Now that my crowded week of 4 tastings is behind me, it’s time to reflect on the final 2 events that I couldn’t fit into my Blog last time.
The first continued with the theme of Spain and Portugal with the added interest that my client asked me to choose wines from the ‘Hidden Corners’ of these 2 fascinating countries. In fact, for many UK wine drinkers, most of Portugal and much of Spain (except, perhaps, Rioja and Cava) are ‘hidden’, so I had plenty of scope to make my selections.
An early favourite was the Casal de Ventozela Alvarinho from northern Portugal (£9.99 – all the wines for this tasting were from Majestic). Alvarinho is the same grape as Spain’s Albariño and this delightful, fresh white showed lovely peach and citrus flavours and a long fragrant finish.
But, it was a pair of Spanish reds that attracted the most praise – both for their quality and for their amazing bargain prices. Pizarras de Otero (£7.49) was intensely fruity with aromas and flavours of ripe strawberries, plums and blackberries. Made with the Mencia grape variety, local to the Bierzo district in north-west Spain, this reminded one taster of a young Pinot Noir.
The striking label on Matsu’s ‘El Picaro’ (£8.99) from Toro in the west of Spain (left-hand bottle, above) lists the grape variety as ‘Tinta de Toro’, but this is simply a local name for Spain’s best red grape, Tempranillo. Bigger and richer than the Bierzo and with a little smokey spice and chocolate added to the black fruits, this would have been far more expensive if it had come from one of the better-known Tempranillo areas.
The last tasting of the week was another of my Saturday classes at Bristol’s Stoke Lodge Adult Education Centre. This time, my theme was ‘Anything but Chardonnay, Anything but Cabernet’. Despite the title, we did taste 2 examples of each of these grapes to explore their diverse flavours. But it was one of the Cabernet alternatives that was unanimously voted as best wine of the day.
Ironically, in view of the focus of my week, it came from Spain: Baron de Ley Rioja Reserva 2014 (Waitrose, £9) was beautifully mellow and spicy from 20 months ageing in oak but still young enough to allow the soft red fruits to show through. A real delight at a very reasonable price, and a deserved winner.
As for me, after my busy week, it’s time to relax with a nice glass of wine