wine regions and native grape varieties.

My first taste of one of his wines was several years ago when I bought a bottle of MR Mountain Wine, a wonderful sweet muscat from Malaga (still available from the Wine Society, £11.95) and I have followed his progress ever since through wines from Navarre, Rueda and Galicia, as well as Rioja, of course.

But back to the Al-Muvedre. Typical of a Rodriguez wine, he has concentrated on expressing the character of the local grapes and the local area. He has chosen old vines trained in the traditional way as small bushes, picked by hand and fermented in concrete and stainless steel tanks. There’s no oak here so that the fruit can speak for itself and it shows with the delightful juicy plum and damson flavours coming through perfectly.

Telmo Rodriguez is undoubtedly a master of his craft and, unlike many famous names, his wines (or some of them) are readily available in supermarkets at everyday prices. His is definitely a name to look out for.

 

 

Bristol’s Portuguese Heritage

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Portugal is Britain’s oldest ally and there have been trading links between the two countries for centuries. And one of our most important imports from Portugal for much of that time has been Port. It used to be shipped in barrel direct from Oporto right into the centre of Bristol and bottled in cellars such as those owned by Harveys and Averys. Sadly, these days, large boats have to dock at Avonmouth, downstream from the city and all bottling is done in Portugal but port, and, nowadays Portuguese wine, too, is still arriving.

This heritage was marked some years ago by the ‘twinning’ of Oporto and my adopted home town of Bristol and a very active Twinning Association now exists organising regular exchange visits and other activities including, recently, a tasting of Portuguese wines. Of course, I was keen to attend, particularly as the wines were presented by Rachel of Corks of Cotham (and now of North Street, Bedminster, too), a local independent wine merchant who have won a number of awards for their Portuguese specialism.

BS Oporto tasting

Two contrasting whites began the evening: a crisp, refreshing Vinho Verde from reliable producer, Raza, (£8.99) and Casa Figueira’s Antonio (£19.99), a wine with real character and richness, part-fermented in old oak casks from a little-known grape variety, Vital.

Turning to the reds, Herdade Sao Miguel’s Ciconia (£8.99) from the Alentejo was a lovely easy-drinking, juicy mouthful concealing its 15% alcohol very well, while the others were all definitely ‘food wines’. Quinta dos Roques’ Maias (£9.99) from the Daõ region was inky black with an attractive black fruits nose and intense and succulent on the palate. From neighbouring Bairrada came Casa de Saima (£11.99), a blend of old vine Baga (the native grape of the region) with some Merlot and Touriga Nacional, all aged in old oak. This showed lovely red plum flavours but, as with so many Portuguese wines, would benefit from another year or two in bottle to give its best.

This latter comment certainly also applies to Niepoort’s Vertente (£18.99) which was a fitting close to a memorable evening of wines. From one of the Douro’s best-known port producers who are equally skilled with red wines, this had deep and rich black fruits and a distinct hint of smokiness from 20 months in French oak barrels.

All wines mentioned are available from Corks and, if anyone is interested in further events organised by the Bristol-Oporto Association, please leave me a message and I’ll happily pass your details on to the Secretary.

Wine from cows’ horns?

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In my previous Bristol Wine Blog, I reviewed a marvellous trip to the vineyards of Burgundy organised by Arblaster & Clarke Wine Tours and hosted by Steven Spurrier. I mentioned that all the properties we visited had something in common and I asked for suggestions about what it was. The picture I posted at the foot of the Blog teased you with a clue:

18 Ch de Monthelie manure extraction

It didn’t take long for a regular reader, ‘d d b’ of Wellington, New Zealand, to reply correctly: Biodynamics. Congratulations! And to anyone else who knew but didn’t reply.

Biodynamics is a specialist form of organic growing in which the farm (it’s not just vineyards that work biodynamically) should be self-sustaining, it should use only natural or plant-based preparations on the soil with a view to strengthening the crop’s own defences against disease or adverse weather and finally that planting, pruning, ploughing and harvesting should all be done with regard to the lunar cycle.

So, what was going in the picture? One of the preparations used involves filling cow horns with manure each autumn and burying them until the spring when they are dug up and the manure extracted ready for use. We just happened to turn up at Château de Monthelie just in time to witness this group of people knocking the manure out of the horns. It was then mixed with water and stirred ready to be sprayed onto the vineyard.

If you think all this sounds rather ‘wacky’, I’m not surprised! Yet, in many tastings over a number of years, I’ve found that the wines I’ve given top marks have often been produced in this way. For some reason, biodynamic wines seem to have more character – and in different ways, too; sometimes they are more intense or fruitier, at other times they have purer, cleaner flavours. Whatever the difference, it is remarkable how often they seem to stand out from other wines – even those grown organically but without the ‘extras’.

Whether this is due to the cow-horn manure or working with the phases of the moon – or whether it’s simply the grower working more with nature and getting to know their own vines better, I can’t say. It’s just that for me, the proof is in the glass. Why not try for yourself?