Every month I send out a simple newsletter to the members of Maestrazgo Wine Club; a small group of wine-lovers who meet once a week to explore the world of wine together in a small tasting room in Barcelona. For more information on Maestrazgo Wine Club and how to book a wine tasting in Barcelona, check out this page for more information.
December: The harvest is well and truly over! The grapes have been picked and the main focus will now be in the winery itself, as wines finish fermentation at different periods, destined for different styles of storage and ageing before being included in any final blends. In the vineyard, this is an excellent opportunity to prepare for the next year, with some growers choosing to clean up any unwanted weeds that have been growing throughout the harvest, wash the hard wood of the vines with a copper-based fungicide and cultivate the soil to allow the winter rains to soak in deeply. In cooler climates, a lot of growers now start ‘buttage’, that is the ploughing of soil close to the base of the vines to protect them against the cold winter weather. General maintenance work may start, but nearly all efforts will be focused towards the newly fermented wine and perhaps even an opportunity to take a break every now and again; certainly deserved after the strenuous efforts of the harvest!
Hello Wine Lovers! Here we are, in that most festive time of the year and gearing up for what is hopefully a stress-free and wonderful holiday for everyone. I’ll be personally working over the Christmas period but not before I’ve had a chance to catch up with you all, with three wonderful tastings to say bon voyage to 2016; a complicated year in the world but a wonderful one for Maestrazgo Wine Club! This month we’ll be kicking off with rich, tasty red wines from around Spain in our tasting ‘Winter is coming’ before preparing for a trip to sunny South Africa in our international wine tasting of the month. Our final tasting of 2016 will be ‘Fintans Fridge: Spanish Edition’; basically an opportunity for me to pull an eclectic mix of wines from my own collection from all across Spain and share them with you all! 30 spots available in total and hopefully a chance for some more good times together before a Christmas break. On the off-chance I don’t see you prior to 2017, my thanks for being a part of Maestrazgo Wine Club in 2016; our little group is all the richer for your participation. Have a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year! 🙂
Events: Maestrazgo Wine Club:
8th December– Winter is coming – 25 euros p/p
15th December – International Wine Tasting: The Wines of South Africa – 30 euros p/p
22nd December – Fintan’s Fridge: Spanish Edition– 30 euros p/p
Articles: I probably spend too much of my time reading online articles about wine. However, as a result I can find and select a choice few to share – here are my three favourites from last month!
‘You don’t need to be a good taster to be a good sommelier” by Spanishwinelover. This is a really lovely interview with Josep Roca, one of the three brothers that make up El Celler de Can Roca and the head sommelier of the operation. Frank and honest, it goes to the heart of what being a good sommelier is all about; professional service, taking genuine care of your guests and expressing yourself openly and honestly. A great read. http://www.spanishwinelover.com/enjoy-216-you-dont-need-to-be-a-good-taster-to-be-a-good-sommelier
‘With the wines of Montsant, it’s all in the drinking’ by Eric Asimov. Oddly enough this isn’t actually about Montsant, it’s more an article about the irregularities of scoring wines professionally and for competitions when the pleasure is really in the drinking of it. Whilst I disagree with some of Erics conclusions, the article is very well thought out and written, and is worth a 5 minute thought-provoking read. It’s a pleasure to see good wine journalism outside of the industry itself! http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/28/dining/wine-school-montsant.html
‘WWC’ 5 by Pierazzo da Faltre. One of the most charming pieces of writing I’ve read for a long time. A wine-writing competition was launched by Jancis Robinson MW and some of the resulting pieces are now being published on her website, including this gem. A rambling, delicate piece about the simplicity of wine, local food and wine culture in an almost Hemingway-esque style. If you read anything, read this. http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/wwc-5-pierazzo-da-feltre
Wine of the Month: I’m constantly on the look-out for wines of real quality and value; I rarely purchase anything over 30-40 euros a bottle and more commonly you’ll find me drinking in the 6-25 euro range.
Albariño de Fefiñanes III Año, 2013 : Is it reasonably priced? Nope. Easy to find? Absolutely not. I can’t help it though, it really is the best wine I’ve tried this month that’s anywhere near normality in terms of price, and absolutely one of the best Albariño’s I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying, period. The first vintage of this wine was all the way back in 2002 and the recipe has remained remarkably unchanged; top quality Albariño grapes from Valle del Salnés, fermented and then aged for 27 months on the lees, adding complexity, depth and a beautiful honeyed sensation that persists well into the finish. At 35 euros a bottle it’s unlikely to be gracing tables across the country this Christmas, but for those it does it will last long in the memory! Available at https://www.vinissimus.com/es/index.html
Some fun and interesting facts about the world of wine. Terminology, myths and FAQs; as science becomes more ingrained in our industry, we discover new and exciting realities every day!
‘Appellation’ – Appellation law was first introduced in 1923 for Chateauneuf du Pape in France, as a way of connecting the inherent characteristics of the wine and its place of origin. This includes regulations on yield, grape varieties, and vine management techniques and of course, the geographical origin of the grapes themselves. This system is critiqued by many as being too rigid and inflexible with regards to innovation, although it has gone a long way to defining wines in the way we know and understand them today. In Spain our mostly commonly used appellation is Denominación de Origen, commonly referred to as ‘DO’. For more detailed information on the different Denominación de Origen of Spain, I recommend this excellent page from a reputable online retailer of Spanish wines in the U.S http://www.spanishwine.com/information-wine/spanish-wine-regions-do-denominacion-de-origen/
“New World/Old World” – The easiest way to think of this is to split the world of wine into two halves; one that’s been making it for as far back as 7000 years (Europe, North Africa and the Middle East) and the other that’s been making it within the last 400 years or so (South Africa, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Asia and so on). The terms themselves are quite newly coined and whilst “New World” was once used quite patronisingly, there is now a lot of admiration as the diversity and technological improvements are now coming thick and fast, much of it hailing from across the ocean. The differences between the Old and New Worlds of wine have been steadily eroded as those in the Old World have increasingly adopted technical innovation, whilst those in the New World are increasingly exploring the concept of regionality and terroir. Great for the world of wine, terrible for those of us doing blind tasting!
“How do I open a wine with a heavy wax capsule without making a mess everywhere?” – I only learnt how to do this properly quite recently, courtesy of my friend Alex. The best way to do it is to pretend it isn’t there; take your best corkscrew, drill it into the cork through the wax and start to extract the cork. Once it’s halfway up, it’s a good opportunity to clean the neck of the bottle and remove any residual dust from the wax, before removing the cork and the wax entirely. In older bottles this can be tricky and unfortunately, a certain amount of mess is unavoidable as you might need to use a different bottle opener such as an Ah So, and the wax will have to be removed prior to this. The worst offenders I’ve encountered have been the older wines of Vina Tondonia; it’s quite the ordeal getting it open, but so worth it once you have!
These newsletters only come out once a month and there is a limit on space for content. If you use Social Media and want to keep up with regular wine updates and occasional rambles, feel free to connect with me on any of the following platforms.
Facebook: Wine Cuentista
That’s it for this months newsletter. I hope you enjoyed it and please, if you have any suggestions or things you would like to see get in touch! Either respond to me here or email to email@example.com I can’t wait to see you all soon for more wine, food and good company. 🙂