Michel Rolland in town for the launch of Rolland & Galarreta wines

Jun 14, 13 Michel Rolland in town for the launch of Rolland & Galarreta wines

Posted by in Spain

Michel Rolland was in town recently to launch his latest wines, a joint venture with Spanish wine “entrepreneur”Javier Galarreta.  In a nutshell, Michel makes the wines and Javier sells them. They have chosen 3 premium wine regions, Rueda, Rioja and Ribera del Duero to show what they can do from the vineyards of the region. Regardless of how you feel about M. Rolland’s wine making influence, the wines that he consults on are well made. He approached these wines  as wines to drink at the table. “Wine should be drunk with food…sometimes, we (in the trade) forget that people don’t try 70 wines at 9am…” He wants this range of wines to be food and consumer friendly. The Rolland & Galarreta Rueda is made from verdejo coming from vineyards in La Seca, considered to be the premium site in the appellation. A full wine, heavy on the acacia flowers on the nose but having plenty of fruit on the palate and was indeed very good with the Spanish tapas, particularly the jamon and the Spanish goat’s cheese. At first sniff the Rioja was full of oak, vanilla and toast for me but after a while, it calmed down in the glass and became much more contemporary or “modern” in style. It wasn’t hugely complex but was approachable and easy to drink, tasting much lighter on the palate. Michel thinks that Rioja has a lot of potential but that they need to change the rules to make drinkable wines. His goal is to make pleasant and elegant wines. His Rioja is made from 100% tempranillo, no garnacha in sight. The Ribera del Duero was probably my favourite of the evening, a blend of tempranillo and merlot, it was full of blackberry and black cherry on nose, very fresh but luscious at the same time. A pleasure to drink. Michel told us that it was possible to produce quality merlot in this are and the proof was definitely in the pudding. The Ribera had great texcure...

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Sherry en rama, tasting with Beltran Domecq, president of the Sherry Institute

Mar 21, 13 Sherry en rama, tasting with Beltran Domecq, president of the Sherry Institute

Posted by in Spain

Yesterday I had a masterclass of sherry with the recently appointed president of the Sherry Institute (or Consejo Regulador as it’s known in Spanish), Beltran Domecq. Beltran’s family has been involved in sherry for literally centuries, his father is from the Gonzalez family of Gonzalez Byass fame. Beltran was in town in his new role to promote sherry and not just any sherry but en rama,  a style of sherry that has only recently been introduced to the consumer despite being something that has always been relatively easy to produce.  The main difference between fino sherry and en rama is that the sherry is directly taken from the barrel and is minimally treated before being sent off. Fino sherry is usually stabilized, the excessive proteins that can cause cloudiness are removed as well as tartrates and micro-organism that could affect the development or lack there of in the bottle. The result is what some would call a “natural” sherry or sherry in a purer form. The wine is lightly stabilized but the goal is to keep the sherry in it’s “straight from the barrel” form. The result are fino sherries with a lot more colour, body and flavour. “En rama” stays in the barrel between 2-6 years before being bottled. I tasted through a series of 12 different fino en rama sherries and what an experience. This was turbocharged sherry – full bodied, with a pungent and aromatic nose, a dry wine that is long lasting and very savoury. Beltran believes that sherry should be drunk with food and I certainly do agree with him. The drying quality, savouriness and minerality of the “en rama” is perfect to clear your palate for the next mouthful. He suggested the traditional foods of Spain such as manchego cheese and jamon serrano but he also had a few surprising suggestions, including Chinese and Japanese food. Next time I have sushi, I’m going for a sherry. “En rama”, sadly is only available for a short time after it’s...

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Sherry at La Tasca

Dec 10, 12 Sherry at La Tasca

Posted by in restaurants, Spain

It’s that time of year when Gran brings out the sherry. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. I was invited to La Tasca recently in Covent Garden to taste their sherry matching menu. I’m a big fan of sherry and food matching already but I wanted to see what they had put together. Manuel, our waiter, hails from Jerez, the home of sherry, and he explained that he would be guiding us through the basics of sherry. I think it’s great that La Tasca has staff who have sherry knowledge and are able to communicate this to the average consumer. Briefly, sherry is a fortified wine made from palomino and aged in the solera system. Manuel brought out 5 different sherries for us to sample. Tio Pepe Fino Muy Seco, La Gitana Manzanilla, Pedro Ximenez Triana, Oloroso Faraon and Amontillado Napoleon.  Manuel explained the different styles of sherry from the dry Fino muy seco to the very sweet and unctuous Pedro Ximenez. After that brief introduction, the food started arriving. Manuel recommended the classic pairing of jamon and almonds to pair with the Fino, the dry sherry being very refreshing with a salty note to it. I love this pairing. Amontillado was next, paired with cheese, olives and prawns. This sherry was slightly sweeter but still dry with a slightly caramel note to it. Sherry has great acidity which makes it an excellent wine to have with food. The next sherry was the Oloroso and this one is probably my favourite, savoury and salty but with a sweet, caramel nose. Delicious with trad tapas and cheeses, a medium bodied wine, it’s a great all rounder. We finished off with Pedro Ximenez which is a very sweet sherry made from it’s eponymous grape which is dried in the  hot Spanish sun before being made into wine. Manuel recommended that we pour the sherry over vanilla ice cream which we did. PX is full of raisins, prunes and dates on the palate and incredibly...

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Celebrity Cruises with Vinopolis and Oz Clarke this Autumn

Aug 14, 12 Celebrity Cruises with Vinopolis and Oz Clarke this Autumn

Posted by in Food and Wine, France, Portugal, Spain

Earlier this year I was invited to learn more about Celebrity Cruises at Vinopolis and it was a surprising evening for me. Cruise ships have definitely changed from the days of shuffleboard and the blue-rinse brigade, focusing on fine dining and wine as well as having a variety of shipboard activities and themed cruises. Celebrity Cruises is going to be offering wine themed cruises in September, October and November featuring some of the premier European wine regions. The cruises will be stopping in Spain, France and Portugal and will be offering wine seminars and sessions whilst on board. A very special cruise is departing on Oct 13 with Oz Clark and resident wine expert of Vinopolis, Tom Forrest on board to lead the wine masterclasses. Departing directly from Southampton the programme includes on board activities and expert led-sessions, such as introductions to wine tasting, meet and greet sessions and wine masterclasses from the key regions visited. The cruise will be calling at Paris (Le Havre, France), Bordeaux (Le Verdon, France), Bilbao (Spain), Vigo (Spain) and Porto (Portugal) and  is only available if booked directly with Celebrity Cruises on 0844 481 7682. The Winesleuth is going to be on this cruise as well so you can be sure to follow my adventures here, both at sea and ashore. In the meantime, here is a small taste of what to expect from Tom Forrest, who will be be conducting wine seminars along with Oz Clarke. Here, Tom is talking about a few of the wines and the regions they come from… *pics and video courtesy of Celebrity Cruises Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Pittacum 2007, mencia from Bierzo – a shapshot

Jul 21, 12 Pittacum 2007, mencia from Bierzo – a shapshot

Posted by in Spain

I received a few wines from the Spanish winery Pittacum the other day to taste. The Pittacum project started in 1999 in the Bierzo region of Spain, with an emphasis on the mencia variety. The vineyards are comprised of old vines ranging in age from 50- 80 years old and are farmed as organically as possible. 65% of the winery was acquired by Terras Gaudas in 2002. The mencia grape gives deep and intense wines and the winemakers aim to show the personality of the wines. They vinify in stainless steel but age the wines in French and American oak barrels. I tried the Pittacum 2007 and although it has apparent oak on the palate, it’s well integrated into the wine, a lush and rich wine with a soft round mouthfeel. A deep wine with intense black fruit notes. Even though it has 14.5% alcohol, it’s not apparent on the nose or palate. A good wine to have with a hearty steak or perhaps a grilled chorizo sandwich. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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