Spain was a beautiful visit…so much to learn, more to unlearn, and so much forgotten already! I would love to put the blame on that lovely ham, that ode of culinary class – the famed Pata Negra (black footed or more correctly, hoofed).
I was in the region of Castilla LaMancha followed by a few days in Madrid and I can see why it would be considered the precursor to Ibiza but that is not what this post is about. (Mail me for more dope on that!) Meanwhile, here are a few things I tasted and am sharing.
1. Valdamor: North West of spain. Rias Baixas (pronounced ri-yaas bay-shaas) region. Grape of exploit is Albariño accounting for 100% of their production. Galicia-based family-owned house. Grapes are sourced from around, with an eye for quality. Old and young vine stocks mix. Aged on lees for minimum 8 months.
White floral and appley, soft nose; acidity is ripe and fresh yet soft. The wine not only has feet but the dance moves too. Good linger. Price is around 6 Euros, makes it premium. The wine can be held for an easy two years. A nice hint sour-bitter fruit finish with a lemony after-taste.
The Cosecha Seleccion (Vintage selection) Albariño stays for 1.5 years on fine lees. Colour shows some strength, nose reassures; more apricot and mature fruits. Definitely more complex although still forming in the bottle. The wine needs to open up (2007) and the finish confirms the promise of a big bang future. At €7. Finally, the Valdamor Barrica, steel-tank fermentation followed by 6 months in new and semi-new barrels. The nose seduces from the start. The sandalwood spice (cloves, cinnamon) mix is enchanting, honeyed lemons- fresh and yet weighty meaty. €9+
On a different note, the wine bottle shapes are very unique and distinguishable on a shelf, although, given the prices, they won’t be seen on many. More for hotel lists.
2. Pazo de Señorans: The Albariño 2008 (€6.84) is a rich thick layered yet young wine with oodles of charm and character. The Seleccion de Anada 2004 Albariño (€19.89) is stainless steel aged for 36 months or so. Colour is deceptively deep, the nose strong and nutty-oaky but there is no oak in the wine at all. Creamy palate. The finish is lemony and bright with some alcohol heat but fresh still. Very intriguing.
Then comes the oak-aged Albariño 2006 (€15) is, funnily, less showy of its oaky origins. The colour and nose both are mild and not over-powering. More fresh figs and dried apricots then anything. Elegant.
3. Huerta de Albala: The rosé was meaty and strong, food-centric…nice and rich with depth and length. Not a rosé for the weak-hearted. Rose petals and strawberries with rhubarb on the finish. (€6.50) Tintilla de rota rose is one odd lil’ number. Smells oxidised, almost pungent. The yield is low hence this grape is not in favour in Spain. The mouth however is more comforting and familiar – sweet wild berries and some herbaceous character. (€3) Apart from the nose, a very good proposition.
Taberner is quite a soft svelte red, nothing wrong and fairly seamless and very safely correct and pleasing. (€9) The Taberner #1 is one lovely charmer, a strong personality with all the manners of a gentleman. Rich, elegant, luscious and lingering…
Spice and fruit but well integrated.
4. Clos de l’Obac: 27% Garnacha, 27% CS, 26% Tempranillo, 10% Merlot, 10% Carrinena for Miserere (mercy in Latin) 2004 – still seems a bit oxidised, Spanish old school style, but is actually also mineral, very mineral…the 2005 is more fruit-forward, lighter overall balance and floral too.
The CdO ’04 (€23) is a more modern blend. 35% Garnacha, 35% CS, and 10% each of Syrah, Merlot, Carrinene. Good ideology to keep the blend fixed so that vintage takes prominence. More up-front and friendly, international in taste, hence easier to appreciate.
They also do a sweet wine (5000 half bottles only at €33) dolc de l’Obac is 80% Garnacha, 10% each CS and Syrah. Super rare and prestigious. The nose doesn’t even once give away that it is a sweet wine. Smells like a dry red. Even the palate shows exemplary elegance, from sweet to dry, the wine is seamless. The 16% alcohol doesn’t show at all either, which can be a dangerous thing. The wine is nothing like I’ve ever tasted, not that I have much experience of sweet Spanish reds. But still: Unprecedented, unparalleled!
Finally, we finish with a white. Kyrie (€21), Greek for lord/chef…a white that is mostly a red. the idea, says the winemaker, is to serve it after the reds as it has all the strength and tenacity to hold itself even at the end of a full-bodied flight. 35% white Garnacha, 30% Macabo, 30% Xarel.lo, 5% Muscat d’alexendria. Rich, mineral, très mineral, and very complex. Almonds and nuts, fruits are absent, consciously. Old wood box aromas, rich lemon mixed in spices like cloves and turmeric…super layered.

5. Agusti Torello Mata Cava: Only vintage Cava makers from Penedes. The Reserva 2006 (€5) is a Macabeo, Xarel.lo (that is how it is written!), and Parellada – the usual suspects for Cava. 15 months of ageing is the law for Riserva, Grand Riserva is 30 months. They do 2 years for the youngest! Their Gran Riserva 2005 (€7.44) followed, drier and more terse but not stringent. At only 11% alcohol they are managing great maturity at a low level of heat (read: intoxication).
Next, the 100% Macabeo grape Cava (€10.44) – all in new French medium-toast 300 litres Troncais barrels. Normally Parellada is for acidity, Xarel.lo is body and Macabeo is finesse. Here, the early harvest is like Parellada, the oak aged is for body and the rest is finesse.
Most drinkable cava I have tasted yet, and drunk too. Oak, complexity, toastiness, depth, length, elegance, soft bubble.
Kripta 2004 Gran Riserva (€24) – Brut nature – special bottle that has a curved base, like an Amphora. Can’t stand but can be cradled. Old vine Cava. Reminds me of a good Champagne…think Bollinger Grande Année. Super subtle, balanced and lengthy.
The rose to finish, nice red fruits, fresh and crisp, easy and simple.
Finally, we try some ‘solid’ Cava – a never-before. Four years of labour between the house and molecular gastronomists. You have to see how slowly the bubbles travel to believe it. the idea is to use this as a sauce (like with strawberries in the video) so you can eat wine with a spoon and taste it rather than merely drink it. Startlingly smart and ingenious and bewilderingly beautiful, not to mention tantalisingly tasty.
6. Remelluri: Iconic Rioja house, Reserva 2004. Bold, powerful, strong, silky, elegant..and only €8.72. Very subtle and soft for a Rioja. The ’05 is younger, lesser formed and tight; needing some tender time on a shelf. The perfumed nose however is very alluring. The Remelluri ’04 colleccion Jaime Rodriguez is a nice spiced baby, but the tannins prevent any further probing. (€32.25)
7. Heredad Ugarte: Rioja still. High-end again. Ugarte Cosecha 2007 is 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha, (€3) is a light simple red, roses and red fruit. The wine seems to lack some body but it makes up on the mid-palate. Very Juicy and tasty otherwise.
Heredad Ugarte Crianza 2006: normally 12 months in barrel, they do 15 followed by 6 in bottle. Elegant and drinkable with a good balance. Deep ripe red cherries with EdV notes, terse, old school and a bit restrained. (€4.13) The Reserva: 12 months in barrel and then 24 months in bottles is the norm, is encore juicy and vibrant, almost luscious with good fruit and a ripe tannic structure. Powerful and serious.
Martin Cendoya Reserva 2005: 100 year old vines. 14 months in barrels and 22 months in bottle. Spicy albeit subtly so, fruity too with good character and identity. Needs time and patience. Confusing for the moment. (€14)
Their entry-level is called Reinares, is also quite a good wine with a short finish. 100% Viura. VFM (€1.05) The red is a modest wine but very balanced and appreciable. Fruity and easy.
8. Marques de Vargas: A lovely clean Rias Baixas Albariño (Pazo San Mauro at under €5/btl), easy and light with good vibrant character. Sanamaro, the next white (just under €8) Albarino with 5% Loureido (?) is a non-barrel-ed wine. Clear and lucid. Conde de San Cristobal ’05 is a young entry-level wine, but has all the makings of a good pedigree. 12 months barrel aged. Nice label-less bottle with a marked label. Delivers for the price. About €8.5/btl.
The Rioja MdV Reserva (all their reds were Reserva), 75% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo, 5% Graciano and others….french oaked but also russian and american. First spanish company to use Russian oak. About €10 MdV Reserva Privada 2005: Almost savoury to taste, something i consider very Spanish. Bit burnt and oxidised, to some, tasty to the Spanish. For me, definitely something to try and learn to appreciate. (€16+) Hacienda Pradolagar: Tempranillo+Garnacha+Mazuelo and others. A hint peppery, hence hints Cabernet. 3000 bottles. Likeable, a tad strong but good. 3blts for €108
10. Luis Cañas: Viura, Mazuelo. New Barrel-fermented 60 year old vines. Super concentrated, think a nice aged fruit jam- oranges to pine nuts..the finish lingers real long…very good stuff…(€2.83) The Crianza 2006,  Tempranillo and 5% Garnacha. 30-35 year old vines. The wine has some savoury smokiness but the elegance is distinctly present all through. Restrained, tasteful, classy and great value for money encore. (€3.95) The Reserva 2003 is Tempranillo with 5% Graciano. 45 year old vines, some American oak (30%) for 6 months but mostly second use French oak for 12 months. Sexy sour orange on the nose, minerals and some old school Spanish dustiness. Très terroir for a wine. (€5.85) Gran Reserva 2001: not oxidised, not evolved a robe. Super rich and young, a new style and likeable style. The oak wafts through towards the end, very subtle and smokey. The wine lingers with soft cherries snd crushed red fruit on and on…the wines are all about fruit and elegance. (€10) The Reserva Selecccion de la Familia 2003 (€7.90) comes from 45+ year old Tempranillo and about 15% CS aka “other varieties” which are also 32 year old vines. The wine reminds me of Bordeaux: elegant, powerful, the tannins are understated, the length lovely, the fruit ripe and juicy…suuuuper, that’s all I can say.
The Amaren (meaning ‘from the mother’) Reserva 2001, from 60 year old vines, very classic on the nose, hint dry spicy and peel. Turmeric follows nose to mouth. Quite elegant. Encore. Yes, I know…58,000 bottles made. None in 2003.
Hiru (‘3’ in Basque) 3 Racimos 2005: In more than 60 year old vines the vines were selected which produce no more than 3 bunches naturally. No bunch more than 150-200 grams. This impresses with fruit flavour and strength. A steed of great lineage and pedigree. Mostly Tempranillo but also Graciano in 2005. 18 months in new French oak right through till ML. Length is long and gradual. Subtle. Symphonic.
Finally, the Amaren Graciano 2005: Difficult grape to work with. Very rich robe, mulberries on the robe, long gradual finish, characteristic without being too safe. Original. And yet again, a palate pleaser.
This has to be the most assuring house i have tasted from Rioja.
11. Bodegas Godeval: Valdeorras region, in Galicia. 2 whites solo from the relatively unknwon Godello grape. The Classic 2008 (€6.50) style is fairly perfumed, pleasant, white flowers and some bitter stone fruit finish. The second, or other, also the last, Cepas Vellas 2008, (€9.50) is more pronounced with its 4-5 months lees-ageing, older vines. Great wine, a tad expensive to make popular in India but you never know how trends swing. Make popular? I have been speaking too much Spanish obviously!
12. Felix Callejo: Ribera Del Duero. The entry-level 4 months barrel aged 2007 baby smells and tastes well Spanish, which is what you learn to tell after drinking too man Spanish wines. This bottle was sadly, too reduced. (€3.90) The Crianza 2006 spends 12 months in French oak, the nose is again, well the glass is to blame, muted. The palate is a lot friendlier and open, red fruits, a hint of jam, some soft tannins. (€6.50) The Reserva 2005 was made in 39,000 bottle limited quantity, the nose is a lot more flirty, less Spanish and more continental. Some lovely wood smoke, with soft currant jam. Floral too. The finish is very light yet serious. Good delivery. (€9.90) Felix Callejo 2005 is a good one that manages to appeal to the new world wine lover yet retains a sense of old world restraint. The nose flirts openly with notes of wood, tar, smoke, nuts and some vanilla. Fruit is there but this INAO glass is a real killer. The palate is similar in its nuances but controlled. So, new world in style but not too flagrant. (€26) 100% Tempranillo. The accent is definitely flamenco.
13. Bodegas Robles: Three regions fall under the Xerez zone. One is Zerez itself, the other ie San Lucar de Barrameda (which can make a Fino style wine but has the rights to label it as a Manzanilla – don’t ask why…To confuse people, that’s why!) and the third is Montilla-Morilles. It rocks! The major difference between M-M and Xerez is that the former uses Pedro Ximenez as the principle grape while the latter uses the lesser potent Liston Palomino grape.
The Fino from this house is a classic easy style. 4 years old. (€2.8) Amontillado (midways twixt Fino and Olorosso), is a deep golden hued wine. The yeast ages it first, then light surface oxidation hones it. These are all dry styles.
Olorosso: Little or no alcohol addition (as PX is a potent little vine). Wine is rich, imposing and impressive and yet charming. The nutty finish is looong and kicks in only after a good 20 seconds or so.
Palo Cortado is a wine which is cut with alcohol and sweet wine (which may have been destined for PX or a Cream Sherry) sometimes when it is going from Amontillado to Olorosso. The semi sweetness is very attractive and appealing. Ripe acidity to boot.
In the sweet sherries, first comes a young PX, then the older one which has a 30% solera from 1927….the finish is…still with me as I write this blog! (€40) They also make an entire organic range. The fruit is more vibrant, lighter too, says the man who made the wines. A great reference point for the wines of M-M.
14. Casa de la Ermita: Jumilla region. The white is a 2008 Viognier and a good one at that. (€2.65) Rose 2008 is made with Monastrell and a little Garnacha (20%) and same price. Very pleasant and delightful; lots of sherbet and strawberries. Not green or stalky at all…full bodied definitely. The first red is a 100% organic Monastrell (Mourvedre or Mataro) – oak-free and young, fruit forward and approachable. Simple but not too modest. (€2.50)
The Roble (€2.75) is 80% Monastrell and 20% Petit Verdot. 3 months of new French oak does the wine good, opening it up, introducing spices to the fruit basket. Nice terse landing for a finish.
The next is the Crianza 2006 9-month oaked (€4.25), 60-40 for Monastrell and Petit Verdot. (Crianza in Jumilla needs to be 6-12 months of oak ageing followed by one year in bottle.) Floral, fine and spiced with some heat on the finish. Good sour cherry finish.
Reserva 2004 (in Jumilla, between 12-24 months in oak followed by a bottle year of rest) Monastrell, Syrah and CS with 13 oak months. Elegant, a bit light, deceptive. But elegant encore. A powerful wine with the subtle scent of fruits and some juicy soft tannins. (€5.95) 100% Petit Verdot, 2005 sounds very intimidating. But the herbs catch you off guard. Basil and sage erupt and hold fort. The taste carries through, the palate still is a tad tight, but far from scary. Surely a gentle giant. 13-14 months in oak. (€7.40) The Late Harvest Monastrell is a good try – something new at the moment but becoming classical in the region. Sugar is controlled, acid is good but could be better. Just nice.
15. Alvaro Domecq AD.SL Xerez: Fino and Manzanilla are the same except the region makes the change. San Lucar de Barrameda is the one that makes a Fino but can call it Manzanilla. Hard to tell the two apart in a blind tasting but people contend that this style is a tad softer and more feminine vs. a Fino which is considered more masculine. So much for objectifying the sexes!
The Cream is a nice toasty Crême Brulée with nuts strewn all around. Some vanilla with rancio notes (although people don’t like the word rancio here as it denotes a negative aspect) that linger on for a good while. Oloroso 1730 series is rich creamy and walnutty, some lovely jaggery and honey hidden in there.
Liquid gold or the PX is honey in smell and pour. Thick and lusciously veloute, and probably the creamiest of PXs yet. yet the acidity ensures the wine doesn’t stick or sit on the tongue. It rolls through slickly. The after taste is a bouquet of spices and condiments – ginger, cinnamon, pepper…wow! (€13)
16. Nora: Albariño from Rias Baixas. A nice floral white with lemony hints. Decently appealing. (€7) The Neve 2006 is an oak fermented, no ML, followed by 6 months in new French oak, oak rich, creamy, toasty; seems almost sweet although i was assured it is dry. Onctuous and dry. (€13)
17. Pazos del Rey: The wine a white Pazo de Monterey – Godello 65% and Treixadura for rest. Very vibrant, almost Viognier-like. Aromatic, dry, acid, crisp, clean, fruity. Great. (€5)
18. Mano a Mano: from Castilla La Mancha. Mainly Tempranillo region, sans irrigation. 3 months in barrel. Fruit component is obviously up-front, spice follows. The wine a true tactile treat. Very friendly and seems to evoke expression even in the uninspired. The tannins are supple yet easy and not tight or dry. A hint of spice on the finish. Super BTG (€4)
19. Venta La Ossa: Encore Castilla La Mancha, a super funky label, a big bear pawing grapes. Shouts at you from the shelf. The wine inside lives up to the label. Although not as unforgettable, it is still very good. The extraction seems more akin to an international style of wine rather than a classic old school approach. The oak, although a 12 month stay, doesn’t show much. Subtle. Good. (€9)
20. Cenit: from Zamora region, near Toro. Lovely midnight blue label with daisies sketched on. Pre-phylloxera plants. 1/2kgs per plant, at best. 18 months barrel confined. 2005 in my glass, lovely lively fruit, rich and deep dark ripe fruit. Tad oxidative in style. But that doesnt seem to make the wine dull here.
21. Finca Allende: Rioja back on. The 2005 red…tempranillo. The elegance is unsurmountable. From nose to finish, the wine is all about restrained and subtle beauty. The tannins are so controlled, the wine truly comes to life on the finish. (€8.85) great wine but the price may make it prohibitive.
100% Graciano 2005 is 100% allier oak for 24 months sans filtration,  the wine is super fruity and juicy, ripe and long. The tannins are enduring but qualify when besides food. (€16.55) good but once again, price taxes and margins will play havoc.
Calvario 2005 (€43.75) single vineyard baby, explodes with mint, pepper,
Auruds: more oxidised but luscious..
22. Marques de Griñon: Till 1994 nothing was allowed. Irrigation and CS grapes came later.  Syrah n Petit Verdot (PV) followed. Early 90s. Graciano (from grace) follows now, post success of PV. Late ripener. Hot years needed to produce; much like PV in medoc. Here they use the size of the trunk as a scale for leaf water irrigation. The daily contraction of the trunk shows water stress. When the difference is high, more water is pumped. (PRD or Partial Root Drying, a relatively new practice that believes in irrigating only when necessary to encourage plant growth and not just physical shoot growth has also helped control crop quality and yield.)
Caliza: 2005. Syrah and petit verdot  Strong robe, minty eucalyptus. Spices fresh. Fruity mouth, tight. Tannic.  good nonetheless. 20USD in retail.
El rincon 2005 90% syrah n Grenache for rest. Citrusy orange peel and some baked notes. Pleasing. Creamy texture. Big on flavour. High on heat. 15% (€17)
Suma 2004: 60% Syrah rest CS & PV. First blend, others were single varietal. More subtle. Coffee and cocoa. Rich robe and texture. Tannic hold still strong. A gradual finish. Fruit is subdued and needs time. €19
Syrah 2004: Très chocolate. Unlike a Syrah as most perceive it. Otherwise well made. Velouté. Soft with chalky tannins. Different. Doable.
CS : 2004 fruity from nose to palate. Very spiced too. Nice length good depth. Appealing tactile profile. Soft tannins on fade. (*) €25
Emeritus 2004 Meritage: Bordeaux blend with Syrah. Isnt that Bordeaux too !? Gamey tight young tannic. That’s a mouth puckerer. Good but way too early.
Vinculo: the white was a tad over oaked at the moment. Needs time.
Crianza is again elegant but oak injected. The fruit comes on later.
Good fruit profile. The oak should subside gradually. Good ageing ahead of it. Is american oak really necessary?!?(€6)
Paraje la golosa gran reserva 2002: la mancha wine. French oak makes for better fruit profile and balance but still too young. Needs immense time. 36 months in oak is long, even for a wine. (€15) Pesquera reserva 2005: a tinto from Ribera del duero…a lot more balanced, better integrated and unified but toooo young. Lovely spice and fruit profile.  Has great potential and prowess but will unravel with time. (€18)

23. Finca Loranque: Telmo Rodriguez. Need I say more? Really fabled and celebrated winemaker; consults here so the wines already have a story behind them, or in front of them.
Lacruz is Tempranillo with a 5% Syrah. Lovely nose, fruity, easy, not tart, macerated cherry notes, elegant but with some heat. (€3) Lacruz CS 2005: (€5) jammy nose, fruity and flashy, blackcurrant jam, expressive, has decent length. Doable. Modest still.
The Tempranillo-Syrah was a tad reduced. Soft and comfortable, like a couch, good with food.
Lacruz Syrah 2004: oak-rich, subdued fruit, lacks on midpalate. Not entirely convincing. On the whole, I am not entirely taken by the famed winemaker connect. Somehow the wines are not what we had come to expect.

24. Bodega Real: Family-owned (huge) winery. Mix of oaks. The Finca Marisanchez Chardonnay 2008 (€4) is very grey in colour, otherwise oak free. The alcohol is well integrated, a hint honey on the finish. Superb.
The Tinto is a nice neat red, Tempeanillo with 10% each Merlot n Syrah. 2006 is out now. Fruit-centric with some secondary soft spice notes, straightforward on the whole. (€6) The final wine, Palacio de Ibor, 2002, is Tempranillo and CS. (€5) 12 months in oak followed by two years in bottle. This is a good wine.
Fruity with plenty of secondary character. Evolved. Cherries and oak.
Decent length. Soft finish.

25. Feix Solis: These guys are big, and when I say big you can’t even begin imagining just how big is big. Let’s put it this way, if they ever found oil under the base of their winery, they would already have a plant to process although it may not churn out as much oil as they churn out wine! The quality is something that connoisseurs would snub their noses at but the thing is; it sells. With bottling capacities in excess of 100,000 bottles/hour and storage for 25,000 pallets of wine, they are giants in the business who can make sure they are in every restaurant and on every shelf. Also, they can economise the whole process and churn out decent quaffers at super prices which, in the long run, is what the consumer wants for daily consumption. Sure he will go for something more boutique on a special occasion but the remaining 364 days of the year will mostly belong to wineries like this.

That then was Spain.
The wines were good, in fact, better than good, but there is still so much more that can be done and so much more to taste. This is but a very short and small compilation of my tastings there and I will add more as they happen.
To conclude, i think the wines definitley have potential, as long as Spain doesn’t lose its value-for-money proposition and become expensive like its neighbouring countries. They have great Terroir and excellent winemakers; what they lack perhaps is in marketing, especially here in this part of the world.
If I can plead my case for some wines, it would have to be the ones from the region of Xerez: seriously undervalued and with great depth and character. Next time, try them; i assure you that all of you will find a style you like.
Outside of that, enjoy the Tapas, the local scenery, the hospitable people and the mad nightlife – that is another of Spain’s talents but something that I will leave for another blog, another day…