New Zealand produces about 400m bottles a year – almost exactly 1% of the world’s wine, a figure that puts it 15th or 16th, depending on year. Just for reference that’s about a fifth of Australia (which is usually 6th), and 1/16th or 1/17th  of France or Italy which are  1st and 2nd . Or looking at it the other way: 750 times as much as the UK…

A quick look at any general wine map of New Zealand might make one think it was made up of two fairly balanced Islands.


However the whole picture is unbalanced by one dominant area – Marlborough. Marlborough makes about 77% of all New Zealand Wine.

The next area in terms of wine volume produced is Hawkes Bay with a little over 10%; then Gisborne (a bit over 3%) both in the North Island. Canterbury/Waipara and Central Otago/Waitaki (a bit under 3% each) and Nelson (2.2%) are on South Island. Only then do we return to the North where Wairarapa is a touch over 1% and all the Northern areas (Northland, Auckland… down to Bay of Plenty) only contributes ¼%!

About 80% of the vineyard area and 85% of wine produced is in the South Island.

To illustrate – if you bought (a generous, bonus) representative case of New Zealand with 14 bottles in it – 11 would be from Marlborough; 2 from the North Island and 1 from the somewhere else in the South Island!

Just to give you a breakdown of Grapes – although less relevant to the upcoming tasting – that picture is almost as unbalanced. Here the distorting factor is Sauvignon Blanc. In very round figures – about 60% of all New Zealand Wine is Sauvignon Blanc; the rest pretty evenly divided between other whites and all reds.

Taking these two factors together – just over half (53.4%) of all NZ wine is Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc!

What concerns us most this month though is the differences between the Islands, and the grape growing and stylistic differences between them. Of course there are much subtler and more complex distinction to be made for specific grapes in specific locations – but there is one obvious general thing to note.

New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere and accordingly the North Island is generally hotter. This is simple and not surprisingly the South Island concentrates on whites (and Pinot Noir) whereas there is more even spread of varieties and wider plantings of reds in the North.

Here is a table showing how the percentages of grape varieties’ grown vary between the 2 Islands:

All NZ South Island North Island
Sauvignon Blanc 61 68 18
Chardonnay 9 4 24
Aromatic Whites* 9 8 13
Pinot Noir 15 16 11
Syrah 1 <1 6
“Bordeaux” Reds** 4 <1 22
[*Aromatic Whites= Pinot Gris; Riesling; Gewurz.; Viognier…   –   **Bordeaux Reds = Merlot; Cab. Sauvignon; Cab. Franc; Malbec…]

 

So, if you want to compare similar wines from the two Islands there are two obvious choices: Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. A third comparison is quite tricky. Bordeaux blends are hard to come by from the South, and anyway two different blends may have very different components. Something similar is true of “Aromatic Whites”, the exact wine style will vary enormously from one region and sub region to another, the only viable candidate might be Pinot Gris, and I personally haven’t found NZ examples very successful…

Knowing the group’s love of reds I came down on the side of Syrah. An up and coming variety in some Southern areas, and reasonably established and successful in the North.

So our wines for comparison will be

Marlborough v Hawkes Bay for Sauvignon Blanc;
Central Otago v Martinborough (a sub-region of Wairarapa) for Pinot Noir;
and Marlborough v Hawkes Bay again for Syrah.

What might we expect?

The Sauvignon Blanc Pair:
Marlborough – Pungently aromatic, vividly pure fruit, herbaceous and exotically tropical, plus mineral depths…
Hawkes Bay – Rich, tree fruit-laden wines, underpinned by bright acidity, with complexity and body…

The Pinot Noir Pair:
Central Otago -Fragrant, lush fruit underpinned by taut structure, silky texture and true intensity. There are marked differences in sub-regional styles. Our example is from Bannockburn  one of the warmest, driest sites in the region. Harvest can be up to a month ahead of other sub-regions, and the wines produced are highly distinctive and complex.
Martinborough -The region’s flagship red; richly flavoured and warm with a savoury undercurrent whilst retaining perfumed varietal character, Wairarapa Pinots offer texture and depth. Our example is from Martinborough, the most southerly Wairarapa sub-region, which boasts free-draining soils and a cool, dry climate and soil profile similar to that of Burgundy.

The Syrah Pair:
Marlborough – A boutique quantity of Syrah here, almost at the experimental stage. This is from a hectare planted on relatively warm clay soil in the East side of Marlborough, where the wines have a reputation for fruit intensity.
Hawkes Bay – An exciting variety showing great distinction, gaining strength as sites and clones are refined. Wines are perfumed, elegant with ripe fruit, supple tannins and lingering spice.

We’ll see if these are fair assessments.

À Bientôt

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“La Gitana” (the Gypsy woman) is actually the name of the most famous wine produced by the Hidalgo Company in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, about 15 miles West of Jerez. The Hildago family began the business in 1792, and it’s now run by the eighth generation. Making Solera-system Manzanilla fina from the 19th Century, it now constitues about 80% of their production and the cavernous, cathedral-like Solera-stores house over 4,000 barrels of Manzanilla.

Here’s a slide show of some of those barrels:

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The name La Gitana emerged in the the later 19th Century when an otherwise anonymous Gypsy women used to travel to Sanlucar from Malaga to source the Manzanilla most popular at her wine bar. It is thought most buyers came to refer to this wine as “el vino de la Gitana”, though perhaps the connection was amplified by a love affair between this woman and a member of the family. Either way a painting of her still adorns the wall in the old office among late 19th and early 20th Century ledgers.


The name and the image have adorned the bottles ever since.

Pale sherry, aged under a protective covering of flor (a yeast that seals out air from the fortified wine and allows biological rather than oxidative aging) is commonly called Fino in Jerez – but Manzanilla in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The differences most commonly identified are a gentler overall profile to manzanilla, but higher saline mineral components. These are usually attributed to sea influence, but are sometimes thought to be in the vineyard. However the wine makers claim this is not the case – many Palomino grapes for Manzanilla are grown nearer to Jerez. The sea influence is thought to happen in the winery where the very old solera barrels sit. They are on land that was once below the Estuary of the Guadalquivir river, and salt water is within a few metres of the barrels, cooled (relatively compared to Jerez} by Atlantic breezes and usually at about 70% humidity. This leads to thicker flor, softer development and salt tinges.

A La Gitana barrel with the flor clearly visible.

I’ve often wondered how barrels of Manzanilla (or Fino) are topped up without disrupting the flor, and Elena, the La Gitana guide, explained it to us. A finger-thick closed steel pipe is plunged through the flor to the middle of the barrel and wine added through small (shower-head type) holes in the last few centimeters of the pipe, now well below the flor. When the proper level is reached the pipe is withdrawn quickly and straight through the flor and the small rupture seals itself quite quickly…

There are apparently two stories how the name of Manzanilla originates. One is that the colour of the wine resembles Chamomile (Manzanilla in Spanish); the other is that local shortages of grapes used to result in buying them in from a town called Manzanilla, some miles west in Huelva.

The solera system for La Gitana, founded in the early 19th century, is made up of 14 tiers, with a high refreshment rate and an average bottling age of around 4 or 5 years.

The Solera system of making sherry may be familiar to most readers, and to explain is is worth a post on its own. So if you want to know more click on this link: Solera System Explained to the excellent Food and Wines of Spain website!

We tasted 6 wines:

La Gitana Manzanilla – Light, with floral, saline and  nutty notes a hint of apple and a clean mineral finish. Very clean and precise.

An En Rama (bottled when the flor is thickest and less filtered) version of the same wine – Cloudy but with more complexity and fruit

Pastrana Manzanilla Pasada – A single vineyard version with about double the age of La Gitana – More substance though no less salt, dried fruit – especially lemon, herbs and salted nuts, warm acidity at the finish. very good and nearly my favourite…

Napoleón Amontillado – 15 year old amontillado, with warm flavours of fruit, peel, nuts, floral hints and warm saltiness. Moreish, balanced and versatile with food, just a great wine – my favourite!

Alameda Cream – a cream sherry made with 30% PX in it. A reverse version of the English favourite derived from Drake’s sacking of Cadiz and taking 3,000 barrels of Oloroso to England, where it was found too dry and was “creamed” by adding caramel. Actually this is a bit creamy and has some caramel but the sweetness pitch makes it seem too simple and a bit one-dimensional.

Triana PX – This is a full Pedro Ximénez. Though, in company with all the house’s wines, less intense and a little more elegant than most examples. It isn’t really as much a wine as a syrup and I’d eat it as part of dessert rather than drink it with dessert. That said it drinks more easily than most…

A lovely tasting and tour. Thanks to Carrie for her company and to Elena of La Gitana for her information.

Hasta la vista…

The W1ng group met at the ICC on Thursday 18th April to explore the theme of ‘Dinner Party Wines’. Here are my rather belated notes on the evening and the wines.

dav

Caves S. João 2016 Reserva Brut. 12.5%. Brigitte Bordeaux £14.45
A really great aperitif wine from Barraida in Portugal. Made using the traditional method, this wine is a blend of Bical, Chardonnay, Maria Gomes and Arinto. Aromas of citrus, pineapple and peach. On the palate, as well as the fruit, it has some lovely biscuit and brioche notes.  A fresh and creamy attack and a beautiful acidity that gives it structure and persistence. On its own, this was the favourite wine of 4 group members on the night. Paired with a smoked salmon canape on Irish soda bread with crème fraiche and chives, it was the favourite pairing of 6 people.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 17/20

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Lustau NV Manzanilla Papirusa. 15%. Brigitte Bordeaux £20.50
A light and dry Manzanilla which paired very well with gazpacho and anchovy stuffed olives. Almond, apple and a slight salinity. Some tanginess and herbal notes too. The sherry was the favourite wine of two of the group, whilst the gazpacho pairing was favoured by 3 people.
Quality: 15/20                    Value: 15/20

Trimbach 2016 Pinot Blanc. 13%. Brigitte Bordeaux £14.95
A lovely medium bodied wine with citrus, stone fruit and a hint of apple on the palate. Well balanced with good acidity. Paired very well with a cheddar and caramelised onion quiche. The wine had 3 votes for wine of the night; the food and wine got 5 votes for best pairing.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 17/20

Domaine Du Vissoux, Chermette, 2017 Brouilly. 13.5%. Brigitte Bordeaux £19.50
Pronounced cherry and redcurrant with some herbal notes. Very smooth and well rounded. Paired perfectly with charcuterie. The wine was the most popular of the evening with 11 votes and its pairing with Milano salami, coppa and beef chorizo was the most popular pairing with 8 votes.
Quality: 17/20          Value: 16/20

Chateau La Sabatiere 2015 Monbazillac. 13%. Brigitte Bordeaux £14.50
Rich honey and marmarlade with dried fruit and caramel. Very well balanced: like drinking nectar! A very good, less expensive alternative to Sauternes. Paired with a crème caramel. The wine was popular with 5 votes for favourite of the night; the pairing had no votes.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 17/20

Barao De Vilar 10 Year Old White Port. 19.5% Brigitte Bordeaux £18.70 for 50cl.
Lively acidity and great freshness with pronounced flavours of nuts, dried fruit, orange peel and caramel. On its own it didn’t get any votes for wine of the night, but its pairing with hard goat’s cheese was favourite with 3 members of the group.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 16/20

A really interesting evening with some great wines and pairings. Interestingly, only 2 people in the group voted for the same wine as that of their favourite pairing.
See you next time,
Brigitte. x

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We all love a good dinner party: convivial company, several delicious food courses and of course, the wine. But when thinking about what food to serve up and what wine to go with it, are there really rules that must be obeyed? Is it a social faux pas to serve oysters with anything other than blanc de blancs champagne or premier cru Chablis? Must the roast lamb be paired with a good Pauillac or St-Julien? And is serving the stilton with anything other than Vintage Port likely to cause quiet outrage amongst your guests?

Well, not according to Tim Hanni MW, who has recently dismissed the concept of food and wine pairing as ‘bullshit’. Speaking at the International Sauvignon Blanc celebration in Marlborough at the end of January, Hanni said “A perfect wine pairing doesn’t exist. We’re doing a lot of damage the way we’re matching wine and categorising it. We need to start a campaign to stop wine and food pairing as we’ve created a lot of bullshit around the idea… We need to celebrate the diversity of consumers, not make them feel stupid. You can serve Sauvignon Blanc with steak – why not?”

When Hanni’s comments were reported in an article in The Drinks Business, they unsurprisingly provoked many responses and much debate on the subject. Another Master of Wine, David Bird, agreed with Hanni’s comments, stating ‘it’s all about personal taste. I am doing some lectures for a sommeliers’ association and they spend hours on this subject, as if there is only one possible right combination. They were shocked when I told them I drink Sancerre with roast lamb! It’s perfect!’

Some of those responding to Hanni’s comments disagreed, whilst others agreed to a certain extent, but to me, the sensible standpoint seems to be that whilst tastes are, of course, subjective, and there may be some people who like nothing better than to wash down their fish and chips with a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, there do exist some food and wine combinations that are generally found to complement one another well and make the experience of both the food and the wine more enjoyable. There are undoubtedly also combinations that are less successful. Whilst I wouldn’t object at all to quaffing a Sancerre with my roast lamb, I’d personally try to finish my glass (or two) before making a start on my sticky toffee pudding dessert.

So whilst I don’t believe there are any hard and fast rules that always need to be adhered to or that there is only one possible perfect wine match for any dish, there is certainly some advice that can be followed to help you find wines and foods that have a good chance of complementing each other on the palates of the majority of your dinner party guests.

As a starting point, the website ‘Wine Folly’ provides these 9 handy tips:

  1. The wine should be more acidic than the food.
  2. The wine should be sweeter than the food.
  3. The wine should have the same flavour intensity as the food.
  4. Red wines pair best with bold flavoured meats (e.g. red meat).
  5. White wines pair best with light-intensity meats (e.g. fish or chicken).
  6. Bitter wines (e.g. red wines) are best balanced with fat.
  7. It is better to match the wine with the sauce than with the meat.
  8. More often than not, White, Sparkling and Rosé wines create contrasting pairings.
  9. More often than not, Red wines will create congruent pairings.

There’s clearly a lot to think about in terms of trying to create successful pairings but I do agree with Tim Hanni that we shouldn’t be too prescriptive or get too bogged down in searching for the perfect match. A lot of fun can be had in creating interesting food and wine combinations which hopefully enhance the experience of consuming both, but one person’s ‘match made in heaven’ isn’t necessarily another’s.

Puligny-Montrachet and Beef and Tomato Pot Noodle, anyone?

See you tomorrow,

Brigitte. x

While the UK Government could not decide if the whole nation was to shoot itself in the head – or merely the stomach, Corkmaster and Kimberley Kabinett took themselves off to a civilised country for the duration – although of course it might not be the duration.. or it might… or not…. FFS!

A group of 9 of the people remaining (no pun intended) attended a Sock Party graciously held by Ann and John. This was rather “off piste” with the white wines following the reds and by all accounts an enjoyable and rather rowdy party. Ann reports: “I for one found it refreshing to move on to whites after food including a palate cleansing lemon sorbet, though it wasn’t a great test as we only had 2 whites and then a bonus dessert wine. Can’t say the hangover was any less, though hopefully the reds got more thoughtful consideration than they usually do?!”

Ann also generously supplied the following notes, and photos from John:


ABEL CHARLOT BRUT NV CHAMPAGNE (Welcome Wine)
50% Chardonnay, 25% e@ Pinot.  There is some reserve wine blended in for extra richness. Found to be punching above its current price. A good mousse, light lemon flavour with  some butteriness and pleasing length which was satisfyingly dry.

VARVAGLIONE,  “12 e mezzo” ORGANIC PRIMITIVO , IGT PUGLIA 2015  (Mike)
Bramble fruit and violets on the nose, powerful but smooth.

PAMUKKALE SARAPEILIK , ANFORA TRIO, AEGEAN REGION, TURKEY 2016   (Yvonne)
Blend of indigenous Turkish grape 40% Kalecik Karasi with 40% Shiraz and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon
Honey on the nose, dark cherry coffee low tannin unoaked.

CHÂTEAU LA POINTE, POMEROL, 2013, BORDEAUX, FRANCE  (John)
From wine society en primeur.  Plum and earthiness on the palate with a lovely complexity and length  Merlot 85% Cabernet Franc 15%

CONO SUR,  20 BARRELS LIMITED EDITION PINOT NOIR- 2016. FROM EL TRIANGULO ESTATE,  CASABLANCA VALLEY, CHILE.    (Sue Mc)
Not a typical pinot, had some of the cherry and strawberry but complexity with leather and tobacco. 20 best barrels from the harvest bottled on their own.

CHÂTEAU PRADEAUX BANDOL ROUGE, 2006   (Rob)
95%+ Mourvedre from old vines. Lovely dense  flavour of macerated plums and blackcurrants, ripe tannins.


VENUS  LA UNIVERSAL, DIDO , MONSANT 2015   (Yuan)
Grenache as majority, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Syrah Purchased from cellar door on a weekend in Catalunya, Thanks Yuan. Montsant surrounds Priorat “like a bangle on a wrist” Delicious fruitiness with length.
Per Decanter A blend of Garnatxa with Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot, organically grown on decomposed granites near Falset.  The appeal is less primary and less fleshy than for many of its Montsant peers: calm, fine-drawn plant and stony earth scents with an elegant, layered style, though open-textured and accessible.   91

MASTROBERANDINO, LACRYMA CHRISTI DEL VESUVIO ROSSO  2015    (Mark)

100% Piedirosso from Campania, on the slopes of Vesuvius the “tears of Christ on Vesuvius” Jesus’ tears dropping at the foot of Vesuvius  ultimately sparked the miraculous growth of the vines. Piedirosso is the second most planted red after Aglianico. Floral spicy and powerful.

FALERNIA ELKI, PEDRO XIMINEZ 2017, ELQUI VALLEY, CHILE  (Sue T)
2016 vintage given 90 points and Highly Recommended by Decanter  as festive buy.

ONDA NOVA VIOGNIER, 2014, ALGARVE, PORTUGAL    (Ann)
This was purchased following a tasting at this estate owned by Cliff Richard which happened  to be very near our villa. This was surprisingly rich with a taste of peach but sufficiently dry to not be cloying,

DOMAINE  HAAG, GEWURTZTRAMINER GRAND CRU ZINNKOEPFLE, VENDAGES TARDIVES 2008, ALSACE   (Bonus Dessert wine, John)
This was a medium sweet wine not cloying and went quite well with our lemon tart.
Fun story to this one- we were at Carcassonne airport and a slightly panicked man approached us with two bottles of this. He’d been gifted these by his landlady but only had luggage booked for his flight home. We offered to take them off his hands and managed to squash them into our case with 4 other bottles already packed in! We did look for him at East Midlands airport but couldn’t see him as we would have offered to return one!

Ann thanks everyone for coming along, “it was a great night” – and I thank her for providing these notes!

À Bientôt

The ICC group met on Thursday 14 March to taste wines from Spain (but not Rioja). Here are my notes:

spain wine

Mestres, 2011 Visol Gran Reserva Brut Nature. 12%. Gauntley’s, £25.80.
As a Gran Reserva Cava, this wine has spent a minimum of 30 months ageing on its lees and this comes through in its brioche and nutty notes. The mousse is quite subtle, with the bubbles seeming to disappear fairly quickly in the glass but a nice sherbet-like fizz persisting on the palate. Green apple fruit and even a bruised apple quality reminiscent of sherry. A very nice Cava!
Value: 15/20                       Quality: 16/20

Alma Atlántica, 2017 ‘Alba Martin’ Rías Baixas Albariño. 13%. Brigitte Bordeaux, £15.50
Meaning ‘Atlantic Soul’, Alma Atlántica displays the Atlantic influence with a hint of salinity combined with ripe peach and tropical fruit notes and a touch of fizz. Fresh and clean with juicy acidity and a long mineral finish.
Value: 17/20                       Quality: 16/20

Santiago Ruiz, 2017 ‘O Rosal’ Rías Baixas. 13%. Brigitte Bordeaux, £16.50
This wine from the Rías Baixas sub-zone, O Rosal, is a blend of native grapes. Albariño plays a central role in the blend but is complemented by the high-quality Loureiro grape which is particularly associated with O Rosal as well as Treixadura and others.  Peach, pear and apple combine on the palate with some floral notes and a touch of spice.
Value: 16/20                       Quality: 15/20

Cuatro Pasos, 2016 ‘Black’ Bierzo Mencia. 13.5%. Brigitte Bordeaux, £16.90
The Mencia grapes that form this wine come from 80 year-old vines. Living up to its name, this wine is very inky in appearance, disproving the old suggestion that the Mencia grape produces thin, dilute wines. Lots of red fruit, particularly cherry, complemented by vanilla and some spiciness.
Value: 16/20                       Quality: 16/20

Finca Villacreces, 2016 Pruno. 13.5%. Brigitte Bordeaux, £15.90
This blend of 90% Tempranillo (or Tinto Fino as they call it locally) and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from Ribera Del Duero, has received some rave reviews, including being called ‘the best wine in Spanish history for under $20’ by influential wine critic, Robert Parker. Well, it is pretty good! Black cherry, plum and liquorice combine with subtle oaky spice. Very well balanced with a long, soft finish.
Value: 17/20                       Quallity: 17/20

Cop De Ma Fort, 2014 Priorat. 14%. Brigitte Bordeaux, £15.80
The name of this wine means ‘lend a hand’ in Catalan and is a nod to both the Catalan tradition of the castellars who climb up on each other’s shoulders to form human pyramids and also to the group of growers who work together to produce the wine. The raised hand on the label represents that of the ‘enxaneta’ at the very top of the human pyramid, raising his or her hand with four fingers extended to represent the four stripes of the Catalan flag. This Priorat red is a blend of 40% Garnacha, 40% Carignan (known locally as Samsó) and 20% Syrah. Blackberry and red cherry combine with pencil lead to create a smooth wine with an earthy finish.
Value: 17/20                       Quality: 17/20

A very enjoyable evening’s tasting, proving that Spain has a lot to offer beyond Rioja!

See you soon,
Brigitte. x

Spain has more land under vine than any other country in the world. In terms of the volume of wine produced, most years it comes in third after France and Italy (or Italy and France). The Tempranillo grape is now the country’s most widely planted, having recently overtaken the white grape Airén which is planted at low densities and covers more vineyard area than any other white wine variety in the world.

Just as Spain’s different regions have their own very distinct identities, so do the country’s different wines. From effervescent Cava to complex and diverse Sherry; from the dry, aromatic whites of Galicia to the intense reds of Priorat, there’s something for everyone!

spainish-map-qs-2012-watermark1

Spain’s wine industry has greatly modernised over the last thirty years with the latest technologies arriving in most regions. Spain’s accession to the EU in 1986 led to increased investment in its wine industry and the introduction of irrigation ten years later also brought great benefits, especially in the drought-prone south.

The climate in Spain’s main wine producing regions varies greatly, from a maritime climate with the Atlantic influence in the North-West, to a very continental climate in the centre and a Mediterranean climate along the Eastern coast. Altitude is another factor that affects Spain’s vineyards and their growing conditions. Mountain ranges known as cordilleras divide the country and Spain’s centre is dominated by the plateau knows as the Meseta which ranges in altitude from about 600 to 1000 metres.

It is claimed that Spain is home to over 600 different vine varieties although its vineyards are generally dominated by only a fraction of these. Tempranillo, which has seen a major increase in plantings in the last fifteen years, is now the country’s most commonly planted grape variety; depending on where it is grown, it is referred to by a few different aliases including Tinto Fino and Cencibel. Bobal is the next most widely planted red, followed by Garnacha (Grenache) and Monastrell (Mourvedre). Cabernet Sauvignon is the most important international variety.

Airén, the drought resistant white variety that is planted at low density, is still Spain’s most widely planted white grape, accounting for over a quarter of Spanish vineyard area. Also important for their role in Sherry production are the white grapes, Palomino and Pedro Ximenez. Macabeo, which also goes by the name Viura, is common in Rioja and Catalonia and together with the grapes Parallada and Xarel-lo, is also used to produce Cava.

Other white grapes that are contributing to the recent success of Galician wines in particular are, most notably, Albariño and also Loureira, Treixadura and Godello. The red Mencia grape is also producing some good wines in Galicia and Castilla y León.

In terms of quality wine, the majority comes from the northern part of the country, above Madrid. From Galicia in the North-west through to Catalonia in the North-east, this northern band of Spain includes major appellations such as Rias Baixas, Bierzo, Ribera Del Duero and Priorat as well as Rioja. We’ll be tasting wines from the first four of these on Thursday evening.

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Only two appellations, Rioja and Priorat have the highest classification for Spanish wines, DOC (or DOQ in Catalan) which stands for Denominación de Origen Calificada. The term Calificada translates as ‘qualified’ or ‘guaranteed’ and implies wine of consistently guaranteed high quality.

Below this is a much larger classification, DO (Denominación de Origen) which includes over 70 appellations. This classification indicates the geographical origin and the style of a wine. To gain the DO title, wines must conform to various rules concerning their production. Each DO has a Consejo Regulador, which controls and enforces its rules and regulations regarding permitted grape varieties, maximum yields, length of ageing and so on. The Consejo Regulador also assesses the wines in order to discern whether or not they deserve the DO or DOC classification.

Wines that don’t qualify for DO or DOC status are known as ‘Vino de la Tierra’ (Wine of the Land’) or more recently, by the European classification IGP. Below this was ‘Vino de Mesa’ (Table Wine), the most basic classification, now more commonly referred to as Wine Without Geographical Indication. Another classification is Vino de Pago, a special category granted to a small number of single estate wines of exceptional quality.

Other terms that you may see on Spanish wine labels refer to the length of time the wine has been aged in barrel and bottle. The terms ‘Crianza’, ‘Reserva’ and ‘Gran Reserva’ all indicate the length of time the wine has spent ageing, with Gran Reserva requiring the longest period. The exact length of time that these terms represent in barrel and bottle differ for Rioja, Ribera del Duero and the rest of Spain.

So, on Thursday evening we will be exploring Spain, beyond Rioja and hopefully discovering that the rest of the country has much to offer in terms of diverse, quality-driven wines.

See you then,

Brigitte. x

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