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Thoughts on: A Tale of Two Wines from Chinon

Cabernet Franc is one of my favourite grapes in the wine world, capable of elegance and charm in its own right and adding perfume and freshness to many of the worlds Bordeaux blends. Despite being grown in warmer regions, particularly in the USA and Argentina, it really excels in cool to moderate climates, where the crunchy, red fruit profile and herbaceous flavours come into their own. This typically means Bordeaux, where it was historically planted as an insurance in case the Cabernet Sauvignon didn’t full ripen, particularly on the right bank where Cabernet Sauvignon has traditionally struggled to ripen in the cooler, clay soils. However, despite certain Chateau using Cabernet Franc as a majority in their blends (Cheval Blanc being a notably famous example), my favourite region for the variety has always been Touraine in the Loire Valley, particularly around a small region known as Chinon. (Psst, we’ll be doing a wine tasting of the Loire Valley in October with Maestrazgo Wine Club!)

The Loire Valley isn’t a warm place, being located in northern France, but as it stretches so far along its namesake river, making generalisations about style is difficult. What is certainly true is that the Loire is responsible for some of France’s best value, cool climate wines, with only really Sancerre commanding premium prices in certain markets. Touraine, located in the centre, is arguably the most important of the zones, often referred to as ‘The Garden of France’. It’s here that the best regions for Cabernet Franc are to be found, with both Chinon and Bourgueil making a strong claim, with Chinon probably the best known of the two.

Over the last year or so, I’ve drank a reasonable amount of Chinon but never in a comparative format. So, when Monvinic Store were having a small sale of some affordable wines from the region, I scooped a few bottles up and went about with the comparison! It’s worth noting that Chinon roughly comes in two different styles; full bodied, more structured Cabernet Franc from the clay and gravel soils, whereas lighter styles are made on the sandy, alluvial soils closer to the river. How fortunate then, that I managed to have wines from different producers, in the same vintage, on these two, very different soil types! It’s worth noting that 2011 was a pretty torrid vintage in the Loire, where the continental conditions make for some severe vintage variation, and typically it is the Cabernet Franc grown in the more structured style that rides the bad years more capably.

Domaine Grosbois Gabare Chinon 2011 – 12.5% ABV

Domaine Grosbois is an old estate that has been ran by the Grosbois family since the French revolution, with 9 hectares of land on the lighter, sand and gravel soils around Panzoult. Like so many estates in France, it has recently been given an injection of pace and a clear direction by a younger generation, in this case Nicolas Grosbois. My experience with wine-makers is that the best nearly always have an international appreciation of wine, and often experience in other wine regions. This is true for Nicolas who worked at one of my favourite wineries in New Zealand, Pegasus Bay, as well as Brokenwood in Australia. His main contribution to the future of Domaine Grosbois was to revitalise the land, first of all with a switch to organic viticulture and more recently to the more controversial, biodynamic system. All his Cabernet Franc is unoaked and the intention is to give a pure expression of Chinon and his vineyards in particular.

Gabare 2011 is 100% unoaked Cabernet Franc harvested from sandy soils at the base of his vineyards. A slightly murky, ruby colour and with a subtle aroma of fresh red fruits, this isn’t giving much away but slowly opens up to reveal lighter notes of fresh violets, fresh leaves and black pepper. A little lean on the palate with the same fresh flavours, and perhaps a lack of texture from the tannins. A nice, simple Cabernet Franc that feels affected by the weather conditions of 2011.

Charles Joguet Les Petit Roches 2011 – 13.5% ABV

Charles Joguet is a name that resonates in the Loire Valley and particularly in Chinon; taking over his family estate in 1957, Charles was one of the first wine-makers to start attracting international attention to the region. The estate itself is sat on deeper, clay dominated soils covering 36 hectares of prime vineyards, including some of the very best in the appellation. 9 different wines are made in total, reflecting their origins from specific plots around the estate. Since Charles retired, the estate went through a short but unwelcome period of misdirection and inactivity, before Kevin Fontaine took over the reins and brought it back on track. This is the producer I’m most familiar with in the region and I’ve enjoyed 5 of the 9 cuvees thus far, all a wonderful expression of Chinon and Cabernet Franc.

The wine itself has a much clearer appearance when compared with the Gabare from Domaine Grosbois. Aromatic and energetic, the extra ripeness of the wine is apparent with a riper red fruit profile, graphite, gravel, earth and a stronger, more clearly defined herbal note. The lovely, crunchy tannic profile comes out on the palate and there’s the energy and vibrancy I so love about wines from Chinon. A lovely balance of red fruits, herbal notes and earth; quintessential Chinon.

I really enjoyed this small experiment, and not just because I love drinking Chinon. I learn a lot of theory as part of my studies and it’s nice when something practical helps click the pieces into place. In this case, that soil type and the situation of the vineyard makes a big difference when it comes to the profile of the wines from Chinon, particularly in poor vintages. The extra ripeness and balance of the Charles Joguet made it a far more attractive wine, with more energy and more typicity. I would love to find the same two wines from a better vintage, 2010 say, and make the same comparison. Keep your eyes peeled on the 1st October as there will certainly be a Cabernet Franc or two to get your lips around in our tasting of the Loire Valley!

Barcelona Wine Tasting: Summer Discoveries in the Old World

Ordinarily, our Maestrazgo Wine Club tastings have a theme of some sort. Typically a country or specific region to be explored, a grape variety to track across the world or perhaps even a style to discover in several different places. However, with this being the first of two introductory tastings after a 3 month summer break, we’re going to look at some summer discoveries instead. By that I mean a tasting of 6 of the best wines I’ve discovered over the summer period, with a split between the Old World and the New World. I had the good fortune to taste over 150 wines, with some real stand out examples in a variety of different styles and hailing from across the major wine producing regions. 6 wines, 6 regions – vamos!

Veyder Malberg Liebedich Grüner Veltliner

Grüner Veltliner used to really bug me, mainly due to my complete inability to correctly identify it in blind tastings. It’s also surprisingly difficult to get hold of in Spain, despite being one of the great white varieties of the world and the single most important in Austria. As a result, the examples I was tasting were often not that interesting and usually in the context of trying to ensure I didn’t guess it was Albariño in a blind tasting (3 times in a row! Grrr!). However, as I started to dig a little deeper and use different distributors in Barcelona, I discovered that Monvinic Store had a good selection of wines from a producer I’d heard about but never had the chance to taste; Veyder Malberg.

Peter Veyder-Malberg is the founder and driving force behind Veyder-Malberg, acquiring a series of old, terraced vineyards in the Wachau region of Austria as recently as 2008. A little like the Douro Valley in Portugal and our own Priorat in Catalunya, these vineyards are rugged, difficult to manage and full of old vines, many of which were severely under-valued and sadly, were often uprooted in favour of other projects. Having worked as an oenologist in Weinviertel until 2007, Peter had a clear plan for this newly acquired land; organic viticulture, worked only by hand and managed to preserve its unique character. Unlike many other Austrian wine-makers, Peter also eschews botrytis affected grapes, preferring a lighter, more mineral style of wine.

Again, this wine was purchased via Monvinic Store which comes as no surprise, given it’s artisan and minimal intervention style. Veyder Malberg produce a little less than 20,000 bottles a year and for any of these niche wines, Monvinic remain the single best vendor in the city. The Liebedich 2012 is a blended wine from 5 different parcels, all too small to be considered for a single-vineyard wine. As with all Veyder-Malberg wines, there is no oak or botrytis influence and the expression of Grüner Veltliner as a result is a typically semi-aromatic, savoury one. Lime peel and green apple offer a little fruit character, but this is more about the slightly vegetal side of Grüner Veltliner; hints of celery, white pepper and a touch of almond with the 5 years of bottle age. On the palate the acidity has softened slightly and offers a refreshing, crisp and delicious wine with lots of intensity, and a subtle finish. A little bottle age has allowed the wine to gain a little body and the overall effect is lovely; an impressive Austrian wine!

Immich-Batterieberg Zeppwingert Riesling 2012

German Riesling has been one my success stories of 2017; from not being able to tell the difference in quality levels to getting a real handle on what they’re all about and tasting a variety of producers, both iconic and up-and-coming. I haven’t really found a preference on sweetness levels, and instead I focus on the balance between the acidity and the sugar; the tension in the wine. It doesn’t matter whether the flavours are crisp and zesty, or broader and denser, so long as the wine has an energy about it. With the natural acidity of Riesling and the unique growing conditions of the steep, Mosel Valley, it comes as no surprise to find they manage this balance better than anyone else in the world.

Immich-Batterieberg have one of the oldest histories in the Mosel, with the origins of the vineyards dating back to 911, created under the watchful (and slightly hungover) eyes of the monks. Purchased by the Immich family in 1495 and ran by the family for 500 years until 1989, creating a strong identity for their dry and off-dry Rieslings. The style is very much a hands-off approach, with Gernot Kollmann, the wine-maker, preferring to let the 60 year old vines do the talking. The Cru wines are vinified separately in old oak with spontaneous fermentations, low sulphur additions and no acidification/chaptalisation the normal approach.

I tried 3 wines from Immich-Batterieberg including the crus of Steffensberg, Batterieberg (the namesake of the winery) and Zeppwingert. As much as I enjoyed them all, and they were all delicious, the Zeppwingert seemed to have the best balance of them all, with ripe, accessible fruit whilst still maintaining a focus and intensity on the palate. It’s still a zesty, fresh wine with lime zest and green fruits at the fore, with some stone fruit starting to emerge as the wine broadens with a little age. The gorgeous white floral notes of Riesling are apparent, as are the chalky, mineral aromas that so define Riesling from the Mosel. Precise, vibrant and delicious – my kind of Riesling!

Jean Foillard Morgon Cote du Py 2015

Beaujolais has made a global revival over the last decade or so, partly due to the recognition of top quality producers in the area, and partly due to the escalating prices in neighbouring Burgundy. When I first learnt about Beaujolais, it was simply that there was a clear divide between the 10 ‘crus’ of Beaujolais and the generic wines, often made using early-harvested, over yielding vines and subjected to specific yeast strains and semi-carbonic maceration to get a bubble-gum, banana flavour. Ever since, I think I can count the amount of times I’ve drank Beaujolais Noveau on one hand, and none of them have been enjoyable. The wines from the 10 ‘crus’ of Beaujolais, however, are a different story, located to the north of the region and enjoying a better exposure to sunshine and often more favourable soils for Gamay, the champion grape of the region.

Jean Foillard is one of the aforementioned producers whose name has rightly risen to fame for the wines he produces here. A disciple of Jules Chauvet, an early pioneer of the more structured, serious approach to Beaujolais, Foillard farms 14 hectares of the best vineyards in Morgon, considered by many to offer the deepest flavours and structure of the 10 crus. The majority of his vineyards are on the famed Cote du Py, a small rise of volcanic, granitic soil that is believed to be a major factor in the depth and complexity of the grapes grown here.

Beaujolais, like many regions with continental and often marginal weather patterns, is subject to vintage variation. The warmer years create wines that are accessible at an earlier date and have a riper fruit profile, whilst the cooler years often create wines with more restraint and elegance, that sometimes need a little time to soften and come together. 2015 was an undoubtedly warm year for Beaujolais, and most of Europe, and that means a riper, more accessible version of this great wine. Cote du Py, as it suggests, is made from grapes grown on the volanic soils to the south of Villié-Morgon with a mixture of vine ages (10-90 years!), produced in a low intervention style and aged for 6-9 months in old oak barrels. On the nose there’s a gorgeous aroma of ripe red fruits; strawberry, cherry and raspberry, complimented by lilac and violet floral notes. The whole cluster fermentation adds a level of herbaceousness and there’s the traditional earthiness of Foillards wines. Ripe, fruity and juicy with a pleasantly herbal edge – a pleasure to drink now and will be in full flight in around 5 years time!

Francisco Barona Ribera del Duero 2014

Ribera del Duero was one of my first loves in Spanish wine; a bottle of Tomas Postigo Crianza 2010 still stands out as a defining moment for me on a rainy day in December 2014. Hugely popular both locally and internationally, the region has been challenging Rioja for some time as the King of Spanish wine, with both regions largely reliant of Tempranillo based blends. However, whilst Rioja has been able to maintain a good balance between the cheap-and-cheerful wines, ambitious modern projects and traditionalists, Ribera del Duero seemed to lose its way a little bit and almost every wine ended up tasting a little too similar; big black fruits, dark chocolate and a slathering of French oak. With Vega Sicilia the perennial stalwart of traditional wine-making in the region, it’s only recently that the new wave of wine-makers are starting to make themselves known here, often eschewing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec in favour of more traditional, and often much older, vines such as Albillo, Mencia, Bobal and Garnacha.

Francisco Barona is one of the ‘new wave’ in this respect and, as it happens, this is his first commercial vintage! His family has been making wine for generations and after studying oenology in Bordeaux and working around the world; the USA, South Africa and France, Francisco returned to Ribera del Duero where, with some help from his family connections, he was able to source 5 different plots of land. These plots contain not only old-vine Tempranillo but also a general mixture of the other indigenous grapes mentioned above, often from very old, under-rated vines. I’ve generally found that the inclusion of some of these grapes gives the wines from Ribera del Duero a fresher profile, with a strong backbone of acidity and a lighter body. Considering it’s not unusual for wines in this region to hover around 14.5%-15% alcohol, this is definitely for the better!

Considering this is Francisco’s first wine, it’s remarkably well defined. There’s almost always an element of trial and error in the wine world, but to have a wine that’s so well balanced and vibrant at your first attempt is really quite remarkable. It has the same inky, dark colour that so many wines from the region have, but it’s so much fresher on the nose and palate. At this youthful stage, there’s an overwhelming core of ripe, black and red fruits, licorice and lots of powerful French oak; vanilla and baking spices to the fore. Tightly coiled and clearly waiting to open up with a little age, this is certainly a producer and wine to watch! Still, due to the soft, ripe tannins and enjoyable, fruity flavours this is delicious now and will certainly win a few hearts back to Ribera del Duero!

Felsina Fontalloro 2011

We head over to Tuscany next, where a modern approach to arguably the oldest defined wine region in Europe, Chianti Classico, is represented by the wines of Fattoria Felsina. Sangiovese remains the most planted grape variety in Italy and also constitutes a remarkable amount of quality wine around the very different regions of the country, but it is undoubtedly best known for it’s expressions in central Italy, particularly Tuscany. A variety with naturally high levels of both acidity and tannins, this could potentially be a difficult grape to sell on the commercial market but the sour cherry characteristics, Tuscan herbs and subtle, savoury characteristics have given it an advantage over its cousin to the north; Nebbiolo. Chianti and Chianti Classico are two regions best known for the grape, as well as the long lived Brunello di Montalcino, but then the question really lies in style. Leaner, more floral and marked by a herbal characteristic? Long lived and powerful, with layers of flavours evolving over years and decades? As always, it’s a question of personal taste, although Fontalloro certainly leans towards the latter.

Fattoria Felsina has existed since 1966 when a gentleman by the name of Domenico Poggiali decided to invest his money here, at a time when Italian wine-making was not the attractive option it is today. Various new partners entered the business and now, it’s not only an iconic producer of Tuscan wines but a great model for other wineries, proving it’s possible to take a hands-on approach, maintain quality and create a profitable business at the same time.

Out of a broad portfolio of excellent wines, my discovery from Felsina this summer was undoubtedly Fontalloro, their flagship wine. Like so many grapes, I enjoy Sangiovese in a variety of styles but even at high levels of ripeness, the flavours and aromas tend to stay fresh and attractive, so I’m wary of overt oaking and extraction which can disguise these features. Felsina, much like Fontodi, seem to manage their premium oak-aged wines better than most and create a wonderful marriage of the two. Fontalloro is their premium Sangiovese wine and spends between 18-22 months in French oak. Technically an IGT wine as grapes are used from outside the Chianti Classico DOCG, it’s a ripe, powerful expression of Sangiovese that is only just entering its drinking window now! 2011 was a warm year and this is already a wine made from ripe grapes, so the overtly ripe, and slightly dried, cherry aromas come as no real surprise. The herbaceousness of Sangiovese is only just coming through, as the smoky, dark aromas of oak need some time to settle. Powerful and dense on the palate with thick, ripe tannins and a strong core of acidity; this is a castle of a wine! Absolutely packed with potential and I’m glad to have another bottle or two squirreled away for the next few years, where this will bloom into something quite special.

Chateau Vielle Cure 2006

I’ve really come to admire Bordeaux, and I don’t recall ever having tasted a glass whilst I lived in the UK. Frustrating really, as mature Bordeaux is so easy to come by over there whereas in Barcelona, the prices are absolutely disgraceful for the same wines. I have a preference for the Cabernet Sauvignon dominated left bank, with the slowly emerging graphite, earth and leathery aromas a perfect match for winter dishes in Barcelona, but I have come to appreciate the slightly earlier mature right bank, where Merlot and Cabernet Franc take over proceedings. A wine I’ve enjoyed a lot over the summer is a fully mature Fronsac; Chateau Vielle Cure 2006.

Chateau Vielle Cure has a long history in Fronsac, but was taken over and revitalised in 1986 by American owners, bringing in the (in)famous Michel Rolland as consultant for the wine-making process. Limestone soils and old vines come together to create a truly delicious, and excellent value, expression of right-bank Bordeaux, with enough sunshine from the south-westerly exposure to properly ripen grapes with each vintage.

The wine itself is a great example of mature Bordeaux. Incredibly, this is still available, albeit in tiny quantities, for less than 20 euros a bottle in Barcelona. Apparently this wine is still a staple of many claret-lovers in the UK, and it’s easy to see why. At full maturity now, there’s a lovely, deep garnet colour and a huge amount of complexity on the nose. Dried and ripe fruits, black pepper and charred wood, graphite, leather and even a green note of bell pepper; Bordeaux in a glass! There’s still a littl grip to the palate, with a long savoury intensity and finish still in balance, despite the relatively low acidity. A great example of mature, affordable Bordeaux done well.

Our next tasting will be on the 28th September when we look at another 6 wines, this time focusing on the New World wine regions. A similarly varied line-up awaits and whilst all the spots have been taken, should you wish to consider a private tasting do get in touch via this contact form. Until the next time; happy drinking!

Blind Wine Tasting: Practical studying part IV

Every week I head over to Monvinic, Barcelona’s largest international wine bar, to practice blind tasting. Typically this involves a flight of 6 wines, split equally between white and reds from all across the world. I’ve long been a believer that blind tasting is an incredibly useful study tool, and I’ve decided to track my sessions here in all their misery (mostly) and glory (very rarely!). As a result you may seem some confusing measurement terms as I am currently using the WSET Lexicon as a frame-work for my tasting notes partially trimmed down here for the purposes of brevity.

Monvic is open once again after the summer break, hurrah! With a little over 4 months until the Unit 3 exam, it seems like a good idea to get back practicing again. To ease myself in a little more easily, and also due to meeting a friend for lunch on the same day, I thought I’d do a quick 15 minute, 2 wine tasting. 1 white, 1 red, both mono-varietal. Whilst blind tasting isn’t an easy discipline, this should be about as easy as it gets!

White Wine

The wine has a pale lemon colour. On the nose there is a medium+ intensity of ripe citrus fruit, green apple, green pear, fresh stone fruits and a chalky, stony quality. A touch of white flowers and no discernible oak.

On the palate the wine is dry with high, bracing acidity, medium alcohol, a medium body and a medium+ intensity and finish. This tastes like either an incredibly young wine or a grape variety that naturally has a lot of natural acidity, although there is a nice texture to the wine; it certainly has some weight. Relatively neutral in terms of profile with a nice, fresh character and a gorgeous, saline finish, but as with the nose I couldn’t discern any obvious wine-making. Really delicious stuff but feels tight, like it’s being drank very young.

Guess: Godello from Valdeorras, Spain, from the 2014 vintage

Reality: Chardonnay from Chablis, France, from the 2014 vintage

Wine: Daniel Dampt and Fils Cote de Lechet 1er 2014

From a long lineage of vintners, Vincent Dampt continues the family tradition of excellence at Domaine Daniel Dampt et Fils, which was established by his father. The estate currently consists of 30 hectares, including 16 hectares of Chablis and 14 hectares of Chablis 1er Cru. The recently constructed cellar is equipped with stainless steel tanks which is intrinsic to the fresh, mineral style of Chablis produced here. The purchase of modern, powerful cellar equipment has enabled the group to increase its production of bottles, which now stands at 150,000 bottles per year.

Conclusions/Learning points: Gah. This is very much a case of thinking about something too much and coming to an overly obscure conclusion. Reading my tasting note back, it’s screaming Chablis. Prominent acidity, fresh citrus and green fruit flavours, no obvious oak but a decent weight with some texture… of course, Godello. Still, the profile matches for both, it’s just a case of playing the game a little bit and going with the more likely choice. On the positive side, this was a really delicious wine from a producer I hadn’t tried before. Really looking forward to finding more of his wines!

Red Wine

The wine has a pale cherry-red, ruby colour. On the nose there is a medium+ intensity of ripe red berries, currants and a hint of strawberry. Nicely perfumed, there’s some violet, floral notes here as well as some earthiness and just a touch of stalkiness – whole bunch fermentation? Hints of toast, pepper and a subtle char might be coming from old oak and there’s also a high toned, volatile aroma that lifts everything quite nicely. Very old world and slightly minimal intervention in style.

On the palate the wine is dry with medium+ acidity, medium ripe, firm tannins, medium+ alcohol, a medium+ body, a medium intensity and a medium finish. Whilst slightly generous on the nose, this is a leaner wine on the palate with some grip and bite to the tannins. Much leaner in terms of flavour profile as well, with that fresh berry fruit and herbal character coming to the fore. Still fresh and well balanced, but not at the same level as the Chablis before it.

Guess: Gamay from Beaujolais (Morgon cru), France, from the 2013 vintage

Reality: Gamay from Beaujolais (Morgon cru), France, from the 2013 vintage

Wine: Foillard Morgon Eponyme 2013

Jean Foillard is a disciple of Jules Chauvet, a noted enologist who believed in fashioning Beaujolais in an altogether different way from the modern standard of semi-carbonic maceration. Foillard’s 8ha (cultivated organically though not certified) include one of the best sites in the whole Beaujolais region, Morgon’s Côte du Py. Important to the style are low yields and very ripe grapes, which are subject to a long cool vinification, practically zero use of sulphur and minimal or no filtration.

Conclusions/Learning Points: Thrilled to nail this wine, particularly as I followed a very logical process to get there. Possible grape varieties included Gamay, Pinot Noir and Syrah, almost definitely old world, suggested by the firmness of the tannins and the lean/mineral flavours. Lack of a strong black pepper and/or smoked meat character made Syrah from Croze-Hermitage unlikely and the tannic structure and slight peppery note made it unlikely to be Pinot Noir, so Gamay it is. Morgon was a bit of a shot in the dark, I’ll admit but most of the more minimal interventionist styles I’ve tried have been from producers with land there, including of course, Foillard! Very happy to get one of these completely right, even if I messed up the Chablis. Onto a full tasting next week!

Wine Cuentista Newsletter – Edition 21 – September 2017

September: So it begins – the harvest is upon us! Spain is a vast, diverse country with regards to wine production and so unsurprisingly, there are various different stages of harvest. By this point, Cava grapes are already mid-way through harvesting as they tend to be picked slightly earlier to retain the high acidity that is prized for ageing potential in older wines and freshness in younger wines. A lot of white wines aiming to retain bright fruit flavours and high acidity will also be being picked, particularly in hot regions where the grapes can easily over-ripen and produce wines with unbalanced flavours and even some light reds, particularly Tempranillo may well undergo harvest this month. Vignerons and wine-makers alike will keep a wary eye on the sky, as excess rain during harvest can induce rots, fungi and often dilute the flavours they have worked so hard to nurture. Quality-minded producers will be spending a lot of money to hire trained pickers to gently harvest the grapes before transporting them in small, 15kg boxes to avoid crushing the grapes and losing precious flavours and aromas to oxidation. An entire years worth of effort comes down to these next few crucial months, as the saying goes: ‘It’s possible to make very bad wine with good grapes, but it’s impossible to make great wine with bad grapes!”

Hello Wine Lovers and welcome back! September is finally here and after a long, hot summer, I’m about ready to get back to wine tasting. With it being the first tastings of Maestrazgo Wine Club, I’m excited to be kicking off with some ‘discovery’ tastings – aka, showcasing some delicious new wines I’ve tasted over the last few months. We’ll have a tasting for the Old World wines and a separate one for the New World but remember that these are now available first through Wine Cuentista, so check them out here and reserve your spot. Aside from that, it’s time for an intense few months of studying ahead of my final exam for the WSET Diploma, ahead of a beautifully exam-less 2018. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the summer and hopefully I’ll see a few of you for a tasting soon!

Events: Maestrazgo Wine Club:

14th September – Summer Discoveries: Old World – 10 spots available
28th September – Summer Discoveries: New World – 10 spots available

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!

1. ‘Italian Wine – 3000 years older than we thought’ by Chris Mercer. One of the bigger discoveries in the wine world recently was a series of caves in Sicily containing, what is believed to be, wine-making equipment. Given that this dates back to 4,000BC, it’s a big change in the common belief that the ancient Greeks brought wine-making to Italy and opens the door to a whole new range of possibilities. As a history geek, I’m very curious to see the final report on these findings and who knows what may be uncovered as a result? http://www.decanter.com/wine-news/oldest-italian-wine-study-375334-375334/

2. ‘How to make money in the wine business’ – by Felicity Carter. A large part of the reason I’ve chosen to study with the WSET over CMS (Court of Master Sommeliers) is that the industry of wine interests me far more than the correct, formal service of it. As a result, I love anything that gets to grips with the realities of the industry as if there’s one thing we’re not short on, it’s romantic wine-related stories and quasi-science. Whilst not exactly ground-breaking stuff, Felicity Carter makes an important point about the financial realities of producing wine and how some in the industry get carried away with the fantasy of it all. Here’s hoping for some more of the same transparency on other financial/business related issues within the industry! https://www.meininger.de/en/wine-business-international/how-make-money-wine-business

3. ‘Changes afoot in Rioja’ by Yolanda Ortiz de Arri. I’ve linked a few articles related to the recent turmoil in Rioja, we’ve spoken about it in tastings and I’m actually digging into it a little more deeply for an article myself, but Yolanda does a good job, as always, of summarising the more important points as well as getting some local reaction. Reaction to what, exactly? Well, the tiny step forward that Rioja has taken as a region, allowing for both regional and village names to be appended to Rioja labels meaning greater specificity for consumers and the start of our understanding of Rioja terroir. Sounds great doesn’t it? Naturally, there’s a catch… http://www.spanishwinelover.com/learn-265-village-wines-in-rioja-will-be-based-on-the-location-of-the-winery

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.

Bohorquez Reserva 2007

I tried this for the first time only a few days ago and I have to take my hat off to this small but dedicated team of vignerons – the wine is absolutely delicious. Ribera del Duero has become a tricky region for me, with many of the wines simply trying for too much and missing the target as a result, but this hit the spot nicely. Bohorquez was only founded in 1999 but stylistically, it’s leaning towards the Pesquera/Vega Sicilia way of making wine, which is to say a longer maceration and ageing process, restrained alcohol levels (14%) and considerably less of the overt, ripe fruit flavours so typical of the region.

Yet there is a good concentration of slightly dried red and black fruits here, cedar, coffee, dill, leather, tobacco and earth. This wine is in a really good place, with a lovely spectrum of flavours and a wonderfully elegant texture. Restrained and classic, with that smoky, leathery finish I so enjoy!

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

Fintan Kerr

Barcelona by the Glass: Eldiset

Established: 2012

Style of establishment: Wine Shop

Price by the glass – €3.90 to €4.90

Price by the bottle – €18 to €69

Address – Carrer Antic de Sant Joan, 3, 08003 Barcelona

Phone number – 932 68 19 87

Opening Hours – 7pm – 2am, Monday to Sunday

One of my favourite wine bars over the last two years has really come into its own recently; Eldiset, formally known as Disset Graus, was opened in 2012 by the Cuasnicú family and since then, has gone from strength to strength. The name Disset Graus is literally ’17 degrees’ in Catalan, so named due to the preferred temperature of serving mature red wine. Due to a problem with registering the name, the bar changed to Eldiset, a play on the same name, and started to become well known for its excellent wine, cocktails and tapas.

However, the big change for Eldiset didn’t come with the name, but with the focus on Catalan products. Previously, wine was served here from a few, disparate places such as Spain, Argentina and France with nothing linking the food, wine and concept together. Then in November 2013, Alex Sanchez joined as the head sommelier and brought with him a strong passion for Catalan wines as well as formal training from CETT, the university for tourism, hospitality and gastronomy. Now, there’s not a lot of bars and restaurants in Barcelona that employ sommeliers with any level of salary as the wine culture here is still quite embryonic and there’s not a lot of disposable income sloshing around the city in general. A strong move then by Eldiset, given the circumstances, and one that’s paid off. It didn’t come as much as a surprise to discover that Alex’s mentor in the world of Catalan wines is Miguel Figini, a local expert in Catalan wines, co-founder of a Catalan wine school and a lovely man in general. It goes a long way to explain Alex’s passion for locally produced wines and thankfully, this rubs off on Eldiset in a very obvious way!

The Wine List

Every glass or bottle of wine in Eldiset is sourced from one of the 10 wine producing Denominación d’Origen’s located within Catalunya. This is a smart move by Eldiset for a few reasons. First and foremost, there’s an awful lot of delicious wine in Catalunya and for a bar with around 60 references by the glass and by the bottle, there’s simply no need to move outside of these 10 regions. From the concentrated, powerful wines of Priorat to vibrant Cava from Sant Sadurni d’Anoia and all manner of innovative wines from the Penedes, wine lovers in Cataluyna are somewhat spoilt for choice! Secondly, and all politics aside, it makes sense to drink locally. You can connect with local cultures and grape varieties, as well as having the option to go and visit the winery on a day trip should you so wish to. It’s also a way of sustaining local business, something that is becoming increasingly important in a busy, cosmopolitan city like Barcelona.

The actual list itself changes every 6 months or so, completely changing the wines available by the glass and most of the wines by the bottle. There’s typically 15-20 wines available by the glass and 30-40 by the bottle, with a separate section for ‘natural’ wines, or wines produced in a minimal intervention style. The wines are a nice collection of modern and traditional wines, with a mixture of most Catalan wine regions. The wines at the lower end command a slightly higher mark-up but are well chosen and represent good value for money, whilst the 2-3 pricier bottles are personal favourites and also some of the very best wines available in Catalunya. 5 Partides, Teixar and Clos Mogador? Sign me up! Most of the wines command around a 40-100% mark-up from retail pricing but there are one or two ‘bargains’ for those seeking it out. It’s very rare to see anyone spending any amount of money on a bottle of Cava, and so they still have a few bottles of Recaredo’s superb Familia Reserva 2005 available for €50 – €5 less than retail price. Take advantage of their very generous 25% discount for bottles bought and taken away and you have yourself a veritable bargain!

Top picks from their current line-up:

Cava – Recaredo Familiar Reserva 2005 – As mentioned above; expensive but stunning. Old vine Xarel.lo and Macabeo aged for 10 years on its lees before disgorgement; a special wine to be enjoyed at leisure and make sure to do so in a white wine glass; the beauty of this wine will be lost in a flute.

White – Raventos I Blanc Silencis 2015 – At the lower end of the price scale at €22 euros a bottle, this is a delicious, vibrant and incredibly fresh expression of Xarel.lo from one of the most exciting projects in Catalunya at the moment.

Red – Cal Batllet Diatra 2013 – The baby brother of 5 Partides, at €23 euros a bottle in a restaurant this is terrific value. Smoky, dark and very Priorat. Perhaps not an ideal companion for the summer months, but the air-conditioned interior of Eldiset allows a temporary reprieve from the heat, so why not!

The Space

Eldiset is a small but organised bar, split evenly between the front and the back. Very simply, the front is designed for not much than 30 persons and has more of a casual approach; high stools set around the bar itself, 3-4 small tables and one larger table. The back by comparison is where you’d want to go for a longer experience such as dinner, as the seating is lower, more comfortable and the tables set a touch more formally. In total I wouldn’t imagine that the whole bar seats much more than 50-60 persons when completely full, but late at night it’s common to see additional groups standing by the bar waiting for a table to free up, so it can get quite crowded! The décor is modern but really quite restrained, with lots of wood, cream colours and mercifully in Barcelona, air conditioning. The (very) small kitchen is behind the bar itself and the space has been maximised really as much as possible.

The Food

Now we come onto the other major part of Eldisets success; excellent food at reasonable prices, served unpretentiously. The star of the show here are the ‘Torradas’ or ‘Tostadas’, which is essentially a flat, crispy bread with different toppings. Eldiset serve a whopping 15 different styles of these torradas, with each being a carefully constructed flavour combination. Personal favourites include the guacamole, parmesan cheese and chilli peppers torrada, or for a sweet-touch try the raspberry jam, blue cheese and green apple torrada, finished with roasted crushed nuts. They’re served in pairs on a black slate and are ideal for sharing, so if you go with a friend/partner, order two and try both!

Aside from that, there is a smaller section for more traditional foods including plates of Iberian ham, cheese, octopus and other items. Whilst these can be very nice, the delicious torradas for me are what defines Eldiset and also represents the best value for money. Having said that, the salmon tartar with ginger is quite lovely and pairs beautifully with a glass of Sumoll. There’s also a pairing menu option that I haven’t had the pleasure of trying yet, serving 4 courses with 4 glasses of wine for €39.

Conclusion

Eldiset is probably the best wine bar in the Born at the moment, and certainly one of the best in the city. Now it’s becoming better known it’s increasingly more difficult to wander in and grab a space at the bar, but it’s well worth booking a table, bringing a friend or two and turning into the focus of the evening itself. There’s not many places where a combination of excellent, well priced local wine and food go together so readily and when friends visit from the UK, it’s often one of the first places I take them to. I’m already looking forward to visiting for an evening this August and as always, I get particularly excited when it comes to the changing of their wine list. Keep your eyes peeled this Autumn for some new and delicious wines coming to their menu. Make sure to read the tips below and go enjoy an evening at Eldiset!

Tips

Eldiset is not a large place and the tables book up quickly, especially those at the back. Make sure to call and book a table at least a day in advance to avoid disappointment; reservations are only taken by phone but fear not, the staff all speak a good level of English.

Failing the above, go early. Eldiset gets very busy from 9pm onwards but from 7-9, it tends to be quite subdued. Ideal for an early dinner and better yet, to interact with the staff a little.

This is likely to be a tip in every entry I make into Barcelona By the Glass, but make sure to ask for help if you’re not sure about the wine, food or pairing. Not every member of staff has formal wine education but they all know the wines they serve well, as well as which food to match it with.

The first time I visited Eldiset and went to use the bathroom, I assumed the door was locked as it looks like a sliding door and…well.. it wouldn’t slide. Don’t be silly like me and give it a good push instead. Looks can be deceiving!

As is so often the case, the more expensive wines tend to be the better value when ordering by the bottle, with a much lower mark-up vs retail prices. If you’re going to order a bottle to share, consider trading up a bit and getting more bang for your buck.

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