Jonathan Pedley MW on the Spanish Revolution

(in wines, that is…)

Close on the heels of every MW’s ultimate boondoggle, the International Symposium (hosted in Logroño, Rioja), comes a tasting to explore all that is new in Spanish wine. Is there a new Revolution? Let’s see.

The evening started rather later than planned due to an unthoughtful lorry overturning and massively delaying the arrival of our speaker for the evening. Perhaps more importantly he had the wines…

On discovering that we did not have a contact number, and between us we had more MW phone numbers in our contacts than we had thought, we started the hunt. In the meantime we considered back up plans involving recently qualified DipWSET members along with some intervention by the Rev. Karen Hyde. All to no avail.

Then just when all hope was drained, like the last drop of the 2005 Bordeaux you just opened, Jonathan appeared! Whilst the red wines quickly uncorked and the whites placed in the chiller, we had a quick introduction to the history of Spanish “rotgut” wine in the UK, along with Jonathan quickly making enemies of anyone who may have come from Wolverhampton or Hull. He thought himself on a safe wicket at the OWC. Au contraire…

So, moving swiftly on to the Reds (and not the Communist type) the actual tasting began.

The three on offer were:

  • Tempranillo Rioja Alavesa DOCa, Bodegas Landaluce 2017 13.5% £11.50
  • Graciano Crianza “Tuercebotas” Rioja DOCa, Bodegas del Medievo 2015 14% £16.00
  • Old Vines Garnacha “Niño Mimado” Cariñena DOP, Esteban Martín 2013 14.5% €13.00 (approx. Spanish retail)

The first was the freshest and the fruitiest, partly due to vintage but also down to the fact that this wine is the product of carbonic maceration, more typically associated with Beaujolais. A simple and well balanced number made from Tempranillo; arguably the region’s best known and widest grown grape. After this we tried a more classic approach to winemaking from the region with a dark, oaked number. However this time the wine was 100% Graciano; a classic grape but usually only seen as a small element of a blend. Graciano, a major variety in the region pre-phylloxera, is an early budding and late ripening variety and thus not always the easiest to cultivate. Coming from the Baja region, well known for producing deep coloured and more alcoholic wines, this did not disappoint and for many was the pick of the reds this evening. A deep coloured wine with the dark fruits, smoke and well-integrated tannins. Finally, a wine only available to Spanish buyers due to small production coming from 100 year old Garnacha. Displaying more savoury characteristics with a warming alcoholic glow, this more complex and intense offering is a bargain for €13!

By this time the whites were cold and the pouring began. On offer this evening were:

  • Chardonnay/Macabeo Cariñena DOP, Esteban Martín (UK label: Vinem) 2017 13% £7.95
  • Verdejo La Mancha DO, Canforrales 2017 13% £9.00
  • Tempranillo Blanco “Tuercebotas” Rioja DOCa, Bodegas del Medievo 2017 13% £12.00
  • Albariño Rías Baixas DO, Bodegas As Laxas 2017 12.5% £14.50
  • Godello Valdeorras DO, Joaquín Rebolledo 2016 13% £15.50

The opening Chardonnay was a fresh citrus based wine. A solid performer for less than £8. The Verdejo provided a contrasting style that still displayed an ester / pear drop nose and palate from the winemaking process. With hints of lime and a buttery, nutty texture. Next up was a Tempranillo Bianco; cloned from a white mutation of Bodegas del Medievo’s existing vines, this fresh drinking wine sees no oak or MLF (to protect the acidity and freshness) and also displayed some melon and banana. The following Albariño was possibly the pick of the bunch displaying some of the aromatic qualities the variety is well known for, along with more complex melon, grapefruit, lanolin, and green apple. Some richness was imparted from the lees ageing, but again, to preserve freshness and acidity, no oak or MLF is seen. Certainly one that could age. Last up was the Godello, which provided a well balanced wine with good intensity. Not as good value as the Albariño!

The last wine of the evening was a “mystery” sparkling. A rosé.

So the challenge was what was the grape variety? This was after all a tasting of what’s new from Spain. And that’s where we were easily led astray. Tempranillo? No. Garnacha, Graciano? No. This one is Malbec! And it was also from France and collected whilst driving home from the Symposium. Fooled again, much like the “Shy Pig” from a Call My Bluff many years ago (which only qualified as a wine based drink!). So the Bellefleur de Haute-Serre Malbec Rose by Georges Vigouroux concluded the official part of the evening. A rosé by any other name!

So apparently it was Vive la Revolution! Not quite where we started….

Thanks go to the Committee, notably Front of House, the pourers, Cherwell Boat House for the lovely summer surroundings and Jonathan for another highly engaging and entertaining evening, unless you are from Wolverhampton…

Philip Spinks

June 2018