The colourful label of this wine reminds me of another Lisbon red, Porta 6, though I don’t believe they are related. The blend here is 40% Tinta Roriz (a.k.a. Tempranillo), 30% Alicante Bouschet and 30% Syrah. The vineyards are fairly young (around 15 years of age) on clay calcarous soils close to the coast. This all makes for a fruit-forward, easy drinking wine, though with plenty of body and richness.
The fruits cover quite a spectrum – red, blue and black, with a nice lick of vanilla. There are some gentle tannins to give a bit of structure, but this is a wine to be enjoyed now rather than several years hence. Drink with lamb tagine, marinated barbecue dishes or just with Friends…
RRP: €13.99 down to €10.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
Casa de La Ermita Lunatico Jumilla Monastrell 2019
The label shows a cyclist riding a penny farthing on the moon, so that’s definitely one version of a “lunatic”! Jumilla is in south eastern Spain to has plenty of the sunshine required to fully ripen Monastrell, known as Mourvèdre in France. By far the most important variety in Jumilla, it makes up 100% of this bottle.
After fermentation it spends 12 months in French barriques, the effects of which are certainly apparent on the palate – there’s a really creamy vanilla aspect to the wine against which the rich fruit is set. In the grand scheme of things the Lunatico isn’t a million miles away from the Fado about, but it’s bigger, bolder and a little more serious. €14 is a steal for this wine!
RRP: €19.99 down to €13.39 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
Priorat is something of an insider’s pick, the sort of wine that’s not common on supermarket shelves in these parts, and seldom inexpensive. This is an “entry level” Priorat, designed to be approachable and refreshing but also affordable. Like many wines from Priorat it’s a blend of local varieties and some from across the northern border: 38% Garnacha (Grenache), 32% Syrah, 26% Carignan and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon.
In the glass it has a dark core and a purple rim. The nose has notes of strawberries and blackberries, blackcurrant, spice and a touch of black olive. There’s a nice custard creaminess as well. The palate has a pleasing richness and body, but not too jammy. There are tangy black fruits and vanilla, but the acidity keeps it all in balance. A touch of tannin features on the finish, but it’s not too drying. This is a pretty good wine for the normal RRP, very good for the offer price!
RRP: €19.99 down to €13.39 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
Make yourself comfortable, because this is a different kind of wine entirely. La Única is the result of a collaboration between famous Argentine artist Marinao Rinaldi Goñi and the Solís family who make wine across northern Spain. The fourth edition is a blend of Tempranillo under its local names in different wine regions: 60% Tinto Fino from Ribero del Duero, 30% Tempranillo from Rioja and 10% Tinta de Toro from Toro. The final blend is the result of extensive tasting with renowned Spanish and international wine experts, partially virtual for the fourth edition due to Covid.
The nose immediately announces this as a special wine. It’s perfumed, wild, and oaky, with fresh red and black fruits. It’s the sort of nose that could prevent you from drinking – as you don’t want to tear your nose away from the glass! The palate is so juicy and alive, with a cornucopia of red fruits dancing on your tongue. It has heft but isn’t heavy; it has freshness and richness at the same time. This is a truly exceptional wine.
And the price? . As so many wines get promoted at half price, there’s a tendancy to view half price offers with scepticism – has the regular price been inflated just so that the wine can go on a half price promotion? I can categorically state that this is not the case with this wine – the only issue is that many stores have already sold their allocations.
RRP: €49.99 down to €25.00 from 10th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022
We’ve already had a look at two easy drinking whites from the Lidl Ireland September Wine Event, so now it’s the turn of a couple of inexpensive reds. They hail from neighbouring countries, are the same price, have the same alcohol content and even share a grape variety – but are they alike and are they different in quality? Read on…
Torre de Ferro Dão Reserva 2018
The Dão doesn’t have the name recognition that other Portuguese wine regions have in these islands, but that’s good news for drinkers who don’t mind exploring a little further afield. Red wines make up around 80% of total production and are made from Touriga Nacional (which must be at least 20% of the blend), Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo), Jaen (aka Mencia), and Alfrocheiro Preto. Whites are mainly made from Encruzado with Bical and Malvasia Fina also making an appearance.
Unlike in some countries (Chile, I’m looking at you!), Reserva in Portugal has a formal meaning: wines have to be 0.5% higher in alcohol than the minimum for the particular DO they come from, and have to spend both a year and barrel and a year in bottle before release.
Torre de Ferro is true to the local style, being made from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Alfrocheiro Preto. It is close to opaque in the glass yet has a distinctly purple rim. The nose is fantastic, combining spice, earth, red and black fruits. In the mouth it is a sappy, easy drinking wine. It shows red fruits, framed by very gentle tannins, and finishes with fresh acidity. For autumn into winter, this is a great wine to have on hand.
Stockists:Lidl Ireland stores
Cepa Lebrel Rioja Gran Reserva 2011
Spanish wine quality levels are predicated on ageing in wood and in bottle, with the assumption that only the best fruit is used for wines that undergo the longest ageing. From youngest to oldest, the scale is Joven – Crianza – Reserva – Gran Reserva. While there are some moves away from this nomenklatura, it remains the established system.
So here we have a modestly-priced Rioja with the Gran Reserva label, and ten years old at that! When poured the red brick rim already gives an indication of its (relative) age. The nose is quite unusual – dried cranberries and strawberries are set against a wild, almost savage backdrop; this is mainly the results of significant ageing but could also be due to hints of brett and / or volatile acidity. The palate is medium bodied, lithe, and continues the journey that the nose began.
No doubt about it, this is a very different wine from those normally seen in supermarkets, especially so-called discounters. I would hesitate to recommend this for the very casual wine drinker, but for those open to something a little different I give it a whole-hearted thumbs up!
Stockists:Lidl Ireland stores
Although these wines have lots in common they are remarkably different. The Torre de Ferro Dão is a worthy wine, though a safe choice; the Cepa Lebrel Gran Reserva offers a taste of mature Rioja that usually costs several times the price, and for that it narrowly wins the contest for me.
Other wines included in the Lidl Ireland September Wine Cellar
Limited edition wines from Spain and Portugal at Lidl Ireland
Once again a new batch of limited release wines are going to be released into Lidl Ireland stores. The majority are red, plus one sweet white and two dry whites reviewed here. The others are listed at the bottom of this article.
Nivei Rioja Blanco 2018
White Rioja is traditionally mainly Viura, the same grape known as Macabeo in Catalonia, but since 2007 it can be made with up to nine different varieties:
Traditional varieties:Viura, Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca
Newly allowed local varieties:Maturana Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco and Turruntés
New non-local varieties:Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo
In finest Countdown Numbers Game fashion, this wine is made with one from the top row, two from the middle row and three from the bottom row (all in blue), though percentages were not available.
I have to be honest and admit that I committed a schoolboy error tasting this wine; on a warm, muggy day I poured myself a big glass from the fridge and sipped away. Of course it was nicely chilled, but far too chilled for tasting – it showed very little on the nose or the palate, but it was pleasant enough so I just mentalled tagged it as an inexpensive, inoffensive white wine. However, as I’d left the bottle out of the fridge, when I poured another glass the wine had opened up considerably! Aromas of citrus and stone fruit held my attention, then those notes followed through as flavours on the palate, lovely and tangy. For €9 it’s well worth a try.
Stockists: Lidl Ireland
Encostas de Caiz Vinho Verde 2019
Vinho Verde is the northern Portuguese wine region famous for its young (literally “green”) fresh whites. Around one in seven bottles is actually red, though they are seldom seen in Ireland or the UK. Vinho Verde has nine sub-regions, though it is rare to see their names on bottles apart from the most prestigious Monção e Melgaço.
The white grapes used in the region are classed as either “recommended” or “permitted” varieties:
Recommended white grapes:Alvarinho, Arinto, Avesso, Azal, Batoca, Loureiro, and Trajadura
Permitted white grapes: Branco-Escola, Cainho de Moreira, Cascal, Douradinha, Esganinho, Esganoso de Castelo de Paiva, Esganoso de Lima, Fernão Pires, Lameiro, Rabigato, S. Mamede and Semilão
This wine helpfully gives the single variety on the front label – Avesso – and states the sub-region on the back label – Amarante. Avesso is known for its ability to produce higher than average alcohol for Vinho Verde, substantial body yet with good acidity. This example is true to form, being clean and fresh yet with plenty of oomph behind its stone and citrus fruits. There’s also a nice mineral streak which makes this much more complex than many of the wines available at Lidl. This is a must try summer white.
Stockists: Lidl Ireland
Other wines included in the event
Vespral Reserva Terra Alta 2016 €7.99
Fincas del Lebrel Rioja Reserva 2015 €12.99
Cardal Tejo 2019 €7.99
Pinha do Ribeiro Santa Dão 2019 €9.99
Saumur Champigny 2019 €9.99
Château Calvimont Graves 2018 €11.99
Domaine Tournants Lirac 2019 €11.99
How To Avoid Everything Western Cape Merlot €9.99 (South Africa)
Chloe California Pinot Noir 2019 €11.99 (USA)
Luna de Finca la Anita Grand Reserve Malbec €8.99 (Argentina)
White Rioja gets far less attention and plaudits compared to red Rioja, mainly due to the fact that white varieties only account for 10% of the total vines in the region. However, when one particular white Rioja recently received a glowing review from Tim Atkin I thought it would be interesting to try. I subsequently saw that Tim had given an early vintage of the same wine his “Wine of the Year” tag in 2017. Before we look at the wine itself, we start with a refresher on the Rioja wine region and a brief background on the producer, Conde Valdemar.
The Rioja Wine Region
Administrative divisions and sub-regions
Although Rioja is Spain’s most famous wine region, there are differences between the area of the DOCa and the administrative divisions of the area. There have also been a few name changes over time, confusing things further. To sum up, the wine region extends into four administrative areas:
La Rioja (formerly Lagroño)¹
Álava/Araba: a province in the Basque country
Navarra: historically part of the Basque region, but not currently included in the Basque Autonomous Community²
Burgos:just a tiny part of Burgos for a single vineyard: Hacienda El Ternero³
As can be seen from the map above, the bulk of the Rioja wine region is within the Autonomous Community of La Rioja. The sub-regions are partly based on politics, partly on geography:
Rioja Alavesa: 17 municipalities, entirely within Álava from whence it takes its name
Rioja Alta: literally “Upper Rioja” consisting of 80 municipalities of La Rioja and 1 in Burgos
Rioja Oriental (formerly Rioja Baja): literally “Eastern Rioja”, nowadays preferred to “Lower Rioja” which has intimations of low quality, consisting of 42 municipalities in La Rioja and 8 in Navarra.
Structure of Rioja wine trade and 21st century innovations
Although there was a lot of influence and interest from Bordeaux producers in the later part of the nineteenth century, at a high level the Rioja wine trade is more like that of Champagne than Bordeaux; there has long been a distinction – or even divide – between small grape growers and large wine producers.
Wines often consist of several different grapes from across different sub-regions; Rioja Alta tends to be somewhat reserved due to its altitude, Rioja Alavesa is a bit more generous while higher in acidity and Rioja Oriental can be very high in alcohol though a little less elegant. A blend of the three is often the best compromise, though the wine can lack a sense of place and exceptional plots may ended up being blended away.
Two innovations in Rioja this century have had a small affect so far but will be increasingly important in the region. The first has been the addition of new permitted grape varieties in 2007: Maturata Tinta (Jura’s Trousseau), Maturana blanca, Tempranillo Blanco, Turruntés, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo. Of course it will take time for these varieties to be planted in the places most suitable for them, but in my opinion this is a good initiative – particularly for the white grapes – as Viura can be too neutral and some of the new grapes have more recognition among customers.
The second initiative is much more recent; in 2017 the Rioja wine authorities announced new label indications including Single Vineyard (Viñedo Singular), Zone and Village names. The hope is that the cream will rise to the top and more top quality wines will emerge.
Family and History
The story begins with Joaquín Martínez Bujanda who began making wine in 1889. His son Marcelino then grandson Jesús both followed into the family business. It was the third and fourth generations – both called Jesús – who set up Conde Valdemar itself in 1985. Today the winery is in the hands of fourth generation Jesús plus his son and daughter Jesús and Ana; the fifth generation are spearheading the family’s fortunes in Valdemar Estates in the USA.
The family has gradually expanded their holdings over the years, and bottles wines from their own estates separately. A notable addition was the 1982 purchase of Finca del Marquesado which is now planted with over 180 hectares of vines.
White Rioja has consistently been championed by Conde Valdemar; they were the first to plant Viura in Alto Cantabria in 1975 and the first winery to make a 100% Tempranillo Blanco wine in 2005. In between these vineyard firsts they were also the first winery to make a 100% barrel-fermented and -matured Spanish white wine in 1988.
Conde Valdemar Wine Range
There are five distinct wine ranges within the Conde Valdemar portfolio; three in Rioja, one in Ribero del Duero and one in Washington State. Unusually for Rioja, Conde Valdemar only produces wine from its own grapes.
Valdemar Lands / Estate Wines
Finca del Marquesado
Fincas Valdemacuco (Ribera del Duero)
Valdemar Estates (USA)
Details of the wines in each range are given at the bottom of this article.
Finca Alto Cantabria
This map (Credit: Conde Valdemar) shows the three grapes planted on the 23.3 hectare site: Viura, Tempranillo Blanco and Tempranillo, with the first accounting for 8.6 hectares. The vineyard is at 489 metres above sea level, 114 metres above the River Ebro. The steep inclines at the edge of the site and strong winds help to avoid frosts and humidity which leads to disease pressure. The soils are a combination of limestone and sandy loam.
Conde Valdemar Finca Alto Cantabria 2019
So here we have a wine from a high altitude vineyard which is particularly suited to white grapes and has been classified as a “Viñedo Singular”. As mentioned above this is a 100% Viura wine, but the excellence of the site helps it to exceed the limitations of the variety; a longer growing season means that the grapes can develop fantastic aromas and flavours by the time sugar maturity is reached.
After being hand harvested into shallow boxes the grapes are first temperature stabilised before being pressed. Fermentation of the free run juice begins in stainless steel tanks before being transferred into French oak barrels. The wine matures in barrel for six months with weekly lees stirring.
In the glass this wine is a mid straw yellow. On the nose, oak dominates initially but then gives way to citrus and stone fruits with enticing blossom notes. The palate is complex and smooth, full of ripe fruit and nutty notes, succulent and viscous, rich ripe and vibrant.
This is among the top few white Riojas I have ever tried and represents exceptional value for money.
RRP:€26 – €27
Stockists: wineonline.ie; The Wine House, Trim
Source: media sample
These are the Bodega’s original wines:
Conde Valdemar Tempranillo: 100% Tempranillo, made using a blend of carbonic and traditionally fermented grapes
Conde Valdemar Crianza: 90% Tempranillo, 5% Garnacha & 5% Mazuelo, matured in American oak barrels for 19 months
Conde Valdemar Reserva: 80% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, 5% Maturana [aka Trousseau, Bastardo] & 5% Garnacha, matured for 27 months in American (65%) and French oak (35%) barrels
Conde Valdemar Gran Reserva: Old vines; 85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano & 5% Garnacha, matured for 36 months in French (50%) and American (50%) barriques
Conde Valdemar Edición Limitada: a modern style Rioja made from 60% Tempranillo, 25% Maturana & 15% Graciano, matured for 24 months in French (60%) and American (40%)oak barrels
Whites and Rosés:
Conde Valdemar Rosé:75% Garnacha & 25% Mazuelo
Conde Valdemar Blanco: A traditional white Rioja blend of 60% Viura, 25% Tempranillo Blanco & 15% Malvasía.
Conde Valdemar Tempranillo Blanco: 100% Tempranillo Blanco
Conde Valdemar Finca Alto Cantabria: 100% Viura from a single vineyard – further details below
Valdemar Lands / Estate Wines
These are very limited edition wines made from specific single vineyards and single varieties
La Recaja Tempranillo: 100% Tempranillo from a two hectare portion of La Recaja vineyard in Rioja Alavesa, matured for 16 months in French oak barrels
Las Seis Alhajas Graciano: Named “The Six Jewels” after six different clones of Graciano planted as a trial in 1991 to bring the grape back from the brink of disappearance. Matured for 29 months in new, fine-grained American oak barrels.
Balcón de Pilatos Maturana: A revival of the Maturana grape which had disappeared in Rioja during the phylloxera crisis, matured for 13 months in new, fine-grained American oak barrels
Finca del Marquesado
An estate in the east of Rioja, yet at a considerable altitude of 600 m.a.s.l., particularly suitable for Garnacha:
Finca del Marquesado Rosado: 75% Garnacha & 25% Mazuelo
Finca del Marquesado Crianza: 75% Tempranillo & 25% Garnacha, matured for 13 months in American oak barrels
Finca del Marquesado Selección: 80% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano & 10% Garnacha, matured for 12 months in French and American oak barrels
La Gargantilla Garnacha Single Estate Wine: 100% Garnacha from La Gargantilla vineyard, matured for 7 months in French Allier barriques
La Gargantilla Tempranillo Single Estate Wine: 100% Tempranillo from La Gargantilla vineyard, matured for 15 months in French (60%) and American (40%) fine-grained oak barrels
Wines from the Valdemar family’s new outpost in Ribero del Duero:
Fincas Valdemacuco Crianza: 100% Tempranillo from selected vineyards in the area of Nava de Roa (Burgos), matured for 4 months in French (70%) and American (30%) oak barrels
Fincas Valdemacuco Roble: 100% Tempranillo from selected vineyards in the area of Nava de Roa (Burgos), matured for 5 months in American oak barrels
Valdemar Estates (USA)
The family’s newest venture in Walla Walla, Washington State. This was driven by Jesús and Ana Martínez Bujanda
Valdemar Estates Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Klipsun Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA, matured in French oak (60% new, 40% 3 years old) for 18 months
Valdemar Estates Dubrul Vineyard Chardonnay: Barrel-fermented Chardonnay from the Dubrul Vineyard in Yakima Valley, matured for 12 months in French oak (22% new, 78% 3 years old)
Valdemar Estates Blue Mountain Syrah:100% Syrah from the Blue Mountain Vineyard in Walla Walla, matured for 12 months in neutral French oak
¹ The initial letters of Lagroño, Álava and Navarra were the origin of the name of Bodegas LAN, a well known producer.
² The Rioja DOCa extends into the south west part of the Autonomous Community of Navarre, separate from the Navarra DO which is further north.
While the Remelluri estate’s origins hark back over six hundred years, the Rodríguez family’s involvement started relatively recently in 1967 when Jaime Rodríguez bought the key vineyards. They lie on the high slopes of the Sierra de Toloño mountains – at a high altitude, but with a southerly exposure and protected from overly harsh weather. Significant diurnal temperature swings help the grapes to become fully ripe yet retain flavour and acidity.
Chemicals have never been used in the vineyards but the organic approach has been extended to a holistic system; far from being a monoculture, the estate has fruit groves and hedges to maintain a natural balance.
After decades spent raising the bar in Rueda, Ribero del Duero and Galicia, prodigal son Telmo Rodríguez returned to Rioja in 2010 and set about further developing the Remelluri estate. Amongst his initiatives are reexamining old training systems and evaluating the best variety for each specific plot and microclimate.
There are currently five wines in the Remelluri range:
Lindes de Remelluri ‘Viñedos de San Vicente’
Lindes de Remelluri ‘Viñedos de Labastida’
Granja Remelluri Gran Reserva
The two Lindes wines are made from the grapes of growers in the surrounding villages. Now we turn our attention to the top wine in the stable:
Remelluri “Granje Remelluri” Gran Reserva 2012
The “Granje Remelluri” Gran Reserva is made only in the best years, and then only in very small quantities. The blend for 2012 breaks down as 70% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha and 5% Graciano.
The vines selected for the Gran Reserva vary in age from 40 to over 90 years old and are at elevations between 480m and 705m. Vinification takes place in small wooden vats with ambient yeasts, followed by maturation for 24 months in a variety of seasoned oak vessels from 225L barriques up to 2,000L foudres. After bottling the wine is kept in Remelluri’s cellars for a further five years before release.
This is an epic, immense wine still in the early stages of youth. The nose has a cornucopia of fruit: blackberries, plums, black cherries and wild strawberries joined by cedar, exotic spice and vanilla from the oak. It is warming and powerful in the mouth, with dark fruits and vanilla, yet with elegance and freshness. No shrinking violet this, it’s a substantial wine that would be best with hearty food now or to be kept for the long haul. If I had the spare readies I’d be opening one every couple of years.
In these unusual times, we all need a lift from time to time. As a change to my usual wine reviews I’ve decided to start a fun and irreverent series on matching wine and music. The basic idea is that I give participants:
A piece of music –> they suggest a wine to go with it, with an explanation
A wine –> they suggest a piece of music to go with it
It’s all for fun, so please don’t slag off anybody’s taste music (or wine!) Thanks to Michelle Williams for the inspiration – she has been matching songs to wine for years on her Rockin Red Blog.
For our seconding outing into the world of wine and music matching I am delighted to present the musings of Tim from Soliciting Flavours. I don’t know what it is about his writing style but I could enjoy reading his review of the opening of a door or a glass of water.
With my suggestions to people in this series I have tried to be kind rather than obscure – after all, they are doing me a massive favour by writing for me – so I picked a Spanish wine for Tim as he is such a hispanophile. What I didn’t specify was the vintage; I’ve only tasted the most recent release (2005 I believe) available in Ireland but Tim has gone back much further!
As Tim professed to be somewhat old-fashioned in his musical taste I picked something orchestral for him, a piece which I know best from the film Platoon. Another interesting take is William Orbit’s version taken from his album “Pieces in a Modern Style” or the dancey-trancy Ferry Corsten remix which – I’d imagine – features on many a gym bunny’s playlist.
“When I was asked by Frankie to participate in this exercise, I was rather daunted. My musical taste is somewhat dated, with nothing remotely contemporary on my quite small “what I listen to” list. Would I recognise the piece of music and what on earth would I pair music wise with the wine Frankie chose? Would I end up pairing a Breaky Bottom wine with the Cheeky Girl’s ” Touch my bum” 😱?
As it happened both the music piece and the wine came to me pretty much instantly on receiving my instructions from Frankie.
Viña Tondonia Blanco
Viña Tondonia Blanco is certainly a unique wine. Made by arch traditionalist R. Lopez de Heredia, whose cellars are thick with mould and cobwebs, it has a glorious golden hue and the gran reservas can age for probably as long as the sun shines. To my mind never has the quote from Galileo (who knew a thing or two) that “wine is sunlight held together by water” been more apt for a wine.
The piece I have paired with this wine is Golden Brown by the Stranglers. It is a quirky number with a quite oldie worldie feel to it (like Tondonia) from the liberal use by David Greenfield (RIP) of the harpsichord. I saw someone refer to it as a song that could be a hit in 1981 and 1681. Timeless like Tondonia.
It is a song about passion (for a girl and heroin – not a missing “e” there I am afraid) and once I acquired a taste for Vina Tondonia Blanco it became a wine I am quite passionate about.
The first verse goes as follows:
“Golden brown, texture like sun
Lays me down, with my mind she runs
Throughout the night, no need to fight
Never a frown with golden brown.”
This verse sums up Vina Tondonia Blanco to me, a wine that looks like bottled sunlight, that can be laid down for eons. Not one to fight its golden embrace, it is a wine never brings a frown to my face (other than, perhaps, when I had to pay the bill for the 1991 Gran Reservas of it I have in the wine room).
Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings
In terms of the piece of music Frankie chose for me, Adagio for Strings is hauntingly beautiful piece. It builds layer upon layer with multiple climaxes before gently fading to an end. It is a piece that has been described by a critic as “…something as perfect in mass and detail as his craftsmanship permits”.
This is how I feel about Bodegas Muga’s Prado Enea. I love Rioja and out of all Riojas I probably love Prado Enea the most. At a tasting earlier this year lead by Jorge Muga, which included Prados from 1985 to 2011 (as well as various Torre Muga and Aro wines), the 2001 Prado was the star of the show.
It is a magical wine that makes me thank the gods/the randomness of the universe for placing geniuses amongst us and giving them the tools to make such great wine. Beautifully elegant, with primary, secondary and tertiary notes of dark fruit, spice, cigar box, tobacco, dried meat and citrus in the mix. Gloriously complex on the nose and the palate.
It had great length, lingering and developing on the palate for an age, with multiple climaxes of flavour, before slowly fading into the night.
Drinking this wine whilst listen to Adagio for Strings seems perfect to me.
Tim is a food and wine obsessed Cardiff based lawyer, with a particular passion for Spanish food and wine, who blogs under the pseudonym “Soliciting Flavours“. Catch him on Twitter and Instagram.”
Bodegas Roda were founded as recently as 1987 but have already forged a reputation for excellence. They have evaluated over 552 Tempranillo clones before settling on the best 20 to plant going forward. French – rather that American – oak barrels are used for maturation, yet the oak treatment is always in balance with the fruit.
Sela is the “entry level” from Roda, with fruit hand harvested from 15 to 30 year old bush vines. Maturation is for 12 months in seasoned French oak. Of course, this wine could be labelled as a Crianza, but that term has a cheap and cheerful image in Spain, definitely not fitting for Bodegas Roda! The blend is 87% Tempranillo, 7% Graciano and 6% Garnacha giving fresh red and black fruit. Sela is an easy drinking style but also has the elegance to be served at the table.
The Roda Reserva is a clear step up from the Sela. While the blend is almost identical – 86% Tempranillo, 6% Graciano and 8% Garnacha – the vines are all over 30 year old and yields are lower, both aiding concentration. Alcoholic fermentation is in French oak vats followed by malolacic fermentation in French oak barrels (40% new, 60% second use) where the wine then matures for 14 months. When bottled the Reserva is kept in Roda’s cellars for a further two and a half years before release.
The nose has red and black cherries, strawberries and raspberries with vanilla and smoky notes from the oak, and hints of cinnamon. The wine feels thick and viscous in the mouth with the fruit aromas coming through to the palate. The Roda Reserva is a vibrant wine, still in the flushes of youth, but should continue to evolve for the next decade or two.
The main difference between Roda I and Roda (formerly Roda II) is in flavour profile – for Roda I grapes are picked from old bush vines which tend to show more black fruit characteristics rather than the red fruit of Roda. The blend is Tempranillo dominated (96%) with a seasoning of Graciano (4%). The oak regime is slightly different as well – the barrels are 50% new and ageing in barrel is for 16 months.
While obviously sharing some house similarities with its junior sibling, this is a different wine altogether, much more complex. The nose is more perfumed and expressive with black fruit, smoky oak, earthiness and chocolate. These notes continue through to the palate where some dried fruit and mineral flavours join them. The mouth is voluptuous and soothing. Fine grained tannins help to make a savoury, satisfying dry finish. Although this would be a real treat to drink on its own it would shine even brighter with food.
You can read the full background on this wine in my recent post on the 2012, so I won’t repeat that here. The blend is consistent at 92% Sangiovese and 8% Malvasia Nera & Colorino and the oak regime is the same. The 2015 is from a slightly warmer year so the exact alcohol reading is 14.26% versus 13.73% for the 2012; not a huge difference but an indication of the vintage. This is a fabulous wine, really smooth but tangy and fresh, with red and black fruit bursting out of the glass. Mazzei give it an ageing potential of 20 years but when wine is this good it would be really difficult not to drink now!
It does seem to this cynic that any IGT Toscana with French grapes in the blend is classed as a “Super Tuscan” these days, but this is truly deserving of the epithet. Siepi is named after the six hectare estate vineyard from where the grapes are sourced – one of Mazzei’s best – and has been produced since 1992. The blend is 50% Sangiovese and 50% Merlot; the varieties are picked at different times (17 days earlier for the Merlot which is known to be an early ripener in Bordeaux) and are given different maceration times (14 days for Merlot, 18 days for Sangiovese). Ageing is for 18 months in French barriques, 70% new and 30% used.
This 2016 was released in October 2018 and tasted 12 months later. It was still a little shy and closed, but already showing flashes of its future grandeur. To depart from my usual style of tasting notes, drinking this wine was like sitting in front of a warm fire on a big, well-worn sofa with soft cushions. As I write during Storm Dennis, that would be most welcome!
The Irish off-licence chain O’Briens has various promotions on throughout the year, but probably the most eagerly awaited is the annual Fine Wine Sale. This year it runs from Monday 9th to Sunday 15th December. Below are the wines I’d be snapping up this year. Note that I haven’t necessarily tried the vintage stated of each wine, but I have tasted them often enough over the years to comfortably recommend them.
Gaia SantoriniAssyrtiko Wild Ferment 2016 (13.0%, €24.95 down to €22.95 at O’Briens)
I have previously written about the 2013 and 2016 vintages of this wine as well as its younger brother Monograph, and tasted it many times in between; it remains one of my favourite “mid-priced” white wines available in Ireland.
Cloudy Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (13.0%, €35.95 down to €24.95 at O’Briens)
An iconic wine at a very reasonable price! I recently tried the 2017 (which was maturing nicely) and the 2019 which, for such a young wine, was surprisingly settled and ready to go
Julien Brocard Chablis La Boissoneuse 2018 (12.5%, €29.95 down to €25.95 at O’Briens)
The 2017 vintage was #1 in my Top 10 Whites of 2019 so any reduction in price of this fantastic organic, biodynamic Chablis makes it worth snapping up!
Chanson Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2017 (12.5%, €34.95 down to €24.95 at O’Briens)
Chanson has been part of the Bollinger group for two decades and produces consistently good wines. This Montmains is an excellent Premier Cru and while delicious now, deserves another five years or so before being opened.
Man O’War Waiheke Island Valhalla Chardonnay 2017 (14.5%, €32.95 down to €28.95 at O’Briens)
I wrote about the 2010 vintage (in 2014) the 2011 (in 2016) and the 2016 (earlier this year) and loved them all. This is a fairly full on Chardonnay which will please those who like bold wines – and that includes me.
L’Ostal Cazes Minervois La Livinière Grand Vin 2015 (14.5%, €23.95 down to €20.95 at O’Briens)
The JM Cazes family who have long owned Lynch Bages in Bordeaux have spread their interests to the Rhône and Languedoc, amongst other places. In my not-so-humble-opinion this Minervois La Livinère is the best value wine in their portfolio.
Château Franc-Maillet Pomerol 2015 (13.5%, €48.00 down to €42.00 at O’Briens)
The 2014 of this wine was very good, so the even better vintage of 2015 is definitely worth a shout. This wine is worthy of a place on my Christmas dinner table, so it’s definitely worthy of yours, too!
Sierra Cantabria Rioja Gran Reserva 2008 (14.0%, €32.95 down to €23.95 at O’Briens)
If you like Tempranillo-based wines but tend to favour Ribero del Duero, this a Rioja house which can match the black fruited savoury wines from there. I have previously tried the 2010 Crianza which was great, but a Gran Reserva from 2008 should be even more of a stunner!
d’Arenberg McLaren Vale Dead Arm Shiraz 2015 (14.6%, €54.95 down to €44.95 at O’Briens)
While Penfolds Grange prices have rocketed off into the stratosphere, here’s an iconic Aussie wine that is (relatively) more affordable – and approachable at a younger age, too, though if you manage to keep your hands away it will last for a decade or two.
Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (13.8%, €80 down to €68 at O’Briens)
The (virtual) ink has only just dried on my review of the 2012 vintage of this wine but it’s already included in the fine wine sale. If you want to treat yourself for Christmas (2019 or 2029) then this is a great bet!
In Rioja, the four options above aren’t readily available, so for its new plantings of Chardonnay, major producer El Coto followed a different path: the only way is up (the mountain)! As highlighted on the label, the vineyard is at 875 metres, the highest point in the whole of Rioja. The altitude promotes acidity and minerality, while the longer growing season allows some light tropical notes to show through. The barrels used for fermentation are not toasted (steam is used to bend them into shape instead of a fire) so the oak notes are not overly prominent, with just a touch of vanilla added to the citrus.
This is no Meursault wannabe, it’s far more subtle than that. Keeping with the Burgundy parallels, I’d say a closer description would be Chablis 1er Cru from a warm vintage – a great effort indeed for a new variety in Rioja!
And for those who may remember it, here’s the track I referenced in the article title:
For winelovers, Christmas is a time when we look forward to drinking – and even sharing – a special bottle or two. This might be a classic wine with traditional fare or just something different we’ve wanted to try for a while. I asked some wine loving friends what they were looking forward to and they have kindly agreed to write a blog post for me.
Kerri Judge is the Marketing Manager of Febvre, an importer who has been a stalwart of the Irish wine trade for over 50 years and who represent a few of my favourite producers.
One of my favourites at Christmas is from the family owned estate of Bodegas Valdemar in Rioja. Their Conde Valdemar Gran Reserva 2008 is rich and so very smooth. Lovely dark brambly fruits with a touch of vanilla and spice with soft tannins.
A perfect glass on its own, with a piece of hard cheese like Hegarty’s Cheddar or with a melt in your mouth piece of fillet beef sliced thinly with a drizzle of olive oil and salt. Also, great I found with leftover Turkey and Ham fried up the day after Christmas with a bit of stuffing.
Conde Valdemar Gran Reserva 2008(13.5%): on promotion this Christmas at €20 (usually €32) in O’Briens and Independent Off-Licences.
I always have a bottle of the Warre’s Otima 10 year old Tawny Port in the fridge at Christmas. A glass of Otima watching It’s a Wonderful Life with a bowl of walnuts and the fire lit on Christmas Eve is my idea of Christmas!
Think a rich fruit cake – dried fruits, orange peel, caramel and honey flavours with a toasty finish and great length. Chilling the Otima cuts the taste of Alcohol and enhances the fruit flavours.
Warre’s Otima 10 year old Tawny Port(20.0%): available at around €28 (50cl bottle) at Independent Off-Licences and selected SuperValu Stores.