Blog Posts

Barcelona Wine Tasting: Vino de Pago


This week with Maestrazgo Wine Club, we’re going to be looking at an appellation that is relatively new to Spain having been founded in 2003; Vino de Pago, quite simply’Estate wine’ or more correctly, ‘single-vineyard wines’. It was ostensibly introduced to create further diversity amongst the Spanish wine market and to celebrate top-quality individual estates, that may or may not have already been part of an existing DO. The official description of the appellation is as follows:

a rural site with particular edaphic and microclimate characteristics which differentiate it from its environment and where wines of singular features and qualities are obtained. Besides, the grape production, the winemaking and the bottling must take place within the pago strictly following the production rules stated by the specific ministerial decree for each pago”.

This last bit is quite interesting, as it creates a great deal of diversity within the appellation. Basically, whilst there are certain requirements needed to be part of the appellation in the first place; lower yields, grapes that can only come from that individual estate, wine that has to be bottled on the estate and so on, each Pago is effectively different from the others and certainly unique from the land around it. As a result, we get a lot of very interesting wines from these areas, often using international grape varieties and different methods of production. If you were to compare it to the Cru system of Burgundy for example, it is intrinsically different in that historical context is not important at all; it’s really all about innovation and creating something different – a very different take on the concept of terroir indeed!

The other interesting part about Vino de Pago is that the 17 estates that currently make up the appellation are all in regions not especially famous in the minds of 21st century consumers, notably Castilla-La Mancha, Valencia, Cariñena, Utiel-Requena and Navarra. Whilst there is an allowance for wineries joining from DOC Rioja or DOQ Priorat to label themselves the very lovely sounding “Vino de Pago calificado” this has not yet been an issue as no wineries from either of these two regions have applied to join the Vino de Pago appellation. This clear divide is explained by Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW writing for who says: ‘I would say Vino de Pago only exists in those regions where producers are not proud of their classic appellations, such as Navarra, La Mancha and Valencia. Instead of fighting to raise the quality of their natural regions, producers and politicians preferred to invent a new legislative animal, unrelated to either terroir or tradition.’

Not to be confused with the private organisationGrandes Pagos de España’, the following 17 estates have qualified for Vino de Pago since its inception in 2003:

Name Region Date joined
Dominio de Valdepusa Castilla-La Mancha 2003
Finca Élez (Manuel Manzaneque) Castilla-La Mancha 2003
Guijoso Castilla-La Mancha 2004
Dehesa del Carrizal Castilia-La Mancha 2006
Arínzano Navarra 2007
Prado de Irache Navarra 2008
Otazu Navarra 2008
Campo de la Guardia Castilla-La Mancha 2009
Pago Florentino Castilla-La Mancha 2009
Casa del Blanco Castilla-La Mancha 2010
El Terrerazo Valencia 2010
Pago Calzadilla Castilla-La Mancha 2011
Pago Aylés Cariñena 2010
Pago de Los Balagueses Valencia 2011
Pago de Chozas Carrascal Utiel-Requena 2012
Vera de Estenas Utiel-Requena 2013
La Finca Bolandín Navarra 2014

We’re going to have a look at 5 different Pagos covering the 3 of the major regions defined above. Starting with:


Otazu Chardonnay 2015 – Otazu joined Vino de Pago in 2008, becoming the third estate from Navarra to do so. They focus on Cabernet Sauvignon/Tempranillo blends for their red wines and Chardonnay for their whites. Otazu Chardonnay 2015 is a young, fresh and ripe style of Chardonnay with no oak contact but still a good 14% ABV. Expect good acidity and tropical fruit flavours in the style of warm-climate Chardonnay


Finca Terrerazo 2014 – A winery from the Valencia area that joined the appellation in 2010, El Terrerazo focuses on local grape varieties such as Bobal and Merseguera grown at high altitudes of around 850m above sea level. This, combined with the continental climate produces small volumes of very intense grapes, including their signature; old vine Bobal. Finca Terrerazo 2014 is a 100% Bobal wine, aged for 21 months in French oak and built to last. Expect lots of powerful, bright berry and cherry fruit over significant oak influence and spice.


Serendipia 2013 – Pago de Aylés is currently the only winery present in the appellation from Carinena, a wine producing region in the old kingdom of Aragon, south-east of Rioja and Navarra. The winery has two very different production portfolios, with one focusing heavily on using the name of Pago de Aylés as a marketing tool and the other labelled after Arabic fables. We will be focusing on the latter, with Serendipia coming from an Arabic Fairy Tale concerning the three Princes of ‘Sip’ – Grenache, Merlot and Syrah as single varietal wines, in this instance. Expect ripe fruit aromas, powerful pepper spice and some sweet American oak to round it off.


Arínzano La Casona 2008 – Arinzano was the first Vino de Pago from Navarra, or indeed in the North of Spain, sometime they celebrate quite enthusiastically on their website. The estate is very large with over 120 hectares given to Vino de Pago wines, mainly focused around indigenous varieties with smaller proportions of French varieties blended in. This is the case with Arinzano La Casona, with a more traditional blend of 75% Tempranillo and 25% Merlot with 14 months of ageing in French oak; actually quite a popular blend in regions such as Ribera del Duero. Expect plummy fruits, chocolate and some spicy tobacco flavours after 7 years in bottle.


Marqués de Griñón Emeritus 2010 – This is where it all started. Dominio de Valdepusa was the first estate to be granted Vino de Pago certification in 2003 and they have gone on to become arguably the most famous of them all. Located near Toledo in Castilla y La Mancha, they focus heavily on international Bordeaux varietals, often blended together in traditional proportions, albeit with the twist of the Spanish climate. We’re going to finish the evening with their flagship wine; Emeritus 2010. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot are vinified separately prior to spending 22 months getting to know one another in French oak. A powerful, spicy and fruit forward wine in youth, this could last a decade or two quite happily, although I know of one particular bottle that won’t make it past this Thursday!

The line-up is ready, the table is set and we’re ready to drink our way through these 5 delicious wines as we continue our exploration of the world of wine in Barcelona, Spain. The tasting is fully booked but if you live in Barcelona and would like to come along one evening, check out our wine-tasting group on Meet-up. The next newsletter will be going out on the 1st November along with the wine tastings for that month. Happy drinking and I hope to see you soon!

Barcelona Wine Tasting: The Wines of Galicia


Coming up this week with Maestrazgo Wine Club is our tasting on the wines of Galicia, a region that has been producing wine for as long as anyone can remember but has at times been pigeon-holed due to its great success with the aromatic white wine made from Albariño, typically in Rias Baixas, which in all fairness is a delicious, modern Spanish style of wine. Often referred to as ‘Green Spain’ due to its cooler, wetter climate in comparison to the rest of the country, this North-Westerly corner is home to 5 DOs and a whole host of different producers, wines and styles. Historically as well, this region is diverse with the Celts the first people to inhabit the region, followed by a procession of different would-be conquerors from the Swabians to the Visigoths, the Moors to the Romans before finally joining Spain in 1492. From the rolling hills of Ribeira Sacra to the rugged, salty coast-line of Rias Baixas, this is a beautiful little corner of the country that is increasingly being realised as a top holiday destination, and with good reason. Perhaps the best seafood in the country is to be found here and the iconic pilgrimage, El Camino de Santiago, regularly attracts those searching for spiritual growth.


As far as the modern wine industry is concerned, the flagship of Galician production is right on its coast; DO Rias Baixas (‘low estuaries’) has come to define the region to a certain extent with its crisp, vibrant white wines made from the Albariño grape which have become popular both locally and internationally. There are 5 different subzones within the DO, each with slightly differing styles, climates and regulations when it comes to production. Small quantities of red wine are also produced, which we’ll be looking at in our tasting, but white certainly dominates. The white wines made here are some of the very finest in Spain and have rightly cemented their place as a great wine in international circles, with America in particular quick on the uptake when it comes to importation. In the name of exploration, this week we will be trying a red wine from the region, Goliardo Caiño 2013, produced by Bodega Forjas del Salnés using the Caiño tinto grape variety, also known as Borraçal in neighbouring Portugal, which is famous for being highly perfumed and acidic as befits the cool climate in which it’s grown.


Perhaps the second most important area in the region is DO Ribeira Sacra, or “sacred hill” as it literally translates to. This is probably one of the most aesthetically stunning regions in the entire of Spain, with green, verdant rolling hills towering over the rivers Sil, Miño and Cabe. Slightly warmer and dryer than Rias Baixas over a bedrock of slate, the grape that is rising to prominence in these parts is certainly Mencia for red wines, although a great deal of good quality white wine is made as well from Godello, Treixadura and Loureira. With over 100 producers now plying their trade in this increasingly popular area, it’s only a matter of time before Ribeira Sacra starts to become known outside of niche circles. Indeed, it is already forging an international reputation for the light, crisp and peppery style of Mencia commonly produced and consumed here. The wine we’re going to taste to get a feel for this region is the wonderful Castro Candaz A Boca do Demo 2013 created by the mercurial Raúl Pérez; the regions most celebrated oenologist and wine consultant.


DO Valdeorras or ‘Golden Valley’ is the furthest inland of the Galician wine regions, making it the most continental with hotter summers, longer ripening periods and cooler winters. Whilst perhaps lacking the natural beauty of the regions closer to the Atlantic Ocean, Valdeorras has its own charm and style, with many of the rivers being diverted and dammed to create artificial beaches for landlocked towns. Despite there being a plethora of grape varieties available, the most quality-minded producers are focusing heavily on Godello for white wines and Mencia for reds and rosé wines, although this latter option is increasingly being blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache for a little extra kick. Wine is the main export of the region and it gives us an excellent opportunity to try a Mencia-based rosé wine, in this case Avanthia 2014; a crisp, peppery Rose that has spent 3 months ageing in barrels to give it an extra textural feel. A truly lovely wine from a high quality producer; I’m very excited to present it!


DO Monterrei is probably the least commercially important region in Galicia as far as wine is concerned, with barely 23 Bodegas, up from 5 in 2006. Historically Monterrei was an important part of Spain’s defences against Portugal in the medieval ages and included, unsurprisingly, a monastery famous for its teachings and of course, its wine. Due to the low production volumes of wine, exports are not common and it can be very hard to source a bottle of wine from DO Monterrei without digging around a little bit. The best wines are, like much of Galicia, produced from Mencia, Godello and Treixadura although these tend to be the minority of production due to the scarcity of top-quality vineyard sites here. We’ll be looking at how well a lesser known region can do with the Godello grape; a high acid, refreshing but still quite powerful grape variety that typically expresses itself to its fullest on the slatey soils of Valdeorras. Minius 2015 is produced by Adegas Valmiñor, more commonly associated with production in Rias Baixas but well positioned to produce white wines of verve and character.


DO Ribeiro has perhaps the longest history of quality wine production of all the DO’s of Galicia, having been exporting wine in reasonable quantities to Italy and England a long time before any other regions even existed, and unsurprisingly it is something of a powerhouse in the region, partly due to the forward thinking co-operative in the area; Cooperativa Vitivinicola del Ribeiro. Now nearly all winemakers and bodegas are equipped with modern equipment and continue to forge a path ahead, mainly focusing around interesting blends of white varieties, bringing the best of the other regions together at very competitive price points. We’re going to look at this style through a delicious bottle of Coto de Gomariz Blanco 2014, a blend of Treixadura, Godello, Albarino and Loureiro with no oak contact and a wonderful creaminess on the palate.


There we have it! An evening of exploring a range of Galician wines in our cosy tasting room in Barcelona; a perfect way to spend the night, especially now the Autumn rains have started. The tasting is fully booked but as always, there will be more and for anyone who’s interested in exploring the world of wine with us in Barcelona, come join the group to get the first updates on upcoming tastings and events. For those of you who are coming with me tomorrow to taste these wonderful wines; I look forward to seeing you soon! I hope you’re ready for more good wine, good food and fantastic company!

Thoughts on: The Real Cost of Wine Education – Wine!


So, yesterday I was working the morning in Montsant, helping a friend pick a 0.3 hectare field of Carignan that was ready for harvest. During our time picking, we chatted about a lot of things and I asked the same question I ask to a lot of experienced individuals in the wine industry; how do you get access to the fine wines of the world for the purposes of education without bankrupting yourself? The reason I ask is that over the last 10 years, prices for the ‘classics’ of the wine industry have sky-rocketed, to the point that many of these wines are essentially unobtainable for the majority of us, including those studying the industry through some form of formalised route such as the WSET or Court of Master Sommeliers. Whilst the vexing problem of not being able to drink hundreds of euros of wine may seem something of a particularly obnoxious ‘First World Problem’, the truth is that if you want to identify these wines blind and come to a conclusion of quality and style, something that is required for the purposes of passing the top exams in the industry (MW/MS) you need to have had some experience tasting them first.

Whilst the course costs of the various education bodies are sometimes quite high themselves, the wines tend to be far and away the most expensive part of this process. Anecdotal tales of students studying for the infamous Masters of Wine exams have told stories of students spending anywhere from $20-50k over the course of their adventure, simply on travelling to wineries and conferences, trying different wines and slowly building up their tasting experience with the wines of the world. Whilst finding access to commercially available wines for most countries is not overly expensive, good luck finding Grand Cru Burgundy for less than $100 a bottle. Cult Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon? $150 and upwards. Don’t even get me started on First Growth Bordeaux, with prices en primeur starting from $400 and then climbing towards the sky, which of course is not counting the 15+ years it then takes for these wines to become approachable. So, what’s a student to do? As far as I can tell, these are the most realistic routes open to me whilst I am based in Barcelona:


Work in fine dining as a sommelier: A popular route, as working as a sommelier in a formal setting grants you access to essentially any wine you will be required to serve to your guests. As part of the ritual of serving a fine bottle of wine, often a tiny sip must be tasted in order to confirm there are no faults or flaws with the bottle before serving it to your guests; a fine reason to up-sell to Chateau Margaux if there ever was one! This is a solid approach, although this is Barcelona and not London, so the amount of fine-dining restaurants with the international wines of the world on them are relatively few and far between. I’m already having nightmares of crashing around the floor of a Michelin starred restaurant; I’ll definitely need to work on formal service a little if this becomes a reality.

Find a scaleable way to make considerably more money within my current business: Sounds blindingly obvious, I know. My current income is mainly based around wine tastings. When I do a wine tasting, I make a profit. Naturally this isn’t scaleable unless I wanted to invest into building a company and hire people to do tastings (I don’t, incidentally, as I feel I’d lose the intimacy of the tastings I currently offer) so there would have to be another approach here. Write a book? Start selling wine? Try and start getting my writing published in formal publications? There are certainly possibilities here worth exploring and whilst none are guaranteed any level of success, it would be another chapter in the adventure regardless!

Find a way to make money outside of the wine industry: Sounds simple doesn’t it? Just make your money some other way and then study for wine. Unfortunately, as show-cased by the large number of ‘how to get rich quick’ schemes floating around, it’s not a simple case of just making money; if it were, everyone would be doing it. Add to that the fact that both building wealth and studying require enormous commitments of time, focus and effort and..well, I don’t see this one happening anytime soon. I know some individuals who have done very well from this approach and good luck to them, but unless something falls into my lap this is unlikely to be an option for me.

Work for a company willing to pay the course costs: Interesting one. If I worked for a company that was willing to invest in my education for their future gain, the course costs (5-6k euros per year for the MW course) could be deducted and that same money could be siphoned into the study budget. The unfortunate reality however, is that the Spanish wine industry is struggling to sell any bottle above 7 euros a bottle and even the major cities of the country are hardly awash with fine wine. There are 358 Masters of Wine in the world and only one of them lives in Spain; overseeing the winery he owns and runs rather than being involved in any existing operation. Needless to say, this is probably an indication that there won’t be many companies lining up to throw money at a level of education that is arguably unnecessary in the Spanish market. Still, you never know, someone may share my passion to change and improve existing Spanish wine culture and see an investment of this kind as being a shrewd move!

As it currently stands I’ve finally finished paying the last of my WSET Diploma, including the flights, hotels/hostels, reading material and course costs (Close to 8,000 euros in total, not counting any wine!). I have access to both Monvinic in Barcelona for international tasting options and a great group of friends working in the industry to split costs with and practice blind tasting on a regular basis. In short, I’m in a very good place and looking forward to my next exams and the second half of my education in 2017. If I want to go any further after that and try to scale the MW mountain I will need to find a solution to the cost issues detailed above, but I’m quietly confident that I’ll figure it out; I have a lot of faith in the Fintan of the future; that guy will figure it out for sure! As my mother always used to say, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Barcelona Wine Tasting: The Wines of Sicily


Last week we did our monthly international wine tasting with Maestrazgo Wine Club, this time heading to the beautiful island of Sicily, just off the southern tip of Italy. I’d been blown away a year before by an aged version of Nerello Mascalese by Calabretta, purchased at Monvinic store in Barcelona for 18 euros (for a 2001 vintage, outrageously good value) and started to experiment a little more with wines in the area. Then, during my first week of studying for the WSET Diploma, I was fortunate enough to be taught viticulture by the inspirational Anna Martens; an Australian wine consultant who has recently set up her own winery on the slopes of Mount Etna with her husband. A few months later, Noble Rot released their quarterly magazine with a huge focus around Mount Etna and I finally took the hint; do a tasting about these fantastic, unique and characterful wines!

Sicily itself has a pretty long history as far as wine is concerned. The Greeks, being ahead of their time in so many ways, were the first to recognise the potential of the region for viticulture and started to produce wine there from as early as 800BC. This continued through the rule of the Roman Empire but unfortunately, by the time Europe was being dragged from the Dark Ages, the land under vine was being eyed up by merchants as being far more suitable for the production of grain. By the 14th century, wine was starting to gain traction once more and in particular, Sicily became known for the production of strong, sweet wines such as Vernaccio and Muscatello with huge international appeal.

To fast forward a few hundred years, Sicily is now the second largest producing region of wine in the entire of Italy, only just behind Veneto and its enormous production of Pinot Grigio and Prosecco, although sadly a good 85% of this is still rustic, bulk wine usually intended for blending purposes (often illegally) throughout the rest of Europe, or turned into grape concentrate/distilled (the traditional fate for overproductive grapes!). Although the majority of the wine by volume produced in Sicily is white, it is the red varieties that are starting to attract attention around the world, from the typical, spicy and powerful Nero d’Avola to the ethereal and drastically underpriced Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio from the slopes of Mount Etna. With there being limited DOC restrictions in place, creative winemakers have been drawn from across the globe to try their hand at making their own expressions in various parts of the island, although the draw of volcanic soil, old (sometimes even pre-phylloxera) vines and an utterly unique environment mean that many of the islands top producers have settled on Mount Etna as a first choice location. The trend towards international varieties has been curbed and it’s now the indigenous grapes that are really driving the reputation of Sicily forward. It’s an exciting time to be producing, drinking and exploring wines from this region and it was great fun to do the tasting!


Below is the list of the wines that we tried over the course of the evening: I would have ideally have loved to find a decent Marsala sweet wine to finish the evening, but it just proved too difficult to source in Barcelona, so we kept it dry with 2 white and 3 red wines! The wines were organised from white to red, but also alternating between modern wine making styles and more traditional ones; Sicily has attracted a great deal of attention from winemakers and vignerons intent on making wine in a more ‘natural’ style, and so there are large stylistic differences, often within the same small areas.


Porto del Vento Catarratto 2014 – Catarratto is right on the cusp of being the most planted grape variety in the entire of Italy (35,000 HA planted), hot on the tail of Sangiovese, which gives you an idea of just how much of it is planted in this one island alone. Usually over-yielded and distilled as a result of overproduction, Porto del Vento have taken a different approach by drastically reducing the yields with the intention of showcasing the grape at a higher quality level. The wine itself has a very interesting flavour profile, with notes such as chalk, soft herbs and restrained floral notes taking precedence over the citric elements of the wine. The palate has that lovely combination of being slightly fat whilst still retaining a good level of acidity. A hard wine to pin down to a style, which I find to be true with Sicily in general! A good start.


Calabretta Carricante 2014 – I adore this producer, not least because it was the first Sicilian wine I had tried outside of cheap and cheerful Nero d’Avolas in Italian restaurants. For 4 generations, the Calabretta family has been producing top quality wines grown through organic and biodynamic viticulture around Mount Etna. Carricante, by comparison to Catarratto is a tiny production, barely checking in at a meagre 200 hectares. An ancient variety that has been revived by producers such as Calabretta, it has an incredible profile of bitter marmalade, cloves, cinnamon and lemon on the nose, but quite an austere, refreshing style of wine on the palate with a strong, stony finish. Absolutely delicious and utterly unique, fantastic stuff!


Tenuta delle Terre Etna Rosso 2014– Our first Nerello Mascalese/Nerello Cappucio blend of the evening; the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot combination of Mount Etna that are largely responsible for the new-found visibility and demand for the wines from this area. I say Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in terms of what roles they play in the blending partnership, although both varieties are truly more akin to Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo; light in colour, soft in aroma and often quite steely on the palate in youth, fading to smooth, complex aromas and flavours over time. Tenuta delle Terre are a relatively new company, with around 30 hectares of land on the Northern slopes of Mount Etna. Whilst I haven’t had a chance to try their higher level expressions, this lightly oaked wine was a real treat and very good value for 20 euros a bottle. A great introduction to the style.


Girolamo Russo ‘a Rina’ 2014 – Arguably the wine of the evening; absolutely delicious stuff. Giuseppe Russo himself is a pianist by trade and an ex-student of Italian literature, who took it upon himself to care for his familys estate back in 2005, including some 15 hectares of vineyards around the volcano. ‘a Rina’ is one of his most profilic wines, with around 10,000 bottles produced every year. For me, this is Nerello Mascalese close to its best, with a huge abundance of red fruits, spice and violets over silky tannins and a huge core of acidity. I recall from drinking older wines that the acidity is key to the longevity of these wines, as the tannins are really very much in the background. For 22 euros a bottle – sign me up for a few more!


Donnafugata Mille e una Notte 2011 – I wanted to finish the evening on a more typical note and for Sicily, that is defined by Nero d’Avola (45 euros worth in this case – maybe the most expensive Nero d’Avola on the market?!). For traditional wines lovers, this was a welcome return to the norm with big, ripe fruit aromas, spice, oak and a solid structure of both tannins and acidity. A lovely rich and ripe wine that has a long life ahead of it and is a good example of the potential of Nero d’Avola, albeit with a hefty price tag. I also think the label is stunning and I would love to bring this out for dinner in a few years time, with a rustic spaghetti dish and some cold meats; now there’s an idea!

Another wonderful evening exploring the world of wine with Maestrazgo Wine Club. This month we have three more tastings covering the wines of Galicia in North-West Spain, Vinos de Pago and an international tasting as we chase Pinot Noir around the world in an effort to understand it a little better. As it stands every spot is taken with one exception – a single spot on the 20th October for our discovery of Spains single-estate wines under the denomination of ‘Vinos de Pago.’ To see the tastings as they come up, make sure to join our group on Meet-up here, where you’ll also have access to our newsletter every month. Happy drinking!

Barcelona Wine Tasting Newsletter: October

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. From October onwards, I will start to share this newsletter here as well! For more information on Maestrazgo Wine Club and how to book a wine tasting in Barcelona, check out this page for more information.

Maestrazgo Wine Club Newsletter – Edition 9 – October 2016

October: The harvest is in full swing! Visit any major vineyard, especially those harvesting red grapes at this time of the year and you’ll find a very busy time for most vignerons and wine-makers. Harvesting the grapes is always a delicate negotiation with the weather; the fact that the 12th October would be ideal according to your plans isn’t always factored in by mother nature, who is quite prone to rain at this time of the year, promoting both fungal rot and dilution of the grapes, forcing workers to pick earlier than otherwise desired. The winery itself will be working hard everyday and, in big commercial operations, around the clock to clean, select, destem, press and start the fermentation process for the incoming grapes. Hired hands mix with experienced, full time staff, the fields are alive with the sounds of picking and all this time, whoever owns the operation is praying that this year will see enough healthy, ripe grapes to make a reasonable profit. One of the real beauties of wine is this reliance on the basic crop; the humble grape. With the right phenolic ripeness, balance of acidity and sugar and the attention of a skilled wine-maker, the sky is the limit. Here’s hoping for a wonderful 2016 harvest!

Hello Wine Lovers! It’s so lovely to be back and spending time with you all again. September was a hellishly busy month for a lot of us but we still managed to look at some premium Tempranillo wines, a selection of summer discoveries and even visit the island of Sicily for our international tasting. This month there will unfortunately only be 3 tastings as a short-notice flat move has left me a little short on time to reassemble and organise my new home, so the first Thursday is being sacrificed for this. Nonetheless, we will make it up with a wonderful selection of tastings for the rest of the month! This month we’ll look at a selection of wines from Galicia, famed for its crisp, fresh white wines but also potentially the most exciting region in Spain for red wine at the moment! We’ll also take a sneak at the often misunderstood appellation of Vinos de Pago; small, high quality wineries that don’t fit into their surroundings, all across Spain! Finally, we’ll finish with a look at that mercurial grape, Pinot Noir, and as we’ll need to head around the world a little, this will be our international tasting for the month of October. Strap yourselves in for another round of exploration, bad jokes and late Thursday nights! It’s good to be back 🙂

Events: Maestrazgo Wine Club:

13th October– Green Spain: The wines of Galicia – 25 euros p/p

20th October – Vinos de Pago:Spain’s single estate wines – 25 euros p/p

27th October – International tasting: Around the world with Pinot Noir! – 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!

‘The Grapes of Spain’ by Miquel Hudin. A simple but effective article detailing the major grape varieties of Spain, almost evenly split between white and red. A nice, easy to read look at the major grape varieties and styles across our own wonderful country by one of my favourite Spanish wine writers, Miquel Hudin. If you ever want to know more about Montsant, Priorat or Emporda, his Vinologue guides are truly excellent as well!

‘What about Craft Wine?’ by Jancis Robinson MW. Finally, someone who dislikes the word ‘craft’ as much as I do. Jancis looks at the industry of alcohol as a whole and how craft is being used, or misused, as a marketing tool and how this would apply if it were specifically applied to the world of wine. A really lovely article with lots of comparisons to the holy grail of the alcohol industry at the present moment; Craft Beer.

‘Can it really?’ by Richard Hemming MW. The King of wine-related puns is back, this time looking very briefly at the market for wine stored in cans. I haven’t seen this yet in Spain but the last time I was in England, I passed through a Marks and Spencers store and, lo and behold, wine in cans was available. Lots of things in wine are proclaimed as ‘the next big thing’ but Richard approaches this with a pinch of salt, and whilst we’re becoming gradually more accepting of wine packaging, I think he may have a point here!

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.

Philipps Eckstein Grauburgunder 2015 Believe me, I’m just as surprised as you! A German Pinot Gris is my wine of October? In this case, yes, and for a couple of reasons. First of all, this is not a style of wine you can readily access in Spain; we simply don’t have the growing conditions to imitate the steep, stunning Mosel Valley in Northern Germany, nor do we have many plantings of Pinot Gris! Secondly, the price: 10 euros a bottle in Bodega Maestrazgo, simply stunning for a wine of this quality. From the outstanding 2015 vintage, this wine combines a lovely ripe orchard fruit and slightly tropical profile with the high acidity of its regional style, without losing any intensity or balance. The texture is soft, smooth and finishes nicely with a touch of spice – truly a versatile and pleasant wine! Thirdly, with 13.5% alcohol and a slightly creamy texture, this wine is a perfect combination for the slowly cooling Autumn evenings and the gradually meatier dishes that come at this time of the year. Try pairing it with a Thanksgiving Dinner come November and see for yourself! Available at Bodega Maestrazgo.

Wine Facts: 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!

“Do I need a wine fridge to store my wine?” – Honestly, it really depends on how long you want to keep it for. If you’re planning on drinking your wine within a year or two, professional storage isn’t really necessary and most cool, dark places will do. If you’re fortunate to live in a house with more than one floor, under the stairs is almost ideal for this sort of make-shift cellar whereas for the majority of us living in Barcelona, a bag or box under the bed is probably the next best option. For longer term storage or for particularly poorly ventilated flats (my previous abode turned into Hells Kitchen during July/August) then yes, a wine fridge would be highly recommended!

“What is ‘Fortified Wine’?” – A Fortified Wine is usually a wine that has had neutral grape spirit, 77-96% ABV, added at some point during its creation, often during the fermentation process. This was historically done to make wines more robust for long sea journeys; a certain George Washington famously toasted the independence of the USA with Madeira, a wine that has been both oxidised and fortified to around 19%, making it an ideal drink to send across a 3 month trans-Atlantic crossing in the 18th Century! It is also done to kill the yeast responsible for completing the fermentation, leaving a sizeable quantity of unfermented sugar in the wine. As a result, many fortified wines are sweet; Port, sweet Sherries, Madeira, Vin Doux Naturels etc. Highly under-rated and usually available at very good prices. If you can get hold of a 10-20 year old Tawny Port, chill it slightly and sip at your leisure – you’ll thank me for the tip!

‘What exactly do you plan do once you have your Diploma/MW qualifications?’ – A personal one this week but I get asked this a lot, and the answer is I truthfully don’t know yet. I love the wine industry; learning about it, exploring it, sharing it and of course, drinking it! However, in terms of pinning myself down to a single career choice within it, well, let’s just say I’m not quite there yet. I loved working in a winery last year, I love writing about wine, I love working as a tour guide and I especially love organising tastings on different topics within the world of wine. Whatever happens, I will do my utmost to keep new and interesting tastings available with Maestrazgo Wine Club; organising tastings with Meetup was how I started with wine, and it’s still my favourite part of the week! I hope to eventually grow this small group into a well connected hub of winelovers in one of the most interesting and dynamic cities in the world. Let’s see how we go and what comes up along the way 🙂

Social Media

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.

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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 I can’t wait to see you all soon for more wine, food and good company. 🙂

Fintan Kerr