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Thoughts on: Having “Good Taste’ in Wine

Thoughts on wine 1

I’d like to venture a potentially controversial opinion: There is no such thing as having bad taste in wine. I’ve said this a few times now and met with mixed reactions, most commonly disbelief but occasionally a little hostility. It’s something I believe to be true, though, and I’ve decided to have a ramble about it.

As wine means so many things to so many different people, it’s hard to write an article about ‘taste’ without upsetting someone. The thing is, wine has a tendency to divide people between those who believe they don’t know very much about it, to those who believe they know quite a lot about it. Note that key word, ‘believe’, here, as you’ll find a lot of people speaking with confidence about wine, regardless of how much they actually understand the industry. You’re probably thinking I mean that in a negative way but actually, the whole point of this post is to encourage people to speak more openly about wine, without fear of somehow being ‘wrong’. If we all waited until we had impressive initials after our names or decades working with wine before daring to venture an opinion, the world would be an incredibly boring place and I think the same could be said for a great many pursuits.

This is a bit of a funny one. On one hand I believe very strongly that wine can be analysed to a high level objectively, ie: a wine can be analysed to a great level of detail in terms of structure, flavour/aroma components and inherent quality. On the other hand, I also believe that this has very little meaning to 95% of wine consumers in the world and that the ‘quality’ I spoke of is far less important to most consumers than the style of the wine. What do I mean by that? Well, think of it this way: You can take a beautiful bottle of Montrachet (White, Grand Cru Burgundy made from the Chardonnay grape) for several hundred euros, and a simple bottle of Argentinian Malbec for less than 10 euros, and serve them to the same person. I would bet that, 9 times out of 10, if that person generally prefers red wine to white wine, he/she will choose the Malbec over the Montrachet, regardless of the fact that the Montrachet Grand Cru is renowned for routinely producing some of the worlds most stunning and complex white wines.

Take it a step further. If one person prefers soft, plummy red wines over acidic, high toned and vibrant wines then they are still likely to prefer that 10 euro bottle of Malbec over, say, a 150 euro bottle of Barolo from a world class producer, and you know what? That doesn’t mean that person has bad taste. It just means that they have a stylistic preference at this particular point in their life and that should be respected. Over time, if they continue to drink, their horizons will broaden and their tastes will change. Mine did and I bet yours has as well.

As you learn more about the industry, how grapes are grown, wine is made, marketed, sold, consumed and everything that goes with it, you’ll find your appreciation grows and therefore your chances of trying new regions, grapes and even countries. I’ve heard some pretty sweeping statements in my relatively short time studying wine that I expect those same people would wince to hear if it is brought up 5 years down the line. I started my experience with wine by drinking a lot of heavy, oaky extracted wines made from cheap blends that I can’t finish a glass of now. In 5 years no doubt I will be drinking wines that, right now, aren’t my preferred choice. At what point do I have ‘Good taste’? Will I ever? Who cares. The more I learn about wine the more I see ‘good taste’ as a mark of snobbishness, of a dangerous blend of knowledge and ego.

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I believe this last part is particularly key to the future of the industry. There is often a lot of thought about how to make wine more accessible. How to make it less scary. How to engage new customers without resorting to extreme measures; I’m looking at you, blue wine. I believe it starts with how we approach the stuff, and that follows through to how we talk about it, whether it be formally as part of a profession or casually with our friends. If I give a tasting, a class or just talk about wine at a party and I somehow make other people feel that their choices in wine are somehow lesser than mine, I do one of two things:

  1. I alienate that person and make them less interested in learning about wine in general. I certainly wouldn’t be as interested in scuba diving if the first time I had an issue with my tank and had to come up for air, my instructor made me feel small about it. We all start somewhere.

  2. I’ll still alienate that person and make them want to know more, just so they aren’t in that situation again. Effectively, I’m breeding future snobbishness as I’ve now turned knowledge about wine into a competition of some sort (a particularly Western trait).

If we can encourage people to drink more wine, it’s very likely that they will fall in love with it the same way so many of us have. People do get curious after a while and try new things and there is an awful lot of material out there, whether it be printed or online, to pique curiosity and offer new suggestions. That doesn’t mean we have to go to the other extreme, the now more common ‘Get it down yer’ neck!’ style of approach that simply treats wine as a way to get pissed and looks upon any sort of understanding or pursuit of knowledge as inherently elitist and unnecessary. It’s about taking people from point A to point B, to nurture curiosity and introduce concepts and information without making it intimidating.

The key for anyone in a customer-facing role is to facilitate that change, not block it and that starts by acknowledging that we all work in a very subjective industry, where quality is supremely hard to define. If we can offer support and encouragement, teach without condescension and make wine fun instead of snobbish, well, I believe that’s the key to unlocking future growth and changing the image of wine, from an elitist pursuit to what I believe it to be; the most delicious, interesting and refreshing beverage on the planet.

Wine Review: Descendientes de J. Palacios, Villa de Corullón 2005

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Spain is pretty well known as being a country that offers good value for money when it comes to wine. However, more and more it is increasingly being discovered as a country that can offer enormous variety in premium wines as well, often show-casing very small areas within larger appellations, or specific ‘terroir’ if you like. One of the pioneers of these very specific wines is Alvaro Palacios, who came from the famous winemaking family of Bodegas Palacios Remondo in Rioja and found his own fame and fortune in Priorat, where he is still responsible for some of the most iconic (and expensive) wines from the region. Alvaro’s second project is in DO Bierzo, co-founded with his nephew Ricardo Perez, where a similar philosophy is practiced as in his projects in Priorat: Old vines (100% Mencia), often cultivated in wild, steep and rocky areas with a very strong personality being imparted to the final wine.

With less than 100 wineries active and producing wine in the area, DO Bierzo remains something of an unknown quantity to most wine consumers, despite recent booms in niche circles. Mencia is the most commonly cultivated grape here, usually planted between 500 and 600 metres above sea level usually on slate soils, particularly on the higher-altitude vineyards. Mencia typically creates darkly coloured, fresh wines often with beautiful raspberry, cherry and violet aromas with a good level of tannins and an ability to age gracefully. There are a few producers making truly interesting wines in this region, with Descendientes de J. Palacios being my favourite by a considerable distance thus far. Aside from the below wine, they also offer Petalos as a great value, introductory wine and then several single vineyard offerings at super-premium prices, such as Las Lamas, Moncerbal, San Martin and La Faraona.

Villa de Corullón 2005

100% Mencia blended from 3 separate villages around the village of Corullón, Bierzo.

Aged for 14 months in French oak barrels

Old vines: 600-100 years of age

Appearance: The wine is a dark ruby colour with a clear garnet tinge on the rim. Considering the wine is 11 years old at this stage, this isn’t surprising! Mencia is one of a few grape varieties that offers such a dark, brooding colour but with a surprisingly light body and style to the wine itself.

Nose: Wow, very expressive! The aromas are still fruit forward with lots of beautiful notes of dried dark cherries, plums and some floral notes as well. There is a hint of bitter chocolate, tobacco, baking spices and lavender. A really complex collection of aromas with none of them dominating the others; exactly what I love about good quality Mencia.

Palate: Dry and medium bodied, with a really pleasant balance between the alcohol (14%), tannins and the acidity which is characteristically high, even after 11 years of age. There’s a little bit of sediment but nothing that a quick decant can’t fix. The finish is absolutely wonderful and goes on for a good 20-30 seconds, which is usually a sign of a very well crafted wine.

Conclusion: If memory serves, I spent around 40 euros for this wine from Vila Viniteca and I don’t regret a penny, it’s such a wonderful wine I’m happy I still have another bottle left! 2005 was an outstanding vintage for most of Spain, Bierzo included and to find a wine from a top producer, selling at the same price as the current vintages? Yes please! If you’re ever looking for back-vintages of certain wines, Vila Viniteca in Barcelona is a pretty good place to start as they have an awful lot of stock that you can’t see in their website or their shop. Pop in and ask around and you’ll be surprised at the little gems you can unearth, just like this one!

Score: 4.5/5

Barcelona Blind Wine Tasting – Part 1

Red Wine

If you’ve come across this post whilst looking for wine tasting options within Barcelona, please have a look at this page here.

In my previous post I talked about blind tasting and why I see it as a valuable tool to improve your palate, knowledge of wine and have a good time in the process. I tend to do a fair bit of blind tasting, either by myself in an international wine bar such as Monvinic, or with friends who are also working/studying in the industry. Last week we met after a three week break to have another late-night session with our usual format: everyone brings a bottle of wine to the tasting with the bottle covered up, or often in a different container altogether. We all pour each other a glass of wine one at a time, analyse the wine and then go round, talk about our analysis and put our cards on the table as to what we think the wine is, where did it come from, which grapes were used and which vintage were the grapes picked in. The below are the results of my analysis/conclusions:

Wine 1: Pale lemon-green wine with a quite low intensity of green apples, green pears, nettles, peach and some vegetal notes. Fresh but not aromatically complex. Lots of acidity on the palate and a little spritz, medium alcohol, a nice intensity and lots of fresh fruit.
Guess: Gruner Veltiner, Austria, Wachau, 2015
Reality: Gruner Veltiner, Austria, Weinviertel, 2015

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Conclusion: I’ll take that! This was a bit of a ‘fist-pump’ moment for me as GV has been a wine I’ve always struggle to identify blind in the past. I’ve had so many mis-calls with Gruner Veltliner when I started blind tasting and I finally feel that I can recognise it versus say, a Pinot Grigio or an Albarino. A nice wine and a good way to start the tasting. Other guesses from around the table included Albarino, Pinot Grigio and Torrontes.

Wine 2: A pale lemon-green wine with simple aromas of green apple, green pear, light white flowers, peach and slate. Young and fresh but nothing really going on here. Nice level of acidity, medium everything else.
Guess: Pinot Grigio, Italy, Veneto, 2015
Reality: Sauvignon Blanc, France, Pouilly-Fume, 2015

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Conclusion: This was our ‘dud’ bottle – the person who brought it was also very confused as apparently it had been singing when he opened it 2 hours prior at home! Other guesses included Pinot Grigio and Aligote, such was the neutrality of the wine. Not much to read into here, sadly.

Wine 3: The wine has a medium lemon colour and nice aromas of ripe lemon, peach, apricot, green apple and some obvious yeasty notes. There’s a little florality here and some toasted oak character as well. A taste of bitter phenolics on the finish.
Guess: Viura, Rioja, Spain, 2014
Reality: Godello, Valdeorras, Spain, 2011

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Conclusion: Swing and a miss; I missed this wine on two counts. One was the oak character and bitter phenolics; there was neither, it is apparently a signature of the grape when grown on particularly slatey soils. The other was misreading the acidity which would have led me away from an oak-aged Viura as it was just too high. Not a million miles away, though. Other guesses included Xarello from Penedes, Chardonnay from around the world and Albarino from Spain.

Wine 4: Medium, ruby coloured wine with a medium- intensity of red berry fruits, some stalky , tobacco leaf and slight touches of pepper and toast. The wine is dry with very light, soft tannins, medium+ acidity and medium+ alcohol. Quite simple
Guess: Gamay, Cru Beaujolais, France, 2014
Reality: Grenache, Spain, Priorat, 2014

ZakTK1IxTf6CccbB8TgH7A_375x500Conclusion: Terrible tasting from myself here. Missed the alcohol, flavour profile and more or less everything associated with Grenache from Priorat. Nodding off a little. Other guesses included Grenache from Montsant, Syrah from the Southern Rhone and Merlot from somewhere warm.

Wine 5: The wine had a dark, purple colour with a medium+ intensity of ripe dark fruits, burnt rubber, smoke, pepper, leather, licorice and spice. Powerful, earthy and full of alcohol, glycerol and spice. This week we were doing mono-varietal but this was mentioned to be a dual-variety.
Guess: Carignan/Grenache blend from Spain, Priorat, 2011
Reality: Carignan/Grenache blend from Spain, Priorat, 2011

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Conclusion: After two bad misses, nice to completely nail a wine. Priorat smells an awful lot like Priorat, which is something that confused me about the preceding wine. The huge levels of alcohol, smoky character and purple colour led me to a traditional style of wine produced with a majority of Carignan – it’s nice to be right! Other guesses included Bordeaux blends, Syrah from the Northern Rhone and Merlot.

A nice evening with lots of lessons learnt. A shame about the dud bottle but I’ll take 2/4 as a relatively successful tasting. Next one will be the 1st September when hopefully the weather has cooled off just a touch, and the week after I’ll be recommencing my weekly tastings at Monvinic. Onwards and upwards!

Thoughts on: Blind Tasting Wine

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Blind tasting: the act of tasting, analysing and attempting to identify a wine with no prior knowledge of where the wine was produced, who it was produced by, the quality level, the price or anything else that could help define it. This involves evaluating the colour and intensity of the wine; is the slight garnet tinge due to the ageing process of red wine or is it due to the grape variety? The aromas of the wine; Is it complex or simple? Are the aromas primary, secondary, tertiary or a combination of several/all three? Does the profile of the aromas suggest a cool climate, a moderate climate or a warm climate? On the palate now; how is the level of acidity and is it suggestive of malic or lactic acid? How are the levels of alcohol, tannins, flavour intensity, finish and residual sugar? Is it well balanced or is something sticking out? Is that peppery finish coming from the grape variety or as a result of ageing in oak barrels?

The options are many and varied, and this is why blind tasting is often described as ‘A game of clues’. Within your analysis, you gather as many clues as possible by breaking down every aspect of the wine. Using your results, you put it all back together and come to a reasonable conclusion as to what the wine is, where it came from, which grapes were used and even what year the grapes were harvested in.

Quite recently I’ve discovered that blind tasting can be polarising. There are many within the industry who see it as nothing more than a parlour trick, a game to be played occasionally for fun with friends but that has no commercial relevance within the wine industry itself. On the other hand, every major wine education body in the world places blind tasting in high regard, including the very pinnacle of wine education; The Institute of Masters of Wine. Whilst I can understand the arguments against blind tasting, there is no doubt in my mind that it is an incredibly useful skill, albeit one that is very, very difficult to be reasonably proficient at, never mind gaining a mastery of it. So what are the main advantages of blind tasting and why is it held in such high regard? In no particular order:

  1. Objectivity: I’ve discovered through my own education and experience that it is possible to be highly objective about wine, it just requires a lot of discipline and practice. The thing is, we all have unconscious bias in our lives, whether it be our political beliefs, our moral code or whether or not we once had a bad bottle of Californian Chardonnay. Blind tasting goes a long way to eliminating this, allowing us to focus on nothing but the liquid in front of us, free from distractions such as labels, bottle shapes, price points and, heaven forbid, scores from famous wine critics.

  2. Focus: Once these distractions are removed, it becomes a practice of your senses; there is nothing to focus on other than the liquid in your glass. How does it look, smell and taste? By practicing these skills in blind conditions, we not only improve this skill but our ability to taste and evaluate wine in general. Analysing a wine, gathering information and applying your judgement to come to a reasonable conclusion takes time and money to practice, but greatly enhances your appreciation not only of the wine in front of you, but of wine in general. It is nothing if not a humbling process!

  1. Learning: Whether your conclusion is right or not, you will nearly always learn from the process. It’s usually quite easy to trace your process back and find out where you took a wrong turn, where you misidentified a characteristic or structural component that took you away from the truth. Without any distractions, it’s a fantastic way to learn what certain grapes, climates and wine-making practices can do to the final product:

    ‘Ah, so that’s the difference between French and American oak usage’

    ‘You’re telling me there’s no malolactic fermentation here, so why is the wine so creamy?’

    The aroma of strawberries and spice led me towards Grenache, but I misread the alcohol level’

    Better yet is to learn from other peoples processes. I regularly taste with a group of 5 friends who work in the wine industry and I’m always fascinated to hear their process, their thoughts and how it all added up to their conclusion.

  1. It’s fun!: If you’re coming up to exams, practicing blind tasting may seem more stressful than fun. At every other time, though, it is a really lovely social activity that not only enhances your own understanding of wine but gives you an opportunity to do so in great company. The trick is to not give yourself overly high expectations; blind tasting is a very difficult practice and unless you have a Master Sommeliers exam around the corner, it’s worth your while to approach it with a sense of levity. I’ve recently started to include blind tastings as part of our weekly wine tasting events in Barcelona and without fail, they’ve resulted in wonderful nights and a request for them to be included more often! That alone is a pretty good indicator for me to keep practicing, keep learning and keep enjoying the art of blind tasting!

As I’m blind tasting on a pretty regular basis, I will start posting the results of my various failures and learnings under the tag: Barcelona Blind Wine Tasting. Original, eh? Whilst our tasting group is already pretty full, it’s relatively easy to put one together. All you need is a group of friends, a time and a place and a few glasses. Everyone brings a bottle and takes it in turns to pour the rest of the group a drink whilst they analyse the wine and come to their conclusions. The more friends, the more wines you get to try! For those who want an indepth look into the world of blind tasting, I have to recommend the fantastic ‘The Concise Guide to Wine and Blind Tasting’ by Dr Neel Burton.

Thoughts on: Wine Tastings

Dark Wine Tasting

Entitling a blog post ‘Why you should do the thing that pays my bills’ might seem a little disingenuous but bear with me here, it’s a post I could have written years ago when I wasn’t even professionally interested in wine. I have a personal attachment to tastings, as they were a key factor in my decision to work in the wine industry. In particular I’m thinking of my first wine tasting, privately arranged with the owner of a wine shop in Barcelona (Bodega Maestrazgo, pictured above),just for myself and a few friends to try something new. I had an absolutely wonderful time and it opened up a world that I never would have glimpsed had I bought the wines separately and drank them at home.

There is something special in the flow of a well organised wine tasting; the sequential changes of style and quality, the narrative of the history, culture and production that allows you to engage with wine in a completely different way and opens your mind to a whole host of questions that you always wanted to know the answer to but never really had the right forum to ask it in. If constructed and executed well, a good wine tasting is always a success and as with all successful events, will be far greater than the sum of its parts. Let’s have a look at the 5 major reasons you should consider going to a wine tasting!

They’re fun:“Wine Tasting” itself actually seems quite a formal name for what is essentially a group of adults sitting/standing around and rotating through a variety of alcoholic drinks. Wine has been trying to throw off the unwelcome mantle as a snobbish and quite uptight drink for a while now and rightly so, wine tastings are really more a group of persons looking to engage with something they love and have a good time whilst doing so. Occasionally there will be a tasting in a more formal format but they tend to be trade related and intended for more commercial interests.

They’re informative: A lot of improvements have been made in educational circles over the last decade or so, particularly with regards to different ways of teaching and learning. When I was at school, you had a book to read and a book to write in with the occasional hand-out as a break in routine. Now it is commonly accepted that people learn with different, and often more hands-on, approaches. What better way to learn something about wine than through a wine tasting? Not only can you interact with the product directly but if your host is knowledgeable you can ask any question you wanted to know, the information is drip-fed to you glass by glass and often there are others in the tasting more knowledgeable than yourself who are happy to share their passion.

They’re social: Wine is often credited with bringing people together and it is certainly true with tastings; get some good wine, nice people and good feeling into a room and you’re going to make friends. People who go to wine tastings are usually there to learn and have fun; I’ve organised hundreds of tastings now and never have I seen or sensed real tension or bad feelings during an event. I can say that I have personally made friends from going to tastings, and I see with Maestrazgo Wine Club in particular that there is a wonderful social scene surrounding it with groups heading off for dinner or more drinks together after an event.

They’re varied: What’s better; to drink 5 bottles of wine for 4 euros a bottle, or to drink 5 glasses of wine that are worth 20 euros a bottle? A time and a place, I know, but one of the main strengths of wine tastings is the chance to try multiple different wines, styles and quality levels for the same price as purchasing a single good bottle of wine. “Variety is the spice of life” — it certainly is for wine! It’s a big world out there and with so many options, broadening your horizon just got a lot easier, and fun, with wine tastings.

They’ll change the way you think about wine: Part of any new experience is the gaining of knowledge and therefore understanding; even in an informal and fun environment you will pick up new facts, opinions and skills. As you gain a basic understanding of wine, you’ll find yourself becoming more adventurous with your choices, appreciating the product in a different way and generally having more fun! At the worst, you will come away having found one or two new wines you really enjoy and some appreciation as to why. At the best, well, you might end up becoming really quite interested, and who knows what that will lead to?

I now host wine tastings on a regular basis in Barcelona, Spain. Whether this be a private tasting or a regularly scheduled tasting with Maestrazgo Wine Club, check out the options to attend here!

Thoughts on: Wine and Summer

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Well, it’s officially August. Summer-time in Barcelona means different things for different people; days on the beach, parties late into the night… for me, I commonly associate it with unbearable heat, stifling humidity and worst of all, an almost complete inability to enjoy a bottle of wine without it turning into soup. You know the story; you pour yourself a lightly chilled glass of wine and by the time it’s taken you to drink half the glass, your wine has changed from a refreshing beverage to a lifeless, bitter concoction with little resemblance to the drink of barely 10 minutes prior. So where does that leave us? Two options, really:

  1. Fight the heat! Find ways to enjoy your drink without the heat killing the experience. Lighter styles of wines, ice-buckets, cocktails and cold beers really come into their own over the summer.

  2. Take a month off drinking! A great opportunity to… why are you laughing? I’m serious. What? I was just sayi…. Fine, ok, we’ll focus on point 1, then, shall we? Sheesh.

Lighter styles of wine: We commonly associate Spanish wine with full bodied reds and with good reason; it’s really the signature style of the country and accounts for a huge proportion of overall production. However, in cooler areas of the country, refreshing, lighter styles of wines not only exist but thrive:

Whites wines: Look out for Albarino from Rias Baixas, Godello from Valdeorras, Verdejo from Rueda and Picpoul from Catalunya. These are all light, fragrant and high acid styles of wines that will be both refreshing and relatively easy to pair with food and of course being Spanish, are unlikely to break the bank.

Red wines: Consider Sumoll from the Penedes and Mencia from Ribera Sacra. In theory you can play around with any sort of lighter red wine but I particularly like those with red fruit flavours, high acid and a certain austerity to the style.

Sangria: There is no better time of the year to grab a jug of Sangria than the summer. It’s pretty simple stuff to make and you can use very affordable wine as the base; the simple, fruity wine you can buy by the litre in traditional Bodegas is ideal. Check out this easy recipe from the food network.

Young Cava is also a strong choice for the summer with its light body and refreshing acidity and of course, Fino Sherry is more or less designed for this sort of blistering heat. Fino Sherry served lightly chilled with a bowl of almonds and olives on the side; bliss.

Service of wine: Spanish wine culture isn’t that fantastic and it’s quite common to find wine being served far above the desired temperature at the best of times. Never be afraid to ask for an ice-bucket, even for red wines. In this heat I like to pour red wine much, much cooler than I would ordinarily drink it, safe in the knowledge that it will heat up in a matter of minutes. This allows me to start sipping at the cooler end of the spectrum and finish the glass at the perfect temperature and with lighter bodied red wines, sipping them chilled is really quite lovely!

Sunset GT

Cocktails and beer: In truth, I drink less wine during the summer than at any other point of the year. Whilst there is no substitute for a glass of wine with dinner, I’d far prefer to grab a cold beer or a refreshing cocktail at most other times during the day. You can barely throw a stone in Barcelona without hitting a gin bar at the moment, which is a drink that can quite happily sit in the sunshine filled with ice and not care one bit. Time to take advantage of that!

Trying not to drink over summer with the days on the beach and the increase in social activity is pretty difficult, but there is a good case for cutting down a bit, at least. Alcohol dilates the blood vessels near the skin, instigating sweating which, I think we can all agree, is not something that needs extra encouragement at this time of the year. In truth, completely cutting out drinking for a short period is something I like to do from time to time anyway and summer isn’t a bad place to give this a go for a week or two. Whichever route you choose, make sure to have fun, stay hydrated and enjoy the summer!

Wine Review: Acústic Negre 2013

Acustic 2013

When it comes to value for money in Spanish wine, you can actually choose at random and have a good to fair chance of coming out with something nice. However, one area in particular in the province of Catalunya is routinely delivering over and beyond it’s price point; DO Montsant. Snaking around the exterior of it’s ‘Bigger brother’ Priorat, Montsant offers powerful, expressive but still refreshing wines without breaking your wallet.

At the last count there were scarcely 70 wineries in the area, ranging from large co-operatives, which are quite dominant, to smaller, boutique wineries. Despite lower levels of production, wines are still fairly priced from the smaller wineries and offer a decent amount of variation across the region. The wine I decided to review today is an old favourite; Acústic Negre 2013. The first vintages for these wines was 2004, from old vineyards that had been purchased from the region by Albert Jane Ubeda, brother of Gerard from the Jane Ventura winery in Penedes. At 12-13 euros a bottle, this is a good quality, powerful, spicy wine that is very typical of the region and available in most good wine stores, despite the small production (100,000 bottles across the whole range).

Acústic Negre 2013

Carignan/Grenache blend (exact quantities not given).

Aged for 10 months in lightly toasted French barrels.

Old vines: 35-65 years of age.

Appearance: The wine is very dark with purple tinges at the rim. As far as Montsant goes, this is usually a pretty good indicator of a large quantity of Carignan in the wine as Grenache is a lot lighter in colour.

Nose: Quite expressive here, with the first impression being ‘Smoky’. There’s a decent amount of ripe dark fruits, white pepper and a touch of bitter, dark chocolate that I absolutely love. A really earthy, spicy sort of wine.

Palate: Dry and full bodied, with the same savoury flavour profile and a nice, smooth tasting experience. Drinking this at 12pm in July in Barcelona is a little out-of-place but this is an outstanding go-to wine for the Autumn and Winter months!

Conclusion: For 12 euros a bottle, sign me up. A really pleasant, powerful wine with a decent amount going on and importantly, well balanced. When alcohol levels start to reach 14.5% upwards, you always run the risk of having a hot, sluggish wine but this is in check (at a whopping 15%!). A good Montsant red, and more than enough to make me interested in trying the two higher-level bottlings of Braó and Auditori above it.

Score: 3/5

Thoughts on: Sharing Wine

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If you follow me on social media at all, you’ll find that I’m often posting pictures of myself with different people, sharing different bottles of wine around Barcelona. This isn’t unusual in itself; getting slightly drunk with people you like is perhaps life’s greatest joy. However, if you read the description you’ll find that many of them are part of a New Years Resolution I started in..well.. January, of course, which makes it a little less spontaneous. The whole concept is to share 50 different bottles of wine with 50 different people over the course of the year, learn a little more about people I know but only superficially, meet some completely new friends and of course, have some laughs with long term drinking buddies and family. The whole concept was created one evening in late December 2015, when I was getting more fed up than usual with the social media circle-jerk of empty platitudes and wine memes only spat out to garner likes and attract maximum attention. A (slightly tipsy) rant ensued to no-one in particular, and bold claims were made. The result is this wonderful resolution; never let it be said that decisions made under the influence of wine are regretted the following morning (Although the ratio is still largely skewed in that direction, to be fair).

To date I’ve shared 32 bottles with 32 people and it’s looking increasingly likely I’m going to, for the first time ever, successfully complete a new years resolution. Not only has this been by far one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve ever undertaken, it’s really reinforced the belief that set this off; that wine is far, far better when shared (literally shared, not attached to a meme and vomited onto Twitter). It’s an easy thing to forget in our modern world as the role of wine has changed, from being a simple alcoholic beverage you would drink daily with dinner to being an object of study, discussion and culture. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this and as someone with grand ambitions of my own with regards to wine education, is something I’m certainly guilty of. All it takes is a good dinner and a nice bottle of wine with company to bring this back down to earth, however. The simple pleasure of eating good food and chatting whilst the wine uncoils itself inside you, peels off layers of your external armour and sets you at ease, well, it’s quite magical and so very under-rated.

Wine Tasting Picture

I already know that I won’t be able to afford to approach this in the same way in 2017; the cost so far is already over 2000 euros and whilst I don’t begrudge that, life is set to get a fair bit more expensive in the near future. It’s not a problem, though, as the real take-away lesson for me is how important it is to prioritise this sort of thing in my life. I want to have more casual dinners, to share more wine, to eat, drink and be merry as part of a local community as it’s something that really makes me very content and I think is a wonderful way of living. We’re set to move flats towards the end of this year, and a bigger space to live in will also mean a bigger space to share with others. The horrible tweets and memes that instigated this whole thing are horrible because they turn this truth into white noise, which is then passed around and ignored, a vehicle for short-term visibility and nothing else. The fact is, in order to experience it you need to make it happen. Get some great wine, cook a wonderful meal and invite your friends and loved ones over to enjoy it. That person you’ve always wanted to get to know better? Invite them for a glass of wine. That old friend you keep meaning to go for a drink with? Show up to their house with something delicious. Do you even know your neighbours? No? Grab a drink with them, you won’t regret it.

I’m looking forward to another 5 months of bringing this project to its conclusion, drinking some great wine and meeting some more wonderful people along the way. I have no idea what I’ll try for my new years resolution 2017 but if it brings as much happiness and fun as 2016, count me in. Wine really does bring people closer together, it just needs a little help from us in order to be in the right place when we open it up. Cheers!

Wine Websites: Recommended Reading

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So the first thing I did after reformatting the website was to add another page to it, which could quite reasonably be construed as bad planning in the first place (It was). However, it occurred to me that I now consume a large quantity of wine related media on a daily basis, mainly from slowly discovering new websites, blogs, forums and the like which has all contributed to my own journey and understanding of wine. Therefore, I’ve included an extra page on the site called Recommended Reading; essentially a short list of the major websites and blogs I read on a regular basis. This is by no means exhaustive but is a selection of my favourite sources for wine based information and I hope it will be of use to you.

The truth is, when you study wine in any form it can be quite a tedious process at times. From learning about different yeast strains used in wine production, to French appellation law to the training systems used to counter fertile soils in New Zealand, it can all become a little much formulaic and dry. The great beauty of this, of course, is when it all starts to click into place on a practical level, when the learning becomes understanding and your overall context of the industry of wine has been changed for the better. One of the great aides in translating this factual information and improving my own understanding of the world of wine is other peoples opinions, namely through blogs, magazines, forums and the like. It is a perfect counter-balance to the, often dense, information I am absorbing and offers pleasant counter-points to cold, hard facts that I probably wouldn’t question otherwise.

If I had to choose a single resource on the internet for wine based education, it would certainly be JancisRobinson.com. With this being a paid resource, I understand it isn’t for everyone but the sheer quality of the articles that appear on a daily basis is just excellent, and the team of Masters of Wine and industry experts who contribute to both the articles and the forum make for a truly top quality, melting pot of information and informed opinions. I will expand the page in the future to also include forums, magazines and podcasts but for now, I think a variety of blogs and websites is enough to be getting on with!

Welcome to Wine Cuentista!

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Expect to see more purple teeth, questionable content and tipsy ramblings from this guy right here.

For those of you who know me on a personal level, you’ll know that I’ve been putting off re-releasing winecuentista.com for far too long; a combination of questionable priorities, Diploma studies and a certain amount of not wanting to bash my head against something I clearly don’t understand (building websites). Which is all a bit silly, really, because I very much enjoy writing and there’s nothing I enjoy writing about more than wine! I mean, the name Wine Cuentista literally translates to “Wine Story-teller” (or “Wine Bullshitter”, an originally unforeseen, colloquial meaning that I actually think is quite funny), so you’d think my priority would have been to get this up and running as soon as possible. Anyway, I didn’t and yet now here we are, with a hopefully functional website that I can now tap away at to my hearts content.

The idea of the blog is really to talk away about all things wine. I live in Barcelona, Spain, so there’s likely to be quite a strong inclination in that direction but at the same time I’m in the middle of my WSET Diploma studies, which is an international qualification, so I certainly won’t be limiting my ramblings to all things Iberian. For the first few weeks I will probably lift some older articles, polish them up and a bit and post them here, as it would be a shame to lose them, then continue with the journey afresh. I understand that blogs are supposed to have some sort of commercial purpose but I struggle to think what I would want that to be. Honestly, I just want to keep learning about wine, sharing and talking about it and moving on with my studies by finishing the Diploma, then looking ahead to my grand ambition; the Master of Wine program.

So, welcome! I will be making this blog a priority and hope to update it at least a couple of times a week. I really hope you enjoy the content and I look forward to sharing the next steps of my journey with you.